Samsung coach Park Jin-man paid a hefty price and studied hard during his first season as a coach last year. He fought well with a 50-percent match until April, but failed to overcome his inferiority in depth due to a flurry of variables, and engaged in an uphill battle for a long time. Samsung has filled the void by recruiting players from outside the offseason. However, not many people see Samsung as a definite “big five” yet. In a telephone conversation with a reporter ahead of his spring camp departure in January, Park summarized his views on related topics based on his experiences from last year.
“At this point, there will be some assessment from the outside. However, a professional baseball pennant race is a game of variables. It is a game of reducing variables. A team that uses its best power will eventually be on the top.”
In terms of variables, a large variable that can be linked to all 10 teams has popped up. It is difficult to predict how the aftermath of KIA manager Kim Jong-guk, who was generally classified as a potential winner in the evaluation of new season’s power including self-analysis of each team using the Saber Matrix, will appear in the process of preparing for the season.
Kia has even been narrowly evaluated as the semi-finals with the defending champion LG depending on the performance of new foreign pitchers. It was broadly classified as a team in the semi-finals with KT and NC.
There are also quite a few voices suggesting that a manager’s “WAR” (contribution to victory over a substitute) in a professional baseball game is not significant. However, it is difficult to quantify a manager’s impact as simply as a pitcher’s or batter’s record. For example, power factors, which are read as “feeling” such as mood, concentration, and tension of a team, tend to come from the manager’s each and every move. In the same vein, LG Twins general manager Cha Myung-seok said, “The first win can be made with the team’s power, but the second win and the dynasty can be made with the coach’s philosophy.”
There have been no cases in the history of the KBO League where unexpected variables have popped up like this year’s KIA, but there have been many cases where the absence of the manager at the spring camp has negatively affected the team’s race. Manager Kim In-sik, who led the WBC (World Baseball Classic) national team to the finals in 2009, made a great achievement in the history of Korean baseball, but had to leave the team’s Hanwha camp. Hanwha, which had a winning rate of 0.508 in 2008, fell to the bottom with a winning rate of 0.346 in 2009. Coincidentally, KT, a team of manager Lee Kang-chul, who led the WBC national team early last spring, also had a hard time falling to the bottom in the early days of the season.
KIA is reportedly quickly listing its new coach candidates. However, the lack of such a reference case makes both selection and final selection difficult. Legendary former coach Lee Jong-beom was mentioned first in the “common sense” because he thought of the right candidate under the premise that he was in an emergency situation. Lee Jong-beom is a name that is directly related to the “big name effect,” which is special for changing the situation.
In addition, the most important part of the team is to select a person who can “fully” continue the concept that was materialized throughout the winter. For this reason, many people are mentioning names that are realistic or have recent managerial experience. Kia should welcome a new coach while minimizing changes in its coaching staff that have already been set. It should find a person who can flexibly represent the current team’s color, rather than the color of the new coach.
This is also not an easy task, but it is positive that veteran players such as Choi Hyung-woo, Yang Hyun-jong, and Na Sung-beom showed concrete confidence in this season’s victory. They showed no hesitation in raising their goals for the new season through interviews with reporters recently introduced on the sports trend baseball channel “Choi Kang-Bol-Pen.” Amid the manager’s absence, they also seem to have the power to support the team’s atmosphere for a while.