Hara in wonderland

Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara has won nine Central League pennants but has a penchant for the weird and enigmatic, and this year that fondness for the bizarre has reached standards that are extreme even for Hara.

Hara’s infamous for his inability to settle on a regular second baseman year after year after year. He drew both positive reviews and scathing criticism for using a position player, current ace pinch-runner–Hara always has an ace pinch-runner–Daisuke Masuda, as an emergency pitcher two years ago.

This year, one of Hara’s strokes of “brilliance” was changing his pitcher in the middle of a plate appearance, which is probably related to his having extra grease put on the Tokyo Dome bullpen door due to the heavy use he’s subjected them to with games limited to nine innings this year.

Against the Hanshin Tigers last weekend at Tokyo Dome, neither C.C. Mercedes nor Shun Yamaguchi were hit particularly hard but only lasted three and 2-2/3 innings, respectively. That caught my attention, but a different issue attracted the ire of others: Hara’s fascination with Sho Nakata.

The Nippon Ham Fighters have played much better since Nakata was suspended after assaulting a teammate, while the Giants have slumped since taking the first baseman’s contract off Nippon Ham’s fists.

Masamune Umemiya writing on AERA.dot, basically accused Hara of bending over backward and throwing common sense to the wind inand doubling down to make the acquisition of the Fighters’ black sheep Nakata look like a game-changer.

Umemiya quoted an unnamed sportswriter, an unnamed advance scout, and an unnamed desk editor who basically said there should have been no expectation that Nakata, whose career has been a roller coaster ride, would turn his horrible season around the second he joined the Giants and that Hara’s pushing this through is essentially a demonstration of his hubris.

Umemiya’s sources suggested that Hiroyuki Nakajima and Zelous Wheeler are far more reasonable fits for the Giants’ needs and that there was really no reason to get Nakata in the first place except for the chance that “he MIGHT really be good” with a change of scenery.

Since Hara came back as manager in 2019, his former teammates have infiltrated the Giants’ front office. Although I didn’t think much of that takeover at first, I’ve been impressed by the team’s trades and the progress of their minor league hitters, and their decision to sign young Latin American amateurs.

Hara is absolutely the central figure in the organization now, and I seriously doubt the Giants would have acquired Nakata unless it was his idea, and now it seems he’s abandoned a sensible plan in order to make this silly one seem like his greatest stroke of genius.

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