How easy is the second Kim Gwang-hyun… Failed generation change, judgment and method were regrettable
Lee Kang-cheol-ho, who advocated a generational change in Korean baseball, gave more despair than hope by making unfortunate choices.
The Korean national team,안전놀이터 led by head coach Lee Kang-chul, returned home via Incheon International Airport on the afternoon of the 14th.
At the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC), the Korean national team, which aimed to advance to the semifinals after the 2009 tournament, accepted the worst record of being eliminated in the first round of three consecutive tournaments. According to the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) announced earlier this year, Korea is in the same group as Australia (10th), the Czech Republic (15th), and China (30th), which are rated one step below Japan (1st), except for Japan (1st). It is a popular opinion in the baseball world that it was not the power to be eliminated in the first round.
The failure of this competition leaves a greater regret in that it put the generational change at the forefront. Of the 15 final entry pitching staff, there are only five pitchers in their 30s: Kim Gwang-hyeon (35, SSG), Yang Hyeon-jong (35, KIA), Lee Yong-chan (34, NC), Ko Young-pyo (31, KT), and Kim Won-joong (30, Lotte). In that sense, the will to change generations seemed firm. However, amid poor physical condition of some pitchers, the young players had to play their first international stage in the worst environment.
A typical example was Kim Yun-sik (23, LG) in the Korea-Japan match. At that time, Kim Yun-shik took the mound in place of Jeong Cheol-won (24, Doosan) at the third base undefeated at the end of the 6th inning when Korea trailed 4-6. However, he was replaced by Kim Won-joong without even getting an out count, allowing a series of walks—balls that fit the body—push walks.
It’s hard to see that the choice was completely wrong. Kim Yun-sik was a player with good control in the KBO League last year with 2.13 walks per 9 innings. However, he overlooked the fact that a young pitcher’s first appearance in an international competition is a highly important game that must be won in a close match between Korea and Japan.
Maybe he hoped that the second Kim Kwang-hyun would appear. At the time of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Kim Gwang-hyun started twice against Japan at the age of 20 and recorded an average ERA of 1.64, attracting attention as the next-generation ace. Ace was a case proving the myth that growth amidst crises.
However, it is not easy for a pitcher like Kim Gwang-hyun to come out. Even Kim Gwang-hyun took the mound as a familiar starter in the team atmosphere of the winning streak and took the burden to a minimum. If I wanted to help young players to show their best skills, I should have put in all of Kim Gwang-hyun and Park Se-woong (26, Lotte), who were in good condition, to win one win.
As a result, the eight pitchers in their 20s who took the mound against Korea and Japan realized only the high wall of the world. Tokyo Dome full of visiting fans, the uniqueness of the Korea-Japan match, and the pressure of having to win unconditionally, etc., failed to withstand the triple difficulties and collapsed one after another.
2023 is a very important year for Korean baseball. Starting with the WBC, major international competitions such as the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games and the 2023 Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC) are concentrated, so it is considered the right time for a generational change.
First of all, the first attempt failed due to poor judgment and methods. The next-generation pitching staff, other than Park Se-woong, did not stand out, and rather, they only had trouble with the speed and control below the world standard. Needless to say, it was difficult to select the national team, and only six of the 15 players were in their 20s.
It is positive that through this tournament, regardless of generation, Korean baseball was not a frog in a well. All development begins with knowing oneself. The baseball world is looking forward to seeing the results of development in the 2023 KBO League, which will open soon, and the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games, which will be held in the second half.