Other Sports

Hideki Matsui retires from baseball

201212271748641249565-p2.jpeg

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.''

NASCAR at New Hampshire: everything you need to know about racing this weekend

new-hampshire-nbcsw.png
Brian Fluharty/USA Today Images

NASCAR at New Hampshire: everything you need to know about racing this weekend

Still not over that finish from Kentucky Speedway? Good, us either. NASCAR is right back after it this weekend in the Granite State and New Hampshire Motor Speedway for some short-track summer action.

Here's what we're watching for on Sunday afternoon in the Foxwoods Resort 301 (3 p.m. EST on NBCSN).

NEW HAMPSHIRE STATISTICS
New Hampshire Motor Speedway: 1.058-mile oval in Loudon, N.H.
Race information: 318.46 miles, 301 laps
Stage lengths: 75 laps, 75 laps, 151 laps
Defending winner: Kevin Harvick
Most wins: Jeff Burton (4)

WEEKEND SCHEDULE

NEW HAMPSHIRE MOTOR SPEEDWAY

Friday, July 19

12:05 – 12:55 p.m. – Cup practice (NBCSN)

1:05 – 1:55 p.m. – Xfinity practice (NBCSN)

3:35 – 4:25 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (NBCSN)

4:35 p.m. – Cup qualifying (single vehicle/two laps all positions) (NBCSN, Performance Racing Network)

Saturday, July 20

10:05 – 10:55 a.m. – Cup practice (CNBC)

11:15 a.m. – Xfinity qualifying (single vehicle/two laps all positions) (NBCSN)

12:35 – 1:25 p.m. – Final Cup practice (NBCSN)

4 p.m. – Roxor 200 Xfinity race (stages 45/90/200 laps = 211.6 miles) (NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, July 21

3 p.m. – Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 (stages 75/150/301 laps = 318.46 miles) (NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Is It Time For SHR To Panic?

Past the halfway point in the 2019 season, Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske, Hendrick Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing and Spire Motorsports (!) have visited Victory Lane.

Notably absent is Stewart-Haas Racing.

2014 Monster Energy Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick had five wins at this point last season, Clint Bowyer had two, and the duo of Aric Almirola and Kurt Busch had been running consistently inside the top five and top 10. This season, they're a step behind.

Whether it's the adjustment to the new Ford Mustang or the new aerodynamic rules package for this season, SHR is behind, there's no sugarcoating it.

Although Harvick is safely in the playoffs, Almirola is in but does not have a large buffer, Bowyer is on the bubble and Daniel Suarez is on the outside looking in.

Harvick did win this race last season, and another checkered flag for the No. 4 camp this weekend would go a long way confidence wise for the organization.

More Sticky Stuff

PJ1 is back, and it seems here to stay.

The sticky adhesive that was put down last weekend in Kentucky, as well as multiple times last season, has been applied at NHMS and will be applied next weekend at Pocono Raceway as well. The adhesive is in hopes to create more racing lines and in turn, a better on track product.

With temparatures this weekend reaching upwards of triple digits, the PJ1 will become more active earlier on. The hotter it is, the more grip the substance has.

Lobstah

New England NASCAR trips and somewhat cringeworthy New England NASCAR accents go hand in hand. Like it or not, that's part of it, right?

The winner of each NHMS race gets a big ole lobster to celebrate with. But don't give one to Denny Hamlin. We remember what happened to him a couple years back, right?

2019 NASCAR STANDINGS

Next week, NASCAR heads to the Pocono Raceway for the second time this season for the Gander Outdoors 400 on Sunday, July 28 at 3:30 p.m. EST on NBCSN.

Quick Links

Nationals Roundup: Late Victor Robles magic not enough as Braves walk-off Nats

victor-robles-7-19.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Nationals Roundup: Late Victor Robles magic not enough as Braves walk-off Nats

As you would expect a first-place NL East team to do, the Atlanta Braves bounced back to even the series with Washington Friday night inside SunTrust Park. Josh Donaldson erased Victor Robles' game-tying, two-run home run with his walk-off single in the ninth. Atlanta improved to 59-40 and increased its lead over the Nationals to 6.5 games with a 4-3 final. 

Consider these notes as Washington grinds through a pivotal series in Atlanta: 

Player Notes:

Washington's first-year lefty didn't have his best stuff going Friday night in Atlanta. Patrick Corbin tossed just five innings allowing eight hits, two runs, two walks on 100 pitches. He struck out five Braves on his 30th birthday. 

The Nationals' third baseman has brought new meaning to the word 'consistency' all year long in his first season as an All-Star. Two games into this four-game series in Atlanta, Anthony Rendon has five hits, a walk, and 2 RBI.  

Victor Robles brought the fireworks in the ninth at SunTrust Park. The 22-year-old delivered a game-tying, two-run home run off Luke Jackson. The long-ball traveled a whopping 446 feet. 

The Fernando Rodney experience was alive and well. Davey Martinez made the questionable decision to bring his 42-year-old back out in the ninth for a second consecutive inning. It backfired. Just 14 of his 32 pitches were thrown for strikes. 

Injuries: 

SP Max Scherzer: Back, Expected to be out until at least Jul 25

RP Jonny Venters: Back, Expected to be out until at least Jul 26

SP Jeremy Hellickson: Shoulder, Expected to be out until at least Jul 20

RP Justin Miller: Shoulder, Expected to be out until at least Jul 20

RP Koda Glover: Elbow, Expected to be out until at least Aug 7

RP Austen Williams: Shoulder, Expected to be out until at least Jul 26

Coming Up:

Saturday 7/20: Nationals at Braves, 7:20 p.m., SunTrust Park 

Sunday 7/21: Nationals at Braves, 7:20 p.m., SunTrust Park 

Monday 7/22: Nationals vs. Rockies, 7:05 p.m., Nationals Park 

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: