Fans raising eyebrows over Giants' All-Star sweep
By Jung Min-ho
It’s good news for Lotte Giants and the team’s fans. But in becoming the first side to represent all the starting positions at the All-Star game it has raised concerns that one club dominating to this extent could make the occasion less meaningful.
When the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) announced the All-Star game voting results Monday, the 10 positions, including nine regular spots and the designated hitter for the Eastern League, are all Giants players. This is the first time in the history of KBO this has happened.
In the fan balloting from May 22 to July 8 Giants catcher Kang Min-ho received the most votes with 892,727. The other starters for the Eastern League are pitcher Song Seung-jun, first baseman Park Jong-yoon, second baseman Cho Sung-hwan, third baseman Hwang Jae-gyun, shortstop Moon Gyu-hyun and outfielders Son Ah-sup, Jeon Jun-woo and Kim Joo-chan with Hong Sung-heun as the designated hitter.
“Although I’m a big fan of the Giants, the outcome is quite disappointing,” said 27-year-old Lotte fan Park Sung-eun. “If fans can only see Giants players at the All-Star game, it defeats the purpose of holding the event.”
Although some Giants players were anticipated to earn the most votes in their position due to their popularity and performances this season, others are questioning if they really deserve the places. Samsung Lions slugger Lee Seung-yeop was the apparent front-runner for designated hitter with a .331 batting average, 54 RBI and 15 home runs in 71 games, as of Monday. However, Hong was selected with a less competitive record of a .312 batting average, 40 RBI and 6 home runs.
At third base, the SK Wyverns’ Choi Jeong has a .28 batting average, 50 RBI and 18 home runs whereas Hwang’s figures are a .27 batting average, 29 RBI and three home runs, Choi earned 586,591 votes compared to Hwang’s 698,148.
One of the most surprising results was the choice of pitcher. With a 2.53 ERA, 58 strike-outs and seven wins in 14 games, many predicted the Doosan Bears Lee Yong-chan had a good chance to take the mound. However, with a 4.37 ERA, 68 strike-outs and four wins in 16 games, Song received 715,271 votes, almost three times more than Lee’s 261,710. With that, many fans said there is an issue concerning the fairness of the current selection process.
A further 12 players will also be called up by the respective Eastern and Western League team managers.
“It is obvious the result is overly unbalanced. The thing is, however, it is not about the players’ performance. It is more like a popularity vote,” said a KBO official. “But the managers’ picks will also participate to make it a quality game and to satisfy the fans who want to see other stars there.”
The starting lineup for the Western League sees a more diverse club line up. The Hanwha Eagles’ Ryu Hyun-jin was voted as starting pitcher and teammate Kim Tae-kyun will join him as first baseman. The LG Twins have three players in outfielders Lee Byungk-kyu Lee Jin-young and designated hitter Park Yong-taik while The Nexen Heroes will be represented by catcher Heo Do-hwan and shortstop Kang Jung-ho. Ahn Chi-hong and Lee Beom-ho were named as second and third basemen along with Lee Yong-kyu as an outfielder from the Kia Tigers.
The All-Star game taking place is still in question as the Korea Professional Baseball Players Association’s has decided to boycott the event in protest of the KBO’s refusal to allow the creation of a 10th team. If it does go ahead as planned it will be at the Hanbat Baseball Stadium in Daejeon on July 21.