soft hands.

Like Torre and Cashman, Matsui needs New York and New York needs him. The Yankees are downsizing everywhere else, but they didn't hesitate to double Matsui's salary, to make him the highest-paid Japanese player in the majors. There are other outfielders who can drive in an average of 110 runs per season, but none that inspires corporate synergy on such a grand level.

A few months before luring Matsui from the Yomiuri Giants, the Yankees signed a working agreement with the Japanese club to exchange scouting information and minor league personnel. Spurred by Matsui's departure, four Japanese television networks signed broadcast deals to carry MLB games. George Steinbrenner has to love the vision of millions walking the streets of Tokyo in retro pinstripe jerseys.

Had Matsui left for, oh, Detroit, an entire cottage industry would have been bereft. The Yankees issue credentials for a minimum of 40 Japanese journalists for every home game. They follow Matsui year-round, importing the Yankee brand with every sound bite. They are a cordial, deferential crew that brings Matsui cakes on his birthday and hangs with him at sushi joints on the Lower East Side. When Matsui said, "My first desire was to play here (but) I did consider ... playing for other teams," there were an awful lot of people in the room who, like Torre, felt like rushing in for a hug. [lisa olson]


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