Sponichi recently sat down with Hideki Matsui for an interview (parts 1, 2, and 3) and while I won't go through and translate the entire bit, I figured I'd pick up some of the most interesting sections.
Your goals for the 2010 season. You mentioned playing in every game.
Yes. This is something I think every player wants / needs. I missed a fairly large number of games over the last few years. And that was a very difficult thing for me to get past. Especially because I was able to play in so many games before that with the help and support of people around me. I have strong feelings to get back to the outfield. But it's not just about wanting to play the outfield, it's also because I think that's the only way I can really get into games. As only a DH, I think I'll only have fewer opportunities to play. If I have a guarantee that I'll be able to play a lot of games, then I guess that would be fine as well. But I think many teams like to save the DH spot in order to give the regular starters a chance to rest. And this is not something that only the Yankees do.
Your uniform number with the Angels will be 55. You originally got the number as a reminder that one of your goals should be to break Sadaharu Oh's single season record of 55 in one season. If you can play in every game during the season, do you think you can reach 55 in the Majors?
I don't think my chances are at 0. But I don't really think about that anymore. Of course, just because I'm not thinking about doesn't mean I have no chance.
You signed a contract with the Angels on 12/15/2009, only 42 days since you were made the World Series MVP. It was also the day you decided to part ways with the Yankees.
I said when I was interviewed after getting the World Series MVP, I just really love the city of New York. I loved the Yankees, I loved my teammates, and I loved the fans. It was the best environment for me to play in. And so my feelings of wanting to stay were very strong. And somewhere in the bottom of my heart, I think I was hoping they'd ask me back.
When the Angels sent you an offer, did you think about the Yankees?
Of course. I met with Mike Scioscia and Tony Reagins and received an offer and it was a matter of saying yes or no to them. And there was a deadline. And I was thinking that if the Yankees just showed me that they were still interested, just even a small sign. I mean, they were a team I really loved. That night, I thought about it. And it was a really decision for me. I thought about it for quite some time. And I kept thinking, if only the Yankees would just show me even the slightest of interest. But nothing... I guess that can't be helped though.
What kind of offer were you expecting (were you hoping for) from the Yankees?
Hmm... More than what I was hoping for, I would have been happy with whatever the Yankees offered me. It wouldn't have been about me being satisfied or not satisfied with their offer, but rather an offer equals the team needs me. I think any offer they would have made, I think I may have been able to agree to it.
Your agent, Arn Tellem, said that you wanted to retire in pinstripes.
I just wanted to be remembered as a Yankee. And if it ended that way, that would have been great. But that wasn't my ultimate goal. I just really wanted to feel needed by the team I was on. I think it's just a natural feeling players have.
Will the fans cheer or boo [when you return to Yankee Stadium]?
I really have no idea. I really don't have any expectations or hopes. Either way, it doesn't really matter to me.
Your contract with the Angels is half of what you made last season.
[Money] was not an issue this time around. Most important for me was playing time.
Would have you have agreed to something less?
Based on my thinking, yes. I think that's why I more years or more money wouldn't have made much of a difference.
In order to play every game, you figured you would also have to take the field. Is there anything more to your wanting to play the outfield again?
Well, I think as long as I'm playing, I also want to play [the outfield]. That's really it. And until I became a DH, I did play the field. That was just part of deal. After being a DH, I realized it's much easier for me to play when I also play the field. The biggest difference is the atmosphere. As a DH, you can return to the locker room and get ready, but you miss out on what goes on in the field. I was definitely feeling something of a difference between being on and off the field.
How did things go during your mini-camp in December?
I think I'm on the right track. Grounders and fly balls, I did some light fielding. And while I wasn't able to run at full speed, I got pretty close.
You mentioned that you still had some fears about your knees back on 12/6.
To be honest, I still have some of those fears. It's the same fear that I had during the past season. Will I be able to defend with this fear, or will I have to address this fear first before I can become an effective fielder? That's something I'll need to figure out moving forward. I'm sure I'll start the season at DH. And from there, I think they'll give me a chance to take the field once or twice a week, with a slow increase over time.
So this coming season could end up becoming a big turning point in your career.
Yes. That could indeed be the case. It'll be a matter of whether or not I can take the field. And right now, I can't say anything more about it than that.
Meanwhile, Hisanori Takahashi and Toshihisa Nishi continue to await offers from MLB clubs.