Kaz Matsui shouldn't have been a New York Met. It was wrong for him, it was wrong for us.
This was not Reggie Jackson and George Steinbrenner, one of whom was a liar and the other was convicted, thus they deserved each other — as an overwrought, overbuzzed Billy Martin so memorably and accurately framed it. We didn't deserve Kaz. Kaz didn't deserve us.
We both deserved better.
To this night, when we learned that our long international nightmare was over, I never understood how Kaz Matsui became a pin cushion for Mets fans. I mean, yeah, I get that he didn't succeed and those who don't succeed aren't generally treated royally, but how could you boo that face? I spent 2-1/3 seasons just feeling sorry for the guy. I'd like to believe the negative reaction was to his presence and performance, and that it was nothing personal, though I'm not sure why I'm still worried about it.
Kaz Matsui never uttered a cross word (at least one that was translated) about his tormentors in the stands. He never let on that he didn't like how he was being used (not that he gave his managers much choice). He never sat off in a corner of the dugout by his lonesome, George Foster style. The other night, after Milledge's second homer, Kaz was jumping up and down and congratulating a guy he presumably barely knew. That, I thought, is a good teammate.
That said, there was no good reason for his being signed to play here. Given the money ($8 mil a year for three years), the domino effect (shifting Reyes to second) and the allocation of resources (Jose had just staked his claim to shortstop, so WTF?), you could argue that it was the dumbest high-profile free agent acquisition in Mets history that didn't involve Vince Coleman's signature.
Even if the Mets weren't the only MLB team that saw something special in him based on his stellar Japanese career (and his potential Asian-American fan appeal), they simply didn't need him. This wasn't the '93 Braves enhancing a rotation of Glavine, Smoltz and Avery with Maddux. You can always use more great pitching. You can only do so much with two shortstops, especially if the new one isn't Alex Rodriguez.
The Mets had no business trying to convert Reyes to second. Once that was deduced, it was a shame Matsui couldn't pull off that switch. He was as inept at second in 2005 as he was at short in 2004. Definitely looked fine defensively this year, but he never came close to mastering Western pitching on a going basis. Maybe getting the whole package was too much to ask for, though at these prices, you're entitled to inquire.
I'm a little sad to see him go not because I was anticipating a Matsui resurrection in the second half and not because he left behind such a stacked résumé of Mets accomplishments. Actually, I'm not sure why I'm sad to see him go. I guess it's because he did show flashes of ability and he did seem like such a nice fellow and he did deserve better. But since he shouldn't have been here in the first place, this is better.
In late 2003, Kaz was the cornerstone of Jim Duquette's Catch The Energy, let's get athletic rebuilding program. Tonight he was traded to Colorado with two sacks of cash for Eli Marrero. At this point, we would have accepted Eli Whitney and a cotton gin to be named later.
To recap, Kaz Matsui is a Rockie. Anderson Hernandez and Jeff Keppinger are Tides. And your everyday starting second baseman in everything but name is Jose Valentin, who's become pretty darn good at it, hitting and fielding. Even a month ago, did anybody see that coming?