Monday, October 4, 2010
Hideki Matsui's Angels future uncertain
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- As Hideki Matsui packed his personal effects into boxes in front of his locker on Monday, the thought that his first season with the Los Angeles Angels might have been his last didn't occur to him.
He is eligible to become a free agent, and where he ends up next season is anyone's guess.
"Would I say that it's completely out of the likelihood that he'll be back? I can't say that at this point. You never know. We're just going to focus on getting better any way we can as the offseason unfolds," said Los Angeles general manager Tony Reagins, who has to pick up the pieces after the Angels finished 80-82 and missed the postseason for the first time since 2006.
"I'm happy with Matsui's performance this year. I just wish it would have been more consistent all year long," Reagins added. "We're going to evaluate his free-agent status, just as we will others that will become available, and then make a decision."
Reagins and manager Mike Scioscia agree that Matsui's numbers were close to what they projected for the 36-year-old designated hitter and part-time left fielder, who batted .274 with 21 homers and 84 RBIs in 145 games.
"Hideki was everything that we anticipated, and more," Scioscia said. "I mean, when Derek Jeter says that Hideki's the most professional player he's ever been in a clubhouse with, that's a huge statement. And we saw it firsthand. He's very dedicated to preparing himself to play."
Matsui's next hit will bring his combined total in Japan and the major leagues to 2,500. He spent seven seasons with the Yankees and was named World Series MVP in October 2009, receiving his championship ring on the field at Yankee Stadium on April 13 when the Angels were there for the Yankees' home opener.
This is only the second time Matsui hasn't been to the postseason since he came to the major leagues in 2003.
"In the past, it was rare that we didn't play beyond this time of the year, so it does feel a little bit weird that we're not playing in October," he said. "The Angels signed me with expectations to help the team win, and personally, I don't feel like I really lived up to those expectations."
The Angels were gun-shy about re-signing All-Star slugger and 2004 AL MVP Vladimir Guerrero after his injury-plagued 2009 campaign and replaced him with Matsui, who finished second to Guerrero in the All-Star fan balloting for the DH spot.
Guerrero, who signed with division-rival Texas as a free agent about five weeks before Los Angeles gave Matsui a $6 million contract, finished with 29 homers, 115 RBIs and a .300 average to help the Rangers end the Angels' three-year reign as AL West champs. But Matsui wasn't consumed with the perception by fans and the media that he had to put up Guerrero-type numbers.
"Honestly, I never really placed that kind of pressure on myself at all," Matsui said. "I have to play the kind of baseball that I know how to play and not try to fill anybody's hole or anything like that. Everybody else may look at it a different way, but that's my perspective."