Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles star pitcher and former MLB standout Masahiro Tanaka issued an apology through social media after the Nippon Professional Baseball team cut reliever Tomohiro Anraku on Thursday, saying he should have done more to be a positive influence in the locker room following allegations that Anraku bullied younger players. Club president Masayuki Morii announced Anraku's dismissal Thursday, sharing in a press conference that the accusations of abusive behavior by the team's pitcher were "mostly true."
According to a report by The Japan Times, multiple Golden Eagles players testified amid an investigation that Anraku bullied younger players on the team. Among the acts of bullying Anraku was accused of included pulling a teammate's underpants down, exposing him to teammates for ridicule, and making harassing late-night phone calls to teammates after they declined to dine with him.
In a statement, Tanaka took responsibility for the scandal, saying the alleged harassment was "unacceptable" while putting the onus of exerting a positive presence in the locker room and being more attentive to his kohai -- the younger players -- on himself.
この度は皆様にご心配をおかけし、申し訳ございません。— 田中将大🦂/MASAHIRO TANAKA (@t_masahiro18) December 1, 2023
"As a senior member of the team, I should have paid more attention to the situation of my juniors, consulted them, and took the initiative to pay attention to them if there was a problem," read Tanaka's statement (via Google Translate). "I regret that I was naive.
"I've heard that each player and the club are talking about this issue. I am determined to do everything I can to ensure that we can fight the pennant race as a team once again and that our fans can cheer us on with peace of mind."
Tanaka returned to the Golden Eagles in 2021 after a seven-year stint playing baseball in the United States with the New York Yankees. Tanaka was named an NPB All-Star for the eighth time in his career in 2023, posting a 4.91 ERA with 81 strikeouts in just over 139 innings. The Golden Eagles went 70-2-71 in 2023, finishing fourth in the NPB Pacific Division and missing the playoffs.
Anraku was the Golden Eagles' first-round draft pick in 2014 and appeared in 57 games this season, all of which were in relief.