A seven game winning streak at the end of the season elevated Tigers to a fourth place finish in what has to be admitted was a very disappointing season. Talk among Tigers fans was that Kanemoto's ego trip was a major issue for the team. Certainly his catching selections seemed to bear this out. The introduction of Sakamoto into the lineup seemed only intended to demotivate Haraguchi who had exploded onto the scene with great success. Haraguchi also had a bat on him and this made him a really exciting prospect. However, Kanemoto seemed intent on playing around with his catchers and his behaviour demotivated Haraguchi whose batting average fell as a result. But then that was indicative of Kanemoto's approach. He frequently left Gomez out of the lineup who despite this was the top RBI man in Tigers with 79 RBIs. Tigers frequently struggled for runs and only four batters could have been said to have performed; Gomez, Fukudome with 59 RBIs; Haraguchi with 46 RBIs and Takayama in his rookie year with 65 RBIs. Tigers have responded to this by bringing up Hirano as ichi-gun batting coach but for those who recall him, he wasn't exactly a run machine. To add insult to injury there is talk that Gomez might not be back next year despite his high RBI count. Takayama has been the find of the year for Tigers but more runs are needed if Tigers are to challenge and this means playing a settled team of performing batters. Recognising this situation is a skill that Kanemoto still has to develop.
Pitching was also an area Tigers struggled in. Only two starters Iwasada and Messenger ended up with winning records and the rest were forgettable. The use of Kyuji Fujikawa was a big mistake. Clearly past his best he shone neither as a starter or a relief pitcher and should have been let go at the end of the season. Tigers poor pitching season led to a huge clearout of pitching staff with Tsuru, Tsutsui, Kojima, Futagami, Iwamoto and Travis all going. Some of these were probably still viable pitchers but some weren't. The catcher Shimizu was also let go as were the fielders, Saka, Shibata and Hifumi. One gets the impression that Kanemoto was settling scores. Back to the pitching; the relief was weak and very threadbare and no one seemed able to use the pitchers they had. Fukuhara retired but he was already on his last legs and couldn't have had much more left in him. Tsuruoka also called it a day.
Kanemoto did plead for patience at the beginning of the season and opined that it would take a few years to build a successful championship winning team. Herein lies his main weakness - he does not know how to do it. Other teams such as the Giants or Hawks are able to turn things round quickly and after a shorter period are back in the top flight. Tigers never seem to be able to do this and their stubborn reliance on ex-players without management experience or ability as managers condemns them to periodic pennants and only one Japan series in their history. The old boys club that operates is stifling initiative and on a larger scale is representative of Japan's sclerotic society. Expect more of the same next year.