Tag: Hideki Matsui

New York Yankees’ 5 Best Offseason Signings of the Last Decade

Over the last 20 years, the New York Yankees have claimed five World Series championships, seven American League Pennants and five AL East titles. The success of the Yankees has come in large part from the homegrown talents of the “Core Four.”

Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte were certainly the faces of the Yankees dynasty—and arguably the most eccentric part of the success the Yankees had. However, the shrewd moves in free agency are what helped build this team into the force it has become.

Over the past two decades, there have certainly been some great free-agent signings by Brian Cashman, as well as some bad ones. Guys like Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia have certainly contributed to recent success for the team, but what about the guys in the 1990s? What about the guys who helped the Yankees win four championships in five years? What about guys like Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez and David Wells?

This article will break down the Yankees five best free-agent signings of the past two decades, and it somehow manage to rank them. I will do that by looking not only at the statistics, because gaudy numbers do not necessarily lead to positive results.


Stats are helpful, but this article will go beyond the statistics and rank the Yankees top five free-agent signings of the past decade according to value to the team and contributions to overall team success.

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Jose Abreu’s Rookie of the Year Candidacy Should Not Spark Rules Debate

This country is an interesting piece of real estate, especially around this time of year, when elections are held and democracy plays out at its finest.

You get to hear all sorts of debate and argument. And if you listen closely enough, you can find politicians manhandling certain points of contention in ways that fit their argument on one day, and on another, twisting the same point to fit a different argument. 

The baseball world is no different. Some writers, analysts and people employed in Major League Baseball use the same sticking points to fit more than one argument, even when they directly conflict with each other. This is certainly the case when it comes to changing the rules for awarding each league’s Rookie of the Year Award.

The 2014 edition is set to be announced Monday, and the American League winner is an easy call. It will be Chicago White Sox outfielder Jose Abreu, who is 27 years old and played eight seasons in Serie Nacional, Cuba’s top league.

This again will spark debate about whether players like Abreu, those of advanced age and more experience than rookies coming from this country’s minor league system, should be taking home the hardware.

Unfortunately, a decent amount of fans, media members and people in the game feel the same way. What is also unfortunate is none of them have an idea how to tweak the current rules, which simply call a rookie exactly what he is: a player playing his first season in Major League Baseball, assuming he has not exceeded the innings pitched or at-bat rules during past call-ups.

The main argument against players like Abreu and Masahiro Tanaka, who would likely be a candidate this year had he not gotten injured, as well as Hideki Matsui, Ichiro Suzuki and Hideo Nomo before them, is that the players are either too old (Matsui was 29 when he finished second in the AL race in 2003) or have too much experience in professional leagues outside of the United States (Ichiro played nine seasons in Japan before winning the AL award and MVP in 2001).

Somehow, the critics say, this is clearly an unfair advantage.

They say the experience and age provides an uneven playing field. They say that those other leagues, particularly the top Japanese league, are so much better than Major League Baseball’s Pacific Coast League or International League, the Triple-A leagues in this country, that it would be insulting to equate them to our minor leagues.

Then again, those leagues are far too inferior to the majors to consider what a player might have accomplished overseas. After all, are we convinced that Matsui will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, or Hall-worthy at all?

His numbers, in Japan and the big leagues combined, make him an easy inductee. But he probably won’t be such a tomahawk dunk when he is eligible in 2017. The argument there: The Japanese numbers can’t hold nearly the same weight as anything he did in the major leagues because that league is nowhere near as good as Major League Baseball.

So there we are. A double standard. The league is either good enough, or it is not. You can’t play both sides depending on the argument.

“It’s unfair to our kid — or any kid in any organization who’s coming out of our minor-league system in this country,” then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella told ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark in 2003 when Matsui was up for the award. “When you talk about players like Ichiro and Matsui, you’re talking about guys who are much more farther along in their experience and development than our kids over here. It takes these kids three, four, five years to catch up with the guys from Japan, from a standpoint of experience and development.”

But few scouts believed they were seeing a star when evaluating Abreu, one of Cuba’s greatest hitters ever, before the White Sox signed him for six years and $68 million and led the AL in slugging percentage (.581) and OPS-plus (169) to go with 36 homers and 107 RBI.

“He’s turning 27 years old and has a career full of 85 to 87 mile an hour fastballs,” one international scout told Ben Badler of Baseball America. “He’s not an athlete and he doesn’t have bat speed. You’re asking a 27-year-old non-athlete to go to the big leagues and make an adjustment. Against 97 (mph), this guy has no chance. All of us who know him are all saying the same thing.”

Yet, there will be those who say Abreu should not be eligible for the Rookie of the Year Award because of his experience and/or competition level in relation to the minor leagues here. Nevermind the cultural and language barriers players like Abreu, Tanaka and others have faced, which can be far more difficult to navigate for some players than competing in the majors.

For reasons that make total sense, which is to say they are financial, major league teams do not scout players from Asian countries as teens unless one of them happens to come to America for a showcase or tournament. But no scout is flying halfway around the planet to look at an 18-year-old pitcher from Japan or Korea.

Instead, they leave the scouting and development up to the leagues in those countries. They use them as a farm system without ever having to pay for the player, unlike what teams do in the Dominican Republic, where baseball academies groom players before they’d be eligible to vote in this country. Then, if an Asian player shows enough potential to succeed at the highest levels of the sport, major league teams become interested.

Now, if teams truly thought those Asian leagues were that much better than the Pacific Coast League or International League, they’d be luring far more players to this side of the world at earlier ages. If those leagues were as good as some people want us to believe, people who want the Rookie of the Year rules altered, Japanese players would be as prevalent on major league rosters as Dominican players.

At age 20, Tanaka posted a 2.33 ERA in the Nippon Professional Baseball league. Do major league scouts truly believe he could have done something similar in the big leagues at that age? Probably not, and that is why they allowed Tanaka to pitch four more years in his home country before enticing his Japanese team to put him up for auction.

Also, if teams didn’t know of Tanaka before his World Baseball Classic experience, then it shows that MLB does not think enough of the Japanese league to scout it regularly.

If people care enough to change the rules, they should care enough to figure out how to make MLB’s minor league system better. Do teams really need three levels of A-ball and a short-season league? No, probably not, considering all the fringe players used to fill out rosters, guys with no chance of making it the higher levels.

For all the displeasure about the current rules for the award, which the Baseball Writers’ Association of America votes on, no one has come up with alternatives.

Do they want all international players excluded from consideration? That can’t happen because it takes away Canadian, Dominican, Mexican, Venezuelan and all other players not from the U.S. who might spend significant time in the minors.

Do they want to exclude players with professional experience in other countries? That doesn’t make sense since players who are in the minor leagues in America are professionals.

Do they want players who have played in certain leagues across the country excluded, or for a certain number of years? Again, nonsensical since no one thinks any other league can even sniff the talent in the majors, no matter how long a player competes in it. And that belief is accurate.

The first rule of griping about a perceived problem is having a logical solution. This argument has none.

Abreu is going to win this award, and he deserves it. And any other player who comes from any country or league that is not the majors should be eligible to win it, regardless of age or experience level.

By definition, they are rookies. They earn their numbers on the field, and they should be able to earn the accolades that come with them, now and in the indefinite future.


Anthony Witrado covers Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report. He spent the previous three seasons as the national baseball columnist at Sporting News, and four years before that as the Brewers beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB Prospects: 5 Prospects Who Could Be the Next Hideki Matsui

After posting a .435 OPS in 34 games with the Tampa Bay Rays last season, Hideki Matsui has decided to retire. The 38-year-old played 10 seasons in the major leagues, as he hit .282/.360/.462 with 175 home runs and 689/547 K/BB in 1,236 career games.

Of his 10 big-league seasons, Matsui spent seven years playing for the New York Yankees, as he’d hit .292/.370/.482 with 140 home runs and register an 18.5 WAR. In his final year with the organization in 2009, he was named the MVP of the World Series after hitting three home runs in six games against the Philadelphia Phillies.

A dangerous left-handed hitter who hit 20-plus home runs in five different seasons, Matsui always showcased advanced plate discipline, as well as an above-average hit and power tool.

But are there any prospects with the potential for Matsui-like production upon reaching the major leagues? It’s difficult to say considering that his first big-league season came as a 29-year-old in 2003 on the heels of 10 years of professional experience in Japan.

Regardless, here are my thoughts on five outfield prospects with significant offensive potential.


Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

Age: 20

2012 Stats (AA): .321/.380/.527, 67 XBH (23 HR), 56/42 K/BB (124 G)

Tools: Best hit tool in the minor leagues; drives the ball from line-to-line with authority; plate discipline improved against more advanced pitching; emerging plus raw power to all fields; insanely good hand-eye coordination; average defensive outfielder capable of playing center in a pinch.

ETA: 2013


Tyler Austin, OF, New York Yankees

Age: 21

2012 Stats (A-, A+): .322/.400/.559, 58 XBH (17 HR), 23 SB, 98/51 K/BB (110 G)

Tools: Potential plus hit tool; natural power is to right-center gap; excellent bat-to-ball skills; makes noticeable in-game adjustments; quiet athleticism makes him a solid-average corner outfielder.

ETA: 2014


Nomar Mazara, OF, Texas Rangers

Age: 17

2012 Stats (Rk): .264/.383/.448, 22 XBH, 70/37 K/BB (54 G)

Tools: 6’4” outfielder boasts plus raw power from the left side of the plate; plus bat speed; advanced approach considering age and lack of experience.

ETA: 2017


Josh Bell, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

Age: 20

2012 Stats (A-): .274/.288/.403 (15 G)

Tools: Highly projectable switch hitter with above-average-to-plus hit and power from both sides of the plate; above-average defense.

ETA: 2015


Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

Age: 20

2012 Stats (A+): .313/.396/.516, 48 XBH, 26 SB, 81/51 K/BB (110 G)

Tools: Above-average hit from left side; average power; advanced approach; solid-average defense.

ETA: 2014

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB Free Agency: Ranking the 10 Best Signings for the Yankees in Recent History

We’re getting closer and closer to the 2011 season ending and the free agency period for baseball to begin.

In my last article, I did a history of the top 10 worst free agency signings for the Yankees.

The ones I reviewed were of recent history.

This will be the complete opposite of that.

This one will be the top 10 best free agency signings in recent history for the Yankees.

Since 1995, the Yankees have missed the playoffs only one time, won the American League East division title 11 times, appeared in seven World Series and won five championships.

A lot of that has to do with the Yankees making the right moves to land free agents.

This list was a lot harder to put together because of who was an actual free agent and who got traded.

For example, Tino Martinez, Scott Brosius, Paul O’Neill, David Cone, John Wetteland and Cecil Fielder were all results of the Yankees making trades and won’t be on this list.

Nope, this is strictly free agency moves.

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Oakland Athletics: Josh Willingham and 5 Players That Need to Re-Sign for 2012

For the Oakland Athletics, the 2011 baseball campaign is creeping to a halt.

Having had a tumultuous and exciting six months of baseball that included benchings and a firing, injuries and trades and, oh yeah, a movie release based on the team’s general manager (which opens nationwide today), the A’s are ready to put the season behind them as quickly as possible.

Yes, like most teams, the A’s have encountered some peaks through the course of the year; but the valleys have been absolutely abysmal—the nadir being a 10-game losing streak that they never fully recovered from.

Much of the blame can be and was attributed to the slothfully slow start offensively by the team as a whole. Although several players did warm up a bit midseason, by then the A’s had lost two of their starting pitchers for the season, and were in a tailspin that was difficult to overcome in a competitive AL West division.

With that in mind, the A’s head into the offseason with numerous players eligible for free agency and salary arbitration. This September has allowed Oakland to examine their 40-man roster and not only take a deeper look at those youngsters who have bright futures with the team, but also determine which veterans should be traded and which ones should be kept on next season.

Here are five players who the A’s need to re-sign this offseason.

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2011 MLB Fantasy Baseball: American League Waiver Wire Gems

Brett Lawrie, 2B Toronto Blue Jays (23 percent owned in Yahoo, 22.7 percent in ESPN)

Current Stat Line: 2/4, 1 RBI

Brett Lawrie has finally arrived! He tore up AAA pitching this season going .353/64/18/61/13. In my opinion, the call-up should have happened much earlier—but it didn’t. Then Lawrie suffered a hand injury on May 31st which kept him out of the game for a while. Now that it is completely healed, expect him to rake for the Blue jays.

Projection (rest of season): .280 AVG / 23 R / 6 HR / 26 RBI / 4 SB


Hideki Matsui, OF Oakland Athletics (32 percent owned in Yahoo, 70.6 percent in ESPN)

Current Stat Line: .268 AVG / 39 R / 10 HR / 54 RBI / 1 SB

I try not to mention players two weeks in a row, but I need to make an exception here. It seems like ESPN has caught on to Matsui but Yahoo leaguers haven’t. In the past six games he has gone .524/4/1/3. In Yahoo, some of the players owned ahead of him are Alex Rios, Jason Kubel, Juan Pierre and Delmon Young.

Projection (rest of season): .279 AVG / 22 R / 6 HR / 23 RBI / 0 SB


Josh Willingham, OF Oakland Athletics (23 percent owned in Yahoo, 39.1 percent in ESPN)

Current Stat Line: .245 AVG / 41 R / 16 HR / 61 RBI / 4 SB

Willingham has been a streaky hitter all season, but he had a monster month of July, going .324/.429/.618. His HR/RBI numbers are actually pretty impressive considering he only has registered 314 AB. If you extrapolate his power numbers over 600 AB you get 30/116. He is batting cleanup for the Athletics so the RBI opportunities should continue.

Projection (rest of season): .240 AVG / 21 R / 7 HR / 29 RBI / 2 SB


Rick Porcello, SP Detroit Tigers (21 percent owned in Yahoo, 29.6 percent in ESPN)

Current Stat Line: 11 W / 6 L / 73 K / 4.49 ERA / 1.36 WHIP

Now that August is upon us, it’s time to start looking at matchups for fantasy baseball playoffs. From September fifth through the 25th the Tigers face: @CLE, MIN, @CHI, @OAK, @KC and BAL. They have a pretty good schedule leading up to September fifth, too: @CLE, @BAL, MIN, CLE, @TB, @MIN, KC and CHI. Porcello’s BB/9 of 2.21 and 49.1 percent of groundballs will keep him out of serious trouble going forward.

Projection (rest of season): 4 W / 3 L / 34 K / 3.65 ERA / 1.24 WHIP


Doug Fister, SP Detroit Tigers (15 percent owned in Yahoo, five percent in ESPN)

Current Stat Line: 4 W / 12 L / 89 K / 3.29 ERA / 1.17 WHIP

I know it’s a bit unorthodox to suggest two starting pitchers from the Tigers on the same waiver wire article, but you can’t argue with the schedule and I actually like Fister more. Fister’s K/9 is only slightly worse at 5.24 and he is a control freak (1.88 BB/9, 64.3 first pitch strike percentage). For what it’s worth, I picked him up in our league.

Projection (rest of season): 4 W / 4 L / 32 K / 3.40 ERA / 1.10 WHIP

For other entries in our waiver-wire gems series, click here!

Brian “Killboy” Kilpatrick is a Senior Writer for 4thandHome.com, where this, and other work, can be found. Additionally, he is co-host of The 4th and Home Show on Blog Talk Radio.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB: 10 Things the Oakland Athletics Should Focus on in 2011

In 2010, the Oakland Athletics took strides in the right direction, posting an 81-81 record to snap a streak of three consecutive losing seasons.  Though Oakland’s pitching kept them competitive, lack of offensive production counteracted a solid rotation and kept the A’s out of the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.

Though the A’s have potential to continue their progression, the American League West is a competitive division, highlighted by the recent resurgence of the Texas Rangers.  But with perennial powerhouses crowding the AL East, the A’s only route to the postseason may be a division crown.  If Oakland can focus on these 10 things, there may be a World Series parade in Northern California for the second consecutive year, only this time for the A’s.

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MLB: How Horrific 8.9 Earthquake & Deadly Tsunami Are Effecting Japanese Players

It’s time we all take a breather from worrying about the sports themselves and focus on the players involved. This article is written with the intent of recognizing that there are bigger things that we should be focusing on at this time in the world rather than sports. On 3/11/2011 an unprecedented 8.9 earthquake rocked the country of Japan. It brought devastation, injuries, life loss and widespread panic but that was only the beginning.

After the earthquake hit, a gigantic 23 foot tsunami tore throw the coastal areas of Northeastern Japan. The waves pushed inland as much as six miles in certain spots devouring everything and anything in their way. We are reminded how strong the forces of nature that are out of our control truly are. If you are reading this article now, then please take a moment of silence to meditate on this tragic event and to pray to God for the safety of Japan and it’s people.

We hope the worst is now in the past but danger still looms as nuclear meltdown is the newest concern in Japan thanks to damage at three nuclear power plants inflicted by the mega-quake and powerful tsunami. You may be asking yourself, “How could this terrible, horrific event possibly tie into sports?”

In this gigantic melting pot known as the United States of America, the land of the free and home of the brave, we have taken in many Japanese athletes as our own and have grown to respect them in the process. We have looked up to them, we have cheered their names and now it’s time we reach out and send our condolences to them, their families and their friends. Our hopes and prayers are with you and we are thankful to have you all here competing in our nation. May God Bless America, God Bless Japan and God bless the whole world.

Here is a brief slideshow that points out all active major leaguers that come from Japan. Be sure to pray for all of Japan and it’s people but say a special prayer for these major leaguers and their families as they take time away from baseball to focus on this tragedy.

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MLB Stars Past Their Prime: 10 Players Who Will Retire After 2011

Major League Baseball has had its share of legends who played deep into their careers. Some of the most recent to finally hang up their spikes and walk away from the game include Ken Griffey Jr., Trevor Hoffman, and, barring an unexpected comeback, Andy Pettitte.

Each of the aforementioned players stuck around for a long time and were able to leave a lasting impression on the game we all love.

Over the last couple of seasons, team executives have turned their focus to building winning programs with young, athletic, and less-expensive players while the elder generation nears a mass exedos via retirement.

Many of our favorite players will soon be leaving the field and this wave of retirees could certainly see the 2011 campaign as one last “hoorah.” Let’s take a quick look at ten impact players who will retire following the upcoming season.

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MLB’s Tale of Two Cities: Can the 2011 A’s Repeat the Giants’ Season of 2010?

A vaunted homegrown pitching staff. A very strong bullpen led by an All-Star closer.

A franchise player behind the plate. A balanced mix of young guys and veterans.

Low expectations. A mild-mannered, baseball-minded manager in the dugout. 

A weak, very winnable division where the other teams made negligible offseason improvements.

Last year was a good year for the Giants. And by good year, I mean they won the World Series. Yes, THAT good. And the above statements pretty accurately describe the team at the start of the 2010 season. 

And if that’s the recipe for success, it looks like the Oakland Athletics are using the same cookbook for 2011. 

Now I’m not going to take that extreme leap of faith and call the A’s the “soon-to-be 2011 World Champions,” but I will say that there are a lot of similarities, both on the team and in the division, that make the comparisons very valid. 

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