Former SF Giants outfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo is in the news again. It was announced that 49-year-old is returning to familiar territory as he is set to become the next manager for the Nippon Ham Fighters of the Japan Pacific League (JPPL).
Former SF Giants outfielder announced as next Nippon manager
The last time we heard about Shinjo was when he was making an improbable comeback at 48 years of age. However, that comeback seems to be over as he is shifting into the manager's seat.
Shinjo became a productive player in ten seasons with the Hanshin Tigers of the Japan Central League (JPCL) before coming overseas to play for the New York Mets in 2001. The right-handed hitter had a nice rookie campaign as he registered a .725 OPS while being worth 1.9 WAR in 438 plate appearances.
Any value that Shinjo generated with the bat was considered a bonus as he was known for his defensive prowess in the outfield. However, his stay with the Mets would be short-lived as he was shipped to the Giants along with Desi Relaford in exchange for left-handed hurler Shawn Estes.
This was a move that quietly positioned the Giants for a deep playoff push in the following season. Relaford never put on the Orange and Black but made an impact as the veteran infielder was sent to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for third baseman David Bell shortly after the Mets trade. Bell had a strong season in 2002 and continues to be remembered as a fan favorite despite playing only one season with San Francisco.
Shinjo joined a Giants club that needed a strong defensive center fielder and he, generally speaking, did not disappoint with the glove. However, he struggled badly at the plate, posting a .238/.294/.370 (78 OPS+) with nine home runs, 37 RBI, and 42 runs scored in 398 plate appareances.
The Giants swung a midseason trade to acquire Kenny Lofton from the Chicago White Sox, which relegated Shinjo into a fourth outfielder role. After losing the 2002 World Series, Shinjo was released by the Giants but he was quickly scooped up by the Mets.
His MLB career ended following the 2003 season but he spent the next three years with the Nippon Ham Fighters to finish out a professional career that began in 1991. Now, he is set to lead a team that posted a rough 54-68 overall record in 2021.
Despite having a relatively short MLB career, Shinjo certainly made his mark. The veteran outfielder was known for his flare and sense of style. Of course, who could forget the massive wrist bands he wore on a daily basis. In a way, he become something of a cultural icon in the eyes of the media.
His next challenge will be a difficult one as he is set to lead a team that has not finished with a winning record since 2018. If nothing else, Shinjo will find a way to make a new mark as he moves from the field to the dugout.