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Lions manager Watanabe quits

Kyodo

Seibu Lions manager Hisanobu Watanabe resigned Tuesday after the team missed out on both the Japan Series and Pacific League titles for the fifth straight year.

The 48-year-old Watanabe led the Lions to second place in the PL for the second straight year, but the team was eliminated in the first stage of the Climax Series by the Chiba Lotte Marines.

No successor was immediately named, but former Seibu skipper Haruki Ihara and the Lions’ farm team manager, Tetsuya Shiozaki, are said to be on the shortlist.

“From Opening Day, I was determined to win the pennant this year,” Watanabe said. “So once (Tohoku) Rakuten won the pennant, I had pretty much decided I was going to step down.

“The most important thing is the championship. At Seibu, if you can’t win the title, it means you didn’t do the job.”

A former ace of the team himself, Watanabe became manager in 2008, when he took the Lions from fifth the previous year to PL champions and beat the Yomiuri Giants for the Japan Series title.

It turned out to be the only trophies Watanabe won, but he always kept Seibu competitive. His team missed the postseason only once — in 2009 — during his reign, and always finished above .500.

Watanabe leaves with a 438-395 record with 31 ties over six seasons.