Alex Ramirez, whose five-year tenure with the DeNA BayStars was the second-longest in NPB among foreign-born managers next to Bobby Valentines’ seven with the Lotte Marines, will not remain with the Central League club in 2021, the club’s chief executive, Kazuaki Mihara told the Sankei Sports.
Despite a sometimes subtle media campaign run by people around the team to paint Ramirez’s managing in an unfavorable light, the club said it recognized the Venezuelan-born skipper’s gifts and said they wanted to retain his services after he quit the dugout job.
“We talked different times, but he said that for the time being he would like to spend valuable time with his family. We respect his stance and won’t offer him a contract,” Mihara said.
The franchise’s .443 winning percentage since its inception in 1950 to 2015, the year before Ramirez took over, is the worst of any franchise in existence since NPB went to 12 teams in 1958. Ramirez’s 692 games are third-most in franchise history. His .499 winning percentage is second-best among managers who managed more than one season to Hiroshi Gondo’s .541.
Gondo and the two who managed longer, Osamu Mihara and Kaoru Betto are all Hall of Famers and Ramirez will likely join them within a few years.
2019 votes tells us hits matter more than anything
Kazuyoshi Tatsunami was admitted to Japan’s Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday in a vote that favored 2,000-hit guys. Tatsunami, with 2,480 career hits got 287 votes, eight more than needed for his selection, while two first-timers with 2,000 hits, Shinya Miyamoto and Alex Ramirez, shot up the rankings.
Tuffy Rhodes, easily the most deserving player on the ballot along with former major league catcher Kenji Jojima were left in their dust.
Ramirez is a decent candidate, and there’s nothing one can do to make Rhodes’ career any better or worse than it was. It is not an insult that more people voted for Ramirez, because we all look at things differently.
The way I see, it, Ramirez had 208 more hits than Rhodes, but Rhodes hit 84 more home runs, stole 67 more bases, scored 234 more runs, and — wait for it — drew 650 more walks. That’s a huge number in two careers that lasted about the same length.
Rhodes, who was on 36.6 percent of the ballots two years ago, was at 22.8 percent last year and 29.6 this year. By contrast, Miyamoto, a sturdy player and a good leader if an underwhelming bat despite 2,133 career hits got 41.2 percent and Tomonori Maeda (2,119 hits) matched Rhodes’ 29.6 share.
To be fair, this leaves me at a loss to explain the lack of improvement for Takuro Ishii, a player of Tatsunami’s caliber with more speed and defense but fewer extra-base hits. Ishii. At 19.3 percent last year, Ishii improved to just 24.8 percent this time around.
The ultimate sacrifice
Or maybe its not just hits, but hits and sacrifices. That could explain why Masahiro Kawai, another solid baseball man of that generation was named on 50.7 percent of this year’s ballots. Kawai had 5m528 plate appearances with a .676 career OPS. The thing that sets him apart is his sacrifice hit total, a Japan-record 533. Like Miyamoto, he bunted more than he walked.
The last year there were no knockout first-year candidates, 2017, voters selected the player who got the most votes who was still on the ballot. That was Tsutomu Ito, a superb catcher and good hitter in an underrepresented position. But Ito is also fourth in career sacrifice bunts with 305. So Kawai is the leader, Miyamoto is third and both may be going into the Hall of Fame with Ito. This begs the question of why voters overlooked Ken Hirano, whose 451 career sacrifices rank him second. What could they have been thinking?
On Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, former pitcher and manager Hiroshi Gondo was elected into Japan’s Baseball Hall of Fame. This is from a chat I had with him last year and includes his game logs from historic 1961 season.Hiroshi Gondo is famous in Japan for a number of things, including being one of only two men to manage NPB’s Taiyo-Yokohama-DeNA franchise to a pennant. But most of all, he’s famous for his historic 1961 season, when the 22-year-old Chunichi Dragons rookie led Japan’s Central League in wins and strikeouts and won the Sawamura Award, as the CL’s most impressive pitcher, and the Rookie of the Year Award.
Considering that season, one who is used to today’s game where NPB starters typically throw two bullpens during their six days between starts, how often Gondo went to the pen to freshen up.
“Never,” he said Wednesday at Tokyo Dome. “I pitched every day!”
OK. That’s not exactly true, as you can see here: Gondo 1961 game log This is a look at what a 429-1/3 inning season looks like. Sorry for the Japanese characters in the team names. The column “G order” indicates his appearance order for his team’s pitchers in that game.
“If I was in the bullpen and my fastball had great life, I don’t want to waste it there. I wanted that for a game.”
He was pitching in an era when managers didn’t hesitate to summon a reliever to the mound without having him go to the bullpen to warmup.
“That happened sometimes. The skipper would say, ‘Gon-chan, get in the game.’ And I’d throw my seven pitches on the mound and that was that. I had been an infielder until my second year in high school and it didn’t take me that long to get warm. Even if I was in the bullpen for a game, I’d throw five or six pitches, then seven on the mound and let’s go. But bullpens between starts? No. What was the point?”
He led the CL with 30 wins the following season, but his career was largely done after 1962. When did he know there was a problem?
“My mistake was in resting and not moving my arm after that (1962) season. After a month or so, I tried to throw and my shoulder was frozen. Lifting it was painful. It hurt all the time.