D-O-V: Japanese Club Hires Player-Manager

The player-manager concept is newblown snow for our generation. But doesn't it stand to reason that an Edgar Martinez, or Jamie Moyer, might judge talent better than a man who has been out of the game for twenty years?

An Edgar or a Moyer might very well have a better feel for a scouting report, or when a pitcher needs to be pulled, than a Lou Piniella – since Edgar and Jamie have competed against 90% of the players they are facing next year.

If nothing else, it might be tougher for a ballplayer to feed baloney to an Edgar or Moyer. Hey, managers don't make any difference anyway, right? How come nobody ever tries it?

Yakult is going to.

Japan Times on Furuta

Yakult Swallows catcher Atsuya Furuta came to agreement with his Central League club Tuesday on a two-year deal that will make him the first player-manager in 29 years in Japanese professional baseball.

Furuta, 40, reached an agreement with team president Yoshikazu Tagiku and other top club officials and takes over from Tsutomu Wakamatsu who stepped down at the end of the season after a seven-year stint.

"I have decided to accept an offer from the club and become a player-manager. It's a tough job and not many people can do it, but I'll give my all to both roles," Furuta said.

Katsuya Nomura last served as player-manager in Japanese baseball when he steered the Nankai Hawks from 1970 to 1977. Nomura later managed the Swallows and Hanshin Tigers and is currently in talks with the Rakuten Eagles for the manager's job at the Pacific League team.

Furuta received the offer from Yakult on Sept. 22 and had since asked the front office of the Tokyo club to step up efforts to build up the team and improve marketing operations -- key conditions he cited for accepting the offer.

Furuta joined Yakult from Ritsumeikan University in 1990 as a second-round draft pick and soon developed into one of the best catchers in Japan with solid work behind the plate and with clutch hitting.

Furuta won the Central League batting title in 1991 and has helped the Swallows win five league titles and four Japan Series crowns. He has been named the Most Valuable Player in the league and the Japan Series twice each while winning 10 Golden Gloves.

In April this year, Furuta became the 32nd player in Japan to post 2,000 career hits.

On Wednesday, Furuta said he is set to step down as president of the Japanese baseball players association after eight years in office.

He has shown outstanding leadership as the top figure for the association and is known for playing a key role in the first-ever players strike last year in opposition to a move for drastic realignment of Japanese pro baseball."

Which is exactly comparable to the Mariners naming Edgar Martinez manager, and Edgar selecting himself as one of the bench players. (If Edgar had hung around and OPS'ed .650 last year.)

No biggie, truth be told. You're not a player trying to manage. You're a manager, and oh by the way, you go out there and play once in a while.

Furuta these days hits .250/.300/.350, or so, as a catcher off the bench. Still, it's fascinating to think of a manager who gets behind the plate during the games. No kidding him about whether you've got your stuff:

Skipper/Catcher: "Let us have the truth. How does your pitching arm feel?"

Pitcher: "It has never been in sharper form. This is the best smoke I have had in a month. Please step back off the mound, this is my game."

Skipper/Catcher: "I decline to agree. I have been catching your outside pitches barehanded."

Pitcher: "Skip-san, that is because the catcher wishes to pull the string on our opponents. They are unwisely aggressive in their swings."

Skipper/Catcher: "I was not aware of when we changed our signals to indicate, one finger, go to your eephus pitch. I must deploy Watanabe before our third baseman is beheaded as with a katana."

Pitcher: "You cannot do this to me. It is 7-4; one more out and I will receive a victory! With respect, Skip-san, have you forgotten that you must locker with the rest of us?"

Skipper/Catcher:"I remain unconvinced that we can record any such third out, with you diving to the ground as the hitters swing. As well, I tire of listening to the Giants' snickering while the ball is in flight. I must consider the possibility that you are becoming fatigued."

Pitcher: "Please reconsider, Skip-san. You yourself have achieved three strikeouts today. On your most recent batting attempt, their center fielder was ordering Top Ramen from a left field vendor during the windup. With greatest respect, your hitting is an embarrassment to the ballclub and yet here you are wishing to tell me how to do my job."

Skipper/Catcher: "Retire to the showers without further discussion, and this time please remember to bring soap. Mr. Umpire! I require the lefty."

[LOOGY arrives, takes ball from catcher, nods attentively to catcher's sage instructions to throw ball over home plate, while sportswriters prepare articles praising Furuta's command of the ballclub. ]

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