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Slugger Lee SY Facing `Money or Honor` Dilemma

Posted September. 02, 2010 13:24,   


A Dong-A Ilbo reporter visited Japan’s Sapporo Dome in July during a game between the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and the Chiba Lotte Marines for a story on Korean slugger Kim Tae-kyun.

A Japanese who introduced himself as reporter in charge of the Fighters said, “If Lee Seung-yeop of the Yomiuri Giants’ minor league team comes to Hokkaido, he will immediately start at cleanup hitter.”

Expressing regret, the Japanese said, “Nippon Ham is not a team that spends as much money as Yomiuri,” adding, “If only (Lee) is willing to take a pay cut.”

Back in Korea, Korean Japanese Chang Hoon, who threw the opening pitch at an LG Twins-Nexen Heroes game held at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul Tuesday, said, “I heard that Lee could move to the Yokohama Bay Stars after this season.”

Chang holds the career hit record of 3,085 in the Japanese league, and thus his comment sounds credible. In July, rumors circulated in the Japanese media that Lee would move to the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.

Lee has not played in the Japanese majors since being demoted to the minors after a game versus the Chunichi Dragons June 20. Yomiuri recently had four spots open for foreign players but Lee was not called up.

The slugger is hitting just .173 with five home runs and 11 RBIs.

Yet many teams in Japan are interested in acquiring Lee because of his proven track record. He hit 41 homers in 2006 and 30 in 2007 despite an injury.

In just 77 games last year, he belted 16 homers.

Experts say Lee is a powerful batter who can make a big splash anytime when given the proper chance. Since his contract with Yomiuri ends this year, there is no obstacle for him to move to another team.

The problem is pay. Lee’s salary this year is 600 million yen (7 million U.S. dollars), the highest in the Japanese league. Yomiuri is the lone club that can afford such an amount.

A source highly knowledgeable about the Hanshin Tigers said, “Yomiuri’s rival Hanshin was once interested in Lee but gave up due to his high salaay.”

Second in salary to Lee in Japan is Yokohama’s Terrmel Sledge at just 180 million yen (2 million dollars).

Kim Sung-keun, manager of the Korean team SK Wyverns, said, “If Seung-yeop lowers his pay to below 100 million yen (1.1 million dollars), many teams would be interested in him. At one point, Lotte also wanted to bring him back.”

Roberto Petagine, who played for LG last season, received 720 million yen (8.5 million dollars) from Yakult and 700 million yen (8.3 million dollars) from Yomiuri. But he signed a 40 million yen (475,000 dollars) contract with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks this year.

Pro players seek the highest salary possible but Lee needs to recover his lost honor. The ball is in his court.