Rays fans hated Hideki Matsui for a long time. He signed with the New York Yankees after an illustrious career in Japan and proceeded to have 7 mostly great years, managing a .292/.370/.482 line (123 OPS+) with 140 home runs. He led the Yankees to the World Series played in his first year and played 538 straight games to begin his US career. And he finished his Yankee career in just as impressive fashion, managing a .274/.367/.509 line (123 OPS+) with 28 home runs in his final year with the team before winning the 2009 World Series MVP award, going 8 for 13 (.615) with 3 homers and 8 RBI in the 6-game series and 6 RBI in the series-clinching 6th game. After his tenure with the Yankees ended, Matsui spent a season each with the Los Angels Angels of Anaheim and the Oakland Athletics before he failed to sign a contract at the beginning of 2012. Then suddenly in late April, Matsui became a Ray.
The Rays signed Matsui to a minor league deal on April 30th, with Andrew Friedman calling him ”one of the most consistently productive hitters in the world” over the previous two decades. Matsui reported to Triple-A Durham and didn’t play well at all, hitting just .170 in 13 games, but with nothing to lose on an injury-depleted roster, the Rays called him up and it looked like he just might have some magic left. In his second at-bat with the Rays, Matsui hit a home run, and two games later, he went deep again. However, it was all downhill from there, as Matsui hit just .147 in 34 games and 103 plate appearances. The Rays gave Matsui a chance, but it simply didn’t work out. What really stood out, though, was Matsui’s demeanor throughout the experience. He kept up the same stoic face that he had shown his entire Yankee career, rarely showing the frustration that he was inevitably feeling. It was as though he was thinking that he had a great run for so many years in Japan and in the US, but he realized that he had to come to terms with the fact that it was over. It was sad seeing a great player’s career end like it did for Matsui, but you can only respect him even more for refusing to take his frustration out on his teammates and ending his time with the Rays when he knew for certain that he couldn’t do it anymore by asking for his release. Congratulations to Matsui on an incredible career, and between his time as an enemy and brief time as a Ray, it was apparent that you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more professional player wherever you look.
Paul Lukas of Uni Watch had the scoop for the new batting practice caps throughout baseball, and the Rays’ new BP cap is quite interesting.
The Rays have always had that sunburst logo associated with their franchise but never put it on their cap before, so it’s nice to see them switch things up as well. The color scheme also kind of reminds me of the craziness of the colors from the Devil Rays years, so it’s a combination of moving forward as a franchise with acknowledging the past of the franchise. Lucas, who apparently knows about these things, gave the cap and A-, and although it will be an adjustment seeing the players with that cap, it’s hard not to agree.
To close, Chris Archer has shown again that he’s not just a talented pitcher but a real great person, delivering turkeys to families in North Carolina through Clayton Area Ministires. As a pitcher, Archer is known to be enigmatic, but he’s character is off the charts and as a player and as a person that makes the future only look up for him moving forward.