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[The Spin]The coaching hot potato that nobody wants

Nov 06,2008
Why has coaching the Korean national baseball team at the 2009 World Baseball Classic reached the top of the “not-to-do” list of managers?

It’s simple - there’s almost nothing to gain and everything to lose.

Late Wednesday, the Korea Baseball Organization nominated the Hanwha Eagles’ manager Kim In-sik for the job. Kim guided Korea to the surprising semifinal berth at the inaugural WBC in 2006. That ranked as the nation’s finest baseball achievement until Korea won gold by winning all nine games at the Beijing Olympics this year.

When Korea fields its national team with the possibility of major leaguers who were missing from the Beijing squad joining the domestic stars, expectations will be such that anything short of a semifinal berth will be deemed a failure.

Remember, the U.S. and the Japanese teams will have their major league stars, too, after not having them available in Beijing. Though the WBC is in March and players won’t quite be in mid-season form, the competition level at that tournament will be much stiffer than at the Olympics.

So managers are trying to pass on the job like vampires pushing away garlic cloves. And the KBO’s handling of the matter leaves much to be desired, too.

Kim Kyung-moon, the Doosan Bears’ manager who led the gold medal team, said he didn’t want to be with the 2009 WBC team because the Korean Series winning manager deserves the position. That winner, the SK Wyverns’ manager Kim Sung-keun, declined to take the job, citing health concerns after a long season. After undergoing surgery for kidney cancer a decade ago, Kim, 65, has been living with one kidney and says he grows fatigued easily.

And the KBO’s technical committee unanimously decided to nominate Kim In-sik, who said he would reach a decision this week. For the record, Kim, too, had previously said the job was too stressful for his own good. The 61-year-old suffered a stroke in late 2004.

Still, the committee said it “hopes Kim In-sik sacrifices for the team and the nation.”

Why should Kim risk his health when no one else was willing to do so? What has the KBO got against him? Couldn’t they have found someone healthier and more motivated? For all of his managerial acumen, Kim is essentially being forced into a job that apparently no one else wants.

Yes, Kim Sung-keun is soon-to-be 66 and said he isn’t healthy enough to manage Korea for maybe one month. But he was good enough to survive the stress-packed playoffs for consecutive years.

Both Kim Sung-keun and Kim In-sik have professional obligations with their clubs and it’s difficult to shake off the impression that the senior Kim simply passed on the job to the junior Kim.

It may be understandable that none of the managers wants to follow the gold medal-winning act from Beijing. But before the Beijing Games, Kim Kyung-moon had his share of burden and expectations. And the Olympics came smack in the middle of the season. He managed under the microscope and came out victorious.

It won’t be easy at the WBC, for sure, but rather than considering it a must-avoid job, perhaps managers would see it as an opportunity to build a new legacy.


By Yoo Jee-ho Staff Reporter [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]




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