Japanese Title: 阪神タイガースの黄金時代が永遠に来ない理由 – Hanshin Tigers no Ohgon Jidai ga Eien ni Konai Riyuu)
Originally I thought this was a book written specifically about this problem, but a co-worker told me that it was actually a compilation of former great catcher and manager Katsuya Nomura’s newspaper columns. So while the book does address what the title indicates, not every section of every chapter does.
Nomura played catcher for 27 seasons and managed for 16 (not counting the 8 he was a player-manager), giving him a total of 43 years directly involved with Japanese professional baseball. Three of those years as manager (1999-2001) came with the Hanshin Tigers. Clearly he has seen enough of the team to know what some of the big problems are.
Most of the general issues are dealt with in the first chapter, and include: a media that coddles the players (making them feel like superstars even if they are average players), a front office that is satisfied with winning one championship every 10 years (otherwise the fans expect too much – once in awhile just to keep their loyalty), poor drafting, too many scandals. As I read the first chapter, I definitely saw a side of the Tigers that I previously did not know of. Still, it was time to move on to what would be said in future chapters.
Every subsequent chapter seems to start with a premise that looks promising to analyze, but is also filled with digressions that do not come anywhere near addressing the main issue that the book is supposed to address. Chapter 2 is managerial incompetence (particularly incumbent manager Yutaka Wada), chapter 3 talks of the need for a true ace of the pitching staff, chapter 4 of a born-and-bred cleanup hitter, chapter 5 of the need for a strong catcher, chapter 6 looks at “what-ifs” of the past generation or so, and chapter 7 gives advice on how the team can rebuild.
All sounds great, but when one section talks solely of whether or not Shohei Ohtani (of the Nippon Ham Fighters) really has the fastest fastball in the game, you’ve digressed too far. Talking about giving up 11 runs in a game when you scored 20 as being a big problem? Hardly reason that the Golden Age will never come! Ranting about the differences between your managerial days with the Swallows, Tigers and Eagles didn’t really make any of his points clearer.
This was the first Hanshin Tigers book I read, and as a true greenhorn, no less. A lot of what Nomura said shocked me, but much of it also had me shaking my head, wondering how this could be acceptable sports journalism, especially from someone who has spent 43 years on one team or another’s payroll. We get it, Mr. Nomura. You don’t like the Tigers. You didn’t enjoy your tenure with the team. You aren’t trying to endear yourself to the team’s fans. But this compilation of articles does not adequately answer the question you said you would address in the book’s title.
Some sections of the book were interesting reads when isolated from the rest, and if I get time to do so, I will try to translate some of the interesting ones. (Example: Fujinami at this stage of his career is better than Masahiro Tanaka was at the same stage; Is Matt Murton a Selfish Player?, etc.)