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THE HOT CORNER: Nomura sparks naysayers

by Jim Allen (Mar 25, 2010)

While three little games don't amount to a hill of beans in this world, it is far better to start the season 3-0 than 0-3, which is where the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles sit after losing a series of one-run games to the Orix Buffaloes last weekend.

It was an unfortunate start for a club that finished second in the Pacific League last season under Katsuya Nomura, who predicted last week the Eagles would crash in their first year under former Carp skipper Marty Brown.

"[Last year] was lucky," said Nomura, who also predicted Japan would fail at the 2010 World Baseball Classic because he said catcher Kenji Jojima doesn't call a good game.

When reporters asked Brown on Friday what he thought of his predecessor's comments, the new skipper said it would be impossible for a pitching staff headed by Hisashi Iwakuma, Masahiro Tanaka and Satoshi Nagai to finish fifth.

Nomura, who is still employed by the club, said he would like to pick the Eagles last because he still felt a grudge about the way he was let go. But, he said out of respect for them giving him the job, he bumped them up to fifth in his forecast.

Some reporters jumped on Nomura's prediction to entice comments from Brown when his club practiced last Friday.

"People shouldn't be allowed to write some of this stuff," Brown said by phone Wednesday in a reference to the kind of negative comments Nomura stirred up. "The people who write this should be held accountable in September for what they write in the spring."

The same kind of "reporting" appeared last summer in Chiba, where the Marines' season became collateral damage in the front office's war with manager Bobby Valentine.

On June 5, Valentine said his job was to consider anything to help the team win, even changing coaches if he thought it would help. But one paper turned the comment on its head, accusing the skipper of publicly assigning blame for a loss on a member of his staff. The same article questioned Valentine's qualifications because he used struggling starter Hiroyuki Kobayashi in the bullpen.

Yet, managers convert pitchers from one role to another all the time. No papers have said Hara can't manage because he wants to turn star reliever Tetsuya Yamaguchi into a starter. Kobayashi, by the way, is now the Marines closer under new Lotte skipper Norifumi Nishimura.

When Lotte fans protested the team's decision to fire Valentine and collected signatures on a petition in support of the skipper, one paper frequently added acting owner Akio Shigemitsu's assertion that many fans wanted to see Valentine go. Although not a peep was heard from Shigemitsu's silent minority, the paper in question kept repeating the claim.

It may be a coincidence, but the papers that took the most shots at the skipper were the same two that published most of the scoops during the season about the top candidates to succeed Valentine.

Brown said he is aware some writers have an agenda that has little to do with reporting the truth.

"I know who they are. I know what's going on," said Brown said, who said being 0-3 is not the end of the world.

"You can look up how many teams lost their first three games and finished first"

The number, at least since 1999, is two out of 23. The bulk of the slow starters, however, finished fifth or sixth.

On the other hand, the Buffaloes' three wins is a good sign. Only two of the last 23 teams to start 3-0 finished last, while 16 ended the season among the top three--four of them in first place and eight in second.

Orix has had more than its share of problems, including the death of one of its brightest prospects, Hiroyuki "Jose" Oze, and it is good to see them playing well.

The same can be said about the Marines, who no longer have a civil war going on behind the scenes. Lotte played well at Seibu Dome last weekend and came away with two wins.

These two series give hope this year's PL will provide good entertainment for the fans, whose opinions Brown really values more than that of a number of reporters.

"The funny part is they [the writers] think they're smarter than the fans," Brown said. "I hold the fans in higher regard. The fans know what's going on."


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