|Korean national baseball team players celebrate after defeating Chinese Taipei 11-8 at World Baseball Classic at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Thursday. / Yonhap|
By Baek Byung-yeul
Korea ended the its participation in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) Thursday in the most devastating of ways, being eliminated in pool play with one win and two losses.
Though Thursday’s 11-8 win over Chinese Taipei made the Korean team dodge having to play a qualifier to be in the 2021 Classic, the result was way below expectations compared to the team’s initial goal of advancing to the second round.
In previous international baseball events, the Korean team had excited local baseball fans by winning the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the 2014 Incheon Asian Games and the Premier 12 tournament in 2015. Excluding the third WBC event in 2013, in which the team experienced an early first pool exit, Korea finished the inaugural 2006 WBC campaign in the semifinals and was runner-up in the 2009 Classic.
However, Korea had to face the harsh reality in terms of its competitive level after losing to Israel which doesn’t have its own professional baseball league.
The team also struggled against Chinese Taipei which it downplayed as a cut below it. On Thursday, Korea blew a 6-0 lead, as Chinese Taipei, which refused to quit, was in hot pursuit tying the score at 8-8 in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Exposing the lack of strategy deserves to be pointed out as well.
Prior to the event, Korea fielded a team to analyze what its players should do against its opponents, but it turned out that the team was ineffective.
Though Korea was expected to face an uphill struggle against the Netherlands, which completed its lineup with players who have minor and major league experience, the team was sitting by helplessly as its starter Woo Kyu-min allowed big hits from the beginning. And its offense failed to materialize against the Netherlands’ starter Rick van den Hurk, who is familiar with its hitters. Van den Hurk pitched for the Samsung Lions of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) in 2013 and 2014.
Not only had Korea no game plan, but also the team was seemingly unprepared.
During the first two games, the offense scored only one in 19 innings. Sluggers Kim Tae-gyun and Lee Dae-ho, who Korean fans thought would make big hits, went 1-for-16. Though Kim redeemed himself with a pinch-hit, two-run home run in the game against Chinese Taipei, it was an inexcusable effort.
Choi Hyung-woo, who led the KBO in batting (.376), hits (195) and RBIs (144) and was named the MVP runner-up, was disappointing as well. After going 2-for-22 in seven practice games, he was benched for the first game. He only recorded an infield single as a pinch-hitter against the Netherlands and went 1-for-5 with one run.