Sakamoto: “I’m happy that the results came out. But I think it won’t mean anything if I don’t continue.”
The Giants’ Hayato Sakamoto (34), who finally recorded his first hit of the season on April 8 against Hiroshima, told the press after the game. Until then, he had gone 22 consecutive at-bats without a hit and had a batting average of .500. Manager Tatsunori Hara was anxious, saying, “You have to get over this slump yourself.
Sakamoto was demoted to the second team three times last season due to left side pain and back pain. In 83 games, his fewest appearances since he became a regular in 2008, he finished with a .286 batting average, five home runs, and 33 runs batted in, which was not enough for him. He also failed to reach the regulation batting average for 14 consecutive years. Sakamoto is the type of player who continues to appear in games throughout the year and get better. Perhaps he has not regained his physical senses. He will turn 35 this year, so his age may also be a factor.
The Lingering Suspicion of Abortion
Mental anxiety is also pointed out.
The allegation of abortion reported by the Weekly Bunshun in September last year may be lingering in his mind. The accuser was a woman in her 20s. Sakamoto often demanded extreme behavior and sexual intercourse without contraceptives, and when she told him she was pregnant, he pressed her, saying things like, “If you’re going to abort, you might as well do it quickly, right? When told that she was pregnant, Sakamoto told her, “If you’re going to have the baby, you might as well have it early. The team brushed off the issue, but Sakamoto was said to have been disheartened. On the surface, Sakamoto is playing quietly, but mentally he must not be at ease.
Sakamoto, who is trying to get back on track, is not sitting on his hands.
He says, “Dave Okubo, the chief hitting coach, has given me a lot of advice. He has been giving me a lot of advice, such as making my bat lighter and modifying my form to raise my center of gravity. …… Manager Hara is also trying to get him to get in better shape, using him in various batting orders, such as No. 7, No. 8, and No. 2. Sometimes, he even dared to remove him from the starting lineup to freshen things up. However, it seems that he has not been able to find the key to his recovery.
In the same shortstop position are rookie Makoto Kadowaki and third-year player Reito Nakayama. If he continues to hit rock bottom, there is no chance that he will lose his regular position.
If Sakamoto’s condition remains the same and he is unable to break out of his slump, there is a possibility that he will end up as a player. That would of course be unfortunate for both the team and Sakamoto. First of all, if he continues to have a bad season with the Giants, he will always be rehashed as ‘not having put an end to the abortion scandal,’ which will make him mentally unsettled. Sakamoto is one of the most successful players for the Giants, but it is not inconceivable that he could be traded to change the environment. Sakamoto is not a player who will just stay in the same position. Of course, there are teams that would be interested in acquiring him.
The rumored destination for Sakamoto is a surprising team.
Sakamoto is rumored to be transferred to an unexpected team: “Nippon-Ham. Daigo Kamikawahata, in his second year at the position, often plays shortstop for Nippon Ham, but he is hardly an unshakable regular. In the past, they have also acquired Tomohiro Nioka, who, like Sakamoto, has been involved in a women’s scandal. Conversely, the Giants have a strong relationship with both teams, as evidenced by the Giants’ acceptance of Sho Nakata, who had a violence problem.
Certainly, there is a concern that the addition of Sakamoto, a veteran, will disrupt the atmosphere of the team, which is mainly made up of young players. But consider this WBC: 36-year-old Yu Darvish has successfully led the Samurai Japan team, many of whom are in their early 20s, and has created a sense of unity in the team. I think Sakamoto’s captaincy will be a big plus for NIHAM, which has no absolute core player.
When will Sakamoto, who became the youngest player in Central League history to reach 2,000 hits at the age of 31 years and 10 months, explode? Fans are eagerly awaiting the day of his resurrection.
PHOTO： Jiji Press