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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Staff Update: Master Yoda decides on his council

This year with Tsuyoshi Yoda coming in for Shigekazu Mori, it was expected there would be a few changes to the backroom. Key changes really needed to happen with pitching coaching after it was confirmed that Kenta Asakura and Shinichi Kondo were stepping down. It has taken longer than it should have to confirm the backroom with Yoda wanting to finalize things before the draft, but it seems to have been put together relatively well now and there's a significantly refreshing feel to the backroom staff this coming season.

Let's take a look at what the staff looks like now.
*Numbers updated as of 19/11/2018

Tsutomu "Shadow Shogun" Ito
92  Tsuyoshi Yoda (52) - Manager
91  Tsutomu Ito (56) - Head Coach
85 Takayuki Murakami (53) - Batting Coach
71 Toshio Haru (48) - Batting Coach
74 Hideyuki Awano (54) - Pitching Coach
84 Motoyuki Akahori (48) - Pitching Coach
80 Takeshi Nakamura (51) - Battery Coach
83 Hiroshi Narahara (50) - Infield and base-running coach
78 Takahito Kudo (37) - Outfield and base-running coach

82 Michihiro Ogasawara (45) - Manager
Ken "The Chin" Kadokura
79 Akio Ishii (63) - Batting Coach
75 Masahiko Morino (40) - Batting Coach
84 Takashi Ogasawara (41) - Pitching Coach
82 Takuya Asao (34) - Pitching Coach
87 Ken Kadokura (45) - Pitching Coach
72 Fujio Tamura (59) - Battery Coach
88 Masahiro Araki (41) - Infield and base-running coach
89 Hidenori (42) - Outfield and base-running coach
90 Mitsuo Tateishi (60) - Roaming outfield coach

1-2 Gun Conditioning Coaches
96 Kousei Katsuzaki (52) - Conditioning Coach
93 Takemi Miyamae (48) - Conditioning Coach
95 Hiroshi Tsukamoto (42) - Conditioning Coach

There's very much a Kintetsu Buffaloes flavour to this backroom with the additions of Murakami, Awano and Akahori. I think it's quite possible that Awano, being of the same alma mater as Yoda (Asia University) was contacted first and this lead to bringing Akahori and Murakami in. 

The other big addition is that of of Tsutomu Ito as head coach. I'm a little bit concerned about this appointment as it has the potential to undermine Yoda's authority. Ito is older than Yoda and already has a successful track record as a manager. It doesn't make much sense to me unless he's going to be the "shadow shogun" in the backroom much like Shigekazu Mori was during Motonobu Tanishige's ill-fated tenure. If Ito has been appointed with the intention of aiding Yoda in his direction of the team, I'm all for it, but I don't want this to be another case of what has gone before. There is just this niggle that says to me that in Yoda the front office got there born and bred Chunichi manager, but they brought in Ito to actually be the brains...

Former Kintetsu stars Hideyuki Awano, Motoyuki Akahori and
Hideyuki Murakami are part of the all new 1-gun backroom.
Of the new additions, Awano, Akahori and Murakami were all team-mates for the Kintetsu Buffaloes. Awano was a southpaw starter, Akahori a closer and Murakami a hard hitting short-stop. Awano has had extensive coaching experience with the Giants in particularly most recently finishing up a stint as their 3-gun pitching coach. Akahori previously saw time as the Orix Buffaloes pitching coach but most recently was working with the Yakult Swallows farm team's pitchers. Murakami, interestingly, up until now has been managing independent league and club teams. He started off with Osaka Gold Villicanes in the short-lived Kansai independent league in 2009 where he guided the team to a league win. Murakami then went on the manage the 06BULLS who have played in the Baseball First League since 2013. Murakami successfully led the team to 2nd place finishes in 4 consecutive years.
Also worth noting that Murakami is part of the talent agency run by Yoda's former manager at Rakuten, Masataka Nashida. Perhaps another connection used.

Takeshi Nakamura comes back into the fold after he was last part of the Chunichi staff under Morimichi Takagi in 2013. Nakamura has been coaching in Korea with the Kia Tigers for the past few seasons. Nakamura was one of the catching stalwarts of the Hoshino-era Dragons as the regular dish protector between Takayoshi Nakao and Motonobu Tanishige. Certainly a pick I'm happy about as he's a man with not only a lot of playing experience, but plenty of experience in the backroom. His experience coaching overseas as well I feel will be very valuable. One could also hope he might also bring some connections to players in the KBO.

Takahito Kudo's addition is probably a good one but seems a little forced. Kudo retired all of a sudden after the season had finished and rumors were he was enticed into retirement to be given this coaching job.  Quite remarkable that a recently retired player slots straight into the 1-gun coaching set-up but given his defensive and base-running skills as a player, he has the potential to be a good choice.

Among the other choices, Masahiro Araki and Takuya Asao are confirmed as coaches in the 2-gun set-up with former Dragons and Giants starter, Ken Kadokura joining the fold. Comparatively, the 2-gun staff hasn't had as much of a shake-up. Fujio Tamura has moved down from the 1-gun staff while Morino, T. Ogasawara and Hidenori maintain the core with Guts Ogasawara as manager. There's a lot of familiarity anyway. Akio Ishii staying on is a bit of a surprise for me as I didn't have high hopes for him last year as he was coming out of the office from being a scorer for some years, but he seems to have made the right impressions as a hitting coach for the time being.

Hitoki Iwase has decided to take a rest from baseball despite having a part-time coaching role last year. Iwase, a fairly humble man has been said to be enjoying his retirement at home for the time being.

The majority of the coaches that have been cut from the backroom are likely to find other roles within the organisation with only a few leaving all together or perhaps retiring. Kazuo Hayakawa and Shinichi Kondo were the two longest serving coaches with the team with Hayakawa ending a 20+ year tenure with the Dragons while Kondo had been coaching since 2003.

Overall, it all looks very fresh which is probably a good thing. Not a lot of recycling, plenty of new faces from inside and outside the organisation. My only concern is that Yoda hasn't had the pull power that someone like a Kazuyoshi Tatsunami might have in bringing in an all-star backroom. By all reports, many former Dragons players turned down his overtures with the likes of Kazuki Inoue and Shinji Imanaka supposedly in the mix.

It is however a new beginning, so let's sit back and enjoy the ride. 

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