The Yankees said good-bye this week to two integral pieces of their World Series squad. Hideki Matsui signed a one-year deal with the Angels while the signing of Nick Johnson basically shuts the door on a return by Johnny Damon.
It’s always sad to see players like Matsui and Damon depart. In his seven years in the Bronx, Matsui always gave his all and was someone you wanted to see in a clutch spot. His performance in Game Six of the World Series will go down in Yankees’ history. Damon was similar in that fashion and his “double steal” in Game Four, was probably the turning point of the Series.
But, as great as those memories are, it doesn’t mean the decision to part with them was a bad one. We all have the specter of time hanging over our shoulders, but for athletes it is even more in the forefront. Research has shown that baseball players tend to peak in their late 20’s and while they are certainly capable of having great seasons into their late 30’s; the chances grow slimmer with the passing of each year. Damon just turned 36; Matsui will do so during the 2010 season.
And that is what the Yankees realized. They went out and got Curtis Granderson, 28-years old and Nick Johnson, 31-years old, to replace Matsui and Damon. Both players have some flaws, but they are still young in terms of baseball. As tough as it was to let Matsui and Damon walk, Brian Cashman has done the right thing. He has replaced them with comparable and younger players.