The first half of the season was a mixed bag for the new coaches who started the season ambitiously.
Doosan coach Lee Seung-yeop, who started the season with a lot of anxiety and expectations without any coaching experience, couldn’t have ended the first half any better. He declared an all-out war ahead of July, and the players lived up to his expectations, finishing the first half with nine consecutive wins, one short of tying the team’s record for most consecutive wins. Individually, the manager tied the record for most wins in his first year. Lee, who said in June that he was “not sleeping well” due to a series of injuries and difficulties with his starting pitching staff, is looking more relaxed.
“I thought we would not be a good team if we did what we prepared for, but the players did a great job,” Lee said in his pregame briefing before the last game of the first half on the 13th, “I shouldn’t let my guard down, but I think I can get some sleep now.”
Of course, he is not without his own concerns. First up is Kim Jae-hwan. Despite his unwavering faith in him at the end of the first half, Kim failed to rebound. It’s also disappointing that the younger beasts are slow to develop. With 38-year-old veteran Kim Jae-ho back in the starting shortstop role, one outfield spot is still up for grabs.
NC manager Kang In-hwa and Samsung manager Park Jin-man, who started as acting managers and were officially appointed ahead of the season, had a tough first half.
After building momentum with back-to-back sweeps of the ‘Yanggang’ LG and SSG, NC has been on a losing streak since mid-June due to a string of injuries to their starting pitchers.
Samsung has struggled with a weak roster and is in danger of finishing last for the first time in its history. As of the 19th, two days before the start of the second half, they are 31-49 with the league’s only triple-digit winning percentage (.388). The gap to ninth-placed Kiwoom has now grown to five games.
The two new managers also have something in common in that they’ve both been forced to demote veterans to the second team during the season. Park dropped the team’s most senior player, Oh Seung-hwan (40), from the roster the next day after he voiced his frustration during a pitching change against KT on 17 March. Kang criticised the attitude of mainstay Park Gun-woo (33) and demoted him to the second team on the third. It was a tough decision for the first-year coach. Oh Seung-hwan returned to the squad 10 days after his suspension, and Park is likely to return at the start of the second half.안전놀이터
Choi Won-ho, who took over in the wake of the controversial sacking of former coach Carlos Suvero, ended the first half of the season on a high note, spearheading the team’s rise. He made his managerial debut on 12 May and has won 23, drawn three and lost 21 of his 47 games. That puts them fifth in the league. In his introductory interview, Choi emphasised “setting up for winning baseball”. While the focus is on next season, autumn baseball is not out of the question this season. The team is still in eighth place, but only 2.5 games behind fifth-placed Lotte. With 66 games remaining, the focus is on Choi’s second half of the season.