01.19.10

Whiting : Yoko Broke Up Bobby V’s Marines

Posted in Baseball at 2:44 am by

Believe it or not, the Wilpons aren’t the worst bosses Bobby Valentine’s ever worked for. How, pray tell, did the former Mets skipper go from being the toast of Chiba, Japan to becoming a lamer-than-duck at the start of the Lotte Marines 2009 season? The Japan Times’ Robert Whiting claims acolytes of Marines president Ryuzo Setoyama battled Bobby V’s rebellious fans “with a stealth smear campaign intended to sully Valentine’s reputation.” (link swiped from Baseball Think Factory)

Setoyama supporters whispered Valentine was taking kickbacks from foreign players, that he had recruited one gaijin player from a local bar, and that he had hired his own son to design new Lotte uniforms, while collecting a hefty royalty on their sale.

They also claimed that he had sexually harassed Lotte female employees, that he was anti-Japanese and even racist, noting he used terms like “the f—–g Japanese way.”

A key, if unusual, combatant in the effort of the front office to discredit Valentine was a moon-faced, middle-aged woman named Yoko Yoneda, who, at the start of the 2009 season, had been elevated to the No. 3 spot in the front office, in charge of media relations and VIP suites.

With a fondness for garish fashion ” black, zebra-striped polyester shirts and loud pink dresses ” and carrying a mauve business card that described her as a “fortune teller” who did “character and color analysis,” she was surely one of the strangest NPB executives in the annals of the game.

Yoneda made news at the beginning of the season, when she ordered reporters to stop wearing jeans and to use keigo, or formal Japanese when speaking to the players. This was the cause of great mirth to some observers, since most reporters had nothing else in their wardrobe and most players, for their part, were so uneducated they could not understand honorific Japanese.

A former cheerleader at high school baseball powerhouse PL Gakuen, Yoneda had been introduced to acting owner Akio Shigemitsu, by the president of Otsuka, and had been given a job in the Lotte front office in 2006.

No one could figure out what the nature of her relationship was with the diffident billionaire’s son, who denied there was anything romantic going on. He simply explained in a news conference that Yoneda was an “eccentric character” who told his fortune.

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