Hanshin has decided not to renew manager Yutaka Wada’s contract beyond this season. Reports indicate that team owner Nobuya Sakai and team president Nobuo Minami held a top secret meeting in Kobe on the afternoon of the 24th to discuss Wada’s future with the team. As the gap between the Tigers and league-leading Yakult Swallows reached 5 games and the team’s chances at its first title in a decade were reduced to near-impossible levels, they decided to put an end to Wada’s four-year tenure as team manager. They will wait until season’s end to start putting together a new staff. Two candidates to take the vacant position are Tomoaki Kanemoto (47) and development coordinator Masayuki Kakefu (60).
One day after the tragic loss of team GM Katsuhiro Nakamura, the club made a big decision that would impact its future. Team president Nobuo Minami held a secret meeting in a Kobe hotel upon his return from Tokyo. Waiting for him in the meeting room was team owner Nobuya Sakai.
Neither man revealed specifics about their meeting to Daily Sports reporters, saying “We have nothing to tell you today,” but there is little doubt that they talked about Wada’s future with the team.
The team placed high expectations on itself in this memorial 80th season, putting its hopes in 4th year manager Wada, but once again the team buckled when autumn came around. Hanshin Electric Company gave Wada a one-year contract renewal last offseason and indicated that his continued employment was contingent on the team’s competing for the pennant, but with the team unable to put up a fight when it mattered most, voices of dissatisfaction from fans and doubts about unity within the coaching staff increased. The only conclusion to be reached was that enough was enough.
After the team lost in a walk-off to the Giants on the 23rd, team president Minami made the announcement of GM Nakamura’s death to the team, saying, “Play your hearts out and get a win. That is the best way for you to pay tribute to the GM.” It was an attempt to urge the players and coaching to work together as a unit once again, but the very next day they showed no heart in their loss to last-place Chunichi. The gap between the Tigers and first place Yakult reached five games, making their chances of winning their first pennant in ten years nearly impossible.
The team needs to play its heart out in the final 7 games of the season in order to try to redeem itself in the postseason. The front office will continue to back Wada and his staff up through the Climax Series and Nippon Series, but clearly their only choice for the future is to put someone else at the helm.
Surely the team will wait for the entire season’s schedule to play out before making moves towards hiring a new staff, but several former Tigers’ names have already come up as candidates, including Tomoaki Kanemoto and Masayuki Kakefu. The mood around the team has changed significantly since summer when the team was talking pennant, and it looks as though the historic team will start searching for new answers in the club’s 81st season, cutting ties with Wada.