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2004: Kazuo Matsui

Photograph By ESPN The Magazine

A 28-year-old Japanese import named Kazuo Matsui appeared on the 2004 cover. "He's been called one of the top five shortstops on the planet, right up there with A-Rod, Nomar, Jeter and Tejada. And he just might be the best pure athlete the Japanese game has yet produced," wrote Tim Kurkjian. "There is no doubt he's a star."