HomeSportsA Résumé Must-Have for Japanese Managers: Mets Experience - UnlistedNews

A Résumé Must-Have for Japanese Managers: Mets Experience – UnlistedNews

When Kodai Senga delivered a 99-mph fastball to Luis Arraez of the Miami Marlins on April 2, he became the 14th Japanese player to appear in a game for the Mets, the most of any team in the major leagues. . The Seattle Mariners are next with 11.

It’s a connection fostered over the years, with enthusiastic support from Bobby Valentine, the former Mets coach who has managed teams in both the United States and Japan. And the pipeline, it seems, goes both ways: This season, five of the 12 managers in Nippon Professional Baseball spent at least part of their playing careers with the Mets.

Rookie managers Masato Yoshii of the Chiba Lotte Marines and Kazuo Matsui of the Seibu Lions, along with Tsuyoshi Shinjo, the second-year manager of the Nippon-Ham Fighters, made their major league debuts with the Mets. Yakult Swallows’ Shingo Takatsu and Rakuten Golden Eagles’ Kazuhisa Ishii both played in Queens after starting elsewhere.

The unique nature of the Mets connection is not lost on Yoshii.

“Every one of us played for the Mets,” he said recently in Japanese when asked to name NPB coaches with major league experience. “That’s really interesting. I wonder if it’s a coincidence or something else.

Yoshii’s tenure with the Mets came first, with him jumping straight to the majors in 1998 after a solid season pitching for the Swallows. Some of the Mets’ Japanese players had short stints, like Takatsu, a right-handed reliever who made just nine appearances for the team in 2005. Others had bigger careers, like Matsui, who has made 949 plate appearances for the team since 2004. until 2006.

The five men played for three different managers: Valentine, Art Howe, and Willie Randolph, and were overseen by three general managers: Steve Phillips, Jim Duquette, and Omar Minaya.

The lack of organizational continuity makes it difficult to pin down the exact root of the connection, but Yoshii has a theory as to why the NPB would look for managers who have US major league experience.

“Japan tends to follow the trends started in the United States,” he said. “Data has become a big part of the strategy in Japan and training has evolved. Teams that believe in endless training camp-like drills are far fewer, and spring training has gotten shorter and more efficient. As our focus becomes more American, the front offices value experience in the US major leagues.”

The leadership style Yoshii craves was evident from the first day of spring training as he toured the Lotte complex, going from station to station to watch his players. While he was making his bullpen rounds, Marines phenomenon starting pitcher Roki Sasaki was pitching. Yoshii discreetly asked a few questions and moved on. During his daily press briefing, Yoshii was peppered with questions about what advice he gave Sasaki, a sensational right-hander who pitched a perfect game last season and nearly did it again in his next start.

“I didn’t give him any advice,” said Yoshii, who had 121 career wins between Japan and the United States. “He doesn’t need me to mess with his mechanics because he understands them much better than I do. He just wanted to make sure that he was comfortable and had everything that he needs to do the job that he feels is necessary to be ready for the season. That’s all I can ask for.

Historically, Japanese managers have been known to be much more demanding. Rarely content to leave things up to their players, they tend to criticize their pitchers’ form and demand that things be done by a time-honored book.

When asked if he was emulating a communication style he observed in the United States, Yoshii was quick to attribute his approach to something he learned from his experience with Valentine at the Mets.

“I’ll never forget Bobby came to me once to tell me that a rehab pitcher was about to rejoin the rotation, so how would I feel if he stopped pitching out of the bullpen?” Yoshii said. “I said, ‘I don’t feel comfortable there and I prefer the rotation.’ He went with a six-man rotation after that. I was always grateful. That’s the kind of opening I’m looking for here.”

Yoshii was 32 years old at the time and said he had not yet considered a future as a coach or manager. Yet the openness he experienced from Valentine has stayed with him for 25 years.

In 2000, the Mets signed Shinjo, an outfielder, making him the No. 2 player in Japan’s Major League Baseball: The deal closed less than two weeks after Seattle signed Ichiro Suzuki. Shinjo credits an unlikely part of his Mets experience with influencing him in his second season as the Fighters’ manager.

He spent part of 2003 toiling away in Norfolk, then the Class AAA affiliate of the Mets. He found the conditions much tougher than Japan’s minor leagues, where the teams are more like a junior college team based in the same city as the top club.

Shingo Takatsu made nine appearances for the Mets in 2005. He is now the manager of the Yakult Swallows.Credit…John Dunn for The New York Times

“For lunch, we spread peanut butter and jelly on two pieces of bread and call it food,” he said in Japanese. “To shower, we got these torn towels that barely dried us. It made me realize that guys who really make it to the big leagues have to have that much will to fight and survive in that environment to get out of it after so long.”

When he found out that Gosuke Katoh, a player who had worked his way through nine seasons in such conditions, was available, Shinjo urged the Fighters to sign him. He thought that Katoh’s hunger could be a great motivator for his young and developing team.

Katoh was born in Japan but raised in the United States and was drafted by the Yankees in the second round of the 2013 draft. After signing with Toronto as a minor league free agent in 2022, he eventually made it to the majors, appearing in eight games. for the Blue Jays. But he subsequently got fired and signed with, of course, the Mets, spending the rest of the season with Class AAA Syracuse before joining the Fighters in the off-season.

Shinjo’s Fighters finished bottom of Japan’s Pacific League in his debut season as manager last year and languish once again in 2023. Yoshii’s Marines were leading the Pacific League before this week’s games, the Lions de Matsui were in fifth place and Ishii’s Golden Eagles in last.

Takatsu is the only one of the former Mets to manage in the Japan Central League. Although his Swallows ranked fifth at the start of the week, he’s already accomplished something the Mets haven’t accomplished since 1986: He won the league championship in 2021.

Sara Marcus
Sara Marcus
Meet Sara Marcus, our newest addition to the Unlisted News team! Sara is a talented author and cultural critic, whose work has appeared in a variety of publications. Sara's writing style is characterized by its incisiveness and thought-provoking nature, and her insightful commentary on music, politics, and social justice is sure to captivate our readers. We are thrilled to have her join our team and look forward to sharing her work with our readers.


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