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Back to work after a slow week of vacation

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Last time I went on vacation, I returned with a day full of posts about the things I’d missed. Today, I’m back on the clock, having missed the normally quiet week of Christmas. And as expected, there wasn’t a whole lot going on last week. Here are a few things I missed, some of which are bigger stories than others.

Hideki Matsui retired
I never really got to know Matsui. I covered him a little bit at the end of 2009, and I’ve been in some group interviews with him the past three years, but my time on the beat didn’t really line up with his time in the Bronx. That said, I’ve been around long enough to know just how thoroughly Matsui was respected as a player and a person. Derek Jeter has always gone out of his way to speak highly of him as a teammate, and my reporter friends have said Matsui was overwhelmingly kind and remarkably generous in the clubhouse. My only in-person memories involve his remarkable 2009 postseason, but that’s honestly not what I thought of when I read about Matsui’s retirement. I thought about all the stories I’ve heard about him, and how fortunate the Yankees and baseball have been that such an international superstar managed to remained such a kind and classy man.

[3]The Yankees signed Matt Diaz
Get this out of the way first: It’s a minor league deal. The risk here is remarkably low, and Diaz isn’t going to keep the Yankees from going after someone else. He’ll come to camp with a chance to earn his way onto the roster. That alone makes it a worthwhile signing. Is it a good signing? Too early to say. Diaz fits as a right-handed corner outfielder — exactly what the Yankees are looking for — but his production has slipped considerably the past two years. That said, his numbers against lefties have continued to show a little bit of promise, and if he can stay healthy and get back to his 2010 form (.510 slugging vLHP) the Yankees could have a valuable platoon bat. In the past few years, they’ve had a lot of success with this sort of signing. Low risk. Solid potential.

The Red Sox traded for Joel Hanrahan
The basics of this deal had been reported for several days, but it became official last week. And former Yankees reliever Mark Melancon was part of the trade (he’s now gone from New York to Houston to Boston to Pittsburgh). It was all part of the on-going rebuilding effort in Boston, where Hanrahan adds some punch to the bullpen. It was also part of the still-looking-for-stability process for Melancon, who could thrive with a move back to the National League. Based on what I saw from him in Triple-A, I’ve always expected Melancon to eventually put things together and find some consistency in the big leagues. It certainly didn’t happen for him in New York or in Boston.

Andruw Jones was arrested
It happened in the early hours of Christmas morning. It was a battery charge, reportedly connected to a domestic dispute with his wife. It’s not a good situation. Every once in a while we get a glimpse into an athlete’s private life, and the view isn’t very good. I only know what I’ve read, so I really can’t add anything, but it’s not the kind of story that anyone enjoys reading or writing.

The Mariners designated D.J. Mitchell for assignment
Half of what the Yankees gave up last summer’s Ichiro Suzuki trade, Mitchell was DFA to open a Seattle roster spot for Raul Ibanez (plenty of Yankees connections in this one!). I don’t know enough about the Mariners 40-man roster to say whether Mitchell should or should not have been the guy to go, but I was somewhat surprised if only because he nice Triple-A numbers after last summer’s trade (and a 2.96 ERA through 48.2 innings of the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League shouldn’t be totally dismissed). That said, I can’t imagine the Yankees would be interested in claiming him, if only because their own 40-man is already overcrowded with fringy prospects.

There are new batting practice caps
I know a lot of people really care about this stuff — including a lot of my fellow writers — but I’m actually not one of them. It’s just not my thing. If I buy a cap, I lean toward the more traditional designs, including a go-to University of Missouri cap that’s about as basic as they come. Some of these new designs [4] look cool. Some look terrible. I tend to think any Yankees cap other than the basic looks odd, but that’s just my taste. If you’re into the alternatives, go nuts. I promise not to judge.

Associated Press photo