Kudo to quit, Hara to stay

Kimiyasu Kudo has decided not to return as SoftBank Hawks manager for 2022, Nishinihon Sports reported Sunday, when the Hawks could potentially be eliminated from pennant contention. His move comes despite the club’s high regard for his work, and repeated offers from the front office to extend his contract after it expires this year.

In six seasons, Kudo has won three Pacific League championships and five Japan Series titles. But this year, the Hawks are in fourth place and headed south. They have outscored their opponents 508-459 but are six games under .500 largely because of a calamitous bullpen situation that left the skipper without his best three late relievers, Yuito Mori, Livan Moinelo and Sho Iwasaki for much of the season.

The report said first-year head coach and former Japan manager Hiroki Kokubo is a candidate to replace him, but I wouldn’t bet on that since the Hawks have tended not to follow that common path of simply promoting the head coach in the past.

Meanwhile, Nikkan Sports reported that Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara, who is also in the final year of his contract, would like to stay on for 2022 and will do so if the team offers him a contract.

This is not a slam dunk, but if Hara says he’s willing to come back, he’s essentially daring the Giants to fire him, something they’ve never done, although he has quit twice in the past due to frustration with the former owner’s big mouth in 2003, and to take a break in 2015.

Hara is currently in the third year of his third term with Yomiuri, whom he previously managed from 2002 to 2003 and from 2006 to 2015.

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