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Hideki Matsui retires from baseball

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Hideki Matsui retires from baseball

NEW YORK (AP) Free agent slugger Hideki Matsui retired Thursday from professional baseball, saying he is no longer able to perform at the level that made him a star in two countries.

The 2009 World Series MVP with the New York Yankees and a three-time Central League MVP with the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants struggled in a brief stint with the Tampa Bay Rays last season and recently made up his mind to call it a career after 20 years - the first 10 in Japan.

Despite choosing to make the announcement in New York because the city was special to him, the nearly hour-long news conference was conducted only in Japanese and was broadcast live to his home country, where it was 7 a.m. Friday. A Japanese reporter translated portions of the event for the four American baseball writers in attendance.

Before he left for New York in 2003, Matsui told his fans in Japan that he would give his life to playing in the major leagues, give whatever he had, the reporter said. ``Today is the day he put a period to that.''

In front of more than 15 cameras and dozens of Japanese reporters, many of whom detailed every aspect of his career in the United States, the outfielder/designated hitter gave a 12-minute speech before answering questions for about 40 minutes more, betraying little emotion except for that sly smile he flashed during his playing days.

Nicknamed Godzilla, Matsui was already perhaps the most popular player of his generation in Japan when he signed a three-year, $21 million contract with the Yankees.

While Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki appeared to shy away from the attention, Matsui walked right into the spotlight and embraced the scrutiny.

Playing for the Yankees was, ``one of the best things that happened to him in his life,'' the Japanese reporter quoted Matsui as saying.

No. 55 was a monster for New York, too. Always cool under pressure, Matsui hit a grand slam in his first game at Yankee Stadium and matched a World Series record with six RBIs in his pinstripe finale seven years later - during the clinching Game 6 of the 2009 Series.

``I've had a lot of teammates over the years with the Yankees, but I will always consider Hideki one of my favorites,'' Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. ``Despite being shadowed by a large group of reporters, having the pressures of performing for his fans both in New York and Japan and becoming acclimated to the bright lights of New York City, he always remained focused and committed to his job and to those of us he shared the clubhouse with. I have a lot of respect for Hideki.''

In his career with New York, Matsui made two All-Star teams and hit .292 with 140 doubles and 597 RBIs. He played in his first 518 major league games after playing in 1,250 straight games in Japan.

In his first remarks after breaking his wrist and ending that streak in 2006, he apologized for getting hurt. Matsui returned four months later and went 4 for 4.

Matsui was known for being stoic but he also had a sense of humor, and he got a good laugh Thursday, telling the crowd that he doesn't like to use the word ``retirement'' because he will play pick-up baseball.

Still, Matsui ruled out competing this year in the World Baseball Classic or joining a team in Japan again.

``He was not confident he'd be able to play at the level he played at 10 years ago,'' the reporter said.

In fact, Matsui still has not decided on what to do next.

Matsui hit 21 homers for the Los Angeles Angels in 2010 after New York didn't offer him a new contract, but his numbers fell off considerably after that. He slumped to .147 (14 for 95) with the Rays in 37 games before being released.

Overall, Matsui batted .282 with 175 homers and 760 RBIs for the Yankees, Angels, Oakland Athletics and Rays. In Japan he had a .304 career average with 332 homers and 889 RBIs in 1,268 games.

``Hideki Matsui, in many ways, embodied what this organization stands for. He was dedicated to his craft, embraced his responsibilities to his team and fans, and elevated his play when he was needed the most,'' Yankees general managing partner Hal Steinbrenner said. ``He did all these things with a humility that was distinctly his own, which is why he was such a big part of our success and why he will always be a cherished member of the Yankees family.''

Matsui said he first started thinking about the Yankees when he became a professional and his manager with the Giants told him to aspire to be a player like former New York center fielder Joe DiMaggio.

Then in 1999 - three years from free agency - Matsui went to Yankee Stadium to watch a game and was ``astonished'' at the level of play. He thought to himself that he would ``like to become a player that would be capable of playing at Yankee Stadium,'' the reporter translated.

Matsui arrived in New York after a season in which he hit 50 homers for the most well-known team in Japan, and fit right in.

``Hideki came to the Yankees as a superstar and immediately became a team favorite. Not only for his talent but for the unselfishness he brought to the game every day,'' said MLB executive vice president for baseball operations Joe Torre, who was Matsui's manager for his first five seasons in New York. ``Hideki Matsui is a winner and I was proud to be his manager.''

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2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

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USA Today Sports

2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Pavel Francouz stopped all five shooters and Petr Kouka scored the shootout winner as the Czech Republic eliminated the United States with a 3-2 victory in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

Jan Kovar and Tomas Kundratek scored in regulation for the Czech Republic, which was fresher after winning its group and getting a bye into the quarterfinals. The U.S. looked fatigued after facing Slovakia in the qualification round and was outshot 29-20.

Ryan Donato and Jim Slater scored for the U.S, which again was led by its youngest players, including speedster Troy Terry. U.S. goaltender Ryan Zapolski allowed three goals on 29 shots and one in the shotoout, while Francouz stopped 18 in regulation and overtime.

Koukal was the only player to score in overtime. Chris Bourque, Ryan Donato, Marc Arcobello, Terry and Bobby Butler couldn't beat Francouz.

RELATED: OVECHKIN HAS LITTLE DESIRE TO WATCH 2018 WINTER OLYMPICS

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Need to Know: The Redskins appear to be set at center

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Associated Press

Need to Know: The Redskins appear to be set at center

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, February 21, 21 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The Redskins appear to be set at center

Originally published 12/19/17

Chase Roullier might have been the Redskins’ fourth choice to play at center this year. But he could be snapping the ball for Washington for a long time.

Kory Lichtensteiger, the starter for the previous three years when healthy, retired. Veteran backup John Sullivan departed as a free agent. Spencer Long started six games this season before knee and quad problems pushed him to the sideline, elevating the rookie Roullier into the starting lineup.

The sixth-round pick started three games before breaking his right hand at some point during the game against the Saints. That’s his snapping hand and him finishing that game was an underrated act of courage this year. But he was out for three games before returning against the Cardinals on Sunday. Jay Gruden was pleased with his play. 

“Chase did good. He did good,” said Gruden. “It was good to see him back in there. His snaps were outstanding and handled the calls and play well.”

That was good but standard praise. What was interesting was what he said next.  

“I like Chase’s progress right now,” he said. “I think he is going to be a very good center for a long time here. It was a great pickup for us in the draft.”

It appears that you can at least pencil in Roullier as the 2018 starter at center, if not put him in with a Sharpie.

Where would this leave Long, who is slated to be a free agent in March? The Redskins could let him walk and go with the younger and cheaper Roullier. They also could sign him to be their starting left guard. That job has belonged to Shawn Lauvao. But Lauvao also is a pending free agent and he is 30 and he has missed large chunks of two of the last three seasons with injuries. When he missed the last 13 games of the 2015 season, Long went in at left guard and played well.

If that happens, that would give the Redskins a starting offensive line consisting entirely of players drafted by the team and with only Trent Williams over the age of 27 in Week 1 of 2018.

Regardless of what happens at left guard, it looks like Roullier will be the man in the middle for 2018 and beyond.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 8
—NFL Draft (4/26) 64
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 200