The Seibu Lions announced today that they accepted Haruki Ihara's request for a break from his duties. Batting coach Norio Tanabe will step in as interim manager, effective June 5.
According to various reports, Ihara wanted to take responsibility for the team's poor performance. The Lions asked him to reconsider, but he refused. This is essentially a resignation since there are no plans for him to return.
[UPDATE 6/5/2014 @ 12:15am]
Sponichi posted portions of Ihara's interaction with the media during a press conference he held after Wednesday's game against Yokohama.
When did you make the decision?
After we lost our first Inter-league game to Yomiuri, we had a two-run in the second game and I was ninety-nine percent sure we were going to win the game. We ended up losing. I think my luck might not be very good.
How did the players take it?
I can't really tell just by looking at their faces. I can't read what's going on inside.
Is there a chance you might return?
Maybe, if they really want me back. But I think that might be a little difficult.
Did you feel there was a gap between you and the players?
No. I have a son, daughter. They're the same age as the players. I feel I had an understanding with the players, that there was no gap.
Source: Sponichi 6/4/2014
[UPDATE 6/5/2014 @ 1:17am]
The Lions announced a couple of other personnel changes:
- Chief/Battery coach Hidetoshi Hakamada will become Head/Battery coach
- Ni-gun General/Batting coach Hiroyuki Takagi will become Ichi-gun Batting coach
Source: Sponichi 6/5/2014
[UPDATE 6/5/2014 @ 2:46pm]
Sports Hochi posted portions of Ihara's interaction with the media. Most of it is similar to the Sponichi above, except for the following bit:
When did you start thinking about taking a leave?
I spoke to director Haruhiko Suzuki in April. I thought about [an announcement] after the first go around during Inter-league play. Rakuten manager Senichi Hoshino was hospitalized with back pain. I also have some problems, my right knee started getting worse about three years ago. It was getting difficult climbing up and down the stairs when we were losing. I felt I couldn't show the players any weakness.
Source: Sports Hochi 6/5/2014