White Sox

Former Yankees star decides to retire

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Former Yankees star decides to retire

From Comcast SportsNetNEW 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 outfielderdesignated 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."

Rick Renteria wants you to be ready for the White Sox to win in 2020: 'People, have expectations'

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USA TODAY

Rick Renteria wants you to be ready for the White Sox to win in 2020: 'People, have expectations'

SAN DIEGO — Rick Renteria isn’t shy about what he wants for his White Sox.

No, he’s not out there on Twitter, demanding the front office adds Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Nicholas Castellanos and Dallas Keuchel. But every chance he gets, he talks about where he expects his team to be in 2020.

“We left the season last year, the last series of the year, talking about this year, what we were going to expect and what we wanted to do and the things that we want to accomplish,” the skipper said Tuesday at the Winter Meetings. “Obviously winning more games and being a part of a relevant season is important to us, so we're going to ask a lot of these guys.

“It's time. We talked about it being time. Guys are going to have to step it up. We've made tremendous strides, made growth, but we still have to continue to add pieces to put us over the top to give us an opportunity to be relevant.”

Don’t misconstrue those words as Renteria poking his front office. Rick Hahn & Co. know very well they’ve got more work to do in the wake of giving the richest contract in team history to free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal.

But a generally silent first two days at the Winter Meetings — there is a rumor suggesting the White Sox are trying to trade for Texas Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara — have not lived up to the sky-high expectations of fans, who anticipated hearing the South Siders tied to the biggest names on the free-agent market.

Because the White Sox have been so quiet, it’s hard to figure out what new toys Renteria will have to play with in 2020. It’s hard to figure out if the White Sox will even be ready to leap into contender status by the time March rolls around.

That doesn’t seem to matter to Renteria, though, who was talking about the 2020 postseason while still wrapping up an 89-loss season in 2019. He’s instructing the fan base to start thinking the same way.

“People, have expectations,” he instructed. “Have them on me. Have them on our team. Have them on everyone.

“What scares me is if people don't have expectations. That scares me because then it means you're not striving to be better. We want to be better. We want our guys to improve.”

The idea that all the young White Sox who broke out in 2019 still have a good deal of growing and improving to do is what makes the future so bright on the South Side. And it’s what drew Grandal to sign with the team. It’s what Hahn says should make the White Sox a destination for all free agents.

Renteria agrees.

“There's no one, I don't think, that we've talked to, even toward the end of last year and even people that we've spoken to in terms of possibly coming here that don't see where we're at right now,” Renteria said. “I think there is an optimism and an excitement about the South Side right now that is legit. I don't think it's made up. It's not. It's real.”

As Hahn has alluded to for some time now, any skeptical fans out there likely won’t believe the White Sox have arrived as contenders until they see it, be it through the huge splashes of offseason additions or the fusion of the young core into a true force to be reckoned with. Rumors of reclamation-project outfielders and stopgap solutions in the starting rotation aren’t exactly bringing folks to Renteria’s level of excitement.

But any stretches of offseason inactivity shouldn’t make anyone forget about Yoan Moncada or Lucas Giolito or Tim Anderson or Eloy Jimenez or Luis Robert or Nick Madrigal. Or, you know, Grandal.

That’s what’s real. That’s what’s got Renteria so excited.

Playoffs? A Jim Mora style reaction to that question wouldn’t be unwarranted. But Renteria is asking you to dream bigger.

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Cubs still trying to break through on extension talks with current players

Cubs still trying to break through on extension talks with current players

SAN DIEGO — While the rest of the baseball world is occupying their time on free agent signings and trades, the Cubs have been waiting for their number to be called.

They've been trying to nail down extensions with key players that are only a couple years away from free agency, though nothing appears imminent on that front. 

Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber are all free agents after the 2021 season, leaving the Cubs two years to work out a deal or trade the player before losing them for nothing but a compensation pick. Willson Contreras is a free agent after 2022. Theo Epstein's front office reached a four-year, $55.5 million deal with Kyle Hendricks in spring training, extending his team control through the 2023 season.

The Cubs won't comment specifically on the current extension talks, but they'd ideally hope to wrap anything before spring training this year, so the players can focus solely on baseball by then.

"We always take the position of not commenting on extensions, but are we having those discussions? Yes," Jed Hoyer said Tuesday. "People focus so much on trades and free agent signings at these meetings, but all the agents are under the same roofs, also, and allows us to have those kinds of discussions. I'm not gonna specify who or what, but yeah certainly those conversations are ongoing."

Bryant has long been thought of as the toughest of the group to lock up long-term given that his agent, Scott Boras, typically advises clients to hit the open market and maximize their value. Boras reiterated Tuesday afternoon at the Winter Meetings he and Bryant are still open to extension talks with the Cubs.

Baez and Rizzo loom as the two most likely to extend their Wrigley Field stays, with the two emerging as the faces of the franchise in their own ways.

As the Cubs try to navigate an offseason where they're "serving two masters" (trying to compete in 2020-21 while also enhancing the long-term future of the franchise), a potential extension would check both boxes in a major way. If Hoyer and Theo Epstein knew Baez would be locking down shortstop and the middle of the lineup for the next six seasons, they could breathe a bit easier thinking about the big picture and long-term health of the franchise. 

At the same time, they can't operate as if anything is a certainty. Bryant could decide he likes the Cubs' offer and make Chicago his forever baseball home. Baez could conclude the opposite. 

It's what makes this particular offseason so tricky for the Cubs.

"We have to be able to have parallel tracks in our mind," Hoyer said. "We have to be able to do multiple things at once. It doesn't make it more difficult. We have a lot of really good players. We've had them for a long time. When we talk to these players about contracts, there's no player that we talk to that we haven't had a conversation with at some point before about a contract. 

"We've talked about these players for five years in some way, shape or form. When we sit down with these players, we're not covering a ton of new ground. We've already been over a lot of it. I think we're able to have parallel tracks."