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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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Wizards vs. Bucks: time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

Wizards vs. Bucks: time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

The Wizards head back to the nation's capital Monday night for a matchup with Giannis Antetokoumpo and the Milwaukee Bucks at Capital One Arena.

Bradley Beal led the Wizards with an astounding 53 points in the team's loss Sunday night to the Chicago Bulls. Beal passed Jeff Malone on the team's all-time scoring list for second place. He now only trails Elvin Hayes.

The Bucks are coming off a dominant 21-point win over the 76ers on Friday night and look to continue their stellar play in D.C. against the struggling Wizards.

Here is everything you need to know.

WIZARDS vs. BUCKS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Wizards vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington D.C.

When: Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, at 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Wizards vs. Bucks will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs. Bucks on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the MyTeams App.

Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

WIZARDS vs. BULLS TV SCHEDULE

6:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders

6:30 PM: Wizards Pregame Live

7:00 PM: Wizards vs. Bucks

9:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live

10:00 PM: Wizards Talk

WIZARDS vs. BUCKS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Bradley Beal, Wizards (29.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 6.0 APG): Beal will look to carry the Wizards to victory against the Bucks after the team was unable to defeat the Bulls on Sunday night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks (30.0 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 5.8 APG): The Greek freak is on a fast-track to another MVP trophy and has the Bucks in a prime position to come out of the Eastern Conference.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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Coach Scott Brooks unloads on 'soft' Wizards after loss to Bulls

Coach Scott Brooks unloads on 'soft' Wizards after loss to Bulls

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks scratched and clawed his way through 10 NBA seasons as a player after going undrafted out of college and while doing all of it as an undersized point guard. He made it those 10 years because more than anything he was tough and resilient.

And because of that, there is nothing he laments more as a coach than when he believes his players are being soft. On Sunday night, after his Wizards lost in Chicago to the Bulls, he used the word 'soft' over and over to describe their performance to reporters.

In Brooks-ese, which often consists of platitudes and positivity, that means he is nothing short of irate about how the Wizards have played in their first two games coming out of the All-Star break. They have lost to two teams - the Cavs and Bulls - who are not good and in games they had early leads and a chance to win.

But it's clearly not just the losses themselves that has bothered Brooks, it is the nature of them. And you could argue the way he unloaded on his team on Sunday night suggested he is as fed up now as he has been at any point with them since he took over as head coach four years ago.

What Brooks had a particular issue with was the and-ones the Wizards allowed. The Bulls had nine of them, which means the Wizards fouled them but not hard enough to prevent a made shot. Brooks evidently wants his players to make their fouls count and ensure nothing comes easy for their opponents. He wants them to earn those points at the free-throw line.

As Brooks put it, the "and-ones were about as soft as you can get," per Candace Buckner of the Washington Post. He also said the 16 and-ones between the last two games may be the most he's ever seen in his NBA career.

That would be difficult to verify, but it's easy to figure out who has been the culprit recently. Of the 16 and-ones in the last two games, which was indeed the accurate number, Ian Mahinmi leads the way with four. Bradley Beal, Jerome Robinson, Davis Bertans and Moe Wagner are next up with two apiece.

All in all, nine different Wizards players have committed an and-one foul in the last two games. So, though Mahinmi has had the most issues, it's a team-wide problem.

There is also more to an and-one than just the fouler themselves. They are usually the result of a defensive breakdown. But Brooks also noted how some Bulls players probably didn't even realize they were fouled, which suggests they should have been fouled harder.

Surely, the Wizards will work on it because as direct as Brooks was with the media on Sunday night, you can bet it was much worse behind closed doors. Wizards players likely got an earful either at halftime or after the game. And they will likely hear plenty more in an upcoming film session.

Playing soft is Brooks' biggest pet peeve and the Wizards have clearly struck a nerve with their last two games. The good news is they will have a chance to rebound very soon with another game on Monday night, the second of a back-to-back. The bad news is that it's against the NBA-best Milwaukee Bucks, a team currently on pace to win 70 games.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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