Oct 22, 2014

Former Mets Infielder: Kazuo Matsui (2004-2006)

Kazuo Matsui was born on October 23, 1975 in Osaka Japan. Matsui was an All star shortstop in Japan, winning seven Best Nine awards, four gold gloves and two stolen base titles. His teams won four titles but never the final championship series.

In 2004 he became the first Japanese infielder to sign with a major league team when he became a New York Met.

Matsui debuted on Opening Day 2004 & hit a HR in his first MLB at bat off the Atlanta Braves Russ Ortiz at Turner Field. He is the only player in MLB history to hit HRs in his first plate appearance three straight seasons (2004-2005-2006). On may 18th he singled off the Cardinals Jason Isringhausen in the bottom of the 9th inning tying up the game, then Cliff Floyd drove in the winning walk off run.

On July 2nd he had a huge day at Shea in the subway series against the cross town rivals. Matsui hit two HRs off Mike Mussina driving in five runs in the Mets 11-2 win. By the All Star break he was batting .260 & in the second half he was limited to just 28 games due to injuries.

In his rookie 2004 season Matsui played short stop and the Mets moved the short stop of the future Jose Reyes over to second. None of these ideas worked out and Kaz was back at playing second base by the end of the season.

On the year he hit .272 with 32 doubles, 7 HRs, 44 RBIs and 14 stolen bases in his rookie year, not a bad showing but more was expected after the club had promoted him so highly. At short stop his 23 errors were second most in the league as he posted a .956 on base %.

The next season he once again hit a HR on Opening Day, this time in Cincinnati in the Mets 7-6 loss. He then drove in two more runs the next day. On April 29th he was batting .280 but it dropped off from there as he fell to .234 on June 21st when he went on the disabled list.

Back in the week of May 14th he drove in nine runs in seven games, including two in two games of the subway series. He missed almost two months of action & played in just 87 games the rest of the year, batting .255 with 3 HRs o doubles 4 triples & 24 RBIs.

On the field he posted a .970 fielding % making nine errors in 303 chances.

He began 2006 with a HR for the third straight season, this one was an inside the parker against the San Diego Padres. He slid past his former team mate Mike Piazza, now catching with the Padres at home plate for the score. By this season the Mets were a totally different team than when Matsui first joined the club.

Jose Valentin was surprised everyone in Spring Training and took over the second base spot. After 38 games Matsui was hitting only .200 and was shipped to the Colorado Rockies for Eli Marero.

After spending his first two months in the minors, he came up and hit over .300 the remainder of the season. Colorado seemed like it was light years away, when the ’06 Mets finished first & the Rockies finished fourth. Well by 2007 the Rockies won almost every game in the month of September and made the post season, as they surprised everyone.

Kazuo hit .288 with 24 doubles six triples and stole 32 bases during the regular season. He posted a .992 fielding % (best among all second baseman) & turned 26 double plays with Troy Tulowitzki up the middle infield.

The Rockies swept the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS & the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLCS getting all the way to the World Series, before losing to the Boston Red Sox.

Post Season: Matsui hit his first career grand slam in Game #2 of the NLDS & almost became the first player to hit for the cycle in a post season game missing just a single. Overall in the post season he hit .304 with 8 RBIs.

In 2008 he signed as a free agent with the Houston Astros and batted a career best .293 stealing 20 bases. In 2009 he was still Houston’s second baseman hitting .250 in his last full season of MLB play.

In 2010 he saw action in just 27 games, getting released & signed back in Japan for 2011.

In his seven season career Matsui hit .267 with 615 hits 32 HRs 120 doubles 20 triples 102 stolen bases 211 RBIs & a .321 on base %.

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