And if it isn't, I'll think less of Yankees fans.
Why? Think of the perfect storm that has allowed for this scenario today:
1) The timing. Matsui was the pinstriped hero in the last game played at Yankee Stadium. Because he signed with the Angels, who already had been scheduled to open the Stadium in '10, he gets to receive his ring as if he were still a Yankee _ rather than, say, Johnny Damon, who will have to wait until August when his Tigers come to town.
2) Matsui's departure. It was just so...is clean the right word? Matsui read the situation very well last December when he realized that the Yankees had only some interest in bringing him back. He would have to wait for the Yankees to dance some more with Damon, and he would have to accept a significant pay cut from his previous $13 million salary.
So when the Angels gave Matsui an offer with a very small window, Matsui still went back to the Yankees one last time, to give them a chance to match it. The Yankees said no, Matsui went to the Angels and there were absolutely no hard feelings.
3) His history. I guess it would be technically correct to label Matsui as a "homegrown Yankee," in that the Yankees were the first Major League Baseball organization for which he played. Of course, Matsui didn't sign with the Yankees until he was 28 years old, after attaining legend status in his native country with the Yomiuri Giants.
If you really wanted to nitpick, you could label Matsui's stay with the Yankees as a mild disappointment. After all, he hit 50 home runs in 2002, his last year in Japan, creating the expectation that he would be the first Japanese slugger in MLB. But Matsui was never anywhere as prolific a slugger here, passing the 30-homer mark just once. And if you look at Matsui's FanGraphs page, you'd see that he didn't necessarily earn - by the respected Web site's calculations - the $13 million salary he drew from 2006 through 2009.
Yet no one in the Yankees' universe would agree with that assessment. If Matsui's defensive and baserunning skills faded quicker than expected, and if he went from an Iron Man to someone so brittle that the Yankees considered him a significant injury risk for 2010 and beyond, that never impacted the warm feelings that everyone had for him. Why? I think because of the humility and effort he always displayed.
4) His reputation. Yes, Mr. Clutch. We can argue about "clutch" and its existence all day long. Let's not and say we did. Look at Matsui's splits, and you'll see that his "late and close" numbers are excellent. His postseason totals are also very strong.
Just some food for thought, however: We all agree that the Yankees' fates took a turn for the worse in 2004 ALCS Game 4, right? That's when the Red Sox's comeback began, and from that point through Joe Torre's de facto dismissal, the Yankees went 4-13 in postseason games.
In that 17 game stretch, Alex Rodriguez - you know, the choking dog with hair gel - hit .148/.216/.362, with two homers and three RBI. Matsui - He Who Never Blinks in the Face of Adversity - hit .227/.320/.364 with one homer and two RBI.
Seems to me like Matsui should thank A-Rod for shifting the spotlight elsewhere during that stretch. But hey, more power to Matsui for maintaining the rep.
I won't hesitate to admit that Matsui is one of my all-time favorite players I've covered. When the Yankees signed him, a great deal of trepidation existed both in the Yankees and in the press corps. The previous Japanese signee, Hideki Irabu, had made life difficult for everyone because he drew a huge amount of coverage, and because he had a terrible relationship with the Japanese media.
When Matsui signed, I was the chairman of the New York chapter of the BBWAA, and I had multiple (in other words, two) meetings with Yankees officials and Japanese and U.S. press. We wanted to make the ride as smooth as possible.
As it turned out, we fretted over nothing. Matsui took care of his own following. He told his teammates that, if they had a problem with the Japanese media, to come to him. He spoke to the huge group every day, whether he went 0-for-4 or 4-for-4 or, in the later years, didn't play at all. And he developed strong relationships with the U.S. media, as well.
He'll deserve that reception today, IMO. He deserves this perfect storm.
--Just as an added note: You know who isn't crazy about Matsui? Major League Baseball and the Players Association. Both sides were very displeased when Matsui blew off the World Baseball Classic in 2006, as they were counting on him to help market it. Of course, that makes me respect Matsui all the more.
--Anthony Rieber spoke with Yankees players about getting their rings today.
--David Lennon wrote that Jerry Manuel better do something, quickly.
--Bud Selig said he's concerned about the pace of games. That's fine, but it doesn't excuse Joe West's comments about the Yankees and Red Sox last week. West should be fined and publicly scolded.
--UPDATE, 12:53 p.m.: Yup, that was pretty epic. Great job by the Yankees, introducing Matsui last, giving him his ring and then having the rest of the Yankees swarm him. Also, fine work introducing ailing head trainer Gene Monahan first.
Prior to the game, Hal Steinbrenner met with the media and revealed that Joe Girardi and Derek Jeter presented George Steinbrenner with his World Series ring. The Boss was the only person to get his ring prior to the ceremony.
Another cool note: 2009 Yankee Jerry Hairston Jr. played in yesterday's Braves-Padres game in San Diego, hopped on a red-eye flight last night, arrived in New York at 6:00 this morning, participated in the ring ceremony and is scheduled to get on a 6:00 back to San Diego tonight for tomorrow's game.