I was all set to write something nice about Korean baseball. You see, there’s an oil spill west of Korea and one of the teams is helping clean it up. I may still write something. But, you know, I’m a little tired today. Long day down at the ol’ meat processing plant, so I’m a little touchy. Instead we’re going to go over this fine piece of work from the pen of Kang Seung-woo. It’s another multi-dimensional article printed by the Korea Times.
Multi-dimensional because while it presents some decent info, it also manages to be badly edited (at least in the headline) and while I don’t want to call it racist, it does express a certain level of disdain for foreign baseball players in Korea. It’s much more fun to write about than your average middle-of-the-road information-based article. Especially when your hands are so sore from picking up sides of beef and pig all day.
Let’s start with the title:
Better Devil You Know
So here we have a “twist” on the familiar idiom sometimes the devil you you know is better than the devil you don’t know. Of course this would be a chopped up idiot editor version, but we get the gist. As far as idioms go, I can live with it. My grandmother liked it too, but then she stopped saying it in 1988 when she felt it had gone out of style.
But that’s beside the point. This is an article about foreign players in Korean baseball and how teams in the Korean league, rather than looking overseas and signing an unknown personality, their signing players who have already played in Korea.
This idea is logical. As we know, signing a player who has never set foot in Japan or Korea can sometimes produce disastrous results, this, seemingly regardless of the player’s level of talent. So it probably does make sense for the Doosan Bears to bring back a player like Gary Rath, who has lived in Korean, eaten Kimchi etc., as opposed to signing a talent with slightly more upside.
But why are we calling them “devils”? Don’t think for a second this is a mistake on the part of the writer (or more accurately, the headline editor). There are far better pieces on this subject that what I will write here, but the Korean media’s ideas about foreign blood would probably surprise you if you delve into it just a little.
The article mentions the fact that two American pitchers, Jamie Brown and Chris Oxspring, have signed with the LG Twins. Brown has played with Samsung for two years and is one of the better pitchers (of any race) in the league. Oxspring came over from the U.S. in July and posted a 3.24 ERA for a fairly bad team. This will give the Twins one of the better 1-2 punches in the league.
“It is not risky to bring Brown because he has already vindicated he is effective in Korea,” the Twins said. “Jamsil Stadium is much bigger than Daegu Stadium, so he will be able to throw more with comfort.”
The next piece of useful info is that Jacob Cruz of the Hanwha Eagles is moving over to Samsung.
Even though his chronic Achilles tendon injury and sluggish exhibition in the postseason caused the Eagles to release him, his prolific stats of 22 home runs and 85 RBIs ― both categories ranking in the top five ― with a batting average of .321, are enough to attract the offense-poor Lions.
Cruz wasn’t released. His contract expired. Maybe Hanwha choose not to sign Cruz, but that’s not a release. My guess is that Cruz went to Samsung because they offered him more money. Offensively he was one of the best position players in the league. Not only was he in the Top 5 in HR and RBI, he was 6th in BA and third in slugging. PS: “prolific” is a bad word choice. It contradicts what you’re saying about him being chronically injured (by the way, he missed five games last season). Prolific is something like fertile. Cruz had one very good season.
This kind of phenomenon is likely to continue because teams have suffered setbacks with their new imports, even though they had high-profile careers. It has been common that former U.S. Major Leaguers leave Korea even before playing their final game of the season.
That right, because Korean teams sign foreign players and toss them aside like garbage if they don’t immediately produce. This makes for a league where Korean players are glued to the same team for their entire career, because teams that sign free agents must pay such high compensation, but foreign players are shuffled around two and even three times in a year. Typically, this has bearing on who wins the Championship, since foreigners are more often than not, bat in the middle of lineups or are at the front end of starting rotations.
I could be wrong, but off the top of my head, I can’t think of a single foreign player that has “left” a team. The writer isn’t saying they “leave” teams as in walk out, although he’s insinuating it by phrasing it that way.
In addition, as released players sometimes revive their careers with another team ― like Rios, Rath, Tilson Brito, Mark Keeper and Martinez ― each club sets its eye on players active in Korea.
Um, Rios was never released. He was traded and then he recently left Korea because teams won’t pay him big money like Japanese teams will (did).