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Published:November 6th, 2009 18:59 EST
Disappointed in MVP Hideki Matsui

Disappointed in MVP Hideki Matsui

By Geoff Dean

 Hideki Matsui, a superstar in New York and a well-deserved MVP winner in the 2009 World Series, is, if anything, even bigger in Japan. Overshadowing a dramatic Japan Series in progress, all of Japan focused on the Yankees and their Japanese hero. When the MVP award was decided, programming was interrupted on all channels to relate the news. Special editions of the newspaper were put out and Matsui even made the front page of usually staid publications like the Japan Economics Newspaper (my wife reads this one, not me!)

 It is hard to exaggerate his World Series success. His home run in Game 2 gave the Yankees their first lead of the World Series at a time when things were looking pretty bleak. He also homered in Game 3, a crucial win at Philadelphia. In the deciding Game 6, he had a two-run home run and racked up six RBIs out of the total seven. He scored twice as many RBIs in the final game as the entire Phillies` team. For the series, he batted an amazing .615 and his six RBIs tied a single game record. What do you do for an encore?

 Some commentators I heard on TV (American and Japanese, both) pointed out that until now most people equated the Japanese presence in the MLB with Ichiro but that might be about to change. In Japan, at least, the mild-mannered and modest Matsui has always been more popular than the sometimes diffident and more "individualistic" Ichiro.

 So what is there to complain about? Fear not, oh thee of little faith and brain (Oops, that`s me.) There is always something. 

 As a fan of Japanese baseball players, I am pleased for Matsui. It is a boost for Japanese national pride. But his acceptance speech was a disaster, even if the lousy PA system wasn`t his fault.

 First, he used a translator. No disrespect intended but he has been in America long enough to give it a shot in English. Ichiro does. So do most other Japanese players. Asashoryu and other sumo wrestlers from Mongolia and elsewhere give post bout interviews in flawless Japanese. Is it too much to ask of Matsui? I know firsthand how hard it is to cross the linguistic gap but it would also mean a lot to young people struggling with English in school to see their hero speaking English on worldwide TV. He did not.

 Furthermore, Matsui self-deprecating and somewhat sarcastic wit was totally lost in the translation. The translator did his best but while capturing the meaning of Matsui`s comments, I felt he failed to convey the humor (hard to do, admittedly). One more reason that Matsui needs to speak for himself, in English.

 Worst of all, the translator botched one of the questions. The reporter asked how Matusi compared winning the Japan Series to winning the World Series. It was a pretty interesting question. The translator said, "You have won the Japan Series and the World Series. How do you feel about this?" The comparison idea went out the window. Matsui responded, "I am so happy!" which is fine for the translators question but very weak for the original question. In fact, the whole interview gave the impression that Matsui is a great baseball player and a lousy interviewee, which is not true at all. In Japanese.

 Matsui, in the very unlikely event that you read this, you have done Japan and baseball proud. You are a hero as you should be. From New York to Tokyo, you are on everyone`s lips. Still, in the off-season, between practice sessions and golf games, would it be all right if you worked on your English a little? It`s the one tiny chink in your suit of armor.


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Hideki Matsui`s Interpreter not Translating Some Details I, who is Japanese, sometimes have seen Matsui`s interpreter not translating some details of what Matsui says. To my ears, sometimes

Seriously? Seriously? You`re nitpicking about English? He`s not an American citizen. With what he did for the Yankees, he`s damn well entitled to use his off-season to do anything he pleases " including not expand beyond Japanese.