KBO club heroes make jaw-dropping decision to sign controversial player

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SEOUL, March 18 (Yonhap) — When it comes to moving, the Kiwoom Heroes haven’t always made the smartest or wisest choices. They’ve signed players with shady and troubled pasts and sacked a first-year manager with a winning record over apparent differences with a particularly intrusive front office.

The return of their former franchise star Kang Jung-ho, who was out of baseball for nearly three years following a series of off-field troubles, has become the latest addition to the franchise’s dubious history. transactions of the heroes on Friday.

In the 34-year-old infielder, the Heroes will have a former slugger who drank and quit baseball, and caused so much malice among KBO fans that he’s unlikely to be in their leagues again. good graces.

It’s also a stunning acquisition on the pure baseball side, as Kang isn’t even eligible to play this year due to an impending suspension, and he probably won’t be much help to a team that has youngsters. talented players. anywhere in the infield who deserve regular playing opportunities.

The Heroes said they would pay Kang the league’s minimum salary of 30 million won ($24,750) for one season. But it won’t be in 2022, as Kang, once officially registered with the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), will have to serve a one-year suspension.

The KBO handed down the punishment, along with 300 hours of community service, in May 2020, as Kang considered a return to the South Korean league. Kang, who first played for the Heroes franchise from 2006 to 2014 before signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2015, was released by the Pittsburgh Pirates in August 2019. This was after getting a second chance at the result of legal problems.

In December 2016, Kang drove his car into a railing in Seoul while under the influence of alcohol and then fled. It was his third impaired driving arrest and he received a suspended prison sentence for the offense in 2017. He did not play at all that year.

At the top of his game, Kang was as feared as anyone at KBO home plate. In 2014, Kang set a KBO record for most home runs in a season by a shortstop with 40 and hit a .356/.459/.739 line. And batting translated well to the majors, where he hit 36 ​​homers in his first two seasons despite missing much of the time with injuries.

But that bounty is long gone, and it’s fair to wonder why the heroes decided to bet on a failed player with so much baggage.

Heroes general manager Ko Hyung-wook said on Friday he wanted to give Kang a chance to repent for his mistakes.

“We haven’t thought much about how he can help the team. We want him to show the fans that he regrets what he has done in the past,” Ko told reporters at Gocheok Sky. Seoul Dome before a pre-season game. “He’s someone who showed leadership in tough times for our franchise. And I think he set a great example for young players when he moved up to the majors. What he did was wrong, but we wanted to give him another chance.”

Kang had attempted to join the heroes in 2020 but ultimately dropped the offer in the face of growing criticism. Ko admitted that he didn’t believe public opinion swung in Kang’s favor just because some time had passed and asked baseball fans for forgiveness for Kang and the heroes.

“I would like to apologize to our fans, but a lot of time has passed. I hope they can forgive us,” Ko said. “I know the apology should have come before the signing, but the papers have been signed, and we can’t go back now.”

When asked if he feared a bad influence Kang might have on the rest of the team, Ko said, “He was an exemplary player and I think young players have a lot to learn from him. “

But what about those three DUI arrests?

“You shouldn’t learn things like that.”

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