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Yomiuri Giants skipper Tatsunori Hara says he will step down following his team’s exit from the Central League playoffs.

Hara’s job had been reportedly in jeopardy should the Giants fall short of winning a fourth straight CL pennant this year. Hara, who was in his second stint as skipper, won seven CL pennants and three Japan Series championships over 12 seasons in charge.

“We fought with all our strength, and the results are what they are,” Hara told reporters at Jingu Stadium on Saturday after his club lost three straight to the CL champion Tokyo Yakult Swallows.

The Giants last won the Japan Series in 2012, but were beaten by Masahiro Tanaka and the upstart Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2013 and were swept in four games at home in last year’s Central League Climax Series final stage.

“These past three years, we have been unable to improve our results,” he said. “We’ve been in decline. I’ve been privileged to manage for many years and I think this is the time.

“The team probably needs a change in its metabolism. So I’ve asked to be able to step down. For me, it’s been a time of both frustrating and joyous memories and everything about it has been exceptional.”

The 57-year-old Hara first took over the Giants in 2002 and led them to a Japan Series sweep, but quit a year later amid daily reports that he would be fired if he failed to win back-to-back titles. Tsuneo Watanabe, then the Giants owner, was repeatedly quoted as saying Hara could be replaced if he failed to win the pennant. Hara finished third and stepped down.

At the 2003 press conference announcing Hara’s successor, Tsuneo Horiuchi, Watanabe blamed the media for the trouble, saying, “This happened because you reported what I said when I was inebriated.”

After the 2004 season, Hara was asked to consider managing Rakuten, but declined according to then Eagles general manager Marty Kuehnert, saying, “The Giants may have given up on me, but I haven’t given up on the Giants.”

After two fruitless years with a star-studded but aging Giants team, Horiuchi stepped aside to make way for Hara’s return.

Through his time in charge, Hara revolutionized the way the team was run. Instead of depending primarily on aging big-name stars and the highest-profile amateur signings, the skipper gave unheralded minor leaguers and fringe players more chances to contribute. Because of that, Hara’s Giants became faster, younger and more successful than at any time since the team won nine straight Japan Series pennants from 1965 to 1973.

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