The Lotte Giants seem to be hopeless in the Korean pro-baseball. The team ranks first in total salaries its players are receiving, but ranks the last in performance this season. The team is comprehensively sluggish on all fronts. Both pitchers are batters are struggling. The team has repeatedly displayed shameful plays in defense, so hopeless that even the U.S. Major League Baseball has mentioned. There are dozens of reasons, but broadly all derive from one negative factor. Its catchers have shown unstable plays. As its very base is on a shaky ground, the entire team is in tatters.
The catcher is not a player who simply catches the pitcher’s pitches. He coordinates ball counts, and the position of his team’s defenders, controlling all different situations related to score losses. For this reason, the catcher is dubbed “field commander.” Former SK Wyverns manager Kim Sung-geun said, “Catcher Park Kyung-wan accounts for 50 percent of our team’s capability and performance.”
Lotte started to suffer after its flagship catcher Kang Min-ho moved to the Samsung Lions after becoming a free agent after the 2017 season. Any team could lose qualified players in the course of contracting with players. It is important for each team to have a plan B. Back then, Lotte had two cards to play with. It could either recruit a catcher who can replace Kang from outside, or nurture promising players from within the team.”
Lotte chose to nurture catchers within the team. However, a catcher can only play his part properly after gaining field experience for at least two to three years. Also, unstable performance of the catcher will bring the entire team to a shaky ground, which baseball team should be mindful. Unfortunately, Lotte downplayed the weight of the catcher, or overvalued its internal resources for filling the catcher position.
Problems first emerged last year, but Lotte denied the problem. A number of catchers were up for grabs in the market ahead of this season, but the team failed to respond properly. The team may have been very confident that it could develop catchers from within. Even its new manager Yang Sang-moon, who joined the team last year, expressed confidence in his ability to nurture catchers, saying, “A good pitcher can produce a good catcher” to support the team’s direction.
The reality, however, has demonstrated that unstable catcher has produced unstable pitchers. Nevertheless, the team seems to believe that at least its decision has not proven to be wrong. This is referred to as “cognitive dissonance.” When the outcome is different from one’s expectations, the person in question continues to stubbornly believe that he made the right choice or that such a decision was inevitable, rather than correct fallacy.
Cognitive dissonance applies not only to simple choices made by individuals but also to important decisions by an organization or a country. This happens because we are human beings. For this reason, we have to intentionally escape or overcome. One can always make a wrong decision. When one admits to fallacy, the person will seek to learn, and if one does learn something, the person will start developing and make progress. If one is confined to cognitive dissonance, the person has no opportunity to study and learn. Hopelessness lingers into tomorrow.
One of the ways to overcome cognitive dissonance within an organization is to improve decision-making process. One should admit the possibility to make a mistake, and ensure that various opinions including counterargument can be expressed and collected. Lotte probably had problems in this aspect. “The dearth of catchers” is not an incidental matter, but could have emerged due to its organizational culture. Lotte has never won the Korean Series for nearly 30 years since it was atop the championship in 1992. Fans have become extremely disappointed and feel hopeless. The popularity of the entire Korean pro-baseball is on a shaky ground. It is about time for Lotte to reflect upon its culture.