The media learned yesterday Masataka Nashida will not be returning as manager of the Nippon Ham Fighters next season, regardless of how the team finishes out the current season. The decision appears to be Nashida's as the club was trying to persuade him to stick around at one point.
Regarding the next manager, it seems the Fighters will be open to foreign candidates.
UPDATE @ 2:53pm - Nashida held a press conference at Tokyo Dome today and announced that he was indeed stepping down after the current season.
UPDATE @ 3:23pm - Daily Sports has posted some comments from the press conference:
Regardless of whether or not I had a 2 or 3 year contract, I always considered it year-to-year. As for this season, I feel like I've done as much as I can. I see this as a graduation for me. I haven't burned myself out yet entirely, but I feel I've done a fair amount to help this team. ... There was a delay to the start of the season because of the [earthquake / tsunami] and I also thought it would be best to [make this announcement now] when considering the job of finding my replacement. ... I don't have any plans [for what I'll do after this]. I want to take some time off. And I'd like to look at baseball from a new angle.
UPDATE 9/16 @ 1:17am - More updates from various sources.
Sports Hochi has posted some more comments from Nashida:
Your reason for retiring...
I felt bad for our 4th place finish last season. At the start of the season, I decided this would be my last year. I felt strongly about giving it my absolute best this season. For me, this is a graduation. I think I've had enough.
When did you tell the club of your decision?
At the end of August. They didn't reply right away and they only finally accepted my decision on an official capacity yesterday. It was a tough for me [to approach the club], but I thought it would be better to tell them as soon as possible because they'll have a lot on their plate in terms of personnel decisions.
What are your thoughts on managing over the last 4 years?
It was difficult following Trey Hillman's championship run, but the fans welcomed me in. And I think I was able to grow a few decent players, like [Yoshio] Itoi, Dai-Kang Yoh, and [Sho] Nakata, that the fans can get behind.
What is your final goal [as manager]?
I still haven't won a championship ring. I'd like the team to win as many games and first focus on trying to finish in first. But even if that doesn't work out, we still have a chance to win the Nippon Series together.
Sponichi has comments from the owner and president of the team:
Hiroji Okoso (owner): "He [probably decided to announce his decision now because he] wanted to concentrate on the rest of the games this season. His replacement will need to be someone that understands our scouting and development plans. We'd like him to continue where things are left off."
Toshikazu Tsuda (president): "We wanted him to stay, but he was firm on his decision. We really appreciate what he has done, including finishing in first. He's a good example of what it means to be a Fighters' manager."
And when Hiroshi Yoshimura (general manger of team affairs) was asked if there was a chance a foreign manager might be considered, he said that it wasn't something he was thinking about.
Career Managerial Record