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Former Yomiuri great Warren Cromartie wants to see more passion from NPB clubs

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Warren Cromartie was one of the greats of his day during his time with the Yomiuri Giants from 1984-1990. He was one of the Central League’s best players and a popular figure on Japan’s most popular team.

Even now, Cromartie appears in the occasional Japanese commercial and gets recognized in public. He just spent five months in the country working with History Channel Japan on his YouTube show “Cro in Tokyo” as well as a biography. While in his “second home,” Cromartie took in a lot of baseball games, and he didn’t like what he saw.

“It’s been a disappointing year watching Japanese baseball,” Cromartie told The Japan Times. “I’ve found myself throwing the towel at the TV at some times watching it.”

Cromartie says the game lacks the star power it once had. The former Giants star also feels NPB action isn’t as exciting as it once was, which he also thinks about MLB, and that games aren’t played with good rhythm or tempo. The latter, he blames on NPB skippers.

“I think the managers are all the same. There’s no fire in any of the managers,” he said. “I really appreciated (Senichi) Hoshino when he was managing. More than ever now, seeing what he brought to the game, his passion for the game.

“I see passion from the Hiroshima Carp. I like what they’re doing, I like their fanbase, it’s tremendous. I like the way they swing the bats, they have aggressive bats.

“But you look at the Central League, there’s one team playing .500 ball among the other five teams. You can win two or three in the Central League and be in second place, but under .500. That should tell you something.”

Cromartie thinks the situation in the CL starts at the top of each organization. He said he’d like to see more CL teams follow the lead of someone such as Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks owner Masayoshi Son.

“(In) the Pacific League, where you’ve got four or five teams playing .500 ball, the competition is a little better,” Cromartie said. “It tells me how the businesses are run in baseball there. I think their businesses are run a little bit better than in the Central League. It starts with the front offices in the Pacific League.”

Cromartie had been a star with the Montreal Expos before arriving in Japan in 1984. He was the 1989 Central League MVP and made three Best Nine teams while with the Kyojin.

Cromartie has some radical ideas for improving NPB, one of which is for each team to send three of their best prospects to the U.S. minor leagues for two or three seasons. He’d also like to see more aggressive hit-and-run plays and more action on the basepaths.

“The bunts are going to be there forever,” Cromartie said. “But I don’t see anybody charging the bunt, trying to get the guy at second base, they let them have the bunt.”

Despite his frustrations with the domestic game, the former Yomiuri great said he spent a fruitful five months in Japan.

“The most important thing is I spent a lot of time and I realized I belong to Japan,” he said. “I realize the people in Japan, I guess I’ve earned their respect. I’m looking forward to spending more time in Japan. I saw a lot of sights and things. I worked with MLB this year, I worked with the History Channel doing my YouTube show.”

Cromartie said Japan is even more special to him now than when he was playing for the Giants and hopes to see the country shine in two years’ time when Tokyo hosts the 2020 Olympics.

As for his misgivings about the NPB product, they’ve only made him want to get back into the game. He says Japanese fans, who he says are tremendous, deserve a better product.

“Hopefully I could bring a little different tempo toward the game and try to lift it a little bit,” he suggested.

Which is to say, “Cro-san” is open for business.

“I would like to manage,” Cromartie said. “I would like to coach in Japan.”