Owner’s baseball with ‘SSG Kim Won-hyung fired’

If something happens in a professional baseball organization that is so out of the ordinary that it’s hard to understand, you can’t look to the organization for a rational answer. You need to look to the owner, who is above the team. A professional baseball team is a group of baseball experts. Most of the time, rational decisions are made through a system. Sometimes there are unconventional choices, decisions that make you scratch your head, but most of the time they don’t deviate much from the common sense of baseball. Often, there’s a rationale behind the decision, or you can look back and nod your head in agreement that it was worth it.

In this regard, the recent developments surrounding the SSG Landers have been odd from any perspective. On October 20th, SSG fired their “winning coach” Kim Won-hyung. The coach who led the team to its first-ever “wire-to-wire” victory last year (meaning they didn’t lose a single day of first place throughout the season) and the Korean Series title, and who had just completed the first season of his three-year contract, was fired before the ink was even dry on his contract. It would be one thing if the team was in last place, but SSG finished third this year and qualified for the semi-finals. Even though they lost three straight games in the semifinals, it’s still an accomplishment to lead a team to fall baseball for the second year in a row. And yet, SSG fired their manager.

The owner’s “wait and see” response to a managerial snipe

It’s usually a reasonable inference that someone higher up than the team has changed their mind. There are plenty of clues. First of all, Kim Won-hyung was not directly appointed by owner Chung Yong-jin. He was appointed as the manager of the SK Wyverns and was ‘hired’ when Shinsegae took over the baseball team. Because of this, there have been rumors in the baseball world since the first year of SSG’s existence that the manager might change after the season. This rumor became more convincing last year when SSG did not re-sign Kim even after securing the regular season title. It is a long-standing tradition in baseball that managers whose contracts are about to expire are usually given extensions to prevent “lame ducks” and to reinforce their leadership when they perform well. SSG kept quiet until the start of the Korean Series and announced the news of Kim’s re-signing after Game 4 of the series for a total of 3 years and 2.2 billion won.

At the time, a baseball elder who heard about Kim’s contract said, “I’ve seen teams re-sign ahead of the Korean Series, but I’ve never seen a team re-sign in the middle of the Korean Series. The timing is strange.” At the time, SSG was down 2-2 in the series after losing to Kiwoom Heroes in Game 4, and there was a lot of criticism of LG for not re-signing manager Ryu Ji-hyun earlier, as the team was eliminated from the playoffs.

In fact, Ryu Sun-kyu, the team’s manager at the time, responded to a reporter who asked about the reasons behind his re-signing by saying, “The baseball world is a mess these days. I thought the talk of changing the manager if we don’t win would have an impact. In order to empower the manager, I informed him of the re-signing policy.” Although he didn’t want to, he was forced to re-sign the contract because of public opinion. Although the team has won two consecutive games since the re-signing, it hasn’t left a pleasant aftertaste.

This season, the team’s leadership has been severely undermined. A fan “sniped” at Kim Won-hyung on Jung Yong-jin’s social media (SNS), and the owner responded by saying, “You’re not the only one” and “wait and see”. This is not how normal owners respond on social media.

There was a huge backlash because the owner was agreeing with the manager’s criticism. In baseball circles, it was seen as a de facto notice of dismissal. As one baseball writer put it, “The owner has publicly executed the manager.” During the semi-playoffs, which ended with three consecutive losses, it was reported that the owner left before the game was over. It was speculated that the owner was “enraged” by SSG’s lethargic performance. All the clues were pointing in one direction: firing the head coach, and as everyone expected, Kim was fired.

“It’s not a disciplinary action that the club can take”

Given the circumstances, there is a natural suspicion that owner Jung Yong-jin ordered the firing of Kim Won-hyung. However, SSG strongly denies that “there was no order from the owner to dismiss the head coach.” They explain that the decision was made after in-depth discussions internally, and the owner only gave the final approval. In an official statement, SSG said, “After the postseason, we conducted an intense internal review and realized that change and innovation were necessary for the team to continue to evolve. Initially, the changes were focused on player and coaching staff composition, generational changes, team management, and on-field operations, and have now expanded to include a head coach change.” A key SSG official said, “We know that the outside world is looking at us with suspicion, but it is an accurate fact that there was no owner’s instruction in the process of replacing the head coach.”

Of course, compared to last year’s championship season, Kim Won-hyung’s leadership this season was not without its shortcomings. During the season, there was a lot of disagreement with the coaching staff, and there were a lot of disappointments in player selection and game management. However, opinions differ on whether it’s time to change the coach. The “generational change” rationale for the change is not very convincing. SSG is the “oldest” baseball team in the league with an average age of 28.9 years old. They have two of the oldest players in the league in Choo Shin-soo and Kim Kang-min, as well as Ko Hyo-joon, who is 40, and Noh Kyung-eun, who will turn 40 next year. Many of the other main players are in their mid-30s or older, including Choi Jung (36), Han Yoo-seom (34), Choi Joo-hwan (35), and Kim Sung-hyun (36). It was SSG, not Kim Won-hyung, who signed these players and organized the team.

A baseball player pointed out, “When they won the unified championship last year, they boasted of the ‘power of veterans,’ but now, a year later, they are claiming the existence of veterans as the reason for the need for ‘generation change. “A ‘win-now’ team that competes in the postseason like SSG cannot artificially change its generation,” said another club management team official. It doesn’t make sense to develop prospects in the first team when the team’s total salary is the highest in the league. If Kim Won-hyung had used younger prospects and the team had fallen out of the top five, that would have been another reason to replace him.”

In response to the ‘generation change’ slogan, SSG head Kim Sung-yong gave a principled answer, saying, “Generation change doesn’t happen all at once,” “Harmony and balance between new and old is important,” and “Being a senior doesn’t mean you’re automatically subject to reorganization.” ‘Generation change’ is not the real reason for the coach’s dismissal, but rather a cover story. In fact, the SSG official also revealed the complexity of the decision, saying, “It would be disrespectful to the manager if we disclosed all the details of the decision process. SSG insists that “running a baseball team is separate from the group.” Kim said, “The rules of our new world are autonomous. The rules of our new world are autonomous, and we don’t receive daily instructions from the group, but the club moves with its own direction,” he said, adding, “I wish they would stop associating themselves with the group.”

On the other hand, there is a strong mistrust of SSG’s claims in baseball circles. A local club manager said, “Such a decision is not at the level of the club. Kim Won-hyung signed a three-year contract totaling 2.2 billion won ($2.2 million), and who would believe if the club decided to throw away the remaining two years of such a large contract and the owner approved it?” Another member of the club’s management team said, “It’s already public knowledge that SSG is not run in that way. Who would believe them if they said they were ‘autonomous’ after everything the owner has said and done.”

A baseball veteran I met during the postseason had a different take. “I think it’s even weirder that there’s so much denial of the owner’s influence,” he said. “Normally, big decisions like hiring and firing managers are made by the owners. Of course, the clubs also have opinions and recommend candidates, but in the end, it’s up to the owners to choose. In the case of the Doosan Bears, who appointed Lee Seung-yeop last year, the owner himself chose the manager.” “However, it’s hard to believe that the baseball team, which is the most active in public relations, claims that there were no instructions from the owner,” said the official. 아톰카지노 주소

Praise for the owner, criticism for the team?

The baseball player added, “I would have believed the ‘autonomous management’ claim if the owner was not visible or rarely visited the ballpark like other clubs. But SSG advertised that the owner would be on the field once or twice a week, intuiting and communicating directly with the players. Last winter, there were allegations of backroom dealings during the managerial transition, some of which were confirmed. He’s been more involved in the organization than anyone else, and he’s been on the front lines of the organization, so it’s really strange to hear him say, ‘We don’t take orders from the owner.'” In baseball circles, there is even talk that SSG, which came under fire last year for its off-the-field activities, is trying to use the owner as a shield against controversy and criticism.

In the drama “Stobrig,” which aired three years ago, the Jae Song Group, determined to ruin the baseball team, orders Baek Seung-soo (played by Nam Goong-min) to reduce the total amount of the players’ salaries to an unreasonable level. After completing the ‘slash and burn’ salary contract as ordered by the group, Baek turns to CEO Kwon Kyung Min (Oh Jung Se) and says, “Didn’t you get angry while signing the contract? It’s a ridiculous amount of money and only the underlings are fighting in the mud like that…. I’m even more angry because I won that mud fight.” He expresses his anger. When Mr. Kwon offers to raise the team’s salary, he says, “Just think of all the times we’ve had to blush and bruise our egos during negotiations because of ‘that money’ that you could give us on a whim.”

Baek’s use of the word “impromptu” illustrates a long-standing problem in Korean baseball: the way “owner baseball” works. It’s great that an owner shows interest and love for the team. However, it is best when the owner’s interest is literally limited to interest. The moment an owner’s love of baseball crosses the line and becomes “owner baseball,” the system the team has worked so hard to build becomes useless and the direction of the team becomes meaningless. It is difficult for a baseball team to have a vision and prepare for the future if everyone is looking at the owner and the owner can come and go as he pleases.

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