“In the world of sports, second place equals last place, I think.”
This is what Seon Dong-yeol, who received the most votes in ‘KBO Legend 40’, said in a TV interview while coaching the Samsung Lions. Ryu Joong-il, coach of the Hangzhou Asian Games national team, also said something similar during his Samsung days. In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo right after winning the 2011 Korean Series, coach Ryu answered that his goal for the next season was also to win, and said, “We, Samsung, don’t like second place. I’ve had that thought since I was a player.” It is the baseball version of Samsung’s corporate culture, ‘First Principle (第一主義)’, which has been handed down since the founder Lee Byung-cheol.바카라
Samsung always had to be ‘number one’ wherever it was. Samsung is the team with the most wins in the league since the launch of professional baseball in 1982 and the first team to record 2,800 wins. Since its founding, it has achieved a total of 8 combined championships, and has reached the top 7 times only since the 2000s. Samsung is a team that has never experienced a last place among the 10 franchises in the existing KBO League. Business rivals LG, KIA, and SK have also been in last place, but Samsung was an exception.
Concerns about ‘Samjeond’ become reality
Such a prestigious club, Samsung, is likely to come last this season for the first time in its 42 years of existence. As of July 12, ahead of the end of the first half, Samsung is in 10th place with a 30-48 win rate of 0.385. If this continues, there is a high possibility that the record for the first 10th place as well as the most losses (88 losses pace) and the lowest win rate (the previous record was 0.396 in 2017) will be rewritten.
MBC Sports Plus commentator Yang Joon-hyeok, a former Samsung legend (Samjeond), said, “Samsung’s movement this winter is a little disappointing. I saw that reinforcement was necessary, but in reality there was little movement.” It seems that he intends to do it. However, even if you raise players, you must have a center. There is a possibility that young players will have difficulties from the hot summer.”
The concerns of ‘Samjeond’ became a reality. The Samsung infield team, which boasted the third-highest offensive power in the league with an OPS of 0.700 in 2022, fell to the weakest in the league (0.632) this season. Young players such as Kim Ji-chan and Lee Jae-hyun are struggling, but they are still not good enough to serve as the pillars of the team. On the other hand, Kim Sang-soo, a former Samsung franchise star, succeeded in making a perfect comeback (batting average 0.313 OPS 0.763) at KT, and is causing Samsung fans heartburn with coach Lee Seung-yeop.
The situation is more serious on the bullpen side. Oh Seung-hwan, the “Stone Buddha,” who showed little signs of abnormality from last season, completely collapsed this season. As of July 12, Oh Seung-hwan is having his worst season since his debut with an ERA of 4.80 and a WAR (contribution multiplier against substitutes) of -0.01 in 25 games. In particular, he sent 11 out of 17 runners inherited from the previous pitcher home and became an expert in ‘accounting fraud’ with a run rate of 64.7% (2nd from the back). It is clear that it is time for him to come down from the finish line, whether by his skills or pitch, but since he is such a big player, it is burdensome for the club and coaching staff to carelessly interfere.
The sluggishness of the top-tier finisher, who received the highest salary in the team, led to a chain collapse of the bullpen. In order to prevent the bullpen from collapsing, the trade, which even gave infielder Lee Won-seok the right to be named, turned into a complete failure (Kim Tae-hoon’s ERA 7.09). As a result, as of July 12, Samsung’s bullpen average ERA is 5.00 (9th), and the bullpen average ERA in the 7th to 9th innings, which is within 3 points, is 5.74 (9th). On top of this, the sluggish performance of Oh Jae-il (batting average of 0.183), the highest-paid hitter in the team, and the performance that fell short of expectations from the foreign trio hit Samsung into a deeper pit.
Conflicting views toward general manager Hong Joon-hak
Samsung fans, who became fans of the last-place team for the first time since the launch of professional baseball, are on the verge of an explosion. In particular, Hong Joon-hak, who is in charge of operating the baseball team, is the main target of criticism. Of course, it is difficult to say that the arrows of the fans are aiming at the wrong target, considering that the general manager’s role is to organize the team and strengthen the team’s power, as the baseball adage says, “Grades are the responsibility of the general manager, and the audience is the responsibility of the manager.” In the seven years from 2017 when Hong took office to this year, Samsung has only been in fall baseball once, in 2021. During that time, the manager changed three times (Kim Han-soo, Heo Sam-young, Park Jin-man), but Hong kept his position.
However, in the baseball world, there are also opinions that Samsung’s downfall should not simply be attributed to Hong Joon-hak’s individual responsibility. A baseball player familiar with Samsung’s circumstances said, “Samsung ranked 9th in 2016, even before Hong took over as general manager. It should be seen that the club’s heyday has already passed. The current slump is the result of a long-term accumulation of all sorts of problems inside and outside the club.” Even during the so-called ‘Dynasty’ period, there were many problems within the team and the club. Signs of ‘discipline’ being disturbed appeared everywhere.”
The case of illegal gambling by key players who ruined the Korean Series in 2015 is a typical example. After a faction fight within the team, there were also cases where a large number of players from a particular faction and other regions left the team. Even at the front desk, people who had worked in key positions in the club for a long time left the club, causing dissatisfaction and noise. Among the people who took off their clothes was the head of the scout.
Samsung has not had much fun in the rookie draft since the 2010s. Among the players nominated by Samsung in the last 10 years, only Ja-wook Koo (2nd round in 2012) and Tae-in Won (1st nomination in 2019) have grown into stars.
There are only a handful of players who have grown into first-team players. On the other hand, if you look at the list of players that Samsung has ‘filtered’, Minwoo Park, Jinhyeok Noh, Hanyusum (2012), Hyunsik Jang, Deokju Ham (2013), Sewoong Park, Bae Jeongdae, Youngpyo Ko, Seokhwan Yang (2014), Jaeyoon Kim, Baeseong Baeseong (2015), Changgi Hong , Sanghyun Jeon (2016), Chiguk Park, Seonghan Park, Jaewoong Kim (2017), Cheolwon Jeong, Eunwon Jeong, Yeongkyu Kim (2018), Sihwan Noh, Myeonggi Song, Seungmin Ko, Bogyeong Moon (2019), Jihoon Choi, Jaemin Kang (2020), Juwon Kim, Huijib Kim, There are a lot of national players, all-stars, and first-team players such as Kim Dong-ju (2021), Choi Ji-min, and Yoon Dong-hee (2022). In this regard, a veteran scout from another club said, “From 2013 to 2021, Samsung, a local team, was at a disadvantage due to the first nomination system. There were many times when I had to pick. In addition, it was disadvantageous for Samsung that the draft order was pushed to the back during the Korean Series for 6 consecutive years (2010-2015).”
It’s a problem that we didn’t pick good players in the draft, but it’s also a problem that we didn’t properly develop the players we picked. Among the players after the 4th round nominated by Samsung over the past 10 years, the case of great success on the 1st team stage is about Kim Hyun-jun (2021, 2nd round 9). Compared to other clubs that frequently develop first-team players and stars even in the middle and lower rounds, the score is poor.
In this regard, an elder with a lot of bones in the front of the baseball team said, “In the past, Samsung was a club that did not spare investment in the 2nd team and player development. It gives the impression that it lags behind other clubs in all aspects such as the stadium, training facilities, and training system. Other teams are investing in new facilities or completely renovating the 2nd team, but Samsung has not changed much.”
In the baseball world,
it is evaluated that the transfer to Cheil Worldwide became a decisive opportunity for the downfall of the Samsung baseball team. Since 2014, the Samsung Group has carried out the work of unifying the operation body of sports teams with Cheil Worldwide. Samsung Electronics (27.5%), Samsung SDI (15%), Samsung Electro-Mechanics (12.5%), and Samsung C&T (9.5%), which were the largest shareholders at the time, all transferred their holdings to Cheil Worldwide, and Suwon Samsung Bluewings (soccer) and Samsung The Thunders (men’s basketball), Samsung Life Bluemings (women’s basketball), and Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance Bluefangs (men’s volleyball) gathered under Cheil Worldwide in turn. In January 2016, the Samsung baseball team was last incorporated into Cheil Worldwide.
One baseball player said, “Samsung’s original intention was to gather sports teams under Cheil Worldwide and efficiently manage them. It can be said that he pursued a sports team management model.” However, extensive innovation and change was a difficult task for the Samsung baseball team, which had been living like a ‘dinosaur’ under the nest of chaebol groups for a long time. Unfortunately, the fall of the Lions began in 2016, the first year of the acquisition of Cheil Worldwide, starting with a 9th place. And this year, the four major professional sports teams, from baseball to soccer, basketball, and volleyball, fell to the bottom of the league all at once, facing an unprecedented situation.
Another key official of the club pointed out, “In the past, Samsung made bold and aggressive moves amid the owner’s interest and full support. They were willing to make noise if necessary for the team to win first place.” For example, from 2000 to 2010, former general manager Kim Jae-ha, who led Samsung’s heyday, took the initiative and led the baseball team as an aide to Lee Hak-soo (former advisor to Samsung C&T), who was a heavyweight in the group. On the other hand, now that Cheil Worldwide has become the main agent, it is impossible to take risks or do things as loudly as before. An official from the front said, “Now that I have to do all my work carefully and safely, I think there will be cases where I can’t do what I really need. As the area that can be done at the club’s discretion is reduced, the Samsung club will also have a lot of difficulties.” .
Regarding the joint downfall of the Samsung Sports Team, some voices say, “Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong must step forward” and “We need massive investment at the group level,” but these demands are far from reality. A marketing expert who used to work on a baseball team and is currently working in a different field said, “I don’t think Samsung’s sports team management ethos will change much from now.” We will not go back to the old ways of investing.” It is pointed out that even if it takes time, the club must change itself and prepare for self-sustaining power. Here is what this official said:
“Looking at the downfall of Samsung Sports, it seems to be seeing the limits of Korean professional sports, which cannot survive without the protection of chaebol companies. do.”