SK Wyverns outfielder Luke Scott was fired Wednesday after an argument with coach Lee Man-soo.
By Kim Tae-jong, Nam Hyun-woo
SK Wyverns outfielder Luke Scott was fired Wednesday following allegedly "disrespectful" behavior toward coach Lee Man-soo.
However, some insiders say Scott was the victim of cultural differences, rather than being insubordinate.
According to sources and reports, the former Tampa Bay Rays player appeared at Munhak Baseball Stadium in Incheon Tuesday, hours before his team's game against the Hanwha Eagles.
The 36-year-old was there to pick up his gear from the locker room after being put on a reserve team because of plantar fasciitis.
Scott and Lee got into a conversation and Scott eventually gestured and yelled at the coach, using expressions such as "liar" and "coward" to refer to him.
After Lee cut the conversation short and returned to his office, Scott turned to reporters at the stadium and started to blame Lee.
He reportedly said that he is the one who knows his physical condition best, and has had his own "routine" in managing it during his Major League Baseball career. But he argued that the team does not respect that, and just forces its ways on him.
Obviously, the Wyverns are not happy with Scott's behavior.
"It is not a subject to be tolerated," an official at SK said. "It seems he was disgruntled with being listed on the reserve team."
Big things were expected from Scott, who joined the team in December, because he was joining directly from an MLB team.
Before he joined the Wyverns, he played for the Rays for two years. He spent his career-best seasons with the Baltimore Orioles in 2008-2011, when he hit more than 20 homers in three consecutive campaigns. During his nine years in the MLB, he recorded 135 homers, 436 RBIs with a .258 average.
However, his time in the KBO has been a disappointment. In Korea, he has played 33 games for the Wyverns, with a .267 batting average and six homers.
He has been nagged by frequent injuries. He was on the injury list three times. The most recent injury came when he suffered the foot ailment just three games after recovering from a side injury.
Although a lot of fans have voiced their anger over the foreign player, the club's decision is also raising heated debate on how to interpret the incident -- as a player being disrespectful, or a misunderstanding related to cultural differences.
Lotte Giants pitcher Shane Youman, who took a very careful stance on the incident involving Scott and avoided directly commenting on it, said players' rights to express their feelings should be protected.
"I'm all for players expressing their feelings towards certain situations if they believe they have a right to. Not just foreign players, but Korean players as well," he said.
"Baseball has such a long season. Players and coaches are around each other all the time. Things will not always go smoothly. There may be arguments, or mix-ups here and there. At the end of the day, we all know who has the authority, but we are all men, and should be treated and respected as men."
Observers also argue that there needs to be proper measures to reduce misunderstandings due to cultural differences, as there have been an increasing number of foreign players in the domestic league.
"For the past few years, I have been wanting to see the KBO and their teams make sure all the players (Korean and import players) are educated about on-field/off-field cultural differences and similarities (including the locker room environment and decorum)," said Dan Kurtz, operator of the independent English website MyKBO.net.
He added such programs might prevent problems like what happened between Scott and SK, or at least alleviated them before things got out of hand.