Dodgers Could Ditch Chan-ho Over National Team Duty
Park Chan-ho rests during a practice session at the South Korean national baseball team’s training camp in Okinawa, Japan,Sunday. / Yonhap
By Kim Tong-hyung
Park Chan-ho is committed to wearing his country's colors in next month's Olympic qualifiers, although it may cost him a chance to dress in Dodger blue.
Caught in a loyalty dilemma between club and country, the 33-year-old pitcher, who agreed to the terms of a non-guaranteed contract worth $500,000 with the Los Angeles Dodgers last month, said he will remain with the South Korean national team despite the club threatening to take back the offer.
``The Dodgers came to know that I would be playing in the Olympic qualifiers and had me make a difficult decision between playing in the Olympic qualifiers or signing with the team now,'' Park wrote on his Web site Monday.
``I have thought about the matter for a long time and came to a conclusion that I must do what is righteous … It was hard for me to leave my manager, coaches and teammates,'' he said.
The Dodgers were looking to bring back their former All-Star pitcher on a non-roster contract with an invitation to spring training and reached a tentative agreement with Jeff Boris, Park's agent, on Oct.8.
However, the club balked after Park responded to the national team's roll call ahead of next month's Olympic qualifiers in Taiwan and told the pitcher that the offseason activities could keep the team from signing him, according to Team 61, Park's management agency.
``There is a possibility that the talks with the Dodgers could fall through,'' said Hong Kyeong-seon, an official from Team 61.
It remains to be seen whether the Dodgers will finalize their contract with Park despite his decision to stay with the national team, which is currently training in Okinawa, Japan.
Park could hardly be considered an asset, having pitched only one game in the Major Leagues in 2007, when he allowed seven runs in a four-inning start for the New York Mets.
Park was also hit hard in the minors for the Mets and, after being released, the Houston Astros, who had no interest in bringing him back for next season.
Park revealed the offer he received from the Dodgers through his Web site earlier this month.
The Dodgers signed Park when he was a hard-throwing prospect from Hanyang University to his first professional contract in 1994. Park flourished with the Dodgers, finishing with double figures in wins in five of his six years in Los Angeles, topping out in 2000, when he went 18-10 with a 3.27 ERA and 217 strikeouts.
However, since landing a five-year, $65 million contract with the Texas Rangers in 2002, the fifth-highest contract among pitchers at the time, Park saw his effectiveness decline sharply due to a series of injuries and failure to adjust in the heavy-hitting American League.
Park's yearly ERA since signing the mega contract went 5.75, 7.58, 5.46, 5.74 and 4.81, the last season coming with the San Diego Padres, making him a historic free agent bust and arguably the worst starting pitcher in the big leagues during that time.