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Huffington Post launched a sports section on Wednesday. It's a bit of a mish-mash, featuring writers as steeped in the ways of old media as Mike Lupica alongside guys like Dave Zirin who exists to blow up the sports myths that Lupica helped create. Opening day also featured a post from sports agent Arn Tellem, who used the space as a billboard for Hideki Matsui.
As you surely know, the Yankee designated hitter and World Series MVP is a free agent who has declared interest in returning to the team in 2010. The team would probably love to have his bat, but his age and balky knees have made it less than a sure thing that they'll bring him back for an eighth year in pinstripes. Fearful that his meal ticket might be forced elsewhere, Tellem took to the internets.
It's a wide-ranging appeal that begins with hyperbole as the headline calls Matsui an "ageless talent." That thread continues when Tellem writes that Matsui "is a complete player who always has taken pride in contributing to all facets of the game." Matsui may be a prideful guy, but he doesn't field, throw or run which means that there's more than a few facets of the game that survive without his contributions. Tellem also delves into the ridiculous -- Matsui hits with "aplomb" -- during his attempt to come up with a baseball justification for keeping Matsui around.
That's not his main pitch, however, and it quickly gives way to a discussion of the many Japanese companies that have advertised with the Yankees and/or sponsored them since Matsui joined the team. The amount per year, believed to be around $1 million, seems piddling compared to other Yankee revenue streams but, as Tellem points out, it gives the Yankees a major foothold in Japan.
Compelling, perhaps, but it isn't Tellem's ace in the hole. Did you know that Matsui, a charitable man, being in New York makes both the Yankees and you better human beings?
The Neagari native who became everybody's all-American accomplished all this in New York, the melting pot where immigrants come to pursue a better life. By embracing Matsui, New Yorkers have once again shown that though ball clubs are named for cities and states, they transcend geography. Teams may not be where we find our heroes today, but, as Matsui has demonstrated, it's where we find heroic situations we can all dream of, argue about or simply watch together in amazement. That's the game's unifying force.
Tellem's no dummy. The Yankees may care about winning no matter the cost, but they are also quite eager to be seen as a global brand, a New York brand and a brand that honors its history and tradition. His Matsui appeal hits on all those fronts and is a major marketing victory for player and agent. It will be interesting to see how Brian Cashman and the Yankees respond.