Yomiuri may bite the Hara bullet

Toshikazu Yamaguchi, the Giants’ “owner,” issued a statement after DeNA’s victory Friday that consigned Yomiuri to consecutive fourth-place finishes that tells you two things about Yomiuri: The organization feels the pennant belongs to them each and every year, and changing managers is really, really painful.

“This is extremely frustrating,” Yamaguchi said. “We came into this season intent on recapturing the pennant (for the first time since 2020), but couldn’t stay in championship contention. That point makes this a season that deserves an apology to the fans.”

While manager Tatsunori Hara was able to get big years out of some of his young players, particularly outfielder Yuto Akihiro and starting pitcher Iori Yamasaki, Yamaguchi offered no show of support for the skipper, who has one more year on a three year deal.

“I can’t say anything about that (managing job),” Yamaguchi said. “I think we seriously need to think about next season.”

Hara was, for all intents and purposes, on his way out at the end of the 2021 season, when the Giants secured third place by just two games while finishing 11 games back of the runners-up Hanshin Tigers.

Farm manager Shinnosuke Abe had been called up at season’s end to serve as tactical coach, and appeared to be making all the decisions, when Hara, in the final year of his last three-year deal, outmaneuvered the team by leaking to the media that he would not be adverse to signing a new contract.

By making it impossible for Yomiuri to appoint Abe without making it look like Hara was stepping down of his own accord, the Giants opted to save face and hope for the best by signing on for three more years of his mad-genius show of odd choices, improbable and cryptic explanations and new ways of blaming players for his failures.

Hara is in his third stint as Giants manager. He unexpectedly walked away after daily tirades in the press in 2023 from then owner Tsuneo Watanabe, and walked away again in 2015 after his run of three straight CL titles came to an end.

He came back looking refreshed in 2019, but began ramping up the weirdness that had been part of his schtick for years. His winning seven pennants cemented his selection to the Hall of Fame soon after he stepped down the second time, and being a Hall of Fame manager seems to have energized his desire to be defiantly weird.

My guess, is that Hara will be back for 2024, unless the team can convince him to go along with a story that it’s his idea to quit, and that his continuing on will be contingent on him telling the media that next season will be his last.

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