For Korean major leaguers, let’s wait ’til next year

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For Korean major leaguers, let’s wait ’til next year

At the end of the regular season, the performance of Korean major leaguers doesn’t leave much to speak of. Those who stepped on the mound for their teams got pummeled, and those who were supposed to be in the batter’s box spent considerable time as benchwarmers.
How about Park Chan-ho of the Texas Rangers? He was a mere shadow of his former self this season. Park posted 13 or more wins a season from 1997 to 2001 while with the Dodgers. But his move to Texas has become a total disaster; he is now a financial burden on the club.
I am a big fan of Park because I like his aggressive pitching style and I still have memories of his heyday. He was also the first Korean to make it to the big show.
But this season we witnessed Park trying to become a control pitcher as he lost his velocity. Bad idea. Park never was and never will be a control pitcher. He relies on his fastball to overpower batters, and it was with this fastball that he used to set up his slurve. With no fastball, he is toothless.
Batters just wait and hack away at pitches they know to look for. This season, Park was unable to work the count to his advantage, often falling behind. With the batter ahead in the count, he was forced into trying to throw strikes, which just made matters worse. It was a disaster waiting to happen.
Park already had a bad record in the “base on balls” and “hit by pitches” categories. Even in his best season in 2000, when he had a 18-10 record, he issued 124 free tickets to first base while hitting 12 batters.
This season, he posted a 4-7 record with a 5.46 ERA, and he still has two years left on the $65 million contract that brought him to the Rangers.
Texas is in a rebuilding mode, a successful one at that, as they got rid of expensive players like Alex Rodriguez and found young and cheap players who performed very well. By springing a package deal in the off-season, the Rangers could unload players they think they can replace with people from their farm system. Alfonso Soriano could be one choice, as no team will be willing to gamble on Park alone.
I’ve suggested that a change of scenery may help give Park a fresh start. Neither the hot weather nor the hitter-friendly ballpark in Arlington is helping him.
The last game of the regular season Park was exceptional; he gave up only two hits and held a three-run lead until the seventh against the Mariners. I sincerely hope Park remembers his pitching mechanism of that day because he’ll need it.
Park gets his velocity from the strength of his thighs; he uses them to drive his body forward when throwing the ball. Inconsistencies in his delivery style and leg injuries have hampered his pitching. Pitchers often injure themselves by putting too much force into the wrong mechanics.
Park must find out what’s wrong with his delivery. He landed a big contract because he had a break-out year in his second-to-last season with the Dodgers, but he hasn’t lived up to his end of the bargain.
With more than 10 years’ experience, Park should have an idea of his body’s condition. Getting 100 percent healthy would be the best thing he could do for himself. If he’s healthy, he has the experience to bounce back.


by Brian Lee
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