We had more than our share of interesting takes and rants from managers this week, and I’d thought I share some I collected for your entertainment.
Nippon Ham’s Tsuyoshi Shinjo did and said some weird things, while Yakult’s Shingo Takatsu can’t quite put his finger on what went obviously wrong one day. Giants skipper Tatsunori Hara, meanwhile, wants you to know he has a plan probably even more than he actually wants to have a plan, and Chunichi’s Kazuyoshi Tatsunami did some venting.
Tsuyoshi Shinjo’s doomsday machine
The Fighters tried something, as a TV analyst said, “You don’t see every day,” a run-and-hit with a runner on third base. A run-and-hit forces the defense to move and react, but there are few synergies to be gained when your only runner is at third and no one is expecting him to break for the plate.
If the defense expects the possibility and is behind in the count, there’s a good chance the hitter will get a fastball near the strike zone, while at least one of the middle infielders will move toward second to take a throw, opening a wider gap on one side of the infield.
But when there’s no runner on first and it’s a surprise, it doesn’t increase the chance of the pitcher throwing a fastball or force the fielders to move. On Thursday, the batter at the plate badly missed a big hanging curve, and the runner was out easily.
It was like Russia’s doomsday machine in the Stanley Kubrick movie “Doctor Strangelove,” where the Soviets hope to prevent nuclear war by creating the most horrible deterrent imaginable but don’t tell anyone.
As one of Peter Sellers’ three characters, Dr. Strangelove, said, “The whole point of the doomsday machine is lost when you keep it a secret, eh?”
Of course, it could be all a part of Shinjo’s long game, by planting a seed in the mind of opposing teams that he’ll do anything and they need to be prepared for everything. But if you see Shinjo as someone who has a long game that goes beyond his private practical joke of having much of the baseball establishment refer to him as “BIGBOSS,” you can see more than me.
On the other hand…
Japan’s baseball media has a huge supply of dumb things reporters are required to get comments about by their editors because it’s standard practice to write stories about things of no real value other than the media does stories about them. Here are a few:
- Treating Opening Day as if its more important than the other regular season games. Magic numbers.
- “Jiriki V” the magic number’s relative, meaning whether a team, by winning all its remaining games, could win the pennant.
- Meaningless records, such as “the longest win season-opening win streak by a pitcher who worked on Opening Day.”
On Friday, Shinjo gave the “Jiriki V” it’s due respect, which is zero.
After 33 games, Shinjo’s team became the fastest in franchise history to reach the point where winning every remaining game could guarantee a pennant. Of course, absolutely no one cares about this except editors clamoring for stories about what the managers say about it, or pundits who use it as a hook to talk about a team’s faults.
But because the editors care, their reporters are required to ask the manager to comment on it with some kind of meaningless quote that will fill a few lines in tomorrow’s paper.
Shinjo responded, Sankei Sports reported, in a way that was slightly out of character for someone who so frequently clowns it up.
“I guess that’s to be expected,” he said. “You can’t expect a flower to bloom just by watering it once. I’m giving the young players lots of experience, so every day they can internalize something. If it happened suddenly, where would be the fun in that?”
I’ve got a secret
One of the things Giants manager Tatsunori Hara absolutely revels in, besides the knowledge that he will use more pinch-runners and more different second basemen than any other team each year, is the belief that he knows a secret no one else does.
On Thursday, his secret was his evaluation of Carp pitcher, Drew Anderson–yet another of NPB’s large number of imports who have come from Reno, Nevada–who shut the Giants down for seven innings in his Japan debut.
Asked about Anderson after the game, Hara said, according to Daily Sports, “It was the first time we’ve seen him. I would think we need to do some analysis on him going forward, so I don’t think it would be wise to say anything now.”
We’ve seen Hara do this over and over. When asked about tactics, he sounds like No. 2 on the 1960s psycho drama “The Prisoner,” whose every answer to Patrick McGoohan’s repeated queries about his detainment was “That would be telling.”
Sometimes, as at the 2009 World Baseball Classic, he vowed to discuss the subject after the tournament, but never did.
Losing by the book
Swallows manager Shingo Takatsu has added another game to his growing “losing by the book” resume.
Takatsu, is a big fan of playing the outfield extra shallow with two outs and a big run on second and issuing intentional walks, the latter of which killed the Swallows Thursday. He ordered two intentional walks to load the bases in the bottom of the ninth inning, before his pitcher issued a walk that ended the game in a Tigers victory.
Afterward, Takatsu praised his players’ effort but no mention was made of his tactical choices. That’s because in Japan if employing an accepted practice costs you the game, even if it’s obviously a high-risk low-return option, then doing something dumb didn’t cost you the game. Those things only apply to unconventional tactics.
“We fought hard,” Takatsu said. “If only we could have scraped out one more run, or prevented on more, we would have won.”
It’s a shame that the system tied his hands in the final inning and forced him to give up a run. I don’t know about you, but I simply hate it when that happens.
A large supply of last straws
Chunichi Dragons skipper Kazuyoshi Tatsunami had a busy week. On Wednesday, he banished shortstop Yota Kyoda to the minors, perhaps even during the middle of the game and on Thursday said that of all his worries, cleanup hitter Dayan Viciedo was his biggest.
“He’s lunging at the ball. You can see it from the bench. I’ve talked to him numerous times, but it’s his way and he’s too proud to change. But it isn’t working, and if he doesn’t change, I can’t keep on having him there make outs,” Tatsunami said.
Just like Sen-chan
Tatsunami likes to channel his pro baseball mentor, the late Senichi Hoshino by getting under players’ skins and irritating them until they do what he wants. He managed to do that on Friday after Yudai Ono gave him nine perfect innings, Yahoo News THE PAGE reported.
When Ono returned to the dugout in the bottom of the ninth, Tatsunami came over to him and said, “Are you done? Shall we switch?”
Ono, the 2020 Sawamura Award winner, had thrown 108 pitches and he said the first thing that came to mind was that Tatsunami would never say that to Dragons right-hander Yuya Yanagi.
“If it were Yanagi, he’d say ‘One more inning please,'” Ono said and vowed to go back to the mound and put the skipper in his place. Ono gave up a hit, of course but won the 10-inning shutout when rookie Takaya Ishikawa drove in the winning run in the 10th off Tigers starter Koyo Aoyagi.