With all the regular season games complete, more players who were hoping to be back with their teams next year have been informed that those teams have different plans.
On Tuesday, amurai Japan manager Hideki Kuriyama announced his squad for four November games that will help him prepare for March’s World Baseball Classic, with the big news out of that being how a lot of top players were not on the list, and I don’t just mean the MLB guys who are not eligible until March.
We also had news about Tatsunori Hara’s desire to manage the Yomiuri Giants next season despite the team’s failings, and some thoughts on a possible replacement for Tadahito Iguchi with the Lotte Marines.
Meanwhile the SoftBank Hawks have named their starting pitcher for the first stage of the Pacific League’s Preclimax series against the Seibu Lions starting Saturday.
Dragons to part company with Hirata
Ryosuke Hirata, a mainstay of the Chunichi Dragons outfield from 2013 to 2019 with his ability to get on base and his defense, said Tuesday he has been told he will not have a job in Nagoya next year. The Dragons’ first pick in the 2005 high school draft, said he will look for another club where he can finish his career. He finished with 105 career homers, and slashed .268/.350/.414 in Japan’s toughest hitters’ park.
Luke Wakamatsu, the son of former Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu, was also told he will need to look for work elsewhere, while pitcher Yuta Omine said he will call an end to a 16-year career he was trying to revive with the Dragons on a developmental contract.
Meet the boys of autumn
Roki Sasaki and Munetaka Murakami are the big names on a young team named by manager Kuriyama for Samurai Japan’s games against the Nippon Ham Fighters, Yomiuri Giants and Australia in November.
The only 30-year-old on the team is Yakult catcher Yuhei Nakamura. Dragons pitcher Hiroto Takahashi, who turned 20 in August is the youngest and the median age is 26 years, 9 months.
Speaking about 22-year-old triple crown winner Munetaka Murakami, Kuriyama said, “He’s showed us so things we never imagined. I believe in him.”
The team is without some of Japan’s biggest names, such as Orix ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, his teammate, outfielder Masataka Yoshida, slugging Seibu Lions first baseman Hotaka Yamakawa or Giants center fielder Yoshihiro Maru.
Hara to stick around
The Giants said Hara will continue on for the second year of his current three year deal in 2023 after the Giants finished fourth, a half-game out of the postseason and 2-1/2 ahead of the last-place Chunichi Dragons.
The Giants were last in both leagues in ERA for the first time in franchise history, although they had finished last twice, once in 2001 the year before Hara first managed them, and in 2005, the year before he returned for his second stint.
Still, the team’s current owner, Toshikazu Yamaguchi, said that there were no guarantees, and that getting to complete all three years of his current deal would depend upon success.
“A contract is a contract, but baseball is a world decided by wins and losses,” Yamaguchi said. “A contract gets preference in (retaining a manager) but it’s not the only thing involved. I know that, and the manager knows that.”
Yamaguchi says that NOW, but it’s fairly transparent that Hara held a gun to the team’s head and threatened the Giants to fire him a year ago, by leaking to the media that he would not be adverse to another long-term contract, despite the team not playing well, and Shinnosuke Abe in the dugout at the end of the season looking for all intents and purposes like the manager for 2022.
Hara is set in his ways and if he doesn’t win, I expect him to adopt former National Rifle Association chief Charlton Heston’s approach and say, “You can take my job away from me from my cold dead hands.”
Lotte supposedly eyes Fukuura
A day after Lotte’s owner said his team was starting for a blank slate after manager Iguchi, who was expected to manage next year, announced he was quitting on Sunday, longtime former first baseman Kazuya Fukuura has appeared as the frontrunner for the Marines managing job.
Senga to start Game 1
SoftBank Hawks manager Hiroshi Fujimoto named ace Kodai Senga to pitch Game 1 of the first stage of the PL playoffs at home against Seibu, which has announced so far as I can tell that Tatsuya Imai will start Game 2 in Fukuoka.
If the Hawks fail to advance to the final stage, that game will likely be Senga’s last in Japan before his move to MLB.