Dec 28, 2012, 9:54 AM EDT
This should probably go without saying, but no, Hideki Matsui is not a Hall of Famer.
There is some level of debate about this. Not because anyone truly thinks that Matsui’s ten seasons in the bigs were Hall of Fame-worthy. They clearly were not, even if they were pretty damn good (note: the go-to phrase for Matsui, which I have used myself, appears to be “a nice career” or a “damn nice career” or something like that).
Rather, to the extent anyone is making a Hall of Fame case for Matsui, they’re doing so by mashing together his NPB stats with his MLB stats. If you do that, sure, we’re a heck of a lot closer, for that gives him three MVP awards, three more championship rings to go with his 2009 World Series ring, 332 more home runs, 889 more RBIs and a streak of 1,250 consecutive games played (and he played every game for the Yankees in his first three seasons in the U.S.). I’d say that is a Hall of Fame resume, indeed.
But the thing is, we just can’t do that. Both for official reasons and logical reasons.
Officially, the Hall of Fame takes the position that is a National Hall of Fame — that’s even the name of the place — meaning baseball accomplishments which took place in America. Indeed, aside from Negro League players, the Hall asks its voters to only consider accomplishments achieved in Major League Baseball. If it didn’t, statboys like me would be making Hall of Fame cases for Roberto Petagine and guys like that (and believe me, we would, for we crush hard on those kinds of guys).
But it makes logical sense to exclude NPB stats too: it’s simply not the same level of competition as we see in MLB. Most folks who pay close attention to these things consider to the Japanese leagues, at best, to be a 4-A kind of thing, and others believe it is more on par with Triple-A. If you don’t believe this just look at what has happened to most of the good Japanese hitters who have come to the U.S. Yes, there are success stories like Matsui and Ichiro, but there are far more flame outs. It’s just not the same hitting environment for these dudes.
I understand why a lot of people don’t simply dismiss the stats. Especially given that it has become fashionable to talk about Ichiro’s hit totals between the NPB and MLB when assessing his career (note: Ichiro, I feel, is a Hall of Famer based on his U.S. production alone, making this argument moot). But U.S. and Japanese baseball are two different beasts, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to consider what Matsui or anyone else did in the NPB when making their Hall of Fame case.