Tag Archives: baseball

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Fully Recovered, Shin-Soo Choo is Ready to Rebound in 2015

by STEVE HAN | @steve_han
steve@iamkoream.com

After signing a lucrative $130 million contract, nothing went right for Texas Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo in 2014. Playing through injuries, Choo hit a career-low .242 in 123 games before an elbow surgery finally ruled him out for the season in late August.

Evidently, the 32-year-old fell far below expectations and was soon labeled a “bust” by fans and media alike.

“I know what kind of things are being said about me,” Choo told Naver Sports. “It’s something I’ll have to accept. I was hurt all season, but my team needed me. So I decided that playing through pain was the best I could do for my team. The only thing that hurts me is when I hear people denounce my entire career because of one bad season I had.”

Going into this past season, Choo was widely considered one of the best outfielders in the major leagues. Between 2006 and 2013, his batting average fell below .280 just once in eight seasons, during which he eclipsed the .300 mark three times. He even turned down a $140 million offer from the New York Yankees to sign with the Rangers as he felt that he would have a better shot at winning.

However, after reaching the World Series twice in the last four years, the Rangers also suffered their worst season in recent memory and finished with the worst record in the American League at 67-95. And Choo went down with them.

Choo, who recently started practicing in Dallas after recovering from the elbow surgery, said he has never started to prepare for a season earlier than this time around. He vowed to make the upcoming 2015 season a turning point of his career and return as one of the most dynamic outfielders in baseball.

“I’m sure the efforts I’m making now will pay off,” Choo said. “I no longer want to take any more criticism. At the end of the day, I’m sure all the struggles I’ve been through this season will be remembered as times I feel thankful for after I overcome. I’ll regain the faith from fans who became frustrated from watching me struggle this year.”

Read KoreAm’s August/September cover story on Shin-Soo Choo here.

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Kim Kwang-hyun Rejects Offer from San Diego Padres

by STEVE HAN | @steve_han
steve@iamkoream.com

There goes another one. South Korea’s star left-hander Kim Kwang-hyun will not be pitching in the major leagues next year after he failed to reach an agreement with the San Diego Padres before Thursday’s deadline, according to multiple reports.

Kim’s nixed deal with the Padres comes only two weeks after another South Korean pitcher, Yang Hyeon-jong, fell short of signing with a major league ballclub after his team, the Kia Tigers, rejected the bid that would’ve allowed him to negotiate a move.

The Padres began a 30-day negotiation period to sign Kim after they made a winning bid of $2 million in a private auction for his services. The SK Wyverns, Kim’s South Korean team, accepted the offer. Represented by his agent Melvin Roman, Kim was even invited to San Diego by the Padres to tour Petco Park, the club’s home stadium last week, but the two sides could not come to terms during the contract negotiation before Thursday’s deadline.

“It’s regretful that I couldn’t agree on a contract with San Diego, but I thank my team, the SK Wyverns, for allowing me to negotiate with a major league franchise,” Kim told the Korean media. “I also thank the San Diego Padres organization for giving me the opportunity and my agent. I will now return to SK, where I’ll try my best once again. I will try to reach the big leagues once I feel more prepared.”

Had Kim signed with the Padres, he would have been South Korea’s third current player to play in the major leagues alongside Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu and Texas Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.

Kim, 26, will be eligible to sign with a major league team after the 2015 season through the same private auction process. He will become an unrestricted free agent after the 2016 season.

Photo courtesy of Hanstar.net

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Kia Tigers Nix Pitcher’s Move to Major Leagues

by STEVE HAN | @steve_han
steve@iamkoream.com

South Korean pitcher Yang Hyeon-jong will not be playing in the major leagues after all as his team has rejected the winning bid for the player that was made by an unnamed American ball club.

Yang’s current team, the Kia Tigers, made the announcement on Tuesday. While the exact amount of the winning bid for the 26-year-old and the team that submitted it haven’t been officially revealed, varying reports have mentioned that the offer was made by either the Minnesota Twins or the Texas Rangers and that the total sum was believed to be around $1.5 million.

Although Yang adamantly expressed his interest in pitching abroad next season, the Tigers said they rejected the bid as the amount was far below what they had expected for their franchise player. Two years ago, the Dodgers made a bid of $25.7 million to the Hanwha Eagles for Hyun-Jin Ryu. But Yang, after posting a 62-42 record with a 4.33 in eight seasons with the Tigers, is widely rated below Ryu, who joined the Dodgers in 2012 after seven seasons with the Eagles, in which he posted a 98-52 record with a 2.80 ERA.

The left-hander could still seek a move to Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball this winter with a permission from the Tigers. However, he will not be eligible to play for a team in the U.S. until he becomes an unrestricted free agent after the 2016 season.

Unlike the Tigers, another Korean baseball team, the SK Wyverns, recently accepted a posting fee of $2 million from the San Diego Padres for its star pitcher Kim Kwang-hyeon. The negotiation between the Padres and Kim is currently underway.

Trying to identify quality Korean pitchers in their domestic league has been a complicated task this year as no player posted an ERA below 3.00 for the 2014 season. Kim, whose expected to sign with the Padres soon, is the only Korean-born pitcher in the Korea Baseball Organization whose ERA this past season was under 4.00. Five other pitchers besides Kim who accomplished the feat were international players.

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SK Wyverns Accept $2 Million Bid for Kim Kwang-hyun

by STEVE HAN

South Korea’s star pitcher Kim Kwang-hyun is on the brink of becoming his country’s next major leaguer after his current team, the SK Wyverns, accepted a $2 million offer from the San Diego Padres for the rights to negotiate with the left-hander on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, the Padres had won the silent auction among ballclubs in the major leagues for Kim. The 26-year-old is eligible for conditional free agency this winter, similar to the case of Hyun-Jin Ryu, who joined the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 through a $25.7 million posting fee, which was paid to his then team, the Hanwha Eagles. It has been widely reported that the Wyverns were incredibly disappointed that the bid for Kim, who was once considered Ryu’s biggest rival in Korea, was significantly lower. However, the team has chosen to accept the offer to “support Kim’s dreams,” said Wyverns general manager Min Kyeong-sam.

“I’m very grateful that the Wyvern’s front office and the owner accepted the Padres offer,” said Kim, who has won three Korean Series titles with an 83-49 record and a 3.30 ERA over his eight-year career in the Korea Baseball Organization. “Now I want to commit myself to an adventurous challenge by starting from the bottom and working my way up in the major leagues.”

The Padres now have a 30-day window to agree on a contract with Kim. If no deal is reached, the $2 million fee will not be paid and the Wyverns will retain Kim until after the 2016 season. Kim, whose current annual salary is at around $250,000, is represented by Melvin Roman of Puerto Rico-based MDR Sports Management, the agent of St. Louis Cardinals star catcher Yadier Molina and Padres’ catcher Rene Rivera, who could potentially be Kim’s battery mate in San Diego next year.

“Obviously, we would have liked it more if the posting fee was higher,” said Min, the Wyverns general manager. “But our mission was to help our player to pursue his dream. I had lunch with [Kim] Kwang-hyun this afternoon and realized how much he wanted to go to the major leagues. So our biggest concern wasn’t whether or not we felt like the Padres’ offer was enough. It was more about whether or not Kwang-hyun was at peace with the offer that was made.”

Kim has mentioned repeatedly that he would settle for any role, including pitching as a middle reliever, to achieve his lifelong dream of playing in the major leagues, but added that he prefers to start. The Padres currently boasts a solid pitching staff both in their starting rotation and the bullpen as it was second in overall team ERA (3.27) and first in ERA among relievers (2.73) in the National League.

“I’m not sure what kind of role the Padres have in mind for me,” Kim said. “What’s important is that I want to eventually be on the mound as a starter. I know that I’ll have to earn that role with my skills. Next year, I’m going to show at Petco Park in San Diego that all the doubts on me now aren’t much to worry about. That will be my No. 1 responsibility.”

The Padres’ interest in Kim are likely due to two main reasons. Even though their current pitching staff was one of the best in the major leagues last season, the Padres are in desperate need of adding more firepower to their offensive bats, which ranked dead last in team batting average last year in the major leagues. Bringing in a quality offensive player via a trade may require the Padres to give up at least one of their established pitchers, in which case, Kim could step in as a replacement for the departing player.

Also, Padres’ second-year general manager A.J. Preller has been actively expanding the team’s focus on utilizing the international market. One of Preller’s priorities is to sign international players, especially after the success of Cuban pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne last year. Aside from Kim, the Padres are also in the running to sign Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas this winter.

Featured image courtesy of Wstar news

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Texas Rangers

Hank Conger Traded to Houston Astros

by JAMES S. KIM

Catcher Hank Conger will be hanging up the halo and heading across the division to the Houston Astros. In return, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will receive the Astro’s No. 13 prospect, pitcher Nick Tropeano, and catcher Carlos Perez, the teams announced Wednesday.

The Huntington Beach native and fan favorite spent his entire major league career with the Angels, but he can look forward to working with a solid pitching staff in Houston. Astros manager A.J. Hinch, a former catcher, said his skills will definitely benefit the team.

“The best catchers really take it personally, interacting and working with pitchers on the staff,” Hinch told MLB.com. “What they do behind the plate is always going to impact the game at a higher level than the bat. … Talking to Conger, he has that mentality, that selfless side of being a catcher that can really elevate what a pitching staff brings to the table.”

Conger, who was taken in the first round (25th overall) in the 2006 Draft, was touted as a switch-hitting offensive catcher as he came up through the Angels’ minor league system. His bat, however, didn’t make too much of an impact when he was promoted in 2010, and he was sent down to the minors in 2011 to work on his lack of defense.

In 2012, the Angels recalled Conger, but he would only play in seven games due to a logjam of catchers. He came back in 2013 with a solid season, batting .249 and posting his best numbers offensively, but his improvements on defense was what earned him the blessing of Manager Mike Scioscia, a former catcher.

During the 2013-14 seasons, Conger backed up and eventually formed an effective platoon with fellow backstop Chris Ianetta. He developed a reputation in the baseball sabermetric community as one of the best pitch-framers in the league: he ranked 6th and 3rd, in respective seasons, in framing runs saved per 7000 pitches.

Ultimately, it was his lack of offensive numbers that allowed Chris Iannetta to edge out Conger in starts in the second half of the 2014 season. Iannetta went on to start all three games of the American League Division Series the Angels played this past postseason.

Here are some notable moments from Conger’s tenure with the Angels.

Dancing in celebration of the Angels clinching the playoffs

Hank Conger won the Angels dance contest last night.

A video posted by Arash Markazi (@arashmarkazi) on

Conger hits a clutch 9th-inning home run

The most unorthodox bunt hit ever

Image via USA Today

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All-Star SKorean Pitcher Kim Kwang-Hyun To Test Major League Waters

by STEVE HAN

South Korean star pitcher Kim Kwang-hyun will be attempting to make the jump from the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) to the major leagues, according to to his team, the SK Wyverns.

The Wyverns said that Kim, 26, will hold a press conference on Wednesday to formally declare his intention to sign with a Major League Baseball (MLB) team this offseason via posting. The posting process is a silent auction among MLB teams interested in the posted player. Exclusive rights to a 30-day negotiating period with the player is given to a team that submits the highest bid.

In a similar case in 2012, Kim’s countryman Hyun-Jin Ryu signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers via posting. The Dodgers paid $25 million posting fee to Ryu’s team, the Hanwha Eagles. The posting fee for Kim isn’t expected to be as high as what the Dodgers paid for Ryu two years ago, but it is widely speculated that the Wyverns are likely to accept a any bid that’s higher than $5 million.

“We will submit our official request to post Kim on Nov. 1,” a Wyverns official told reporters. South Korean newspaper Kyunghyang Shinmun added that the MLB team that wins the auction could be revealed as early as the second week of November. The MLB teams interested in bidding must bid within four days after the player is posted.

The left-hander’s rise to stardom began in 2007 in Game 3 of the Korea Series, KBO’s equivalent of the World Series. At just 19, Kim started the game as the Wyverns were down 2-1 in the best-of-seven series against the Doosan Bears and their starting pitcher Danny Rios, a former New York Yankees right-hander who was the KBO’s most valuable player that year.

Kim, who only threw 77 innings in the regular season, outperformed Rios in the pivotal game with nine strikeouts in 7 1/3 shutout innings. Inspired by the teenager’s brilliance on the mound, the Wyverns came from behind and later won the Korea Series.

Kim Kwang-hyun retiring 16 in a row in August

After that memorable championship season, Kim quickly established himself as one of the best pitchers in the history of the KBO. Three seasons between 2008 and 2010, he combined for an impressive 45-13 record and posted an ERA of 2.39, 2.80 and 2.37, respectively.

Although Kim was hampered by various injuries between 2011 and 2013 (his ERA was above 4.00 in each of those three seasons), he recaptured full health this past season and posted a respectable 13-9 record with a 3.42 ERA.

While experts in Korean baseball don’t foresee Kim enjoying as much success as Ryu in the major leagues, many still believe that he would pan out better than Suk-min Yoon, who signed with the Baltimore Orioles prior to this season. Despite being considered as one of South Korea’s best pitchers alongside Ryu and Kim when the three pitched in the KBO, Yoon was a flop for the Orioles this year as he struggled in the minor leagues without making a single appearance in the majors.

Kim boasts a four-pitch arsenal with a fastball that tops out at 96 mph to go along with an average slider, changeup and curveball. However, the biggest question mark for Kim is his command as he gave up 4.20 walks per nine innings this season. His inconsistent command could be problematic in the major leagues where hitters are more disciplined at the plate than the KBO.

Featured image courtesy of Nate

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Hyun-Jin Ryu Doesn’t Want The Giants to Win The World Series

by STEVE HAN

After spending two years with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Hyun-Jin Ryu seems to have grown enough animosity towards his team’s division rival San Francisco Giants, ahead of this year’s World Series.

Ryu returned to South Korea recently after the Dodgers’ early exit from the postseason. At a press conference in Seoul, he told reporters that he wants the Royals to win the World Series, only because he doesn’t want to see the Giants take home their third title in the last five years. The last time the Dodgers won the World Series was in 1988.

“I want the Royals to win,” Ryu said. “It would be better than the Giants winning it.”

Ryu holds a 4-4 career record versus the Giants in particular. While he has experienced mixed success against the rivals in the last two seasons, Ryu has admitted in the past that Giants outfielder Hunter Pence is the toughest player to face in the major leagues.

The 27-year-old finished the regular season with a 14-7 record and a 3.38 ERA. Despite missing the last three weeks of the regular season with a shoulder injury, Ryu made a return in Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The left-hander held the Cardinals to just one run on five hits in six strong innings on his return, but the Dodgers still lost 3-1. The Dodgers were eventually eliminated after four games.

“I was injured on three separate occasions this year,” said Ryu, who pitched 152 innings this season. “I couldn’t pitch many innings this season because of injuries. I want to pitch over 200 innings next year. I’ll need to stay healthy to achieve that goal.”

Photo courtesy of Sarah Reingewirtz/Pasadena Star-News.

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Shin-Soo Choo Donates $100K to Build New Korean Cultural Center

by REERA YOO

Texas Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo has donated $100,000 for the construction of the new Korean Cultural Center of Dallas, according to the Business Journal.

Choo, who was sidelined in August after playing with multiple injuries in his first season with Texas, presented the donation to the leaders of the Korean Society of Dallas on Friday.

“I am honored to contribute for the creation and building of a facility where the beauty and wonder of our traditional holidays and festivals can be shared with and experienced by our children and also be a place where the Korean language can be taught to generations of individuals,” Choo said in a statement.

Choo is currently recovering from two surgeries, one for a torn cartilage and the other for a bone spur removal from his left elbow.

You read more about Choo’s road to baseball stardom and his resilience during his injury-ridden season in a cover story from our August/September 2014 issue.

Photo courtesy of Texas Rangers’ twitter