Saturday, November 29, 2008

Baseball slammed by sign trading row

A current Korea Baseball Organizaton manager has accused several players of trading pitching signs with their opponents during games, forcing the league to launch an investigation.Kim Jae-park, the LG Twins’ manager, told reporters in Jinju, South Gyeongsang, late Monday that some umpires had informed him that in 2008, there were “a few” players who gave away their own pitchers’ signals to their opponents. “The umpires told me that after the season,” Kim told Ilgan Sports, a sister publication of the JoongAng Daily.

His Twins wrapped up their end-of-year training camp in the southern town on Monday.“The KBO should take steps to prevent that from happening again next season,” Kim added. “The KBO should offer league-wide education on this matter.” Kim made his comments when the subject moved to the match-fixing scandal that has marred Korea’s third-tier football league, K3, over the past week.

One player was arrested and four others were detained for investigation for allegedly receiving cash from Chinese gamblers in exchange for throwing a match. Seoul’s Yongsan police yesterday detained four players from an industrial league club on similar charges. Kim told reporters that baseball, though it hasn’t had to deal with match fixing, is not safe from other inappropriate shenanigans. He, however, declined to name the players or the umpires. But he is the first active manager to acknowledge trading of pitching signs in the KBO.

Earlier in the year, there was a rumor within baseball circles that a veteran nearing retirement was giving opposing hitters signs while he was in the field and received pitcher’s signs in return when he was at bat. The player and his manager denied the allegation. Also, a catcher was suspected of telling opposing hitters about the pitch selection when a certain foreign pitcher on his team took the mound.

Sign stealing, which sometimes involves the runner on second base trying to decode the catcher’s sign for his teammate at the plate, has been a common practice in baseball. But it’s unusual for one player to trade signs with an opponent during games. On the condition of anonymity, one umpire told the Ilgan Sports that some catchers are known to tell rookies what the next pitch will be in blowout situations, but added, “Even that is quite rare. I suspect the whole sign-trading issue has been blown out of proportion.” The umpire also said, “If one of us has told Kim Jae-park about this, then that umpire is at fault, too.”

Meanwhile, the KBO scrambled yesterday to look further into the manager’s charges. Ha Il-sung, the KBO’s secretary general, said: “I don’t know how an active manager could have said such things. We will try to find out whether his comments are true or not.” Kim himself backtracked yesterday. He said he doesn’t have any more details on sign trading.

By Kim Sung-won JoongAng Ilbo/ Yoo Jee-ho Staff Reporter []

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