Park Chan-ho paves the way for Asian baseball playersPark Chan-ho has a funny accent (Korean). He has had his share of boos, bad calls from umpires, botched plays (by himself or through his teammates), balks and occasional outbursts from the dugout. And now, roughly 12 seasons of a major league baseball career and a season high 6-1 record are also his.
Many of us thought that Park’s days were numbered when he started to go downhill three seasons ago. Injuries kept him in and out of the lineup, while in the few games in which he did step up to the pitching mound he proved mostly ineffective. With his poor performance he drew justified criticism from the press, and Rangers’ fans rightly called for his head as he hardly lived up to the $65 million contract that he was given when he signed on for five years.
I don’t know whether Park and the Rangers still have a future together. But I do know this: Park is beginning the second phase of his major league career and I think he’ll be around for a while.
He won’t go to the Hall of Fame, nor will he get a Cy Young award. His stuff isn’t good enough to carry him there. But he has a chance of compiling the most wins by any Asian pitcher to pitch in the major leagues. He’ll have to compete with Hideo Nomo, who has 121 wins, but he has a legitimate chance.
For me, that’s cause enough to pay my respects to Park. He has helped pave the way for Asian baseball players in the major leagues. If he had not had his early success with the Los Angeles Dodgers it would have taken longer for major league teams to take a risk and draft someone from Asia.
Judging from the way he is pitching, I think Park has learned his lessons. Granted, his current record was possible because he got help from his teammates. Lots of help. But he does not break down after giving up big innings and has finally realized that he can’t blow out anyone with his fastball anymore, and that he does not need to.
He keeps his head in the game, and hangs around long enough to give his team a chance to do something.
In a way, the slump that Park was in has prolonged his career. He was under constant pressure, not only from his own team but from the millions of South Koreans who have been following his every move. Whatever he did, his action became automatically amplified, whether good or bad. He has now seen both sides of the coin of stardom. Park has the ability to handle his emotions better than before, and that will help him in his game. As long as he does not forget that he does not need to carry the whole team, he will be fine.
His arsenal could change over the years, but I don’t expect a drastic change. He will rely more on experience now, and he has plenty of that.
The 100 wins that Park now has are great, but realistically are nothing more than a number. There are more than 500 pitchers who have already done that. Nevertheless, what he has given us, or at least South Koreans, is a story and memories that many will carry for a long time.
And that is worth something. To youngsters who aspire one day to follow in his footsteps, he has given hopes and dreams. How many of us can say they have done that?
by Brian Lee