soft hands.

like i'm not already disgusted enough with the whole thing...

"Many people are saying, 'Ichiro [Suzuki] is a good guy and Matsui is a bad guy,"' said Gaku Tashiro, who covers Major League Baseball for Sankei Sports. "They're saying, 'He is not a patriot."'

Matsui, whose presence would have raised the value of the WBC's Asia bracket, worked out at the Yankees' minor-league complex yesterday. He seemed typically unfazed by this controversy. "If my popularity goes down, then it goes down," he said through his interpreter, Roger Kahlon. "It's beyond my control."

Less than three hours earlier, a more animated Alex Rodriguez had spoken at Legends Field, expressing frustration about how his WBC-heavy offseason proceeded. A-Rod believes his own indecisiveness was exacerbated by media leaks from baseball's leadership, which desperately wanted the MVP to play.

Amazing, isn't it? This event was supposed to generate so much goodwill for the sport, expand it globally, add some juice to a relatively quiet time. Instead, it has stirred up tensions every which way - owner versus commissioner, owner versus player, player versus his own country, player versus his own union.

Matsui's case ranks as particularly odious. When asked if Bud Selig and the Players Association pressured him to play, the leftfielder responded diplomatically, saying, "It's not really pressure. It was more a request for me to be part of the tournament."

But as Kahlon translated the question to Matsui and Matsui answered in Japanese, the Yankees' adviser for Japanese media relations, Isao Hirooka, smiled at the questioner and nodded affirmatively. His clear implication: Was Matsui pressured? Absolutely.

The union's pitch to Matsui, endorsed by MLB, was: You owe us. [newsday]


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