No, Hideki Matsui is not a Hall of Famer

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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.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).