Outfielder Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners chats with Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara prior to the game between the Yomiuri Giants and Seattle Mariners at Tokyo Dome on March 17, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara retired after Wednesday’s game, a 1-0 win against the Yokohama DeNA BayStars, the last game of the Giants’ 2023 season.
According to Yahoo Japan News, “Giants hitting coach Shinnosuke Abe is most likely the front-runner as the next manager for the 2024 season.”
This past season, Hara did not get the organization to the playoffs, going 71-70-2 and finishing in fourth place.
Hara has had three separate managerial stints during his career with the Giants, from 2002-03, 2006-15, and from 2019 through this season, for a total of 17 seasons.
Hara also helped the Giants win nine consecutive Central League titles along with three Japan Series championship titles.
During Hara’s career managing the Giants, he recorded 1,290 wins, which is the most wins by any manager in franchise history, along with 1,025 losses and 91 ties.
Hara also managed for Japan in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, helping the nation win their second title during the second edition of the tournament.
The Giants have not made the NPB playoffs since being swept in the best-of-five 2021 Central League Climax Series to their arch cross town rivals the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
Hara attended Tokai University Sagami High School and Tokai University before joining the Giants as the No. 1 draft pick in 1980.
Hara won the Central League Rookie of the Year award in 1981 and the Central League Most Valuable Player Award in 1983 during his 14-year professional career, along with three Japan Series championship titles as a player in 1981, 1989, and 1994.
Toshikazu Yamaguchi, Co-Chairman at Nippon Television Holdings, Inc. and President, Representative Director & Head-Sales of the Giants stated to Yahoo Japan News, “Hara did not explicitly say he would leave, saying, ‘I have to seriously think about next season.’ This season is the second year of his three-year contract, I think we need to seriously think about the contract, including how we think about it.”
Abe retired from playing as a catcher in NPB in 2019 after 19 seasons with the Giants, and in 2020, he was hired as the Giants farm team coach for two seasons before being promoted in the 2022 season to be the main club’s operations and defense coach.
Abe played in 2,282 games with the Giants, batting .284 in 8,651 plate appearances with 2,132 hits, 355 doubles, nine triples, 406 home runs, and 1,285 RBI during his NPB career.
The first stage of the best-of-three 2023 Climax Series for both the Central League and Pacific League will begin on October 14.
The Orix Buffaloes (84-52-4) will have bye in the second round of the Climax Series due to winning the regular season title in the Pacific League and the (71-68-2) Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks are the only two teams in the Pacific League that have clinched for the playoffs.
The(68-67-5) Chiba Lotte Marines and the (69-70-1) Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles are each fighting for the third seed in the Pacific League and will play on the final day of the regular season on October 10 at 1 a.m. EDT with a potential win-or-go home showdown.
The (85-53-5) Hanshin Tigers will have a bye to the second round of the Climax Series, having won the Central League regular season title. The Hiroshima Carp (74-65-4) and the Yokohama DeNA Baystars (74-63-3) will play in the first round of the Central League Climax series next Saturday on October 14.
The best-of-seven Nippon Japan Series will begin on October 28.