He also will be 36 years old next season and answered postgame press questions with two big ice bags strapped to his well worn knees. He looked like Patrick Ewing of the Knicks used to after games. It was painful to watch and likely even more painful to endure.
Matsui played nine full seasons on the tough carpets in Japan, where every step he took upon the concrete foundation turf tore at his young knees. That did not seem to affect him in Japan or his first three seasons in the Bronx.
During the 2003-2005 period in New York, Matsui played every single game, further extending his professional consecutive game playing streak to 1,768 games.
But Matsui missed most of 2006 with a broken wrist (that injury ended his consecutive games streak) and last year his knees began bothering him to where he only played in 93 games, while his production suffered. The 2008 season is the only one Matsui has had an OPS of less than .800.
His bad knees resulted in him becoming primarily a DH, and when Hideki made it to left field last year, it was a nightmare. His defensive exploits make Johnny Damon look like Carl Yastrzemski.
Hideki also has had to be rested on many occasion this year. He was having a horrendous June until he was forced to sit in the National League parks during inter-league play. After pinch hitting through those eight games, Matsui was on fire, beginning to hit like Yankee fans loved and remembered.
Once the interleague games ended, and Matsui had his rest, he hit .310 with nine homers and 30 RBI over 36 games and had a .402 on-base percentage.
But while he hit then, and is hitting well now, Matsui should not be re-signed for next year and beyond.
At this point in his career, Matsui is solely a DH and the Yankees need that spot in the lineup to give to Jorge Posada, Johnny Damon (if re-signed) A-Rod, Derek Jeter and other Yankee 30-something year olds who need periodic rest next season. Guys like Francisco Cervelli, Brett Gardner, and maybe Austin Jackson will need more playing time next season.
And don't forget about the big guy in the minors, Jesus Montero, whose bat is major league ready now (except I guess for his currently broken finger). Montero should be in the mix next season at least for some DHing duty.
If Matsui continues to hit this season and have a good postseason, he will be in demand from some of the American League teams who would need a lefty DH (Detroit, Seattle, Texas?). He will not be able to consistently play in the National League, and likely will not play for the San Francisco Giants.
At that point, Matsui might command a multi-year deal, at least two years. But, in reality, his career could come to and end. Would he want to play elsewhere? His two professional teams, The Yomiuri Giants in Japan, and the New York Yankees in the United States are each the premier teams in baseball.
But he has enough money, would he want to endure other cities and a knowledge that he might not be a pennant contender each year? Seattle may be his best option, especially if Matsui wins a World Series ring this season with the Yankees.
I have written before that the Yankees need to get younger and some of their top position prospects (Montero, Austin Jackson) are about ready for the majors and they need roster spots. Also, the Damon situation is hanging over the Yankee hierarchy, too. Do they sign Damon to a multi-year deal. He does have some talent still to play the field, and he is a total offensive threat in the new, new Yankee Stadium.
If Damon is signed, and the Yankees should try and get him on a series of one-year deals, that is another player who can do all what Matsui can do—and more.
Matsui is expendable and should not be a Yankee next year—no matter how well he hits the balance of this season.