Posted July. 24, 2009 07:27,
Hanwha Eagles manager Kang Byung-chul in 1998 received a pink slip just 30 minutes before the All-Star Game. He was demoted to third-base coach and had to watch his final game as manager from the dugout.
A year later, the Ssangbangwool Raiders (now the SK Wyverns) also fired manager Kim Sung-keun after the end of the All-Star Game. The dismissal was harsh for Kim, who had led the team to the playoffs in 1996 and 1997.
The All-Star Game in Korea has been considered an occasion to fire a manager for quite a while. The Samsung Lions broke with tradition this year, however, announcing a contract extension for manager Sun Dong-ryul Monday ahead of the All-Star Game tomorrow.
Around a time when many managers have been fired, Sun is the first Korean manager to get an extension around the All-Star Game period.
○ Firing slumping managers
The measure teams most frequently use amid a slump is to exchange players in both the majors and minors. The next option is to reshuffle coaching staff at the two levels. The dismissal of the manager is often the last resort.
The final decision on a managers fate often comes out around the All-Star Game, which teams use as a vacation.
Over the past few years, many managers have been fired around this time. Kia Tigers manager Kim Sung-han, whose team was third in the first half of the 2004 season, was let go after losing five consecutive games in the second half.
The late Kim Dong-yeop of MBC (1987), Baek In-cheon of Lotte (2003), Lee Kwang-whan of LG (2004), and Yoo Nam-ho of Kia (2005) all fell victim to dismissal around All-Star Game time.
○ Unusual contract renewal
A teams mood changes when the manager is replaced, but this has rarely led to improved performance.
Hanwha ranked fifth, trailing fourth-ranked Ssangbangwool by half a game, through the first half in 1997. After firing its manager, however, the Eagles finished seventh.
Ssangbangwool in 1999, Lotte in 2003, and Kia in 2005 were dead last when they replaced their managers, and finished in the league cellar those years.
Kia was the exception in 2004, when it finished fourth in the league and made the postseason after dismissing manager Kim. The Tigers lost in the first round of the playoffs, however.
○ No manager casualties this year
This years All-Star Game will likely see no scapegoat. The contracts of five managers are set to expire this year, including Lottes Jerry Royster, Hanwhas Kim In-shik, Kias Cho Beom-hyeon, and LGs Kim Jae-bak. Since the teams are engaged in a heated race, no team is likely to gamble by changing managers.
Suns contract extension will also likely net a similar result for other managers. With Samsung fifth in the league standings, he said, To be frank, I thought I could become jobless like many others have become. I can now manage my team without stress.
If Sun can lead the Lions to success this season, the jinx of manager dismissals around the All-Star Game could become a thing of the past.