Nationals

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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Around the NL East: Braves get a chance to pull ahead

Around the NL East: Braves get a chance to pull ahead

Unsurprisingly the Atlanta Braves fully surpassed the Washington Nationals as the frontrunners in the National League East.

Atlanta has gotten healthy and appears, whereas Washington continues to struggle to find offense and is continually on the mend.

Unlike the week prior, the NL East was above .500 due to the Miami Marlins performing quite well. While it should be no sign of a turnaround, Miami’s offense has some liftoff.

While we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and giving unneeded significance to a series in June, the Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies series at the end of this week is one to watch. Washington is on their worst stretch of games since the start of the season. Two of their top seven arms are on the DL, and they need some breaks to go their way. Philadelphia has been off-and-on for a month, and a series win over the Nats could give them the justification they need to battle for the NL East crown.

Atlanta Braves

Record: 42-29
Last 10: 6-4
Upcoming Series: @ Toronto Blue Jays (2), vs. Baltimore Orioles (3)

It should not be that noteworthy that the Braves jumped out to a lead in the East after their schedule this past week. Playing two of the bottom teams in the National League, the New York Mets and the San Diego Padres, Atlanta took care of business going 5-1 on the week.

Understanding it is against bottom half competition, their pitching was superb by some key starters in their rotation. Of course Mike Soroka finally came back from rehab with 6.1 innings of one-hit baseball, along with a brief break by Julio Tehran. Occupying the No. 5 spot in the rotation, Soroka will significantly bolster the bridge to Tehran, who struck out 11 Padres on Sunday.

For position players, Freddie Freeman hit three home runs this week despite seeing a 10-game hitting streak come to a close. They also still are waiting for their star left fielder Robert Acuna Jr. to get back. He was sent to the 10-day DL back on May 28.

A relatively easy June continues for the Braves with only Toronto and Baltimore on deck this week.

Washington Nationals

Record: 37-31
Last 10: 4-6
Upcoming Series: vs. New York Yankees (2), vs. Baltimore Orioles (3), vs. Philadelphia Phillies (3)

The best news for the Nationals after getting swept by the Blue Jays is honestly their young phenom Juan Soto. Hitting .312 in 77 at-bats, the outfield call-up has far exceeded expectations.

Almost singlehandedly, Soto gave them their lone victory of the week by hitting two dingers in Yankee Stadium. He brought home four of their five runs in a one-run win.

By all means he has earned his starting spot with the top club, alongside the now healthy Adam Eaton and Bryce Harper. However, where does Michael A. Taylor fit in? Tough decisions to be had in the Nats clubhouse.

An eight-game home stand is severely needed for a squad that had dropped six of their last eight and is now 3.5 games back in the division. Not to mention they are still without Stephen Strasburg, Jeremy Hellickson, and Brandon Kintzler.

Don’t worry the All-Star break, which will be in their home yard, is right around the corner.

Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 37-32
Last 10: 5-5
Upcoming Series: vs. St. Louis Cardinals (3), @ Washington Nationals (3)

Two series wins over the Colorado Rockies and in Milwaukee was a good pick-me-up for the young Philadelphia squad.

Unlike the week prior, there are finally some runners getting on base. None more than Rhys Hoskins who had eight hits (three of them long balls), and four walks in the past six games. They’ve even got some lively play from shortstop Scott Kingery, batting .333 in the past week.

Still their starters have to give them more consistency to give them a chance in the NL East. That includes Jake Arrieta (5-5) who consistently cannot make it to the sixth inning. He’s given up a combined 13 runs in only 14.2 innings pitched in his last three starts.

A chance for them to really pull their worth and possibly leapfrog the Nationals this week.

New York Mets

Record: 30-38
Last 10: 3-7
Upcoming Series: @ Colorado Rockies (4), vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (3)

All of the New York Mets ‘stars’ are still on the disabled list. All two of them.

Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes were anticipated to come back this past week, but neither got the nod from Mickey Callaway.

With a solid uptick in production by Jose Reyes, who still has a .165 average on the year, there is some hope with the production from their infield.

Miami Marlins

Record: 28-44
Last 10: 6-4
Upcoming Series: @ San Francisco Giants (3), @ Colorado Rockies (3)

Twice this week Miami had a chance to get their first sweep over an opponent this year. Sure one team was the Baltimore Orioles, but the other was the San Francisco Giants.

It wasn’t necessarily because of dominant pitching either. Their lineup pieced together some timely hits, including three triples from center fielder Lewis Brinson and three home runs by J.T. Realmuto.

Speaking of pitching though, closer Kyle Barraclough saw four appearances without allowing a run, garnering three saves. If his team can get him more opportunities he could be up there with Kenley Jansen and Sean Dolittle as one of the top closers in the NL.

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Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Offense

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Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Offense

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 18, 38 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins 53-man roster projection—offense 

It may still be early to project the roster, but things are coming into focus after the round of practices in helmets and shorts. Here is my look at who I think will make it on offense; defense up tomorrow. 

Quarterbacks (2)
Alex Smith, Colt McCoy

I think that Kevin Hogan is very much on the bubble as the third quarterback. They got along with two QBs last year, and with Alex Smith having demonstrated great durability during his career, Hogan may well get bumped off. 

Running backs (4)
Derrius Guice, Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine, Rob Kelley

I’d say that this is 95 percent locked in. Maybe Kapri Bibbs or Byron Marshall can make a push for Kelley’s roster spot but his history with Jay Gruden will make it very hard for him to get knocked out. 

Wide receivers (6)
Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Jamison Crowder, Maurice Harris, Robert Davis, Trey Quinn

The first time I did this back in April I didn’t have Quinn on the roster. That was before he was a man among boys at rookie camp and a player who looks like he belongs when the veterans showed up. I don’t know if he’ll have the impact that many fans think he will, but he’s certainly going to get his chance. Brian Quick could steal a roster spot from Harris or Davis.

Tight ends (3)
Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle

The Redskins did not draft a tight end or sign one in free agency so there seems to be faith that Reed will be healthy. We’ve heard that before and it seems somewhat risky to leave Davis, who has Father Time nipping at his heels, and the inexperienced Sprinkle as the only two backups. They may try to make room for an undrafted rookie like Hudson Garrett.  

Offensive line (9)
Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses, Ty Nsekhe, Geron Christian, Tyler Catalina, Tony Bergstrom

I think that Gruden is probably happy with the starters here but the depth is shaky, especially in the interior. The key could be whether Christian is ready for prime time as the swing tackle. That could allow Nsekhe to fill in at guard. Bergstrom is fine as the backup center, although I wouldn’t want to have to count on him for more than a few games. 

Offensive players: 24
Rookies (3):
Guice, Christian, Quinn
New to the organization in 2018 (5): Rookies plus Smith, Richardson 
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster (11): Rookies plus new plus Harris (practice squad), R. Davis (practice squad) and Bergstrom (not on the team). 

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

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An Indiana state police officer tweeted that he pulled a driver over for going too slowly in the left lane. I believe this person is a national hero. 

Timeline  

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 38
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 52
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 75

The Redskins last played a game 167 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 83 days. 

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