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This Day in Yankees History: “Godzilla” takes over the big city

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Hideki Matsui put pen to paper on a contract on this day in history.

Philadelphia Phillies v New York Yankees, Game 6 Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Welcome to This Day in Yankees History. The 2020 baseball season has come to an end, so let’s dig into the history books. These daily posts will highlight two or three key moments in Yankees history on a given date, as well as recognize players born on the day. Hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane with us!

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18 Years Ago

The Yankees bring one of the biggest names in the world of baseball to the majors and officially sign Hideki Matsui.

As a member of the Yomiuri Giants, Matsui was one of the best players in NPB, winning three Japan Series titles, three Central League MVPs, and making nine All-Star teams. While he didn’t match those extremely lofty heights in the US, Matsui would have an excellent career in MLB.

He would twice be named an MLB All-Star, and put up a career 118 OPS+ (123 in seven years as a Yankee) in a ten-year Major League career. His most memorable performances came in the 2009 World Series, where he hit .615/.643/1.385 as the Yankees beat the Phillies in six games.

Six Years Ago

In need of some starting pitching, the Yankees make a deal with the Marlins in a trade headlined by Nathan Eovaldi. He, Garrett Jones and Domingo Germán came over from Miami in exchange for David Phelps, Martín Prado and cash.

Eovaldi would spend two years in New York, putting up about league-average numbers and never quite living up to the raw potential that he had. In August 2016, he underwent Tommy John surgery. With him due to miss the entire 2017 season, the Yankees let him go. He resurfaced with the Rays in 2018, and would be traded to the Red Sox later that season. He helped them to a World Series title, leading to Boston re-signing him to a deal that hasn’t worked out so far.

As for the rest of that deal, Jones and Prado are retired, Phelps is currently a free agent, while Germán is still in the Yankees’ organization, and probably in the rotation as the roster currently stands.

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Happy 41st birthday to Rafael Soriano!

Soriano came to the Yankees ahead of the 2011 season after signing a weirdly-structured three-year contract that allowed him to opt out after each season if he so desired. In the first year of that deal, he had a disappointing campaign as the seventh-inning bridge guy ahead of David Robertson and Mariano Rivera.

After those two both went down during the 2012 season, Soriano ascended to the closer role and excelled. He put up a 2.26 ERA (187 ERA+) and recorded 42 saves. He also became somewhat of a cult favorite for his post-save celebration of untucking his jersey immediately after recording the final out.

Soriano opted out of his contract after that season and would sign with the Washington Nationals. He spent two seasons there and had a brief, ill-fated stint with the Cubs, before retiring in 2016.

Other Yankees with birthdays today include Andy Cannizaro, Rob Gardner, Ian Kennedy, Clay Parker, Walt Williams, Gordie Windhorn, and Mickey Witek.

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We thank Baseball Reference and Nationalpastime.com for providing background information for these posts.