Well somebody had to take the fall.
Yokohama BayStars manager Akihiko Oya, who’s overseen a pair of losing seasons and seemed to be well on the way to a third, has stepped down to take a ‘rest’ as the team’s manager.
Oya will be replaced by acting manager Tomio Tashiro for the time being.
There’s no denying the team has underachieved under Oya’s watch over the past two seasons and the first two months of the 2009 campaign.
However, for all the shortcomings Oya has had in his second stint with the team, he managed from 1996-1997 previously, he’s taking the responsibility for problems that didn’t begin and likely won’t end with him.
Over the past seven seasons the BayStars have lost, and lost, and lost under a number of managers.
The only constant has been ownership.
The BayStars have been owned by the Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) since it gained control after acquiring all shares held by Maruha Corporation in a joint venture with BS-i, Inc. on March 28, 2002.
Since then the BayStars have gone 414-601-7 through Friday, with one top-three finish and five last-place finishes in Central League from 2002-2008. The team has gone through four managers during that period, none of whom finished a season with a winning record.
Legendary manager Masaaki Mori was with the team from 2001-2002, going 49-86-5 in 2002, his only season under the TBS umbrella.
Daisuke Yamashita was next, going 104-170-4 from 2003-2004.
Kazuhiko Ushijima followed, with the team finishing 127-154-11 during his tenure from 2005-2006 before Oya retook the reigns. Ushijima did lead the team to a top-three finish, however, going 69-70-7 to finish third in 2005.
The modus operandi seems to be to give a manager two years, then politely shove him out the door when the losses start to pile up.
In the dugout, the ‘Stars would seem to be in need of a stable leader they can rely on and rally around. Injecting a bit a stability won’t bring immediate results, but it would be a starting point.
The state of the team over the past several seasons suggests that any rebuilding project is destined to take a few years. But it will never happen if the powers-that-be keep looking for a quick fix and restarting the rebuilding process every two seasons with a new manager.
At some point, it’s time to stop pointing fingers at the manager and start looking higher up the food chain.
The recent streak of futility suggests that maybe it’s dysfunction or inability in the front office that has been the reason for failing to field a competitive team since 2001, when Yokohama last finished with a winning record (69-67-4 under Mori).
If the string of losses is indeed a result of bad managing, as the managerial changes seem to suggest, then responsibility lies with whomever has had the final word on hiring bad manger after bad manger.
Oya’s ‘rest’ will probably become permanent, meaning the team has an immediate chance to begin to plot a brighter course for the future with its next managerial selection.
Success is not out of the question for the BayStars, even though it seems like it these days. Oya, for one, has had success with the team, leading Yokohama to a 72-63 record and second-place finish in 1997 during his first go-round in the BayStars’ dugout.
But something needs to change for that to happen, and moving on to another manager may turn out to be akin to putting a Band-Aid over a gaping wound.