Over the last few weeks several Dragons from the over-40 crowd have announced their retirements, including long-time Dragons Masa Yamamoto, Kazuhiro Wada and Motonobu Tanishige.
Yamamoto, the oldest of the group, was unable to contribute much this year though continues to set records each time he pitches due to his age. News reports suggest that he will make his final appearance in Chunichi's final game this week. Yamamoto made his NPB debut back in 1986 and was a consistent member Chunichi's rotation from the late 80's until 2008. He's pitched infrequently for the last several years with varying degrees of success. He will be remembered as a Dragons' legend and is one of my favorite Dragons players.
Wada, who I believe should be a future Hall-of-Famer, will retire at the age of 43 after 10 years with the Lions and 8 years with the Dragons. He is the newest member of the meikyukai, reaching 2000 hits this summer. He finishes his career still being a productive offensive player, and as one of the more consistent and clutch performers in recent Dragons history. He grew up in Gifu and had always hoped to be a Dragon. His dream became a reality when he signed as free agent prior to the 2008 NPB season. He immediately replaced the production of the departed Kosuke Fukudome and has been one Chunichi's best hitters since. He will be missed.
Tanishige, Chunichi's current player/manager, will retire as a player but continue in his role as manager. He is currently under contract for two more years as a manager. He played in a limited role as a player this year, but finished offensively on a high note, posting his highest batting average since 1999. He was supposed to play a limited role last year as well but was forced into action by the ineffectiveness of Chunichi's other catchers. He's had amazing longevity as a catcher, and a very impressive career. He's also a member of the Meikyukai, due mainly to his longevity, but to do so as a catcher is still extremely impressive. Hopefully with a focus only on managing he can get the Dragons turned around next year.
Ogasawara joined the Dragons only two years ago after long stints with Nippon Ham and Yomiuri. He's been an extraordinary pinch-hitter in those two years, matching his average career numbers in batting average and on-base percentage as a pinch-hitter, something not easy to do. He's an NPB legend based on what he did for other teams, but was certainly a useful player for the Dragons in his role.