Fixtures

Japan NPB 05/24 09:00 - Rakuten Eagles vs Hanshin Tigers - View
Japan NPB 05/25 09:00 - Hanshin Tigers vs Rakuten Eagles - View
Japan NPB 05/26 09:00 - Hanshin Tigers vs Rakuten Eagles - View
Japan NPB 05/27 09:00 - Rakuten Eagles vs Yakult Swallows - View
Japan NPB 05/28 05:00 - Rakuten Eagles vs Yakult Swallows - View
Japan NPB 05/29 04:00 - Rakuten Eagles vs Yakult Swallows - View

Results

Japan NPB 05/22 04:00 - Orix Buffaloes v Rakuten Eagles L 6-1
Japan NPB 05/21 05:00 - Orix Buffaloes v Rakuten Eagles L 6-0
Japan NPB 05/20 09:00 - Orix Buffaloes v Rakuten Eagles L 1-0
Japan NPB 05/19 09:00 - Rakuten Eagles v Lotte Marines W 7-2
Japan NPB 05/18 09:00 - Rakuten Eagles v Lotte Marines D 1-1
Japan NPB 05/17 09:00 - Rakuten Eagles v Lotte Marines L 3-6
Japan NPB 05/15 04:00 - Rakuten Eagles v Seibu Lions W 3-1
Japan NPB 05/14 05:00 - Rakuten Eagles v Seibu Lions L 4-5
Japan NPB 05/13 09:00 - Rakuten Eagles v Seibu Lions L 2-4
Japan NPB 05/12 05:00 - Lotte Marines v Rakuten Eagles L 5-2
Japan NPB 05/11 05:00 - Chiba Lotte Marines v Rakuten Eagles L 3-1
Japan NPB 05/10 09:00 - Lotte Marines v Rakuten Eagles W 0-7

The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (東北楽天ゴールデンイーグルス, Tōhoku Rakuten Gōruden Īgurusu), often shortened as the Rakuten Eagles (楽天イーグルス, Rakuten Īgurusu), are a baseball team based in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. It has played in Nippon Professional Baseball's Pacific League since the team's formation in 2005. The team is owned by the Internet shopping company Rakuten.

History

2004: Origins and formation

During Nippon Professional Baseball's (NPB) 2004 season, the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes and the Orix BlueWave announced that the two teams planned to merge into one for the start of the 2005 season. Both teams were in the Pacific League (PL), and a merger between the two would result in a team imbalance with the PL's opposing league, the Central League (CL). As a large number of players and personnel were expected to lose their jobs when the merger was finalized, the players conducted a two-day strike on September 18–19, 2004. With the threat of further strikes looming, team representatives agreed to ease the rules of entry for new teams into NPB and that one would be allowed to join the following season. To fill the void left by the merger, internet services companies Livedoor and Rakuten submitted applications to form teams to be based in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. NPB selected Rakuten to create a Sendai-based PL team. The team would play its home games in Miyagi Baseball Stadium, which was being renovated by Rakuten. Marty Kuehnert and Yasushi Tao were hired as general manager and manager, respectively, of their newly named "Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles" baseball club. The name is derived from the Japanese golden eagle, a large, endangered, predatory bird found in the mountains of Japan's Tōhoku region.

Instead of allowing the Eagles to draft players from all 11 NPB teams in an expansion draft, the team had to construct their roster from the 107 players left over from the dissolved Kintetsu and original Orix teams during a special dispersal draft. Furthermore, Orix was allowed to select 25 players that would be protected from the distribution process before the draft, thus giving them preferential signing rights. Included in these selections were all free agents and foreign players. Rakuten was only then allowed to select 20 unprotected players, not including any first- or second-year players. After that, the first- and second-year players were unprotected and Orix and Rakuten alternating selecting 20 more players for the last round of the draft. The league's decision to employ an unequal dispersal draft to build the Eagles roster was blamed for the team's struggles to come. In the draft, Rakuten was able to pick up former Buffaloes outfielder Koichi Isobe as he was left unprotected by Orix because he refused to play for their newly formed team. Similarly, the Eagles were able to acquire Buffaloes' star pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma. Despite also voicing that he had no intention of playing for the merged team, Orix still protected him. After, negotiations took place between Iwakuma and Orix that eventually resulted in Orix trading him to the Eagles.

2005–2009: Debut and the road to the Climax Series

Just over a month into their first season, the Eagles removed Kuehnert as general manager and demoted the head and batting coaches following a 6–22 start. The team finished 51.5 games out of first place and was the first NPB team in 40 years to lose over 90 games in a single season. As a result, ten players were released, and Tao was dismissed despite being signed to a three-year contract. In an otherwise disastrous season, one highlight was team's home debut. Only five months after being awarded a franchise and without a preseason game as a dry run, Rakuten ran and operated the game smoothly in front of a packed, partially-renovated Miyagi Stadium. It was also was estimated that the economic impact of the team in the Tōhoku region was $300 million in the first year. Rakuten planned to spend more than ¥1 billion on enhancing player training and about ¥3 billion on the continuing remodel of the ballpark. The stadium's off-season renovations expanded its seating capacity and added amenities. Mikitani looked to experience to lead the Eagles in its second season when he replaced first-time manager Tao with Hall of Famer and veteran manager Katsuya Nomura, signing him to a three-year contract. The team improved slightly over its first season, and third baseman José Fernández went on to receive the Eagles' first Best Nine Award in his first season with the team. However, the 2006 season also brought the Eagles' their first no-hit loss, and they still finished last in the Pacific League. At the end of the season, Rakuten drafted pitcher Masahiro Tanaka in the first round of the 2006 amateur high school draft.

The Eagles' first real signs of improvement came during the 2007 season, the team's third. Takeshi Yamasaki led the league in home runs through May and was named the PL MVP for the month of May, the team's first. He went on to be selected by fans to the Pacific League All-Star team for the 2007 All-Star Series, receiving the most votes of any player overall. With one of the All-Star games being played at the Eagles' home stadium that year, fans also voted in seven other Rakuten players, including rookie pitcher Tanaka. Rakuten finished the season with a losing record, however, for the first time they did not finish the season in last, instead finishing in fourth. At the end of the season, Yamasaki led the league in both home runs and runs batted in (RBIs) and Tanaka was awarded the PL Rookie of the Year Award. The team finished fifth next season, however, Iwakuma finished with the best earned run average (ERA) and most wins in the league after struck by injuries the previous few years. At season's end, he was presented with his and the team's first PL Most Valuable Player (MVP) and Eiji Sawamura Awards. In the 2008–09 offseason, the Eagles extended Nomura's contract to keep him on as manager for one more year. Rakuten secured second place in the Pacific League the next season and advanced to the Climax Series for the first time. A pair of complete game wins at home both by Iwakuma and Tanaka in the First Stage allowed the Eagles to advance but the team lost to the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in four games in the Second Stage, ending their season.

2010–2013: From disaster to championship

Rakuten hired American Marty Brown to succeed Nomura as manager. Even though Brown was signed to a two-year contract, he was let go a year later after the Eagles finished the 2010 season in last place. The club looked to Senichi Hoshino next to turn the team around. Kazuo Matsui and Akinori Iwamura, both returning from playing stints in Major League Baseball (MLB), were also added to the roster, and Teppei Tsuchiya was named as the team's first ever captain. On March 11, 2011, two weeks before the first game of the season, the Tōhoku region was struck by the largest earthquake in the country's history. The quake and the subsequent tsunami devastated the region, including the Eagles' home city of Sendai. With the season opener postponed until April 12, the team continued to train in the Kansai region because of the aftermath in Sendai. In addition to Rakuten holding fund-raising events, all 12 teams played charity games to help raise money for earthquake relief. They hosted their first "home" game at Koshien Stadium while restoration work to Miyagi Stadium continued. Baseball returned to Sendai on April 12, when the Eagles played their first game at their home field. Furthermore, the final game of the 2011 All-Star Series was switched from Tokyo Dome to Miyagi Stadium, the second time the Eagles hosted the event since 2007. Rakuten finished the 2011 season in fifth and again missed the playoffs. However, in addition to winning a Golden Glove and a Best Nine award, Tanaka was also named PL MVP of the month three times over the course of the season, a first for the Pacific League.

After the season, Hisashi Iwakuma left the club to play in MLB. Rakuten went deep into the 2012 season as a playoff contender that year, but ultimately missed advancing to the Climax Series by one game and finished fourth. Before the start of the 2013 season, the Eagles signed former MLB players Casey McGehee and Andruw Jones. The Eagles finished April in fifth place, however, the next two months saw Tanaka winning consecutive PL MVP of the month awards, helping the club to finish June in second. The team took sole possession of first place in the Pacific League in early July and never relinquished it, winning the Eagles' their first PL pennant. Over the remaining three months of the season, Tanaka continued to win games and finished the season with 24 wins and no losses. He was awarded a record-setting five consecutive monthly MVPs from May to September. As league champions, the Eagles advanced directly to the Final Stage of the Climax Series Final where they defeated the Chiba Lotte Marines to advance to their first Japan Series. Rakuten defeated the Yomiuri Giants at home in the final game of a seven-game series to win the franchise's first and only Japan Series championship. Starting pitcher Manabu Mima was named the Japan Series MVP after the series, and at the end of the season, Tanaka was presented with the PL MVP and Eiji Sawamura Awards, Norimoto was named the PL Rookie of the Year, and Senichi Hoshino was given the Matsutaro Shoriki Award. After the increased ticket demand during the 2013 season, an expansion project that increased Miyagi Stadium's maximum seating capacity above 28,000 was completed the next year.

2014–2020: Post-Tanaka struggles

Following the championship-winning season, Masahiro Tanaka left the Eagles via the posting system to play for the New York Yankees, netting the team a $20 million transfer fee in return. Likewise, McGehee also left for MLB, and the team struggled in the years following their departures, finishing last the next season. This disappointing finish prompted manager Senichi Hoshino to resign despite ownership wanting him to return for a fifth season. Rakuten promoted their farm team manager Hiromoto Okubo to manager. At the end of July, hitting coach Tomio Tashiro abruptly resigned and it was brought to light that owner Hiroshi Mikitani had often been interfering in on-the-field decisions, such as dictating the batting order. After Tashiro's resignation, Mikitani began conferring with field personnel before making any decisions, however the team again finished in last and Okubo resigned at the end of the season. The turmoil brought about by Mikitani taking the lead on baseball operations after Hoshino's unexpected resignation forced Rakuten to reevaluate how the team was managed and organized. It was decided that Hoshino, who had been retained as an Eagles vice chairman, would have full authority over baseball operations, similar to the role of an MLB general manager.

In preparation for the 2016 season, Miyagi Stadium underwent its last major renovation during the offseason, increasing its capacity to over 30,000 people. The team, hoping to avoid a third consecutive last-place finish, hired veteran PL manager Masataka Nashida and signed free agent Toshiaki Imae, a two-time Japan Series MVP. During the season, Rakuten formed a training team to help further develop talent by playing against university, corporate, club, and independent teams. The Eagles avoided finishing the season in last, however they placed fifth and again missed the playoffs. The 2017 Eagles, however, found themselves battling the Saitama Seibu Lions near the end of the season for second place. Ultimately, the team secured a First Stage, Climax Series berth against the Lions with a third-place finish. After losing the first game of the three-game series, Rakuten won the final two to defeat Seibu and advance to the Final Stage. Against the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, the Eagles took the first two games of the series but were eliminated after the Hawks won the next three.

2018–present: Ishii as general manager and Tanaka returns

Hoshino died in January 2018. Following the death, Rakuten erected a memorial flower stand in front of the newly named Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi. Mikitani then announced that Hoshino's uniform number 77 would be retired permanently just before the start of the season. The Eagles struggled immediately that season, falling to 20 games under .500 by mid-June. Taking responsibility for the team's poor performance, Nashida resigned as manager that month and head coach Yosuke Hiraishi acted as interim manager for the remainder of the season. The Eagles went on to finish the season in last, however before it was over Rakuten formally created a general manager (GM) position in Hoshino's absence. Former NPB and MLB pitcher Kazuhisa Ishii was hired in the role to help coordinate the efforts of the front office and field management.

Hiraishi was kept on as full-time manager for the 2019 season and led the Eagles to a third-place finish and a postseason berth. However, the team was defeated by the Hawks in the First Stage. After the loss, another managerial change was made and Hajime Miki was promoted from farm team manager. The Eagles failed to make the playoffs in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, and Ishii sent Miki back to manage the farm team after only one season. To replace him, Ishii appointed himself as manager starting with the 2021 season. Meanwhile, the conclusion of MLB's 2020 season marked the end of Masahiro Tanaka's seven-year contract with the Yankees. Instead of signing with another MLB team, Tanaka chose to return to play in Japan and signed a two-year contract with Rakuten. The next season, a third-place finish secured the Eagles a place in the 2021 PL Climax Series, however a loss and a tie against the Marines ensured that Rakuten would not advance to the Final Stage.