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HARD DRIVES: Brown finds life bright in the red

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HARD DRIVES: Brown finds life bright in the red

by John E. Gibson (Aug 27, 2008)

Hiroshima Carp skipper Marty Brown loves seeing Red. He's swimming in it with the Carp and wants to splash around as long as he can.

Brown's contract is up at the close of the season, and with a new stadium in the works in Hiroshima, talk early on this season was that a new skipper should be brought in to guide the team.

A fresh start in a modern facility for a team that really should invest in its product.

In two-plus seasons under Brown, Hiroshima was 172-214 (.446)--through Monday's action.

But the American skipper has made obvious and encouraging strides on a club that loses more key pieces than a boy playing his first game of chess.

In fact, the Carp really weren't expected to be fishing around for a Climax Series spot this year, certainly not after the way free agency hooked two of their stars in the offseason. Right-handed ace Hiroki Kuroda migrated to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Hanshin snagged No. 4 batter Takahiro Arai.

"It's never good when you lose that caliber of players," Brown said recently at Tokyo Dome. "And before that it was [Tomoaki] Kanemoto and it was [Greg] LaRocca, it was [Andy] Sheets--it's been hard for the Carp to keep players within the organization.

"It's due to either dollars, or due to losing," Brown said bluntly.

Still, in a season when the Tigers are way out in front in the Central League pennant race, the Carp are just a few strokes behind the 2007 Japan Series champion Chunichi Dragons, and are on pace to surpass Brown's highest win total for a season--62 in 2006.

"We're headed in the right direction. This team was in a state of just being stagnant," he said.

"It was a very good decision to bring me in at that time; there have been changes that have been made that I don't think another Japanese manager could have made.

"And in some ways they were radical, but some ways they were common sense," said Brown, who took over for Koji Yamamoto, who won a CL pennant in 1991--but finished fourth or worse every season in his second stint from 2001 to 2005.

"It just takes time and, personally, I want that time," said Brown, who played with the Carp from 1992-94.

One "radical" change Brown made was to introduce the idea that veteran players would not automatically receive starting jobs--thus injecting more youth and speed into the lineup.

Another part of the reform process was introducing the "American way" to certain aspects of play and having to overcome the verbal and cultural hurdles that can hinder the road to success.

"People don't understand, for me to tell a player something it takes twice as long. For him to receive it and trust it, takes three times as long," the skipper said.

"That's because he's got another Japanese coach telling him some other Japanese way of thinking that's been instilled in his head for years. So for him to trust and have the ability to stay with a theory takes time.

"It's not just [because it is] my theory, but it's coming from an American and believing the American way doesn't work. That's what they've been taught their whole lives [that the American way] is wrong.

"It's a game of adjustments and you've got to continue to make them. There's not an American way or a Japanese way, there's just the right way for each individual player."

Brown said his way is working in Hiroshima. He was brought in to make changes and help turn the club into a winner. Now he has a flow going that he wants to continue.

"As much as I want to come back to Hiroshima, that would be my first choice, to manage this team and go into the new stadium with the opportunity to win a championship here, it's not my decision. It's the owner's decision."

If the Carp asked, Brown said he would sign for the same financial terms.

"I was told they wouldn't talk to me [about next season] until I went home, but I'm not going home until I have an answer."

Perhaps the answer will have Brown feeling rosy in red next year in Hiroshima.

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