We all know what happens to ballplayers as they age. Their bodies become less nimble, and their fielding ability is usually the first to go.
The Yankees’ Hideki Matsui is no exception. At 35, his knees are feeling it.
According to The New York Times, the one-time left fielder hasn’t spent an inning in any part of the field all season long. These days, he fills the role of designated hitter and keeps the clubhouse’s ice machine on overdrive.
This could be Matsui’s final season with the Yankees, so he’s making it count in the hope that an extra offensive push will serve as a constant reminder to New York’s front office that the team still needs him. He’s batting .265 this year with 19 doubles, a triple, 23 home runs and 68 RBIs. In this past weekend’s series with the Red Sox, Matsui looked like the player he was five years ago at the plate. He hit four long balls in the series, two on Friday and two off Josh Beckett on Sunday.
If the Yankees let Matsui walk at the end of this year, they’ll miss more than his bat. The Japanese superstar has endeared himself to the club, the franchise and the fans with his professionalism and gentlemanly attitude.
“He’s my favorite player right now,” shortstop Derek Jeter told the Times.
The praise doesn’t end there.
“Obviously, he’s a pro,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told the Times. “He can swing the bat — there’s no doubt about that. Where it goes from here, who knows?”
If it comes to pass that this is in fact Matsui’s last season with the Yankees, look for him to find work with another American League club in need of a designated hitter. That American League club will most likely not be the Seattle Mariners, since Matsui and Ichiro Suzuki reportedly “are not friends.” National League teams probably won’t be biting because he hasn’t played in the outfield since June 15, 2008.
But somebody will.
For now, Matsui is taking the one-season-at-a-time approach, though his preference is clear.
“I like New York, I like being with the Yankees, I like the New York fans,” Matsui said. “So it’s a place that I feel very comfortable.”