Hideki Matsui in Anaheim: "Man, I feel comfortable here"

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Hideki Matsui Angels.jpgGood story in today’s New York Times about Hideki Matsui’s transition to life with the Angels.  There’s one rather shocking fact — About 50 Japanese reporters are following the Angels this spring,
compared with three daily beat writers from American news organizations — and a whole lot of interesting happy-to-be-here stuff:

“He’s got a really good sense of humor,” Hunter said. “It’s
unbelievable. I’ve been bringing him up in our meetings at 9:30 every
morning. It’s like a comedy show. He gets us warmed up, laughing,
cracking up, sweating, and we go out on the field happy. He fits right
in. He told me, ‘Man, I feel comfortable here.’ “

Also note the strikingly relaxed and realistic attitude he had when it came to leaving New York:

Matsui took less [than Johnny Damon] but signed earlier, accepting his standing in the market. “At
least for me, personally, it doesn’t really bother me,” Matsui said.
“You have to take into consideration what the current market is and
also your worth as a player, how teams assess you. My market price four
or five years ago was different because my age was different.”

Matsui’s agent is Arn Tellem.  Tellem may not get the same volume of press (at least in baseball) as Scott Boras gets, but he’s negotiated an insane number of very player-friendly contracts in recent years.  Despite this, he does not create the sort of acrimony Boras does and does not have a reputation for blowing smoke like Boras does about what his players are worth. According to people I know who know him, Tellem is a hell of a guy, actually, who is realistic about things and has a sensible temperament, which is not the sort of thing you hear said about sports agents all that often.

I’m sure Matsui’s stable offseason and easy transition to his new team has a lot to do with his own personality, but I don’t think I can ever recall a Boras clients talking in realistic terms about their age, their market and how teams might assess them as players.

Nationals owner Mark Lerner had his left leg amputated

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Mark Lerner, son of Ted Lerner and a co-owner of the Washington Nationals, had his left leg amputated earlier this month. He was diagnosed earlier this year for a rare form of cancer that a attacks connective tissue and treatment had been ineffective, so doctors removed the limb.

The news was revealed in the form of a letter Lerner wrote to Washington Post columnist Barry Svrluga, who had inquired about Lerner’s uncharacteristic absence from the ballpark of late. Lerner:

“With my doctors and medical team, we decided that amputation of that leg was my best choice to maintain the active and busy lifestyle that I have always enjoyed. The limb was removed in early August and I’m healing well, cancer-free, and looking forward to my eventual new prosthetic.”

Lerner, 63, has been known to dress up in a Nats uniform and shag fly balls with the team during batting practice. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery and, if his prosthetic allows, some more BP shagging at some point in the future.

New Marlins owners are going to dump David Samson, keep the home run sculpture

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The Miami Herald reports that the future Miami Marlins owners, Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter, have informed Major League Baseball that they do not intend to retain current team president David Samson. Derek Jeter will replace him as the person in charge of baseball and business operations.

Samson has been a polarizing figure in Miami and has been seen as Jeff Loria’s front-facing presence in many ways. He led the effort for the team to get its new stadium, which led to political scandal and outrage in Miami (not that he didn’t get his stadium). In 2014, he appeared on “Survivor.” He did not survive.

What will survive, however, is the famous home run sculpture in the outfield at Marlins Park. You’ll recall some reports earlier this week that Sherman and Jeter were thinking about removing it. If so, they’ll have a lot of hurdles to jump, because yesterday the Miami-Dade County government reminded them that it was paid for by its Art in Public Places program, it is thus owned by the county and that it cannot be moved without prior approval from the county.

I know a lot of people hate that thing, but it has grown on me over the years. Not for its own aesthetic sake as much for its uniqueness and whimsy, which are two things that are in extraordinarily short supply across the Major League Baseball landscape. Like a lot of new and different bits of art and architecture over the course of history, I suspect its initial loathing will increasingly come to be replaced by respect and even pride. Especially if the Marlins ever make another World Series run, in which case everything associated with the club will be elevated in the eyes of fans.

On this score, Sherman and Jeter will thank Miami-Dade for saving themselves from themselves one day.