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.

Umpire Cory Blaser made two atrocious calls in the top of the 11th inning

Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images
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The Astros walked off 3-2 winners in the bottom of the 11th inning of ALCS Game 2 against the Yankees. Carlos Correa struck the winning blow, sending a first-pitch fastball from J.A. Happ over the fence in right field at Minute Maid Park, ending nearly five hours of baseball on Sunday night.

Correa’s heroics were precipitated by two highly questionable calls by home plate umpire Cory Blaser in the top half of the 11th.

Astros reliever Joe Smith walked Edwin Encarnación with two outs, prompting manager A.J. Hinch to bring in Ryan Pressly. Pressly, however, served up a single to left field to Brett Gardner, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Hinch again came out to the mound, this time bringing Josh James to face power-hitting catcher Gary Sánchez.

James and Sánchez had an epic battle. Sánchez fell behind 0-2 on a couple of foul balls, proceeded to foul off five of the next six pitches. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Sánchez appeared to swing and miss at an 87 MPH slider in the dirt for strike three and the final out of the inning. However, Blaser ruled that Sánchez tipped the ball, extending the at-bat. Replays showed clearly that Sánchez did not make contact at all with the pitch. James then threw a 99 MPH fastball several inches off the plate outside that Blaser called for strike three. Sánchez, who shouldn’t have seen a 10th pitch, was upset at what appeared to be a make-up call.

The rest, as they say, is history. One pitch later, the Astros evened up the ALCS at one game apiece. Obviously, Blaser’s mistakes in a way cancel each other out, and neither of them caused Happ to throw a poorly located fastball to Correa. It is postseason baseball, however, and umpires are as much under the microscope as the players and managers. Those were two particularly atrocious judgments by Blaser.