File picture shows New York Yankees' Matsui speaking to reporters during "workout day" before MLB's 2009 World Series between New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies in New York

No, Hideki Matsui is not a Hall of Famer


This should probably go without saying, but no, Hideki Matsui is not a Hall of Famer.

There is some level of debate about this. Not because anyone truly thinks that Matsui’s ten seasons in the bigs were Hall of Fame-worthy. They clearly were not, even if they were pretty damn good (note: the go-to phrase for Matsui, which I have used myself, appears to be “a nice career” or a “damn nice career” or something like that).

Rather, to the extent anyone is making a Hall of Fame case for Matsui, they’re doing so by mashing together his NPB stats with his MLB stats. If you do that, sure, we’re a heck of a lot closer, for that gives him three MVP awards, three more championship rings to go with his 2009 World Series ring, 332 more home runs, 889 more RBIs and a streak of 1,250 consecutive games played (and he played every game for the Yankees in his first three seasons in the U.S.).  I’d say that is a Hall of Fame resume, indeed.

But the thing is, we just can’t do that. Both for official reasons and logical reasons.

Officially, the Hall of Fame takes the position that is a National Hall of Fame — that’s even the name of the place — meaning baseball accomplishments which took place in America. Indeed, aside from Negro League players, the Hall asks its voters to only consider accomplishments achieved in Major League Baseball. If it didn’t, statboys like me would be making Hall of Fame cases for Roberto Petagine and guys like that (and believe me, we would, for we crush hard on those kinds of guys).

But it makes logical sense to exclude NPB stats too: it’s simply not the same level of competition as we see in MLB. Most folks who pay close attention to these things consider to the Japanese leagues, at best, to be a 4-A kind of thing, and others believe it is more on par with Triple-A. If you don’t believe this just look at what has happened to most of the good Japanese hitters who have come to the U.S. Yes, there are success stories like Matsui and Ichiro, but there are far more flame outs. It’s just not the same hitting environment for these dudes.

I understand why a lot of people don’t simply dismiss the stats. Especially given that it has become fashionable to talk about Ichiro’s hit totals between the NPB and MLB when assessing his career (note: Ichiro, I feel, is a Hall of Famer based on his U.S. production alone, making this argument moot). But U.S. and Japanese baseball are two different beasts, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to consider what Matsui or anyone else did in the NPB when making their Hall of Fame case.

Game 2 is going to be the poster child for pace of play arguments this winter

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 26:  Zach McAllister #34 of the Cleveland Indians is relieved by manager Terry Francona during the fifth inning against the Chicago Cubs in Game Two of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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In August, it was reported that Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred would like to implement pitch clocks, like those in use in the minor leagues for the past two seasons, to improve the pace-of-play at the major league level. You can bet that last night’s Game 2 will the lead argument he uses against those who would oppose the move.

The game was moved up an hour in order to get it in before an impending storm. By the time the rain finally started falling the game had been going on for three hours and thirty-three minutes. It should’ve been over before the first drop fell, but in all it lasted four hours and four minutes. It ended in, thankfully, only a light rain. The longest nine-inning game in postseason history happened a mere two weeks ago, when the Dodgers and Nationals played a four hour and thirty two minutes. There thirteen pitchers were used. Last night ten pitchers were used. Either way, the postseason games are dragging on even for those of us who don’t mind devoting four+ hours of our night to baseball. It is likely putting off more casual fans just tuning in for the Fall Classic.

It’s not all just dawdling, however. Yes, the pitchers worked slowly and a lot of pitching changes took place, but strikeouts, walks and the lack of balls in play contribute to longer games as well. We saw this both last night and in Game 1, which was no brisk affair despite each starting pitcher looking sharp and not working terribly slowly. Twenty-four strikeouts on Tuesday night had a lot to do with that. Last night featured 20 strikeouts and thirteen — thirteen! — walks. It’s not just that the games are taking forever; the very thing causing them to drag feature baseball’s least-kinetic forms of excitement.

But no matter what the cause for the slower play was — and here it was a combination of laboring pitchers, the lack of balls in play and, of course, the longer commercial breaks in the World Series — Manfred is likely to hold Game 2 up as Exhibit A in his efforts to push through some rules changes to improve game pace and game time. So far, the centerpiece of those efforts is the pitch clock, which has proven to be successful and pretty non-controversial in the minor leagues. It would not surprise me one bit if, at this year’s Winter Meetings in Washington, a rule change in that regard is widely discussed.

Kyle Schwarber is the feel-good story of the 2016 postseason

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 26:  Kyle Schwarber #12 of the Chicago Cubs reacts after hitting an RBI single to score Ben Zobrist #18 (not pictured) during the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Two of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Most baseball fans and even the Cubs had resigned themselves to most likely not seeing Kyle Schwarber in game action until spring training next year after he suffered a gruesome knee injury in a collision with teammate Dexter Fowler back in early April. Schwarber suffered a fully-torn ACL and LCL in his left leg.

To the surprise of everyone, including manager Joe Maddon, Schwarber was cleared by doctors to play if the Cubs wanted to put him on the World Series roster. So they did. And, boy, are they glad they did it. In preparation, Schwarber saw over 1,000 pitches from machines and pitchers in the Arizona Fall League.

Schwarber essentially crammed for the final exam and unlike most students who do it, it has panned out well thus far. No one was expecting him to look outstanding against Indians ace Corey Kluber in Game 1, but in his first at-bat — his first in the majors since suffering the injury in April — Schwarber worked a 3-1 count before eventually being retired on strikes. Schwarber came back up in the fourth and drilled a Kluber sinker to right field for a two-out double.

In the seventh inning, facing one of the American League’s two scariest left-handed relievers in Andrew Miller, Schwarber worked a full count before drawing a walk. During the regular season, Miller walked exactly one lefty batter. Schwarber made it two. Schwarber would face Miller again in the eighth, going ahead 2-1 before ultimately striking out. He finished 1-for-3 with a walk and a double in the Cubs’ 6-0 loss. Considering the circumstances, that’s amazing.

Schwarber continued his great approach in Game 2 in what turned out to be a 5-1 victory. He struck out against Trevor Bauer in the first inning, but returned to the batter’s box in the third inning and singled up the middle to knock in the Cubs’ second run. Schwarber made it 3-0 in the fifth when he singled up the middle again, this time off of Bryan Shaw, to make it 3-0. Facing Danny Salazar in the sixth, Schwarber drew a four-pitch walk to put runners on first and second base with two outs. Finally, he struck out against Dan Otero in his eighth-inning at-bat, finishing the evening 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI singles and a walk.

But now, as the Cubs return to Chicago for World Series Games 3, 4, and 5 at Wrigley Field, they have to contest with National League rules, a.k.a. no DH. Will Maddon risk Schwarber’s subpar defense to put his dangerous bat in the lineup? Even if Schwarber is not put in the starting lineup, he can at least serve as a dangerous bat off the bench late in the game when the Indians send out their trio of relievers in Shaw, Miller, and closer Cody Allen. At any rate, what Schwarber has done already in the first two games of the World Series is mighty impressive.