Tomoaki Kanemoto has just become new manager of the Hanshin Tigers, but already he is trying to toughen up team captain Takashi Toritani (34) with words like “Your whole season left something to be desired.” He called the team’s main players and staff together in the clubhouse on the 20th to give some instructions, and then had one-on-one sessions with some of the players afterwards. Under previous regimes, it would have been considered taboo to make the born-and-bred Tigers star victim of a tongue-lashing, but retired Tigers players lauded Kanemoto’s unusual decision to do so.
Just one day after being officially named new team manager, Kanemoto instructed the players that practices would be “fun but strict” and that it would all be so they could “win, become champions and laugh in the end.” After this he took each of the players, including Kosuke Fukudome, aside for individual sessions, but in an attempt to toughen Toritani up some more, said to him, “You need to change even more than anyone else on the team. If you don’t change, this team will never change. Taking your experience and your age into account, those numbers are not good enough.”
Toritani, who re-signed with the team as a free agent last offseason for an estimated 2 billion yen over five years, put up a .281 average with 6 home runs, 42 RBIs and 9 stolen bases. When looked at against his salary, those numbers are indeed low, and the team failed to win its first pennant in ten years. Kanemoto continued with more harsh words. “You need to lead this team with your numbers and your words. You’re wearing the (captain’s) C. No hiding behind excuses like ‘I’m not that type of leader.'” The new boss perhaps needs to make an example of his captain to show just how much he expects from him.
It was said that during former manager Yutaka Wada’s reign, Toritani had “become such a big shot that no one could say anything to him.” Former Tigers players approve of the new manager’s words to his born-and-bred star, saying, “He has spoken well.” Many of the ex-players also took the opportunity to ask the new manager to do them a “favor” and put a stop to Toritani’s ironman full-innings streak (which currently sits at 575 games).
Said one retired Tiger, “I understand the importance of the consecutive games played streak (currently 1609 games, good for 3rd all-time in NPB) but thinking about his age and the team’s condition, there’s no need to be so insistent on keeping the full innings streak alive. He made a lot more errors (14) this year. The team has to create chances for a younger shortstop to gain experience.” Development Coordinator Masayuki Kakefu, who has recently been offered the farm team manager position, has also called for the full-innings streak to be stopped, and can potentially talk directly with new manager Kanemoto about making it a reality.
Some might see this as former Tigers wanting Kanemoto, the current world record holder with 1492 consecutive full games played, to keep the record to himself, but they know in fact it would take one ironman to be able to do this to another. Either way, there are already talks of moving the defensively deteriorating Toritani over to third base in the future. This looks to be one of Kanemoto’s “big jobs” as new manager.