Rakuten Golden Eagles pitcher Tomohiro Anraku, 27, has been accused of bullying junior players, causing a stir in Japan, the land of baseball.
According to local media reports, several Rakuten players have complained to club officials about being bullied by Anraku during salary negotiations.
So far, there are three main allegations. Assaulting several juniors, forcing them to do handstands in the locker room and removing their underwear to expose their lower bodies, and harassing them with persistent late-night phone calls after they declined his invitations to dinner.
Given the seriousness of the situation, the club conducted an investigation into the parties involved and their surroundings, conducted a survey of 100 players and coaching staff with a 30-day deadline for submission, and indefinitely postponed Anraku’s salary negotiations for next year and ordered him to stay home. The team also canceled the team’s final meeting of the season on the 27th and the pitching staff’s year-end gathering on the 29th.
Fuji Sukgan spoke to Anraku’s teammates in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, Rakuten’s hometown, the day before to update them on what he had learned. One player was adamant that all three allegations were true and that this was the “tip of the iceberg.
He speculated that one or two players speaking up might have gotten away with it, but the club was forced to act when several others joined in.
Anlaku has been a middle-of-the-pack player since 2021, playing more than 50 games a year and earning a higher salary. Once he settled into the first team, his demeanor changed noticeably, and he often made disparaging remarks about teammates who were paid less than him or had less professional experience, such as “what’s his name”.
This time, it’s a different player’s story. When Anraku was allowed to go out to dinner after the COVID-19 pandemic ended, he mainly chose his favorite juniors to go with him. He paid for it and felt like it was a way to show off. If they had to go, they wanted someone else Anraku’s age to join them, but Anraku was very strict about excluding his peers. He would bother them until the middle of the night, asking them why they didn’t come. He once asked a junior to submit a month’s schedule. He explained that he wanted to create an “Anraku Division,” but no one wanted to join it.
He had a bad reputation, and when his seniors would call him out on it, he would respond with an exasperated, “I’m sorry I misunderstood you,” which would be followed by a “I’m sorry I misunderstood you.
Anraku joined Rakuten with the third overall pick in the first round of the 2014 draft. Early on in his career, he was touted as a “future starter,” but a series of injuries prevented him from developing as expected. Since 2020, he has distinguished himself as a middle reliever.
His career record in Nippon Professional Baseball’s first team is 231 games (28 starts), with an 18-21 record, three saves, 50 holds, and a 3.59 ERA.
This year, he has appeared in 57 games with a 3-2 record, 10 saves, and a 3.04 ERA. He’s one of those pitchers that managers trust in clutch situations.
Locally, it is believed that the club is likely to waive his contract and let him become a free agent. If the club does not place Anraku’s name on the pending list to be submitted to the Japan Baseball Organization by Nov. 30, he will become a free agent.
In response to the incident, baseball commentator Yasushi Dao, who served as Rakuten’s first head coach, pointed out on his YouTube channel on the 27th that “professional baseball players are already on equal footing, even if there is an age difference,” and that “you should never do something that your opponent doesn’t like.”
He also pointed out that “being a professional baseball player is a job that is often praised by those around you, so it’s easy to mistake yourself for a ‘special person,'” before emphasizing that “baseball players are not special people.”