Baseball managers ‘expendable’
By Kang Seung-woo
A managerial change has swept the Korean baseball league again, as the Hanwha Eagles’ Han Dae-hwa stepped down and the Nexen Heroes’ Kim Si-jin was sacked within less than a month.
With the two bosses leaving their respective posts, all eight clubs in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) have changed managers in the last two years.
In addition, other than the Lotte Giants’ American headman Jerry Royster, no one has seen his contract through to the end, with former SK Wyverns manager Kim Sung-keun and the aforementioned two leaving their teams mid-season.
Whenever each team parts ways with its manager, it is cited as a bad record ― the Eagles ranked eighth and the Heroes sixth with no playoff appearance under their leadership.
However, critics say that it is a problem for managers to take the entire blame for their team performing poorly, saying the Eagles and the Heroes have neglected investing and are not competitive enough to join the upper ranks of the league.
The Heroes, founded in 2008, barely stay afloat in the league, selling their key players, while the Eagles have not made the playoffs since 2007.
Although the Heroes and the Eagles added top players with Lee Taek-keun and Kim Tae-kyun, respectively, in free agency and signed former Major League pitchers Kim Byung-hyun and Park Chan-ho, they were predicted to become mid-table teams at best.
However, self-satisfied with their offseason investment, those teams seem to have set the bar much higher than their capabilities, which falls on the front office and eventually the managers’ responsibility.
“Kim has led the Heroes well with a shallow player pool and a team needs to trust its manager during the contract year. If this type of incident keeps repeating, a manager cannot make a team according to his conviction,” Kia Tigers boss Sun Dong-yeol said in a media interview.
“Baseball is not a sport in which one good player or two can immediately affect a team’s record. The front office tends to evaluate a manager with just visible results, which is sad.”
“The rank-first attitude may make managers impatient for records,” KBS baseball commentator Lee Byung-hoon said.
Even, for those with impressive resumes, history shows that they can surely be a managerial casualty.
Royster led the perennial cellar dweller Giants to the postseason for three straight years from 2008 to 2010, but the Busan-based team did not resign him because the American boss never guided his side to the Korean Series title.
After leading the Samsung Lions to back-to-back championships in 2005 and 2006, Sun was sacked in 2010 with four years remaining in his contract, while Kim Sung-keun, who had three titles under his belt at the Wyverns, had to leave the team during last season, sparking a backlash from fans.