Sun Spots: Matsui, Ichiro and Figgins

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Been a little bit busy and haven’t posted a Sun Spots the last couple of weeks. Will try to make up for that by posting two blogs today. Enjoy the reading on Matsui and Ichiro and the American League West.

Hideki Matsui is here in Los Angeles. So why isn’t there as much excitement as one might expect when a club adds a World Series MVP to the roster for a risk-free one-year deal?

Mark Whicker of the O.C. Register writes: If the Angels had been discussing Roy Halladay with Toronto when those talks opened up to a third bidder, why was it Seattle? Why couldn’t the Angels have sneaked Cliff Lee and his gnat’s-eyebrow fastball and his $8 million salary into Orange County? And if the Angels’ refusal to give up Erick Aybar was the reason their Halladay talks went nowhere, how come nine bodies went flying to four cities Wednesday and no shortstops landed in Toronto? We ask ourselves these questions. Might as well. Nobody answered them at Angel Stadium. “This day is about Hideki Matsui,” General Manager Tony Reagins said. Yeah, but we were thinking about other days.

While the Angels and their fan base are not as thrilled about having Matsui as they could be, a few key Yankees voiced their opinion on how Matsui’s presence will be missed. Larry Fine of the Washington Post writes: Clean-up hitter Alex Rodriguez said Matsui was a big part of the lineup which ended the Yankees’ nine-year title drought. Rodriguez said the top order might function differently without Matsui and Johnny Damon, who is a free agent yet to sign with a club. “One through four in our lineup, I don’t think there was a better lineup in baseball, what we did together,” he said. “And obviously Matsui protecting me,” A-Rod said about the slugger, who usually hit fifth in the order. “I just felt we could do a lot of different things to good pitching. “Matsui is a professional hitter. When I walked and got on base he made guys pay. Obviously, Game Six (of the World Series) was a perfect example of that.”

The Angels, for their part, understand what they’ve acquired. Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times writes: But as much as the Angels welcome the publicity Matsui will generate in Japan and the potential to attract more Japanese American fans, they did not sign him — and let popular slugger Vladimir Guerrero go in the process — because of his global appeal. They signed him because they believe there is still plenty of life in his bat, which produced a .274 average, 28 home runs and 90 runs batted in last season, and a .615 (eight for 13) average, three homers and eight RBIs in the World Series, a performance that earned Matsui most-valuable-player honors.

Speaking of Seattle, Ichiro not only has a Cy Young teammate, but he’s also got a running buddy. John McGrath in the Olympian writes: On a personal list of Most Urgent Needs for the 2010 Mariners, I can’t recall craving a No. 2 hitter. I’ve been craving a No. 2 starter and a couple of run-producing bats, but somebody with the tools fit to complement Ichiro at the top of the order?…(Don Wakamatsu) never did settle on a successful No. 2 hitter last season, opening with Franklin Gutierrez, who was better suited in the middle of the lineup. When the season ended in October, Wakamatsu had written in 13 names in the No. 2 slot. The revolving-door corps featured everybody from a future Hall of Famer (Ken Griffey Jr.) to some temps who likely never will wear a Mariners uniform again (Josh Wilson, Chris Woodward). Wakamatsu more or less determined the answer to be Russell Branyan, who offered none of the conventional attributes of a No. 2 hitter…because of Branyan – the second spot in the 2008 batting order became a hit-or-miss proposition. Among the nine hitters in Mariners’ lineup, the guys batting No. 2 had the most strikeouts, the most grounded-into-double plays, second-worst batting average (.224) and the third-worst on-base percentage (.297).

Greg Johns of Seattle Pi blogs writes: Chone Figgins has spent most of his major-league career as the pesky leadoff hitter for the Los Angeles Angels, but he says he’d be just fine batting second behind Ichiro in the Seattle Mariners’ lineup…Figgins was the Angels’ leadoff man in 644 of his 936 career games over eight seasons. He’s only been out of that spot twice in the past two years. But he called Ichiro “one of the greatest all-time leadoff hitters in the game. To create havoc behind him will be interesting and a whole lot of fun,” he said.

Are the Mariners trying to win one this year for Ken Griffey Jr. who has never been to the World Series? You know who else hasn’t been there? Ichiro.

by JORDAN IKEDA

Rafu Sports Editor

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