The Rockies traded Eli Marrero to the Mets for Kazuo Matsui and cash. Kaz Matsui is a colossal flop, a defensive disaster at both short and second, and one of the last remaining vestiges of the Steve Phillips/Jim Duquette era of bad feelings in New York. Marrero is a decent-hitting bench player who can play a bunch of positions and pound left-handed pitching. The Rockies have in effect traded a useful player with value for a useless player without. They are receiving money from the Mets, but only enough to offset the difference between Matsui's bloated salary and Marrero's reasonable one. Marrero's departure will mean more playing time for Jorge Piedra, who was recalled from Colorado Springs, but it's not the loss of Marrero that really bugs me about this trade, it's that the Rockies very probably could have gotten a lot more for a guy who's a good pinch-hitter and an above-average emergency catcher. What we need with a powerless, walkless, middle infielder who can't really play the middle infield is beyond me. In his American professional career Matsui has compiled a line of .256/.308/.363.
It's certainly possible that Kaz was one of those guys who Just Can't Make It In New York, but even if he does turn back into the reliable doubles hitter he was in Japan, he's still a miserable defensive player. I had never heard this about any Japanese player before Matsui, but the conventional wisdom on his failure to play acceptable shortstop or second for the Mets was that he was used to playing on turf all the time and therefore was unprepared to play much shallower and dive for balls as opposed to playing back and getting in front of them. Tadahito Iguchi certainly seems to have made the adjustment in Chicago, so I don't know what Matsui's deal is. He'll play in Colorado Springs for the time being. If Kaz can fix his glove and his bat...the Rockies still have scads of better middle infield options in the system. Jamey Carroll is playing too well to bench right now, but playing veterans Matsui and Carroll both while Clint Barmes and Luis Gonzalez languish would be stupid. Try as I might I simply can't detect an upside to this deal. There must be some kind of funny-money thing going on where the Rockies profit from the bargain. Either that, or the Rockies are facilitating a Matsui deal for another team more desperate for help in the infield. Given their luck with three-way deals last year, I don't think that would be a very good idea either.
The World Cup is off to a hell of a start. International soccer goes through its offense- and defense-dominated eras just like other sports, and it seems like more European teams are playing a wide-open attacking style than has been the case for many years. ESPN couldn't have asked for a better opening game than the Germany-Costa Rica match, which was high-scoring, endline-to-endline soccer, featuring a number of beautiful scores before an amazing Torsten Frings deep strike in the closing minutes. Elite teams that try to outscore their opponents are more ripe for upset than those that try and lock it down on defense, and while there are few underdogs that can hope to win a 1-0 match against a power club, there are a lot of little teams with talented strikers like Costa Rica's Paulo Wanchope who can use their speed to create instant offense in a fast-paced, wide-open game. And for good measure the second game of the day was a big upset, with Ecuador coming down out of the mountains and soundly beating Poland 2-0. Day 2 should be even better, with two extremely enticing games, England-Paraguay and Argentina-Ivory Coast. The US, if you're wondering, starts on Monday against the Czech Republic.