Kazuo Matsui is no ordinary player. A seven time all-star and three time Gold Glove winner for the Seibu Lions of the Pacific League, Kazuo, the 1998 NPB (Nippon Baseball League) MVP, provides both the great skill and marketability that the Mets have been craving since they began a swoon that has culminated in two straight last place finishes in the NL East.
Matsui, regarded as the best player in Japan since and perhaps even before Hideki Matsui left for the cross-town Yankees, brings a rare combination of speed, power and fielding prowess to the Mets. Despite measuring in at five foot nine, Matsui hit 33 homeruns for Seibu last season after being moved into the three-slot in the lineup and being asked to hit for more power.
Although he does not draw an exorbitant amount of walks, Matsui can beat out an infield hit and make it a triple with speed even Ichiro has described as faster than his own.
Matsui also has tremendous range and a cannon for an arm, so there will not be much if any defensive falloff from Reyes' move to second. In fact, given that Reyes is amiable to such a move and is renowned for being such a hard worker, it should actually solidify the team's defense up the middle.
In addition to his incredible skills on the field, Matsui brings a huge, dedicated following from his native Japan. A rabid baseball fan base in Japan has already produced huge revenues for the Mariners and Yankees from merchandise sales and television rights in the country alone, in addition to the vast spoils that the teams have received from their US fan base.
While it is yet to be seen how Matsui's tremendous numbers for Seibu will translate to the spacious Shea Stadium, one thing is for certain: Matsui brings an uncanny set of both baseball and marketing skills to the New York Mets.
Jordan Zakarin covers the Mets as a beat writer/columnist for NYFansOnly. He can be reached at JDZakarin@yahoo.com