In the end, I wasted my time and money again. The Lotte Giants’ up-front approach to baseball has always been futile. Changing the manager won’t solve the problem.
Lotte, the original professional baseball team, has gone through numerous managers in its 42-year history. Larry Sutton, who announced his resignation on Aug. 28, was the 20th manager. Some have served more than once, including Kang Byung-chul (2nd, 6th, 12th) and Yang Sang-moon (11th, 18th), bringing the total to 17 managers. The average tenure of just over two years is an indication of how demanding and lonely the job is at Lotte.
Especially since 2010, most managers have had to step down without completing their contracts. They claimed to have resigned voluntarily, but it was actually an abrupt departure. Cho Won-woo, who took over in 2016, was the only survivor, signing a two-year contract and later renewing for a third year. However, Cho was also fired after the first year of his three-year contract.
The Lotte of today is not the Lotte of the past. At the end of the first half of 2019, the team suffered the first-ever dismissal of a general manager and a head coach at the same time, and after a period of labor, the team announced the start of a new era with the appointment of Sung Min-kyu, a former Major League Baseball scout.
In fact, Sung was appointed. Since then, the team has introduced a number of advanced systems and equipment, and has begun to lay a solid foundation for development, including a major overhaul of the so-called 1.5-grade senior players in the squad. Preparations for the future were being made in the second team.
But the first team was different. In the first team, it was a series of creaky moments. We didn’t get the first step right. In 2020, the team hired coach Heo Mun-ho, but the ruptures continued. Noise continued to surface in the management and selection of players. There were chances for reconciliation, but the conflict continued. In May 2021, the club finally fired Heo and brought in Larry Sutton, then the head coach of the Futures, to take over the first team.
Sutton and Sung were practically in the same boat. Initially, Sutton was the one who wanted to be appointed as the first team coach before Heo Moon-ho. Lotte expected him to lead the frontline baseball program that Lotte was trying to implement on the field.
However, when frontline baseball itself starts to go off track, there’s nothing the on-field commander can do about it. Lotte went in the wrong direction and missed several opportunities to reverse course. This year, we focused on performance rather than development and invested heavily in the free agent market. It had the full support of the group and spent a total of 17 billion won to sign catcher Yoo Kang-nam, shortstop Noh Jin-hyuk and pitcher Han Hyun-hee.
It also sought to bolster its front office on the field by handpicking veteran leaders for the current leadership team. It was an expression of their desire to increase their influence over the players and perfect the baseball they wanted to play, but their front office didn’t end up succeeding. The front office took control of the first- and second-team rosters, which led to frustration and tension on the field, even though it was business as usual. In the process, infighting among the coaching staff became publicized. Sutton became the lone voice on the field.
Even though everyone was pointing out that it was the wrong direction, Lotte insisted that it was the right one. However, the team hasn’t played fall baseball since Sung Min-kyu’s regime. They started the year with a nine-game winning streak and were in first place by mid-June, but it’s been downhill from there, dropping to seventh place. They are only 2.5 games behind eighth-place Samsung. In the process of falling, misjudgments at the front piled up and piled up. Mismanagement of the roster, premature return of injured players who weren’t fully fit, etc. showed their impatience.
The team was supposed to be a “one-man team,” but the front office and the field were not a “one-man team. Inside the front desk, there is also a large gap between the veteran staff and the staff in their 20s. With no one in the front office who could bridge the gap, they were unable to unite. Conflicts were inevitable between the front and the field, the field and the field, and the front and the front. It was a reality that Lotte had created for itself.
Unconvinced and unable to unite, their own front office baseball team changed the manager again. Although they were confident that it was different from before, the tragic ending was always the same. The puzzle picture was wrong in the first place, and no amount of changing the pieces could make it fit together. The director was always the scapegoat.스포츠토토
With the Lotte Group holding increasingly influential, the question now is how to diagnose and conclude the four years the Giants baseball team has wasted. Their first conclusion was to fire the manager. For now, Lotte will play the rest of the year with Lee Jong-woon as acting manager.