With the World Series shifting to Philadelphia for the next three games and the designated hitter not in play, the Yankees are facing a decision about what to do with Hideki Matsui.
Matsui was one of the team’s best hitters during the regular season, batting .274/.367/.509 with 28 homers and 90 RBIs in 142 games, and after last night’s go-ahead blast off Pedro Martinez he’s now 10-for-36 (.278) with two homers in the playoffs.
However, because of knee problems Matsui hasn’t played the outfield for a single inning all season, and he’d have to dust off his glove and take the bags of ice off his knees to get into the starting lineup for Games 3, 4, and 5. Here’s what manager Joe Girardi said when asked if using Matsui in the outfield was an option in Philadelphia:
That’s something we’re going to have to talk about. We’ll see how he’s doing. We’ll have to see. We’ll make a decision when we get there. We have all day to think about it.
For his part, Matsui said: “If the manager decides to put me in the outfield, then I’m going to make sure that I am ready for that.” Nick Swisher has been so awful in the playoffs that Girardi benched him in favor of Jerry Hairston Jr. last night, which is an extreme enough measure to make me think that the Yankees skipper is probably leaning toward using Matsui in the outfield for at least one or two of the games in Philadelphia.
Matsui could be a disaster out there after his complete lack of action defensively, but if you’ve given up on Swisher to the point that you’re willing to start Hairston in right field for a World Series game … well, then you’re probably willing to role the dice on Matsui’s legs, right? Of course, with the way Girardi has tinkered and micro-managed his way through the playoffs it wouldn’t be surprising if Matsui, Hairston, and Swisher each get a start, and benching the slumping Johnny Damon probably isn’t out of the question either.
The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.
Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).
John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.
What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.
The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?