Alienated

The talk of the town today is the ever infamous Golden Glove Award.  Originally awarded to the best defensive player, a few years after, the award has become a combination of Major League Baseball’s Silver Slugger Award (designated hitters also receive this award) and Nippon Professional Baseball’s Best Nine Award with a dose of a popularity vote and equal sharing among teams.

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*Winners of the Yakult 7even 2013 Korea Baseball Championship Golden Glove Award. (Courtesy of Sports Donga)

The main issue yesterday was the foreign players.  It was quite ironic since earlier on that same day, the Korea Baseball Organization decided to expand the number of foreign players a team can have in their roster.  There has been a history of foreign players being snubbed out from the honor due to, what fans say, simple xenophobic discrimination.  The media, who are composed as the voters, reportedly have came up with ridiculous explanations from “they have a low chance of showing up at the award ceremony” to “they are paid a high price to perform, so there is no reason to give them the award.”  Supposedly, there are suggestions such as having a separate “Best Foreign Player Award”, which seems like a total farce.  Instead of trying hard to pull up the level of the domestic players, this idea would just be another form of segregation in a country where the spirit of competition is emphasized in every aspect of life.

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*Brandon Knight posted a 2.20 ERA in 208.2 innings and went 16-4 only to finish 2nd in the Golden Glove Award voting. (Courtesy of Yonhap News)

After Brandon Knight of the Seoul Nexen Heroes was snubbed out last season after putting up overwhelming numbers, the voters decided to do a repeat, and below are the results:

  1. Son Seung-lak (손승락, Nexen): 97 votes – 57 G, 2.30 ERA, 3-2, 46 SV, 62.2 IP, 50 H, 20 BB, 52 K.
  2. Bae Young-soo (배영수, Samsung): 80 votes – 27 G, 4.71 ERA, 14-4, 151 IP, 193 H, 38 BB, 101 K.
  3. Chris Seddon (SK): 79 votes – 30 G, 2.98 ERA, 14-6, 187.1 IP, 169 H, 73 BB, 160 K.
  4. Charlie Shirek (NC): 41 votes – 29 G, 2.48 ERA, 11-7, 189 IP, 175 H, 60 BB, 116 K.
  5. Radhames Liz (LG): 15 votes – 32 G, 3.06 ERA, 10-13, 202.2 IP, 153 H, 88 BB, 188 K.
  6. Ryu Jae-kuk (류제국, LG): 11 votes – 20 G, 3.87 ERA, 12-2, 111.2 IP, 109 H, 50 BB, 88 K.

We pretty much see what the voters did here by granting the award to a closer (the last time a closer won the award was in 1994).  The stats of the three foreign players posted are not overwhelming, but they are relatively dominating within the league and it does puzzle us why one of them had not even finished as a close 2nd place.  Plus, we really do not need to get into sabermetrics to translate what we see here.

The Korean fans know this, and they became extremely displeased about this that they have created a meme a few years ago out of Heungseon Daewongun (흥선대원군), regent of Joseon.  A key political figure in the late 19th century infamous for enforcing an extreme nationalistic seclusion policy, which is being said to have degressed Korea’s early development during that time.

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*Part of a comic strip with Heungseon Daewongun telling foreign pitchers that the Golden Glove Award has a seclusion policy. (Courtesy of Choi Eui-min @ Nate.com)

This does not mean there has never been a foreign pitcher to win this award.  Danny Rios (Seoul Doosan Bears) and Aquilino López (KIA Tigers) won it in 2007 and 2009 respectively.  Eight position players have won it with the last being Karim Garcia (Busan Lotte Giants) back in 2008.  However, Rios was the only foreign player to ever appear at the award ceremony as most of the foreign players return back to their countries right after season’s end.  On that account, do beware that in a small Confucianist country like South Korea, where relationship and reputation is considered a top priority, people will take it personal when you do not show up for an award as the act of presenting an honor can be valued more than earning one.

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*Danny Rios of the Seoul Doosan Bears at that time appeared at the ceremony to receive his award. (Courtesdy of NEWSis)

Therefore, the evaluation seems more like “how friendly and popular they are to the voters”, “how well they maintain a good relationships with the voters”, “how they should be respected due to their old age”, or “will they show up for the ceremony” instead of sticking to their performance in baseball.  What is more is that since it is given to the as-they-say “best pitcher”, you are looking at what is basically Korea’s Cy Young Award.

References:

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