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By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Oct. 8 (Yonhap) — The manager of a South Korean baseball club in position to qualify for the postseason abruptly resigned Thursday with only a dozen games left in the regular season.
The Kiwoom Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) announced their skipper Son Hyuk offered to quit following their 4-3 loss to the NC Dinos on Wednesday. The Heroes’ management decided Thursday to accept Son’s resignation. This was Son’s first season as the Heroes’ skipper.
Son, 47, signed a two-year contract worth 600 million won (US$520,510) last November. The Heroes’ general manager Kim Chi-hyun said the club will honor the remainder of the contract and Son will be paid through 2021.
Son, a former pitcher, had been a pitching coach for both the Heroes and another KBO club, SK Wyverns, before taking his first managerial job with the Heroes.
Kim Chang-hyeon, the club’s quality control coach, will take over as interim manager.
In a statement released by the Heroes, Son said he wanted to take the fall for the club’s recent struggles.
“I want to thank the team for hiring me, but I am sorry that I didn’t live up to expectations,” Son said. “I would also like to apologize to our fans and my players.”
After Wednesday’s loss, the Heroes still stayed in third place at 73-58-1 (wins-losses-ties), nine games behind the league-leading Dinos and one game ahead of the No. 4 LG Twins. Though the Heroes haven’t locked down a spot for the postseason, open to the top five clubs, they appeared to be on their way with 12 games remaining.
The Heroes pulled into a virtual tie with the Dinos at the top on Sept. 13, trailing only in the winning percentage, .600 to .591. But the Heroes have gone 8-13 since as the Dinos have pulled away from the pack.
The Heroes have endured injuries to several key players all season, including slugging first baseman Park Byung-ho and their top two starting pitchers, Eric Jokisch and Jake Brigham. Their new foreign bat signing for the year, Taylor Motter, was a huge disappointment and was cut loose on May 30. His replacement, former major league shortstop Addison Russell, hasn’t lived up to hype, batting only .257/.321/.335 with a home run and 28 RBIs in 57 games with mediocre defense.
The Heroes were a trendy preseason pick to win it all in 2020. They got swept by the Doosan Bears in last year’s Korean Series, and manager Jang Jung-suk wasn’t brought back for his fourth season.
Kim, the interim skipper, never played pro ball. After playing through college, Kim worked in the Heroes’ analytics department from 2013 to 2019, and was named their new quality control coach before the 2020 season.
“To survive this tight pennant race, I will improve communication between the front office and the team on the field,” Kim said. “With a date-driven approach, I will try to achieve the best results possible.”