Baseball / Japanese Baseball | NPB NOTEBOOK

Tatsunori Hara has shot at top 10 for most wins by a manager

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Tatsunori Hara moved into rarefied air when his Yomiuri Giants beat the Hiroshima Carp on Tuesday night, becoming the 13th NPB manager to reach 1,000 career victories.

It’s easy to look back and see how he got there. Hara has managed a number of strong Giants teams and his entire tenure — 12 full seasons across three different stints — has been one of consistent success.

“I started with three straight losses (in his first season in 2002), so I know the importance of one win,” Hara said after win No. 1,000. “The importance of one win. . . . It’s hard to win one game. How are you going to win tomorrow? That piles up.”

Hara has presided over seven 80-win seasons and has finished below .500 only once. The former Yomiuri star player, who turned 61 on July 22, has led his team to seven Central League pennants and three Japan Series crowns. He worked overtime in 2009, leading Japan to the World Baseball Classic title (not part of his record) and the Giants to the CL and Japan Series crowns.

He was 1,000-753-57 overall through Thursday.

“It’s thanks to the players,” Hara said.

Now that Hara is in the 1,000-win club, how much further he climbs up the wins list will depend a lot on how long he hangs around.

The two managers directly in front of him also won all their games with the Kyojin. Shigeo Nagashima, one of Hara’s old managers, is 12th with 1,034 wins and Tetsuharu Kawakami, is 11th at 1,066.

The climb begins to get steeper from there. Senichi Hoshino is currently 10th with 1,181 wins. Kaoru Betto is ninth with 1,237 and every manager above him has at least 1,300.

Kazuto Tsuruoka, who managed the Nankai franchise from 1946-1968 is the all-time leader with 1,773.

Hara would need great longevity from here to challenge that mark, but the Yomiuri manager can reach the top 10 if he hangs around for a few more seasons.

Fast and furious

Seibu Lions outfielder Yuji Kaneko was taken off the field on a stretcher after being hit on his right knee by a pitch from the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks’ Kotaro Otake on Thursday night.

Kaneko didn’t go to the hospital and told Full-count.com he was “OK.” That had to be a relief for Lions fans, as Kaneko is one of NPB’s top weapons on the bases.

Through Thursday’s games, the Lions outfielder was leading NPB with 32 stolen bases, more than all of the Yokohama BayStars (29) and only three fewer than the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. The Chunichi Dragons’ Yohei Oshima is second in Japan with 25.

The Lions as a whole are an impressive mesh of power and base-stealing acumen. With 109 homers and 103 stolen bases, the defending Pacific League champions were the only NPB team in triple digits in both categories entering Friday. The only team close was the Hawks with 135 homers and 85 steals.

Kaneko, though, is at the top of the list this year and the team will be hoping his knee heals quickly.

Fish out of water

Shortstop Kosuke Tanaka has been a key part of three consecutive CL pennant winners with the Hiroshima Carp.

This year, however, his production at the plate has fallen off a cliff.

The Carp shortstop went 1-for-4 against the Yomiuri Giants on Thursday night and his batting average for the season actually went up to .194. Tanaka, who began Friday with a career .266 average, has three home runs this season, has walked 32 times and has a .270 on-base percentage in 92 games.

He’s the only NPB player with at least 300 at-bats and an average below .200.