To most, Matsui ranks only behind Ichiro Suzuki as one of the greatest position players to ever come out of Japan. After a successful career for the Yomiuri Giants, during which he hit 332 home runs and drove in 889 RBIs in just 8 seasons, Matsui signed with the New York Yankees before the 2003 season.
Hitting in the middle of the Yankees order from 2003 until 2009, Matsui was dubbed “Godzilla”, and provided patience and power in the lineup while playing a passable left field. He was a fan favorite for his clutch hitting, especially in the postseason, where he hit .312 — eight points higher than his regular season career average of .308.
Fans will never forget his 2009 World Series MVP performance against the Phillies. In 13 at-bats, he hit 3 home runs and drove in eight runs, batting an unbelievable .615. In the decisive Game 6, Matsui blew the game open, going 3-4 and driving in six runs, propelling the Yankees to a 7-3 victory.
After the 2009 season, the Yankees decided not to resign Matsui due to his age and defensive shortcomings, and he decided to sign a one-year deal with the Angels, and batted .274, hitting 21 home runs. The following season, he signed with Oakland, and hit .251 with only 12 home runs in nearly 500 at-bats. In 2012, at age 38, Matsui a minor league deal with the Rays, but it was clear his skills as a player were on the decline; in Tampa, he hit only .147 and struggled against Major League pitching. He retired soon after.
Matsui ended his career with a combined 517 home runs between Japan and the United States.
Joel Sherman tweeted that Matsui will focus on hitting within the Yankees farm system. If he is half as good a coach as he was a player, the Yankees will stand to gain a great deal from his expertise. He is truly one of the more beloved players in recent memory, and though he may not be a very public figure in his new role, fans are certainly appreciative that he has chosen to come back to the franchise.
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