On Thursday, former Yankees left fielder/DH Hideki Matsui announced he'd be retiring. The 38-year old finishes his career in America with a career line of .282/.360/.462, 175 homers, and 1253 hits in 1236 games over ten seasons stateside. Matsui played in the first 518 games of his career, the record to begin a major league career, before breaking his wrist in 2006.
But it was in Japan where Matsui's career began, and it was in Japan where he became a superstar. He was a member of three Japan Series winning teams with the Yomiuri Giants. He won three Nippon Pro League MVP awards in the Central League, one of just two players in the last 30 years to win the award three times (with the other being Ichiro Suzuki). In his career in Japan over ten seasons, Matsui bashed 332 homers in a career that started at age 19. Comparing America to Japan isn't a fair comparison, but only four American players in history had more homers in their age 19-28 seasons.
In America, Matsui became a star with the Yankees before fizzling out after leaving the team after the 2009 World Series. Matsui had an .820 OPS and 21 homers for the Angels in 2010, a .696 OPS and 12 homers for the A's in 2011, and a .435 OPS and just two homers for the Rays in just 34 games in 2012. Value-based metrics were not kind to Matsui over his career due to his below average (to put it mildly) defense in left field, and that will likely hurt perception of his career in future years.
Matsui is one of five Japanese players to win a World Series, along with the late former Yankee Hideki Irabu, former Cardinal and Phillie So Taguchi. and former Red Sox pitchers Hideki Okajima and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Matsui is the only Japanese player to win a World Series MVP award after his performance in 2009 against the Phillies, when he had a .615/.643/1.385 line in just three games, collecting eight hits, three homers, and eight RBI in just 14 plate appearances over three games, powering New York to their lone World Championship over the last 12 seasons.
I'll leave you with a video that exemplifies Matsui's career in America. After the Yankees won the World Series in 2009, Matsui signed with the Angels. On Opening Day 2010 in the Bronx, the Yankees took on the Angels, and Matsui received his World Series ring along with his former teammates. The Yankee Stadium crowd gave Godzilla a standing ovation, and his teammates swarmed him with hugs as he accepted his ring. Matsui had a nice career as a player, and will go down as one of the best Japanese players of all-time.
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