Is Hideki Matsui's Resume More Impressive Than Ichiro's?

Zeke Fuhrman@@mellamoelzekeAnalyst IIIDecember 20, 2009


I could probably end the article right there, but perhaps I should elaborate.

After winning the World Series MVP, Hideki Matsui has drawn praise from Masanori Murakami, the first Japanese-born player to play in the MLB.

Murakami stated that "Ichiro Suzuki has had many accomplishments, but they've all been in the regular season. As the first Japanese to win an MVP in the World Series, this is a great accomplishment for Matsui and will have a huge impact."

You have got to be kidding me.

I'm not trying to take anything away from Matsui, who hit .613 (8-13) with three homers and eight RBI in the '09 World Series, six of those coming in the Game Six clincher.

And I know that what happens in the postseason trumps anything in the regular season. Just ask Ichiro about the Mariners 116 wins during his rookie year of 2001. They lost the ALCS to the Yankees.

But seriously, Matsui winning the World Series MVP doesn't trump all of Ichiro's accomplishments.

Ichiro played pro baseball in Japan from 1992-2000, collecting 1,278 hits, a .353 career batting average, seven Gold Glove awards, and three league MVP awards.

Matsui had a similar career in Japan. He played from 1993-2002, recording 1,390 hits, a .304 career batting average, 332 home runs, 889 RBI, three Japan Series titles, a Japan Series MVP, and three league MVP awards. He also earned the nickname "Godzilla", at first for his skin problems, but the nickname stuck due to his reputation to hit balls off the Tokyo Dome ceiling.

So, comparing their NPB days, Matsui had a slightly better career.

Ichiro made the jump from NPB to the MLB in 2001 by signing a contract with the Seattle Mariners. After not expressing interest in a uniform number, he was given No. 51, which had previously been worn by Randy Johnson.

Ichiro vowed not to bring dishonor to the number.

He didn't.

Ichiro led the league with a .350 batting average, 56 stolen bases, 738 plate appearances, and 242 hits, earning him both AL MVP and AL Rookie of the Year honors. He also won his first Silver Slugger award, and the first of nine consecutive Gold Gloves. He quickly became reputable for his strong arm in the field, like after he threw out Terrence Long who tried to advance from first to third after a single to right field.

The Mariners began selling Ichirolls (sushi) at Safeco Field, and Japan began organizing U.S.A. tours around the Mariners schedule so that tourists could see Ichiro play.

Matsui decided to follow suit in 2003 after turning down a $64 million, six-year deal with the Yomiuri Giants.

Matsui was signed by the New York Yankees, where he led the league with 163 games played, and started his MLB career with 518 consecutive starts. He finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting, and was fourth among AL rookies with 16 home runs.

Ichiro has become a star in the MLB, starting in nine consecutive All-Star games, winning nine-straight Gold Gloves, and leading the league in batting average twice (.350 in 2001 and .372 in 2004).

He also set the single season hits record with 262 in 2004 and has led the league in hits six times (finishing second the other three years), never recording less than 206 in one year. He's compiled the most hits by any player since 2001 (2,030 in MLB, giving him 3,308 total professional hits), won three Silver Slugger awards ('01, '07, '09), and an All-Star Game MVP.

He has finished in the Top-25 in MVP voting eight times and has led the league in singles nine consecutive years. Ichiro has become so famous that, according to his agent Tony Attanasio, you can write Ichiro on a package, mail it to Japan, and he will get it at his house.

Matsui, on the other hand, has become an afterthought.

Not living up to the expectations set by Ichiro, Matsui quietly has a .292 career batting average, with two All-Star appearances, 140 home runs and 597 RBI. He hasn't led the league in anything except games played (2003-05).

Nobody expected him to break out in the World Series after he hit .222 against Minnesota in the ALDS and .238 against the Angels in the ALCS.

After helping New York clinch its first World Series title since 2000, the Yankees rewarded Matsui with...nothing. Matsui recently signed a one-year deal with the L.A. Angels.

I'm sure that Murakami was very excited, proud, and patriotic (and maybe even a little tipsy) when he said that Matsui's World Series MVP trumps anything that Ichiro had done.

But Matsui now joins players like Scott Brosius, John Wetteland, and Pat Borders as guys whose greatest accomplishments have been becoming World Series MVP afterthoughts.