Friday, January 19, 2018

Hall of Fame Class 2018

     Though Hideki Matsui will most likely not be elected to the US Hall of Fame in 2018, Matsui, along with Tomoaki Kanemoto, Tatsunori Hara and Masao Taki were elected to the Hall of Fame in Tokyo on Monday, Jan. 15.  The results of the Players Division show Matsui earning 91.3% of the vote and Kanemoto 75.5%, while Hara earned 78.7% of the Expert Division vote and Taki over 75% of the Special Division vote.  Kazuyoshi Tatsunami and Hiroshi Gondo were within 10% of the vote of being elected.  All four will be inducted this summer.
     Hideki Matsui becomes the first position player to be elected the Hall of Fame who spent a large portion of his career in the US.  Hideo Nomo was the first pitcher, and Lefty O'Doul the first contributor.  Before a stellar career in MLB, Matsui won 3 MVPs while hitting 332 home runs, including 4 in the Koshien tournaments (one of which earned him the moniker 'Godzilla'), four Japan Series home runs, and eight All Star homers to go along with his 332 career regular season homers.
     He went on to help the Yankees win two pennants and a Series, winning a Series MVP in the process, and hit enough dingers in MLB to end up with over 500 for his career between the two leagues.
     In You Gotta Have Wa, Robert Whiting wrote that "the traditional Japanese ideal is a humble, uncomplaining, obedient soul like Giants star Tatsunori Hara, who was once chosen in a poll as the 'male symbol of Japan'."
     Whiting continued "Hara went on to have many fine seasons", winning an MVP in 1983 "while helping the Giants win the pennant.  But fans, commentators, and coaches were never satisfied.  They complained that he struck out too often in key situations, that he couldn't hit a decent forkball, that he couldn't hit the 40-homer mark.  He did not have the mark of greatness of an Oh or Nagashima."
     Yet he set a record slamming 20 or more homers in each of his first 12 seasons, and finished  his career sporting a .279/.355/.523 line with 382 homers and 11 All Star Appearances. 
     However, he enters the Hall as a manager, and not as a player (though he came close in his last election as one), bringing 7 pennants and 3 Japan Series titles to the same Giants team for which he hit cleanup for so many years.
     The criticism Hara received while a player, that he was "not tough enough", led to all sorts of remedies taken by coaches, including being sent on a spiritual mountain retreat ["yamagomori"] and "minute of analyses of Hara's batting form", that furthered notions he was "overcoached".  This experience may have influenced his managing philosophy, and led to his success in the dugout.
     The election of Tomoaki Kanemoto is no surprise.  He finished a stellar career with Hiroshima and Hanshin among the all time leaders in hits, homers, and RBIs, as well as setting records for consecutive innings and games played.  Like Matsui, he has four Japan Series homers.  He hit for the cycle in 1999 and added the 2005 MVP to his seven Best Nine selections.
     Masao Taki, elected by the Special Selection Committee, spent his career playing and coaching university and high school level baseball, appearing at many Spring and Summer Koshien's..

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