Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles
This article is missing information about response to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. (April 2011)
The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (東北楽天ゴールデンイーグルス, Tōhoku Rakuten Gōruden Īgurusu), often shortened as the Rakuten Eagles (楽天イーグルス, Rakuten Īgurusu), are a baseball team based in Sendai, in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. It has played in Nippon Professional Baseball's Pacific League since the team's formation in 2005. The team is owned by the Internet shopping company Rakuten.
|Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles|
|League||Nippon Professional Baseball
|Location||Miyagino-ku, Sendai, Miyagi, Japan|
|Ballpark||Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi|
|Nickname(s)||Inuwashi (イヌワシ, golden eagles)|
|Pacific League championships||1 (2013)|
|Japan Series championships||1 (2013)|
|Mascot||Clutch, Clutchina, and Switch|
|Playoff berths||4 (2009, 2013, 2017, 2019)|
|General Manager||Kazuhisa Ishii|
2004: Origins and formationEdit
In June of Nippon Professional Baseball's 2004 season, the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes and the Orix BlueWave announced that, due to financial difficulties, the two teams planned to merge into one for the start of the 2005 season. Both teams were in the Pacific League (PL), and a merger between the two would result in a team imbalance with the PL's opposing league, the Central League (CL). As a large number of players were expected to lose their jobs when the merger was finalized, the Japan Professional Baseball Players Association organized a players' strike in an attempt to force the postponement of the merger for at least one year. When team officials definitively announced that a one-year freeze on the merger was impossible, the players conducted a two-day strike on September 18–19, 2004. With the threat of further strikes looming, team representatives agreed to ease the rules of entry for new teams into NPB and that one would be allowed to join the following season.
That same month, Takafumi Horie, president of the Internet services company Livedoor, established a new professional baseball team and applied for team ownership with NPB, hoping to fill the void left by the merger of the BlueWave and the Buffaloes. Horie intended the team to be composed of players who were left jobless after the merger and planned for it to be based in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. One week later a second Internet services company, Tokyo-based Rakuten, also submitted a formal application to Japanese professional baseball to form a team. Like Horie, Rakuten president Hiroshi Mikitani also expressed a desire to locate his new team in Sendai.
In early October, the public screening process to select one of the two companies and allow them form a new NPB team began. Both Livedoor and Rakuten were given an hour and a half to discuss their team and budget propositions before a panel of five Japanese baseball executives. The panel consisted of Central League chairman Hajime Toyokura and the head officials of the Yomiuri Giants, the Yokohama BayStars, the Seibu Lions and the Chiba Lotte Marines. The screening standards include the adequacy of the applications, the prospective continuity and stability of the planned baseball teams, the prospective financial standings of the applicants and planned teams, and their planned baseball facilities.
As screenings were held weekly through October, more details about each potential new team emerged. Livedoor announced that their baseball club would be named the "Sendai Livedoor Phoenix", with former MLB and NPB player Tom O'Malley attached as manager and Katsunori Kojima as general manager. Rakuten, likewise, announced Marty Kuehnert and Yasushi Tao as general manager and manager, respectively, of their newly named "Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles" baseball club.
A telephone survey conducted by Kyodo News during the selection period of 300 people living in the Tōhoku region indicated that Livedoor was the early fan favorite to win the right to start a new team in Sendai. In the survey, forty percent of the respondents supported Livedoor's bid compared to only seven percent supporting Rakuten. Rakuten, however, was considered the more likely of the two companies to be chosen by NPB. Rakuten president Mikitani had extensive connections in established Japanese business circles and already operated another sports team, the soccer club Vissel Kobe in Japan's J.League. On November 2, NPB selected Rakuten over Livedoor to create a new Pacific League team to be based in Sendai. It was the first time a new team, excluding cases of mergers or acquisitions, joined NPB since the creation of the now-defunct Takahashi Unions in the Pacific League in 1954.
After posting losing records in their first four seasons, the team finished second behind the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in the 2009 pennant race under the leadership of manager Katsuya Nomura, the oldest manager in NPB history. In the league championship playoffs the Eagles lost the six-game series against the Fighters 1–4 and Nomura announced his retirement. In 2010 the team was managed by American Marty Brown, the former manager of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. Brown was fired after a single season after the team had slumped back to last place. Hall of Fame member Senichi Hoshino subsequently managed the team for four years, including their successful 2013 season, where they defeated the Chiba Lotte Marines to claim the League championship and went on to become Japan Series champions after defeating the Yomiuri Giants.
- Luis Lopez
- Andruw Jones
- Ryan Glynn
- Eric Valent
- Cedrick Bowers
- Kevin Hodges
- Gary Rath
- Andy Tracy
- Aaron Myette
- Matt Skrmetta
- Damon Minor
- Katsunori Nomura
- Tetsuya Iida
- Takeshi Nakamura
- Tadaharu Sakai
- Hideo Koike
- Koichi Oshima
- Kevin Witt
- Adam Bass
- Kevin Youkilis
- Toyohiko Yoshida
- Koichi Sekikawa
- Kazuo Fukumori
- Takeshi Yamasaki
- Norihiro Nakamura
- Masahiro Tanaka
- Takashi Saito
- Lin Ying-Chieh
- Domingo Guzmán
- Travis Blackley
- 10 – This number is worn by both team mascots, Clutch and Clutchina, and is considered the number of the fan, the 'tenth man' on the field. It is the first retired number in NPB involving a fan, inspired by some teams in other sports (such as football, which retires "12" for the "12th man", or basketball, which retires "6" for the "6th man"). There are ten starting players in the Pacific League as the league uses the designated hitter. The Chiba Lotte Marines has the No. 26 retired in similar fashion (MLB's Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim has retired No. 26, in similar fashion, for the original owner Gene Autry).
- Kazuo Fukumori (2008)
Honours and recordsEdit
|Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles|
|2005||Yasushi Tao||136||38||97||1||.281||51.5||.255||5.67||6th, Pacific||Did not qualify|
|2006||Katsuya Nomura||136||47||85||4||.356||33.0||.258||4.30||6th, Pacific||Did not qualify|
|2007||Katsuya Nomura||144||67||75||2||.472||13.5||.262||4.31||4th, Pacific||Did not qualify|
|2008||Katsuya Nomura||144||65||76||3||.461||11.5||.272||3.89||5th, Pacific||Did not qualify|
|2009||Katsuya Nomura||144||77||66||1||.538||5.5||.267||4.01||2nd, Pacific||Lost in Second Stage, 1–4 (Fighters)|
|2010||Marty Brown||144||62||79||3||.440||15.0||.265||3.98||6th, Pacific||Did not qualify|
|2011||Senichi Hoshino||144||66||71||7||.482||22.5||.245||2.85||5th, Pacific||Did not qualify|
|2012||Senichi Hoshino||144||67||67||10||.500||7.5||.252||2.99||4th, Pacific||Did not qualify|
|2013||Senichi Hoshino||144||82||59||3||.582||-||.267||3.51||1st, Pacific||Nippon Series champions, 4–3 (Giants)|
|2014||Senichi Hoshino||144||64||80||0||.444||17.0||.255||3.97||6th, Pacific||Did not qualify|
|2015||Hiromoto Okubo||143||57||83||3||.407||33.5||.241||3.82||6th, Pacific||Did not qualify|
|2016||Masataka Nashida||143||62||78||3||.443||25.0||.257||4.11||5th, Pacific||Did not qualify|
|2017||Masataka Nashida||143||77||63||3||.550||29.5||.254||3.33||3rd, Pacific||Lost in Final Stage, 2–4 (Hawks)|
|143||58||82||3||.414||15.0||.241||3.78||6th, Pacific||Did not qualify|
|2019||Yosuke Hiraishi||143||71||68||4||.511||15.0||.251||3.74||3rd, Pacific||Lost in First Stage, 1–2 (Hawks)|
Golden Eagles Fan Club honorary membersEdit
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.|
- (in Japanese) Official page for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles
- Rakuten Golden Eagles (Sendai) Team Information. JapanBall.com. Retrieved on 2013-09-19.
- Uranaka, Taiga (17 September 2004). "Livedoor establishes pro baseball club". The Japan Times. Archived from the original on 25 February 2017. Retrieved 24 February 2017.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
- "Rakuten applies to create new club". The Japan Times. Associated Press. 25 September 2004. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
- "NPB begins hearings on Rakuten, Livedoor bids". The Japan Times. 7 October 2004. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
- "Livedoor Phoenix". The Japan Times. 27 October 2004. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
- "Livedoor appoints O'Malley as manager". The Japan Times. Associated Press. 15 September 2004. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
- "Livedoor names GM". The Japan Times. Kyodo News. 14 September 2004. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
- Armstrong, Jim (6 October 2004). "Kuehnert to head Rakuten team". The Japan Times. Associated Press. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
- "Rakuten awarded pro baseball team". The Japan Times. Associated Press. 3 November 2004. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
- "Livedoor emerges as early fan favorite to own new team". The Japan Times. Kyodo News. 3 October 2004. Retrieved 3 October 2017.
- Japan Pro Baseball and the Earthquake and Tsunami Archived 11 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine