NC Dinos fire manager as woes continue on and off the field
The last-place NC Dinos' tough start to the 2022 KBO season took another turn for the worse on Wednesday, when the Changwon club fired manager Lee Dong-wook.
Lee has been with the Dinos since the club joined the KBO in 2013, working in a number of coaching positions before he took the top job in 2019. He was at the helm in 2020 when the Dinos won their first regular season and championship titles.
Lee’s departure comes in the midst of an absolutely terrible early season for the Dinos, with just nine wins in 34 games and a seven-game losing streak on the go as of press time Thursday.
Making matters worse, the Dinos squad is largely unchanged from that 2020 team. With the notable exception of slugger Na Sung-bum, who moved to the Kia Tigers through free agency during the offseason, the Dinos haven’t seen a massive change to their roster in the last two years.
In fact, the Dinos have actually bolstered their offensive lineup. While Na may have left, the Dinos spent 16.4 billion won ($12.7 million) on outfielders Park Kun-woo, formerly of the Doosan Bears, and Son Ah-seop, formerly of the Lotte Giants. So far the two big free agents have done little to help NC’s chances.
The last year has also seen the Dinos attract a significant amount of controversy, seriously denting the club’s public image and potentially impacting the team’s performance on the field as well.
Last year, four NC Dinos players — outfielders Kwon Hui-dong and Lee Myung-ki and infielders Park Min-woo and Park Sok-min — were suspended after breaking Covid-19 quarantine rules and triggering an outbreak that forced the KBO to cancel a week of games in the middle of the 2021 season.
The four players gathered in a hotel room while on the road in Seoul on July 5, 2021, eating chicken and drinking beer with two acquaintances. The gathering breached Covid-19 social distancing rules, which at the time limited group meetings to four people, and went late into the night.
Three of the four Dinos players later tested positive for Covid-19, with only Park Min-woo, who had been fully vaccinated as a member of the Olympic squad, testing negative.
The infections spread to the Doosan Bears, who the Dinos were playing at the time, and eventually caused the KBO to halt all games from July 13, one week before the Olympic break was supposed to begin. Park Min-woo did not compete at the Olympics.
The breach of Covid-19 rules angered fans, who have, on the most part, been following strict rules that limit the number of people able to attend baseball games, require them to sit in separated seats and ban alcohol or food from the stands.
Those players completed their league-mandated bans last month and just a couple of weeks later the Dinos were once again caught up in a fresh controversy after two coaches got in a fight last week.
Coach Han Kyu-sik was taken into police custody on charges of assaulting coach Yong Duk-han in an altercation that allegedly took place in a bar in Daegu while the Dinos were on the road taking on the Samsung Lions. Han was immediately fired by the club, while Yong was removed from the active roster.
Bench coach Kang In-kwon will attempt to steer the seriously listing Dinos ship back on course as interim coach until the club decides to appoint a full-time replacement. Outgoing manager Lee will also stay on with the club in an advisory role.
BY JIM BULLEY [email@example.com]