SSG Landers’ move after the 2023 season is a series of shocks. The direction toward generational change was clearly seen, but the amateurism shown in the unsmooth process was a jade.
Looking at the recent events in SSG, it seems more like a dream because it happened just a year after the cartoon-like unified victory in 2022. Last year, SSG was considered the ideal team to win the KBO League’s first “Wire to Wire” championship, which did not miss the top spot from the start to the end of the regular season in harmony with veterans and young players, and even won the Korean Series. However, it has been creaking as veterans who are different every day in a year have fallen into a slump and the growth of young players has stagnated. As a result, SSG was eliminated by the fourth-place team NC Dinos in the postseason after finishing the regular season in third place, and the front office felt the need for a change.
The start was the dismissal of head coach Kim Won-hyung (51), who gave him his first victory after changing to SSG. In the 2023 SSG, young players’ appointment was not noticeable, with the unsuspecting elders playing as a must-win group and the pinch-hitter also being appointed as a veteran. As a result, SSG said, “Change was inevitable to revamp the team and transform it into a stronger team that is more loved. As a result, the club terminated the contract with head coach Kim Won-hyung and some coaches, who were in their first year of renewal, saying, “We have gone beyond the scope of changes in the composition of players and coaching staff.”
After twists and turns, Lee Sung-yong (52), former head of KT Wiz’s development, was appointed as the ninth coach, but SSG’s thorny path, which is trying to change generations, was not the end here. In the second KBO draft, which resumed in four years, Kim Kang-min (41), who was not tied to the 35-member protected player list, was selected by the Hanwha Eagles in the fourth round and left the team.
Kim Kang-min joined the SK Wyverns (currently SSG Landers) as the 18th pick in the second round of the rookie draft in 2001 and is a franchise star who has played for only one club for 23 years. He won five SSG titles together and was named MVP last year, especially in the Korean Series with Kiwoom Heroes for his decisive performances, including a pinch-hit solo shot in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 1 and a pinch-hit three-run in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 5.
He was Kim Kang-min, who showed an outstanding performance at a young age, but he couldn’t avoid the years. This year, he played only 70 games after suffering from injuries, and his performance remained at 0.226 with two home runs and an OPS of 0.627. At the end of the season, whether Kim Kang-min will retire or not has emerged as a hot topic in the baseball world, and it has become even hotter since SSG brought generational change to the fore. In fact, according to an SSG official immediately after the second draft, the club came and went so much that it discussed when Kim Kang-min would play the retirement game if he retired. 안전놀이터
Here, some of the SSG club’s disappointing responses came out. First of all, he failed to have a clear discussion with Kim Kang-min about retirement and extension of his active duty ahead of the second draft. According to an SSG official, it wasn’t that Kim Kang-min didn’t think about retirement, but he hoped to continue his active career as much as possible. The club also respected its intentions and waited, but it was not given a definite answer, and eventually, like other clubs, it met the second draft of Eoyoung Booyoung without a separate indication next to Kim Kang-min’s name.
The biggest regret is that there was no Plan B in case other clubs chose Kim Kang-min in the second draft. If the player could not decide to that extent, he had to draw up a list of 35 protected players with the possibility of choosing from other clubs in mind. If he had decided to exclude it, he should have built a sufficient consensus with the player, and he should have understood the hearts of the fans when the franchise star, who had been on the team for 23 years, was excluded.
Thatcher then added fuel to the fire. After the second draft, SSG responded that it did not expect Kim Kang-min to be selected, embarrassing Hanwha’s choice and undermining the value of a franchise star who dreamed of extending his career. In the case of major players, it is understandable that they were embarrassed this time because there was no mutual sympathy between the clubs, but it is difficult to avoid criticism that “SSG clubs were complacent” in that anything could happen the moment they were excluded from the protected players. Major players such as Kim Kwang-hyun and Han Yu-seom expressed regret after the draft, which is likely due to their disappointment with the club’s amateurism.
A franchise star is not simply made of playing for a club for a long time. Likewise, just because he left does not mean that Kim Kang-min is not a franchise star of SSG. Whatever the club shows, something that Kim Kang-min has built in SSG for 23 years does not disappear easily. So, I’m sorry I couldn’t hold onto it. Wherever you are, you are our franchise star. I said, ‘I’ll wait any time,’ and that was all.
After two days of consideration, Kim Kang-min finally decided to continue his career at Hanwha on the 24th. Hanwha plans to include Kim Kang-min in the list of pending players to be submitted to the KBO on the 25th and pay SSG 100 million won, a transfer in the fourth round. Kim Kang-min said, “I was very happy playing baseball as a one-club man for 23 years. I’m sorry that I’m leaving only because I’m indebted. We are trying to show our strength again in the new team by preserving the unconditional love and precious memories you sent us. Thank you so much for all this time,” he left a message to his fans.
As long as the water has already spilled and the sword of generational change has been removed, labor is inevitable. In the second draft, another veteran Choi Joo-hwan (35) headed to the Kiwoom Heroes in the first round of the entire first round, and on the day Kim Kang-min chose to extend his active duty, another one-club man and franchise star Lee Jae-won (35) left SSG with 18 years behind.
As long as the new coach Lee Sung-yong expressed his belief that “cultivation will be achieved only in the first division,” changes are expected to continue in the future. Fans expect the club to be different from this time in the next breakup that they don’t know.