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.

There’s no one to blame in Yankees’ loss

Joe Girardi

You’re going to boo All-Star Brett Gardner for striking out against a Cy Young contender?

You’re going to bash Alex Rodriguez for going hitless in another postseason game, three years after his last one?

Maybe you’d prefer to put it all on Masahiro Tanaka for giving up two solo homers to a lineup full of 20-homer guys?

The truth is that the Yankees were supposed to lose tonight. They were facing an outstanding left-hander with their forever-lefty-heavy lineup, and they simply didn’t have anyone pitching like an ace to set themselves up nicely for a one-game, winner-take-all showdown. The 3-0 result… well, that’s how this was supposed to go down.

It didn’t necessarily mean it would; what fun would it be if the better team always won? And the Astros might not even be a better team than the Yankees. However, the Astros with Dallas Keuchel on the mound were certainly a better team than the Yankees with whoever they picked to throw.

I just don’t see where it’s worth putting any blame tonight. Joe Girardi? He could have started John Ryan Murphy over Brian McCann against the tough lefty, but he wasn’t willing to risk Tanaka losing his comfort zone by using a backup catcher.

The front office could have added more talent, perhaps outbidding the Blue Jays for David Price or the Royals for Johnny Cueto, and set themselves up better for the postseason. However, that would have cost them Luis Severino and/or Greg Bird, both of whom went on to play key roles as the Yankees secured the wild card. Would it really have been worth it? I don’t think so.

Tanaka gave the Yankees what they should have expected. Had Keuchel’s stuff been a little off on short rest, Tanaka’s performance would have kept the Yankees in the game.

Keuchel, though, was on his game from the first pitch. The Astros bullpen might have been a bit more vulnerable, and late at-bats from Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Rodriguez and McCann definitely left something to be desired. Still, on the whole, the lack of offense was quite a team effort.

The Yankees got beat by a better team tonight.  I’m not sure the Astros would have been better in Games 2-7 in a longer series, but they had everything in their favor in this one.

Keuchel, Astros cruise past Yankees in AL Wild Card Game

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Dallas Keuchel faced the Yankees two times during the regular season and was fantastic in each outing, striking out 12 in a complete-game shutout on June 25 and whiffing nine batters over seven scoreless frames on August 25.

The 2015 Cy  Young Award candidate continued that trend in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game, limiting the Yankees to three hits and one walk over six innings of scoreless ball as the Astros earned a 3-0 win and advanced to a best-of-five ALDS with the top-seeded Royals.

Keuchel was working on three days of rest but didn’t show very many signs of fatigue, whiffing seven and needing only 87 pitches to get through six. He sure looked like he could have gone an inning longer, but Astros manager A.J. Hinch decided to turn the game over to his bullpen and they added three more big zeroes to the scoreboard at a very loud then very boo-heavy Yankee Stadium. Tony Sipp worked around some early jitters to throw a scoreless seventh, Will Harris kept the Yankees off the bases entirely in a scoreless eighth, and closer Luke Gregerson went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

Impending free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus provided the first burst of offense for the Astros in the top of the second inning with a leadoff homer against Masahiro Tanaka. And then deadline acquisition Carlos Gomez, who missed a bunch of time down the stretch with an intercostal strain, got to Tanaka for another solo shot in the top of the fourth. Houston scored its third run on a Jose Altuve RBI single in the top of the seventh.

This is a young, talented Astros team with an ace at the head of its rotation.

Kansas City could have a problem.