J-SLANTED: Postseason Notes and Etcetera

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By JORDAN IKEDA

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For those who follow this column, it’s pretty obvious that I have some strong baseball biases. At my core, the Dodgers, no matter how poorly they’re run (and boy have we had some lame owners during my lifetime), will always be my team. Well, as long as Frank McCourt doesn’t sell Chavez Ravine and erect a Cristo Redentor-esque statue of himself overlooking Downtown.

HIDEKI MATSUI

Besides my obvious distaste for the San Francisco Giants (duh!), and my slightly irrational hatred for anything Boston-related, I can’t help but smile to see the Yankees down three games to one to the Texas Rangers in the American League Championship Series.

After coming back in dramatic fashion to take game one, the Yankees offense has sputtered and died. While their pitching has been anything but acceptable (it was viewed as a weak link coming in), since game one, the offense has managed only five runs in the subsequent three games. By the way, that’s 20 less than the Rangers have put up.

The key, in my mind, is the lack of clutch hitting in the middle of the order. Alex Rodriguez, who I might add, is making $33 million this season (or about a million less than the entire Pittsburgh Pirates team), is batting .133. He’s managed two RBI in the series to go along with his .369 OPS. Nick Swisher has a .067 average with a big donut in the boxscore next to RBI. Marcus Thames is batting .200 with one RBI. Jorge Posada is hitting .167. Lance Berkman, .286 with a .661 OPS.

Think the Yankees couldn’t use the clutch-hitting of Hideki Matsui right about now? Take Tuesday night as the most recent example, when the Yanks had the bases loaded in the bottom of the eight with one out and down by four. The top of the order—A-Rod, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson—were all on base. Up stepped Swisher who flied to center, up stepped Berkman who grounded to third. End inning. Game over.

Matsui has been clutch his whole career, and despite a mediocre season by his standards, there’s something to be said for his .312 BA and .933 OPS in the postseason.

In other news, former Dodger Takashi Saito was released by the Atlanta Braves Tuesday.

The 40-year-old Saito was 2-3 with a 2.83 ERA in 56 games for Atlanta and made $3.45 million, including $250,000 in performance bonuses. He had one save in two chances and helped to set up closer Billy Wagner before he was slowed by a sore right shoulder the last month of the season.

Not sure where he goes from here. By all indications, and by his own mouth, he wants to be in the Majors next season, though, with his arm issues and his age, the 40-year-old might have better offers coming from Japan.

Saito pitched for 14 seasons for Yokohama of Japan’s Central League before signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2006. He signed as a free agent with Atlanta on Dec. 3 and his contract specified he would be released within 11 days of the end of the World Series. Guess the Braves wanted to hurry the process up a bit.

On that line of thinking, the much ballyhooed talk of Yu Darvish coming to America next season has officially been put to rest, by the half-Iranian, half-Japanese himself.

“Next season, I will be wearing a Nippon Ham Fighters uniform,” Darvish posted on his blog—called Thoughts of Yu—ending speculation he would go through the posting system and rendering meaningless for the moment numerous recent trips by scouts for U.S. teams, including a rumored $80 million offer from the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Darvish, 24, has led Japan’s Pacific League in earned run average three of the past four seasons. He won the Sawamura Award in 2007 and is a two-time Pacific League MVP. He is not eligible to be a free agent until after the 2013 season, but could request to leave sooner through the posting system, as Daisuke Matsuzaka and others have.

That $100 million investment has turned out beautifully for the BoSox by the way. After a complete fluke all-star caliber season in 08, Matsuzaka has jousted with Red Sox management, spent a good chunk of time sitting rehabbing his injured chunky frame, and gone 13-12 with a 4.98 ERA.

Makes me want to smile actually…

Jordan Ikeda is the Rafu sports editor. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Rafu Shimpo. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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