The smile plastered on Alex Rodriguez’s face may stay permanent until next April, but for some aging Yankees, it’s time to turn their game faces back on.
After the parade concludes down the Canyon of Heroes, the Yankees will face some tough decisions regarding Hideki Matsui, 35, and Johnny Damon, who turned 36 Thursday.
Both players were instrumental in bringing home the Yankees’ 27th World Series title, but they also have worn-down bodies.
“They’re not getting any younger,” manager Joe Girardi joked before the postseason.
Limited to being a full-time designated hitter because of knee problems, Matsui made the most of his 456 regular-season at-bats and then batted .349 in the postseason. He won MVP honors with an epic World Series performance as he batted .615 (8-for-13) and tied a 49-year record with six RBIs in Game 6.
Matsui was playing under a four-year, $52 million deal. During that deal, he sandwiched two consistent performances around two injury-filled campaigns.
“I didn’t have [free agency] in my mind,” Matsui said through an interpreter. “All I was focusing on was winning this game and helping the team become world champions.”
Damon, meanwhile, signed a four-year deal in 2004 after helping the Red Sox win a World Series the first time in 86 years. He hit .363 (8-for-22) during the World Series but left Game 6 with a calf injury. Damon was sidelined in years past with leg problems, but was relatively pain-free through the regular season.
“I want to stay, and I don’t know where else I would want to go,” said Damon, who swiped two huge bases in Game 4 of the World Series. “Obviously, that’s not the right thing to say when you’re about to become a free agent, but I’m happy here.”