Doosan Bears dump skipperKim Jin-wook, 53, the skipper of the Doosan Bears, the runner-up club in the Korean Series, was fired late Wednesday evening. The team appointed Song Il-soo, 63, the skipper of the Bears’ Futures’ League Team, which is equivalent to a Triple-A team in Major League Baseball, as manager. He was given a three-year, 1 billion won ($942,000) contract that includes a 250 million won signing bonus.
Fans are outraged that the Bears fired Kim, who led the team to a second-place finish this season, and analysts fear that contracts between team and their managers are becoming useless. Kim became the seventh coach in Korean Baseball Organization history to be fired after losing a Korean Series.
Kim signed a three-year deal with the Bears in 2012 and finished his debut season in third place. This year, he led the Bears to the Korean Series by beating their Seoul rivals, the Nexen Heroes and the LG Twins, after finishing the regular season in fourth place.
“Kim and the club have the same goal [winning the Korean Series],” a spokesman of the Bears said. “We realized that we have different ideas in accomplishing that goal. The leadership of the club judged that Kim hadn’t led the team well in big games like the Korean Series.”
In the last postseason, critics slammed Kim’s tactics, including his pitching changes and lineup choices. The Bears led the best-of-seven Korean Series, 3-1, then lost three straight games.
Sources inside the Bears franchise said Kim is the type of skipper who doesn’t say much to players and waits until they play better after making mistakes, but sometimes he also had a hard time controlling big-name veteran players. Some players complained of a communication gap with Kim.
Song was a catcher with Japan’s Kintetsu (now Orix) Buffaloes from 1969 to 1983. He also played for three years with the Samsung Lions. After he retired, he worked as a coach for the Buffaloes and as a scout for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. He became the skipper of the Bears’ Futures’ League team this season.
“He is the type of person who sticks with his principles in running a team and is also a person who cares about players’ fundamentals,” the Bears said. “We expect that he could show fans a higher level of baseball than we have been playing as he is capable of managing big games. And because he was the skipper of the Futures’ League team, we think Song can develop a closer relationship with many of our young players.”
The move shocked the new coach.
“I was very surprised by this decision because I never have been informed about this from the club,” Song said. “I will try my best to show fun and winning baseball games to fans.”
It seems like the Bears are rebuilding the club. Three big-name veterans - center fielder Lee Jong-wook, shortstop Son Si-heon and slugger Choi Jun-suk - left the team as free agents. Also, outfielder Lim Jae-chul, left-handed reliever Lee Hye-chun and infielder Kim Sang-hyun left the team through the second-round draft, a system in which teams can acquire a player who isn’t included on a team’s 40-man roster every two years, and former MLB pitcher Kim Sun-woo was released earlier this week.
KBO teams generally offer three-year contracts to managers as they think a two-year contract is too short for a skipper to show his team-management skills, but four- or five-year contracts are considered risky. Including Song, eight of the nine skippers have three-year deals. The only exception is the Hanwha Eagles’ Kim Euong-yong, who has a two-year contract.
But the coaches’ contracts don’t seem secure. Since 2009, nine skippers; Sun Dong-yul of the Samsung Lions, Park Jong-hun of the LG Twins, Kim Kyung-moon and Kim Jin-wook of the Bears, Kim Si-jin of the Nexen Heroes, Yang Seung-ho of the Lotte Giants, Kim Sung-keun of the SK Wyverns, Cho Bum-hyun of the Kia Tigers and Han Dae-hwa of the Eagles, were fired or “forced to resign” during their terms. For most of them, the reason was simple: They lost too many games. The only exception was the Lions’ Sun, who now manages the Tigers. The Lions fired Sun before the 2011 season to make Ryu Joong-il, who was their franchise star shortstop, the skipper.
BY KWON SANG-SOO [firstname.lastname@example.org]