The Hara Giants are too weak this year for five reasons.
The team is in shambles due to the "all-powerful manager's" outburst.
Is this a first-team stadium? At Giants Stadium (Kawasaki, Kanagawa) in late April, a number of big names were sweating it out in what could easily be mistaken for a first-team stadium. Tomoyuki Sugano (33), Takayuki Kajitani (34), and Nobuhiro Matsuda (39), a newcomer from Softbank this season. The veterans practicing smiled from time to time, but the team was anything but smiling. The Giants are 8-12 after the first seven games of the season, battling with Chunichi for last place. The opening day debacle in the 17th year of Tatsunori Hara’s (64) administration had five causes.
Tatsunori Hara, the “manager with full authority
1) Failure of ace pitcher Sugano to make adjustments
The lack of starting pitchers is obvious. The idea of a double ace lineup of Sugano and Shoyuki Togo (23) fizzled out with Sugano’s withdrawal. Baseball critic Haruki Ihara has a harsh criticism of the ace, who has been out of action for the past few years due to a string of elbow and back problems.
He looks shabby. I think it is difficult for him to pitch like he did when he was in his 20s. Tsuyoshi Shinjo, 51, the manager of Nippon Ham, ordered Kotaro Kiyomiya, 23, to lose weight, and he has been successful this season. I wish we had a coach who could say something to Kanno. ……
No leverage in the middle infielders.
For some reason, there has been no leveraging of the middle relay, which was supposed to be the biggest point of reinforcement. Delarosa (34) and Vieira (30) have left the team, and the team’s strength has rather decreased. The fact that the relievers, with the exception of guardian god Osei (23), have been replaced by relievers on a daily basis has not changed this season.
The “machine-gun reliever system” is a key idea of manager Hara’s, and he has no intention of changing it. Naturally, it puts a strain on the bullpen, and Yuhei Takanashi (30), who has supported the relievers since his transfer in 2008, has dropped out of the lineup after showing signs of fatigue from his long service. Kota Nakagawa, 29, a former member of the Japan national team who was signed to a training contract due to injury, is not expected to return to the lineup.
The team’s defensive rating was the worst in the league. If there are more departures from the pitching staff, the B class will be decided before summer.
(3) Order of the batting lineups
The Hara Giants had 18 different batting lines in their opening 20 games. Although they lead the league in runs scored, they have been unable to bring a flow to the team due to frequent ghettoes. One reason for this is the sluggishness of Hayato Sakamoto (34) and Yoshihiro Maru (34), whose batting averages have dipped into the 10% range.
Rui Okoye (25), the current draft pick, has blossomed as the No. 1 hitter, which is almost a miracle. The reason is that we could not bring up a center fielder who could replace Sakamoto and Maru.
It is not that the batting order is not fixed; it is that it is not possible. The players who appear in the middle of the order are rookies such as Hisayoshi Nagano (38) and Matsuda, both of whom are returning to the team. The ballpark was excited, but the results were not.
(4) Young players are demoralized by “immediate second-team assignment” if they make a mistake.
Yuji Akahoshi (23), who won five games last season and was expected to be part of the rotation, failed to produce results and dropped out of the farm system. The team’s poor form is a chance for the youngsters to show off their talents, but they are feeling demoralized. According to a comment by a Giants reporter in a sports newspaper, “Mr. Hara is just trying to be patient.
Mr. Hara can’t be patient and use them anyway. So even if Akahoshi and the other youngsters make it to the first team, they pitch under the pressure of ‘If I give up four pitches here, I’ll be sent to the second team. To be frank, the atmosphere on the farm is not good. There are many young players who make a mockery of the situation, saying, ‘I want to be sent out to another team.
(5) Leaders “full of yes-men for Hara
The team leaders, including head and battery coach Shinnosuke Abe (44), have become “yes-men” to the “plenipotentiary manager” during his super-long administration.
There is no one on the staff to admonish Kanno for his lack of coordination and machine-gun relays. Masumi Kuwata (55) was the only one who could say no to Hara, but he was ousted as general farm manager, a post far removed from that of manager.
Hara has reportedly told those around him that he wants to retire after winning Japan’s No. 1 championship, but it seems unlikely that this blueprint will come to fruition.
Tomoyuki Sugano, annual salary: 500 million yen
Takayuki Kajitani 200 million yen
Nobuhiro Matsuda Salary: 20 million yen
Hayato Sakamoto, annual salary: 600 million yen
Masumi Kuwata, general manager of the farm
From the May 12 and 19, 2023 issue of FRIDAY
PHOTO： Shu Nishihara