Book Review – How Hanshin Started Winning Again

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Former Hanshin Tigers manager (2004-2008) Akinobu Okada must have seen something in the Yutaka Wada regime that he couldn’t find in his successor, Akinobu Mayumi. Apparently the Tigers went from being a winner (2003 and 2005 Central League champs) to somewhat of a loser until 2013. Having become a sports analyst, he decided to write a book about how the team regained its mojo.

He spoke of how crucial the signing of Tsuyoshi Nishioka was, the reason Matt Murton re-emerged as an elite hitter, why Yamato was an ideal 2-slot hitter, and something or other about the Arai brothers. He also praised Randy Messenger and Jason Standridge for their ability to adapt to Japanese baseball and excel in the starting rotation. He proposed that the current team for its own version of the JFK (Jeff Williams, Kyuji Fujikawa and Tomoyuki Kubota) relief tandem that helped 2005 squad dominate the CL: AFK (Yuya Andoh, Shinobu Fukuhara and Kosuke Katoh). This and a whole lot more.

As a fan who only became familiar with the team in 2014, it was nice to read something about the team’s recent history. However, I also felt like this book had an extremely short shelf life. HAD. As in, should no longer be on the shelves.

While the team has shown signs of excellence and the ability to contend for pennants, it has not been able to sustain anything for an entire season. The book was written midway through the 2013 season. The team placed second and bowed out in the first round of the playoffs. In 2014, it only took second thanks to the ineptness of the Hiroshima Carp. While it reached the Nippon Series, the season goes down in the books as one with no pennant or championship. This season echoes last year, but the place in the standings is one lower: a lucky third place finish, a sub-.500 record and another first-round playoff exit. Where’s the victory, Mr. Okada?

What’s more, many of the players mentioned (Murton, Standridge, Katoh, elder Arai) have moved on to greener pastures. Who wants to read about how they helped lead the team back into the winners’ circle when they are no longer with the team, which has yet to step into said circle?

Bottom line: It might have been a great read in 2013, but is already past its expiration date in 2015.

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T-Ray is the founder, chief writer and Junior Executive Vice President of Hanshin Tigers English News (H-TEN). Find him on Twitter @thehanshintiger.