It has been reported the Tokyo Yakult Swallows are looking for a former player to take over as manager in 2011, and pitching coach Daisuke Araki, a one-time Yakult pitcher, is the presumed leading candidate to become the next field boss.
However, if they want to try something different, I can think of at least four Americans, all ex-Swallows players, and one former opponent and manager wannabe who might be considered.
First, there’s Tom O’Malley, the 1993 Central League batting champion with the Hanshin Tigers, and 1995 CL MVP while playing first base for the Japan Series champion Swallows. O’Malley also coached with Hanshin under manager Senichi Hoshino in 2002-03.
Between stints as a player and coach in Japan, O’Malley gained managerial experience in the U.S. with the Newark Bears in the independent Atlantic League, and was named manager of the Livedoor Phoenix, a team which has never actually existed but was vying for the Pacific League expansion franchise with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2004.
O’Malley, now 49 and with nine years experience in Japan, understands Japanese baseball and would make an excellent manager for Yakult — or any team in the Central or Pacific League.
Next would be Torey Lovullo. Many fans, I’m sure, may not even remember him playing part of the 2000 season as Yakult’s second baseman. Lovullo, 45, is managing at Pawtucket, the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.
He’s been a manager in Triple-A for five seasons and was one of the candidates interviewed for the vacant managerial post with the Cleveland Indians last off-season.
Lovullo, a switch-hitting journeyman during his active career, played for seven major league teams over a span of eight seasons.
There’s also Dave Hilton, 59, another one-time Swallows second baseman who was Yakult’s leadoff man when the team won its first Japan Series in 1978. Hilton has coaching and managerial experience in the American minors and has said he would love a chance to return to Japan as a coach or manager.
“Skip” Hilton (I never knew him by that nickname, but his Wikipedia entry refers to him by it) managed a Single-A team for the Baltimore Orioles in 1997.
Also, according to Wikipedia, while he was playing with Yakult 32 years ago (can it be that long?), it was said he inspired famed Japanese author Haruki Murakami as he saw Hilton hit a double at a Swallows game. So, you can’t say Hilton lacks the ability to inspire.
What about Larry Parrish?
He played for Yakult in 1989 and won the Central League home run title, smacking 42 out of Jingu Stadium and the other parks. Despite that, the Swallows dropped him, and Parrish played in 1990 with the Hanshin Tigers where he took over the first base position from Cecil Fielder, his homer derby rival from the previous season.
Parrish, 56, managed the Detroit Tigers in 1998-99 and is currently manager of the Class AAA Toledo Mud Hens.
Finally, if the Swallows really want to do something different, a former foe who, like O’Malley, was a Central League batting champion and MVP, says he is ready to pack his bags and make the move back to Tokyo.
The flamboyant Warren Cromartie read where Yakult will be looking for a manager and is waving his arms like crazy, saying, “Here I am. Choose me.”
Cro was a star with Yakult’s cross-town Tokyo rival Yomiuri Giants for seven seasons, 1984-90, playing on three CL championship teams and the 1989 Japan Series winner. That was the year he batted .378, won the league hitting title and was named MVP.
Yes, he does have managerial experience. He was the kantoku for the Samurai Bears team, part of the independent Golden League in the U.S. in 2005.
Cromartie wrote in an e-mail, “They just showed the ‘Season of the Samurai,’ documentary on the MLB-TV network, and it brought me back to my Japanese roots, and my passion for coaching Japanese baseball.”
He added: “I believe I would make a great manager due to my past experiences and knowledge of Japanese baseball, Major League Baseball and managing Japanese players. I have experienced and overcome the challenges in communication.
“I understand and teach fundamentals and an aggressive technique style of baseball. I truly believe with my notoriety, expertise and organizational skills, I would bring credibility and stability to the Swallows franchise.”
Cromartie concluded by saying, “I truly understand the economic situation with Japanese baseball at this time, and I would love to manage Yakult. I am all about winning.”
There you have it; five suggested candidates to manage a franchise that needs a real shot in the arm.
But, what do you bet they go with Araki?
Contact Wayne Graczyk at: wayne@JapanBall.com