The EDA Rhinos claimed the first-half CPBL title earlier this week with an 8-2 win over the Brother Elephants, capping one of the most dramatic turnarounds by a side in recent years.
After suffering losing seasons in all but one of the past seven, forcing the former owner (Sinon Corp) to sell the team at a steep discount to EDA Group, the team has undergone such a tremendous transformation that they have taken even the most experienced observers of the league by surprise.
It is undeniable that the presence of former major league Most Valuable Player Manny Ramirez has contributed to the Rhinos’ success, both in terms of his on-field performances and his ability to draw fans’ interest, known as the “Manny effect.”
Yet that should not take credit away from the club for bringing out the best in a lineup that previously could not win consistently.
Picking up Hu Chin-lung and Kao Guo-hui in the off-season made the Rhinos the runaway winners at the negotiating table in terms of players who can deliver an immediate impact.
However, that should take nothing away from the enormous efforts made by skipper Hsu Sheng-ming and his coaching staff to motivate veteran hurler Yang Chien-fu and second-year right-hander Lin Chen-hua — whose combined earned run average dropped from 4.71 last season to 3.10 this season — as well as sluggers Cheng Jau-han and Lin Tsong-nan, who have a combined 52 points more than at this point last season.
“There is no doubt that [Hsu] can coach. He also has one of the most daring baseball minds around, making him very hard to face,” a source close to the CPBL said about the Rhinos manager, on condition of anonymity.
Hsu has won more than 570 games as a skipper with four different teams in the CPBL and earned the distinction of being the first coach to win three straight titles and the youngest to be named skipper at the age of 31.
Also worthy of mention is the Rhinos’ front office, who have upgraded the treatment the players receive, especially in terms of accommodation, as well as the team’s strength and conditioning program.
It all goes to show that the club’s newfound success is the result of a deliberate effort, rather than a lucky fluke.