An Urgent Roundtable Discussion: The Sad Personnel Situation in the Professional Baseball World “Jealousy, Connection, and Ability
The "job search" of men who have lived only for baseball, through sweat and tears Why is that man a coach? Why is that person being chosen as a coach? Secrets of new managerial appointments, contracts behind lifetime employment, etc.
A: Veteran baseball writer and host B: Tokyo-based sports media reporter
C: Sportswriters covering amateur to professional baseball D: Sports media directors
A: “ This year’s stove league has seen the birth of four new managers, and FA and trades are more active than usual. Today, let’s talk about the behind-the-scenes personnel matters in the world of professional baseball. First, let’s start with Chunichi, who has been the talk of the town lately.”
B: “ Originally a team with high pitching and low batting average, they released their mainstay hitter (Hisaki Abe) and reinforced their starter (Hideaki Wakui). If this situation continues, the team will become a “pitching high, hitting low” team. Also, Kyota (Yota), who has a proven track record, has been traded away, and there has been a lot of talk about who will protect the infield for Chunichi next year.
C. “ Why was manager Kazuyoshi Tatsunami able to reform the team so boldly? It is not only the manager’s determination, but also his “overwhelming approval rating,” to use a politician’s expression.
A: “ The media in the Tokai area, the Nagoya business community, Chunichi fans, and the baseball team have all been waiting for a “spectacular” manager. He was appointed as manager as soon as owner Bungo Shirai, who was the only one opposed to Tatsunami, stepped down.
B: “ The decline in attendance had been unstoppable since the latter years of Hiromitsu Ochiai’s ten years as manager, and the team had spent a dark decade in which it kept losing popularity and failing to win, even though the manager was constantly being replaced.
There is a large lounge for the media in Nagoya Dome, but the atmosphere at that time was terrible. At the table next to us, a person from a TV station said, ‘It’s impossible to get ratings with this,’ and in the back, an alumnus talked bad about the team without a care in the world.
A: “ For the Giants, who finished in the B class, the focus is on the coaching personnel. The first team is the first team to be selected. In the fielder’s division, Murata (Shuichi) and others resigned, and Dave (Hiromoto Okubo) joined the team.
C “ Coach Kuwata was rumored to have clashed with Manager Hara (Tatsunori), and it was thought that he might leave the team like Coach Ishii (Takuro) did last year, but in the end he stayed with the team. Although unlikely, Coach Kuwata is also a candidate for future manager. If he had emotionally quit, his chances of being appointed manager would have been zero. He would have had to remain in the Hara administration and take a hard look at his own life.
A “ Coach Murata was immediately acquired by Lotte, wasn’t he?
B “ It was probably because his ability was recognized. He was a well-liked person from the time he was active. Each team also checks the opposing team’s coach during the game. Lotte probably checked out Murata’s coaching ability in Eastern League games and recruited him as soon as they learned of his departure from the Giants.
D “ I didn’t think Coach Okubo would return to baseball. He is a very good coach and will certainly improve the Titans’ batting lineup. He is a coach who imposes strict training and sometimes uses harsh words, but he is also a kind and helpful coach. He also gets along well with the players and has meals with them. This is something that rarely happens in the baseball world.
There are many coaches like him who are craftsmen, and objectively speaking, he is a “good coach,” but from the perspective of the team as a whole, he can have a downside. He is too close to the players. The players’ feelings are directed to the coach, not to the manager. Also, if the players and a particular coach are always together, even if they don’t want to be, they will appear to be a “faction” to the outside world. The coach’s centripetal force is diminished.
C “ As a result, coaches are reassigned or leave the team, and if there are people on the field who are jealous of the “faction,” they will spread rumors to the media, which will lead to articles such as, ‘There is a crack in the team. If it becomes an article, the parent company of the team will make an issue of it, and the worst pattern will be created at …….
D. “ The qualifications of a coach are difficult. There are people who have been coaching for a long time even though they have no track record as a player and their ability as a coach is not well known. E and F are well-known coaches. They are called “goma suri coaches” on the Internet, but they are necessary for the team. He maintains the balance of the team in a position where the players do not hate him, while always supporting the manager, who is in a solitary position. They have an excellent sense of smell for living within the ballgame.”
A “ Does it make sense to have a “friend cabinet” in which the coach’s close friends are appointed as coaches?
B: “ A friend’s cabinet is an efficient system because meetings can be shortened because of the close communication. In the first place, top players do not need detailed technical guidance. Tsuyoshi Shinjo of Nippon-Ham has two coaches in his cabinet, Tateyama (Yoshinori) and Morimoto Rarity (Hichori), both of whom he knows well.
A: “ What about Takatsu (Shingo), the manager of Yakult, which won the Central League championship again?”
C “ I heard that he is a very caring manager. I heard that he was a very caring manager. I think he brought the team together, including the team staff, and that is what led to consecutive championships.
A “ So the team is managed by maintaining a balance between ability and connections.
Now let’s talk about the players. This year, we had two big-name FAs, Tomoya Mori (Seibu to Orix) and Kensuke Kondo (Nippon Ham to undecided, as of November 28).
B: “ Each team is gathering information from a very early stage so as not to be caught in the prohibited tampering (prior negotiations). They even call the player’s friends and acquaintances outside the baseball world. We ask them about the player’s personality, preferences, future dreams, etc., and offer conditions.
In the past, there was a “lifetime employment contract” in which a player was paid 10 million yen every year until age 60, even after retirement, but I don’t know if the baseball team has the strength to do that now. I think there are many cases of so-called “coach’s bills”. Nowadays, the number of coaches needed for the third team, academies, women’s baseball, etc. is increasing.
A “ Only a few successful players can become FAs. More than 100 players have retired or are out of the lineup this year, but ……”
D “ What is sad is tryouts. The scouts rarely decide on a player based solely on his or her performance on the field. In most cases, the team will ask the player in advance, “How’s your shoulder? or “How’s your shoulder doing? Players who go to the tryouts with no contact have to put their lives on the line with every pitch they take, with almost zero chance of staying in the NPB.
B “ Baseball teams have a variety of second careers available for players, not only coaches, but also scouts, scorers, public relations, equipment staff, and so on. Whether or not you can find such a job after you retire depends on your personality. Those who can be used as an organizer, such as those who are serious, amiable, and have good administrative skills, will have an advantage. The annual salary for a backstage position depends on the position, but it ranges from 4 to 8 million yen. The higher the draft position, the higher the salary tends to be. There are some former players who are paid about 7 million yen for a three-week job with a side job.
However, most backstage workers also sign one-year contracts, so there are many former players who study hard, obtain qualifications, and aim for a position in the team’s sales department or liaison department, where they can stay for a long period of time.
A “ People who have lived in baseball want to live in the baseball world. That is why they are all working so hard.”
From the December 16, 2022 issue of FRIDAY