The initial signing of this former Yomiuri Giant standout was a great move by the Yankee front office prior to the 2003 season. Only Ishiru Suzuki ranks in front of him in terms of on-the-field performance by a Japanese player in the Major Leagues. He knocked in over 100 runs in four of his first five seasons in Pinstripes and only a wrist injury prevented him from making it all five.
The second contract the Yankees gave Matsui (four years, $52 million) after the 2005 season, did not turn out as well for New York. The wrist mishap ended Hideki’s consecutive game streak of over 1,700 (started in Japan and continued during his first 518 games as a Yankee.) After the broken wrist, he missed close to forty percent of the Yankee’s regular-season games during the next three seasons with an assortment of ailments and injuries including two very painful knees.
Matsui then put together a memorable final year in pinstripes in 2009. During the regular season he blasted 28 home runs and drove in ninety. But he saved his very best effort for the 2009 World Series. He hit .615 in fourteen plate appearances against the Phillies with three home runs and 8 RBIs. I had the pleasure of seeing him hit one of those round-trippers live, at Game 2 at the Stadium. His Game 6 performance will remain one for the ages. Matsui drove in six of the seven Yankee runs with a homer, double and single and was named the Series MVP. Since he hit 332 home runs while playing in Japan, Matsui ended up with 507 combined home runs during his career.
Matsui’s quiet brilliance during his seven seasons in the Bronx made him one of my favorite Yankees. “Godzilla” announced his retirement from baseball on December 27, 2012.
This former Yankee relief pitcher shares Matsui’s birthday.
|NYY (7 yrs)||916||3820||3348||536||977||196||11||140||597||12||416||485||.292||.370||.482||.852|
|TBR (1 yr)||34||103||95||7||14||1||0||2||7||0||8||22||.147||.214||.221||.435|
|OAK (1 yr)||141||585||517||58||130||28||0||12||72||1||56||84||.251||.321||.375||.696|
|LAA (1 yr)||145||558||482||55||132||24||1||21||84||0||67||98||.274||.361||.459||.820|
The name of today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant won’t sound familiar to any but the most astute Yankee fans. That’s because George Kontos pitched just six innings in relief for the Yankees after being drafted out of Northwestern University in the fifth round of the 2006 MLB Draft. He would spend most of the next six seasons pitching out of the bullpens of New York’s chain of minor league affiliates trying to get his ticket to the Bronx. That ticket finally came in September of 2012, when this Evanston, IL native was called up for a cup-of-coffee preview and appeared in seven games for a Yankee team that was in the process of winning that season’s AL East race by a comfortable six-game margin.
The six foot three inch right-hander performed well in those seven games, surrendering just 4 hits and two earned runs. That effort put him on the “players-to-watch-list” the following spring and one of the teams watching Kontos was the San Francisco Giants. Every member of the Yankee press corps was expecting Joe Girardi to start the 2012 season with Russell Martin as his starting catcher and Francisco Cervelli as Martin’s backup. That’s why the trade that took place just before Opening Day was treated as more than just a bit of a surprise. The Yankees sent Kontos to the Giants in exchange for catcher Chris Stewart. The deal might have gone largely unnoticed except for the fact that Stewart was out of minor league options so New York had to keep him on their big league roster or risk losing him. That meant Francisco Cervelli, who still had minor league options left was being sent down to the minors. At the time the deal was made, Brian Cashman was blaming Austin Romine’s back injury as the reason. The Yankee GM told the press that since Romine’s back wasn’t getting better he was forced to make the deal to add depth to the organization’s catching corps.
As it turned out, acquiring Stewart proved to be a wise move, especially after Cashman let free agent Russell Martin go to Pittsburgh this winter and Cervelli broke his finger during the opening month of the 2013 season. Kontos also proved to be a good-get for San Francisco. He got into 44 games for the Giants in 2012 and became one of their top middle relievers, finishing the year with a 2.47 ERA and 5 holds. He was at his best during that season’s NLDS against the Reds, appearing in four of that series’ five games and holding Cincinnati scoreless in the 3.2 innings he pitched. He then got hit pretty good in both the 2012 NLCS and the World Series but when all was said and done, Kontos had his first World Series ring and a secure spot in the Giants bullpen.
He got off to a slow start in 2013 but has pitched much better recently and is on pace to appear in 60 games for the defending World Champions this season.
Kontos shares his June 12th birthday with this former World Series MVP.
|SFG (2 yrs)||4||2||.667||3.50||74||0||17||0||0||0||72.0||62||31||28||6||21||1||69||1.153|
|NYY (1 yr)||0||0||3.00||7||0||4||0||0||0||6.0||4||2||2||1||3||0||6||1.167|