Hideki Matsui: Important To The Yankees?

Shanan H.Analyst INovember 29, 2009

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 06:  Hideki Matsui #55 of the New York Yankees waves to the crowd during the New York Yankees World Series Victory Celebration at City Hall on November 6, 2009 in New York, New York.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

When Hideki was anounced as World Series MVP, I could hear the celebration in Tokyo from my house in Seattle.

Matsui is a fan favorite in New York, and is huge in Japan.  But how important is he to the Yankees?

Multiple sources have stated that the Yankees have prioritized signing Johnny Damon over Matsui.  Thats not to say that the Yankees can't re-sign both, but for the time being, assuming they only want to sign Damon, what would Yankee life be like without Matsui?

First off, the amount of Japanease people in the stadium and press boxes would decrese drastically. 

"He is a daily presence over there [in Japan]. You'd have to compare him to Tiger Woods, in terms of endorsements, in their country, and I don't think there's a baseball figure here who does what Matsui does there."  Says Bobby Valentine, former baseball manager in Japan.  "Sports news shows air highlights of his at-bats even when they're a groundout to second."

He is a fan favorite:  I don't know anyone who has said, "geez, I hate Matsui, " exept maybe a disgruntled Phillies fan.

Not only do the fans love him, but he has great offensive production:  A .274 average with 28 homers and 90 RBI.

However, he is a perminant DH, and can no longer play in the outfield.

Johnny Damon's outfield defense has slowed a bit, too, and there are talks that the Yankees may be looking for an upgrade in left. 

For this case, let's say that the Yankees sign free-agent left fielder Jason Bay.  Bay has an average glove in left, and is most likely an upgrade over the aging Damon.

Now, if the Yanks want Damon, he would have to DH.

Then, Matsui has nowhere to go.

Actually, there is one place he could go.

He could go on the bench.  While many fans, and even Matsui, might not be too happy at this propisistion, in really certifies a depth to the Yankee's club.

If an outfielder goes down with an injury, a little bit of shuffling can put Damon in the outfield and Matsui DH.

I love Matsui, and I love his clutch, but he is going to have to relize that another year in pinstripes may mean a season on the bench.