Tag Archives: Bobby Valentine

Camp fires: Feb. 1, 2024

Camps opened Thursday for 10 teams in Okinawa and Miyazaki prefectures, with rain greeting the guys practicing in Kyushu. The Orix Buffaloes were not expected to practice until Feb. 2. But telling Japanese baseball players, who since they were small have probably spent close to 99.99 percent of their hours in uniform training rather than playing in games, to not practice is a tough sell.

One guy who is expected to be a tough customer with hard practices is new Yomiuri Giants manager Shinnosuke Abe, but on Day 1, he proved to be generous in his praise, while new SoftBank Hawks manager Hiroki Kokubo figures his position players are going to get the job done this year.

Buffaloes in volunteer mode

Although the Orix Buffaloes aren’t scheduled to hold their first camp workouts until Friday, the players decided to hold a voluntary workout at their spring training facility in Miyazaki, while manager Satoshi Nakajima and his coaches looked on.

Training outside the framework of baseball’s regular season, postseason, preseason, spring training and fall mini camps is called voluntary, even if it’s a standard practice such as when first-year players are “asked” to show up to a practice, handed vests with their numbers on them and ordered to practice while the manager and coaches watch from a distance in street clothes.

Breaking with tradition

A typical workday in a Japanese spring training camp has highly structured morning practices that taper off after lunch until players, on their own or in small groups, keep working until late in the evening, even swinging bats in dark parking lots where they can train after being ordered to stop.

Continue reading Camp fires: Feb. 1, 2024

Tatsunori Hara retrospective, part 1

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