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November 6, 2009

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MVP Matsui faces uncertain future

HIDEKI Matsui drove in six runs in a World Series clinching victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in what may turn out to be the grandest of exits from the New York Yankees.

Matsui became the first Japanese to be named Most Valuable Player of the World Series, batting .615 (8-for-13) with three home runs and eight runs batted in.

However, he faces an uncertain future following the completion of his four-year, US$52 million deal. An already aging Yankees team may not be eager to re-sign the 35-year-old designated hitter, who has been slowed by injured knees.

As a free agent he will undoubtedly be of interest to some teams. Whether the Yankees will be one them remains unclear.

"Of course, that would be great if things turn out that way. I love New York, I love the Yankees, I love my teammates and I really love the fans," said Matsui.

The slugger came to New York in 2003 after 10 seasons with the Yomiuri Giants, and while he remains a towering figure in Japan he told The New York Times before the season that he had no thoughts of returning to play there.

"I'm certainly aware that I represent Japan in that sense as a baseball player.

But more so in my mind I feel that I am a member of the Yankees. I'm a Yankee baseball player. So that's always in my mind more so," he told reporters after the game.

The issue is not Matsui's hitting.

His 2009 season was excellent with 28 home runs, a .274 batting average and .367 on-base percentage - numbers that many teams would covet.

But he has had surgery on both knees, slowing him to the degree that he no longer plays in the outfield.

Japan nearly came to a standstill as millions watched on TV as Matsui, the man they know as Godzilla, stomped around New York.

Japanese salarymen crammed into downtown electronics stores to watch the final few innings on giant TVs.

"All the news recently has been about Ichiro Suzuki," said office worker Hiroyuki Takeuchi, who took the morning off to watch the game.

"But Matsui's presence is huge. He overcame injuries and came through with the performance of a lifetime.

"As a Japanese, I'm very proud today."


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