In the aftermath of Tatsunori Hara’s “stepping down” as Giants manager for ostensibly the third and final time, I thought it was time to do some research into his interesting tenures in Yomiuri Land.
There were a variety of stories out there trying to explain Hara’s failure to get the league’s wealthiest team into the upper division for two consecutive seasons. One of the more interesting takes was the team’s failure to land free agent catcher and 2019 Pacific League MVP Tomoya Mori. Despite a personal appeal from Hara, Mori selected the two-time defending PL champions – and his hometown team – Osaka’s Orix Buffaloes.
This point was brought up in a few stories that also blamed Hara’s failure on his annual turnover of coaches, or player injuries, or the players simply not trying hard enough.
We assume that Yomiuri has the best access in NPB to domestic talent, both amateur and professional, but how much is that really worth on average each season? To find out, I looked up every player in NPB who had played for a different team the year before and how much they produced that year, while also making note of the team that lost that individual.
Hara won nine pennants with the Yomiuri Giants and three Japan Series championships, and won more regular season games than any other Yomiuri manager. Let’s see how he compares to other contemporary managers with 500 or more games managed.
Continue reading Tatsunori Hara retrospective, part 1￼
Alex Ramirez waltzed into Japan’s Baseball Hall of Fame and was joined by Randy Bass, as the hall’s voters ended a 29-year drought to induct its first import players since Wally Yonamine in 1994.
Ramirez put together a 13-year career in which he won two MVP awards and two Japan Series rings and reached Japan’s iconic 2,000-hit mark, while Bass had a seismic impact in just five-plus seasons, leading the once-mighty Hanshin Tigers to their first Japan Series in 21 years and their only Japan title since the two-league era began in 1950.
It took Ramirez less than 10 years between his last NPB game and his arrival at the Hall, while Bass waited 35 years. The difference in those figures is attributable not just to the length and quality of their careers but also to the horrid selection process that was used until the last decade or so, and the amount of controversy that stuck to the two.
Not only has Ramirez embraced the Japanese way like few others, he has mastered the accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative. If you’ve been following my work for any length of time, you’ll know I’m convinced that avoiding negatives, or even the whiff of any suspicion of negatives, is a fundamental strategy for advancement in Japan.
Players can have historically brilliant careers here only to be ignored in the Hall of Fame voting if they are not popular enough with the electorate. Sure, there is a line where a player is so accomplished and historically significant that he can get in despite not sucking up to the media in the slightest, see Hideo Nomo, but for most great players, it’s important to appear humble to the point of being obsequious.
Continue reading The 2023 Hall of Fame