Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles slugger Wily Mo Pena has taken exception to comments his manager, Hiromoto “Dave” Okubo, made to the media recently.
The last-place Eagles have scored the fewest runs (440) in Japan and began Wednesday with the worst team batting average in the Pacific League at .243.
On Sept. 27, Okubo was quoted in a Daily Sports article as saying, “the foreign players are driving in too few runs.”
Pena, who was deactivated recently, is hitting .268, leads the Eagles with 17 home runs and is fourth on the team with 40 RBIs. His on-base and slugging percentages (.396 and .448 respectively) are both team bests and his 70 walks are also a club high. Pena’s 109 hits for Rakuten this season were second only to Kazuo Matsui’s 114 entering Wednesday’s game.
In a statement relayed through his agent, Pena expressed disappointment at the perception he isn’t pulling his weight in Sendai.
“I was one of the league leaders in on-base percentage. I was the main source of offense,” Pena was quoted as saying in his statement. “I hit in the middle of the lineup, and it was very obvious that the teams, particularly when there were runners on base, would just pitch around me, as evidenced by my high on-base percentage and huge number of walks.
“I like and respect the manager. I can also understand, given the fact that the team was basically out of the playoff race months ago, I can understand him being very disappointed not only in the season, but in everyone’s contributions, including his own.”
Okubo announced on Sept. 22 that he would be stepping down after the season to take responsibility for the team’s performance.
Rakuten has reportedly tapped former Kintetsu Buffaloes and Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters manager Masataka Nashida as Okubo’s successor.
Pena said he hopes to continue his career in Sendai.
“I love playing for Rakuten and appreciate my time here and I sincerely hope my option is picked up and I can continue to play for the Eagles and continue the quest to win a championship,” the statement continued. “Once again, I want to thank the fans who treated me and my family so great.”