11.28.05

Feelgood Bobby V. Hailed As Force For Social Change

Posted in Baseball at 9:24 am by

I sincerely hope Todd Hundley and Pete Harnisch have cancelled their home deliveries of the Washington Post. In a piece scarily reminiscent of the Ron Howard film “Gung Ho”, the Washington Post’s Anthony Faiola credits Chiba Lotte Marines manager Bobby Valentine with “having triggered a social earthquake in Japan.” (link courtesy Baseball Think Factory)

The success of the “Bobby Way” is being hailed by many here as a home run for a growing movement to curb the Japanese tradition of harsh management. Hiroshi Miyata, president of Nippon Metal Industry Co., called on corporate Japan in a newspaper editorial last week to start “treating our employees in the same way that Bobby does.” The current and former managers of three of Japan’s top baseball teams offered rare praise for Valentine’s methods, suggesting that the notion of severe training should be reexamined in the wake of the once-lowly Marines’ victory.

This month, the Tokyo-based Macro Mill research company conducted a survey of Japanese job hunters, asking them to list their ideal boss. Valentine was the only foreigner in the top 10.

“Bobby is a role model for Japan,” said Naoki Fujiya, a 36-year-old house painter who waited hours in line to catch a glimpse of Valentine and the Marines at last week’s parade. Fujiya said his boss had hit him several times for making errors. “But I think we all see now that you can do your best even when you treat the people who work for you with respect,” he said. “I wish Bobby was my boss.”

Anger at harsh management tactics boiled into a national debate in April, following a West Japan Railway crash near Osaka in which 107 people died. The train’s 23-year-old driver was believed to have been in a panic because he was running behind schedule, exceeding safe speed limits in an attempt to make up time.

Public outrage ensued after company employees began to speak out. A group of employees filed a lawsuit against the company this month in which one train driver said he was forced to undergo 71 days of “reeducation” — including cleaning trains and writing essays reflecting on his mistake — after overshooting a train platform by two yards. Another driver, who was subjected to reeducation after departing a station 50 seconds late, committed suicide during his ordeal.

Some have questioned whether the Japanese would perform successfully under alternative management methods. The 55-year-old Valentine, still muscular from daily workouts and with traces of gray in his dusty brown hair, put those arguments to rest this year.

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