Former World Series MVP Hideki Matsui Retires From Major League Baseball
‘Godzilla’ tallied 175 home runs, 760 RBIs in 10 Major League seasons
Slugger Hideki Matsui, the 2009 World Series MVP, announced his retirement on Thursday at a news conference in New York.
Matsui, 38, spent 20 years playing professional baseball, establishing himself as one of Japan’s most dominant hitters with the Yomiuri Giants from 1993-2002 before signing with the Yankees and playing out his career in the Majors. Nicknamed “Godzilla” for his powerful swing, Matsui totaled 332 home runs in Japan and 175 more in the Majors.
“I want to thank all my fans, in the past 20 years — 10 years in Japan and 10 years in the U.S. — who have supported me,” Matsui said. “I was supported by many fans and wonderful coaches and teammates.”
A career .282 hitter with 760 RBIs, Matsui owns the highest home run, RBI and walk totals for any Japanese player in Major League history. He played 1,250 consecutive games to finish his Japanese career and didn’t miss a game in his first three seasons with the Yankees, playing 518 straight contests before finally missing a game.
He was a three-time MVP and nine-time All-Star in the Central League in Japan before coming to America and signing with the Yankees in December 2002. He made two All-Star teams for the Bombers from 2003 to ’09 and won the 2009 World Series MVP after going 8-for-13 with three homers and eight RBIs as the Yankees beat the Phillies.
“I’ve said it numerous times over the years, but it’s worth repeating now: I’ve had a lot of teammates over the years with the Yankees, but I will always consider Hideki one of my favorites,” Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said in a statement. “The way he went about his business day in and day out was impressive. Despite being shadowed by a large group of reporters, having the pressures of performing for his fans both in New York and Japan and becoming acclimated to the bright lights of New York City, he always remained focused and committed to his job and to those of us he shared the clubhouse with.
“I have a lot of respect for Hideki. He was someone we counted on a great deal and he’s a big reason why we became world champions in 2009.”
Matsui hit 21 homers with the Angels in 2010 then saw his numbers decline with the A’s in 2011. He signed a Minor League contract with Tampa Bay on April 30 and bashed two home runs in his first three games, but he hit .147 in just 34 games after returning to the Majors on May 29.
The Rays designated Matsui for assignment on July 25 and officially released him on Aug. 1.
“These past two years, I wasn’t able to yield very good results, and from around five years ago, both of my knees hadn’t been doing too well,” Matsui said. “Even after going through surgery, my physical condition wasn’t at its best.”
Although he wore down toward the end of his career, Matsui was a significant contributor right from the beginning when he arrived in the Majors. On April 8, 2003, he became the first player in Yankees history to hit a grand slam in his Yankee Stadium debut.
Matsui went on to hit .287 with a .788 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage), 16 home runs and 106 RBIs as a 29-year-old rookie, finishing a close second to the Royals’ Angel Berroa in the American League Rookie of the Year voting. He notched career highs the next season with 31 homers and a .912 OPS and compiled a .292/.370/.482 batting line in seven seasons with New York.
“Hideki Matsui, in many ways, embodied what this organization stands for,” Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement. “He was dedicated to his craft, embraced his responsibilities to his team and fans, and elevated his play when he was needed the most. He did all these things with a humility that was distinctly his own, which is why he was such a big part of our success and why he will always be a cherished member of the Yankees family.”