SBS failed Korea by not showing Song’s 200th winWhen Song Jin-woo of the Hanwha Eagles, the country's all-time winningest pitcher, rides into the sunset we will know all about it. Or will we?
Song clinched his 200th win against the Kia Tigers on Aug. 28, but the game was not shown live on television. SBS Sports chose instead to show a game in Japan involving Lee Seung-yeop of the Yomiuri Giants. Song’s game was shown in a picture-in-picture delayed mode from time to time. It was frustrating, to put it mildly.
When the 40-year-old lefthander retires, the milestones next to his name in the record books will include most innings pitched and most strikeouts by a South Korean pitcher. He had 2,801 innings and 1,920 strikeouts as of last week. His uniform number, 21, will also be retired.
Hanwha has announced it will establish a museum to honor Song’s baseball achievements. Through last week, his overall record was 200-142 with a 3.44 ERA and 102 saves. His next goals are to get another 50 wins and pitch 3,000 innings. With his superb conditioning, I think he has a decent shot.
As usual, Song’s words were sparse when he made a speech on the field after the game, but he said it would have been better if fans could have watched the game on television, too.
Afterward, the Korea Baseball Organization came out firing, saying it would try to exclude SBS Sports from getting broadcasting rights in the future. SBS Sports defended its decision, saying Song’s start last week (his fifth shot at his 200th win) was unexpected and didn’t match the pitching rotation it had expected, thus it had scheduled the Yomiuri Giants game. SBS said rescheduling their broadcast at the time was not easy. Granted, I have been enjoying Lee’s hunt for the home run title in Japan as much as anyone, but I think even Lee himself would have said that Song’s game deserved priority.
When a domestic TV network decides to show a different game over one that is going to leave a mark in the country’s baseball history, it does not look good for the future of sports. It’s no secret that since 1995, the number of fans going to the ballpark has been in continuous decline. Eleven years ago, 5.4 million went to watch a game, but it was down to 3.3 million last year. Considering that the five-day work week began last year, and baseball here may have received an emergency shot in the arm. However, if television networks here only follow the money, the long-term future is indeed bleak.
The Korean Baseball Organization has admitted it made a mistake last year when it sold TV broadcasting rights to the three major stations. The deal gives SBS, MBC and KBS the right to resell the rights to cable networks for the next four years.
The KBO said that it would try to buy the rights back and resell them under strict rules that would protect the domestic league. To be honest, this is an uphill battle that the organization is likely to lose. With fans’ attendance continuing to decline, networks are in a better bargaining position.
At the end of the day, punching that ballpark ticket or turning on the game is what we can do to help our ballplayers to continue to make history.
by Brian Lee