Kia’s choice to move on from its ‘mental breakdown’ is a good one

338 billion invested in power…doomed to extinction?

Just a few days ago, the KIA Tigers were considered one of the teams that could dethrone the defending champion LG Twins.

The pitching staff has tremendous depth. The starting rotation is anchored by the homegrown trio of Yang Hyeon-jong, Lee Yi-ri, and Yoon Young-chul, while the foreign one-two punch of Will Crow and James Nail, both of whom have major league experience, have also shown promise this season. In the bullpen, there are pitchers of all types who can be utilized in a win-or-go-home situation, including Jung Hae-young, who has recorded 20 saves for three consecutive years, as well as Lim Ki-young, Jang Hyun-sik, Jeon Sang-hyun, Choi Ji-min, and Lee Jun-young. It’s not called the Pitching Kingdom for nothing. The batting lineup is also loaded with hitters who can come through at any time, including Na “Nasta” Seong-beom, Choi Hyung-woo, Kim Sun-bin, Park Chan-ho, Kim Do-young, and Socrates. The power of this two-hitter was on full display during the team’s nine-game winning streak in the second half of last season.

This power didn’t just happen. Kia has invested 33.8 billion won in Stovrig over three seasons.

Ahead of the 2022 season, the team signed free agent Na Sung-bum to a six-year, 15 billion won deal. Yang Hyun-jong, who just returned from a major league challenge, signed a four-year, 10.3 billion won deal. In April, the team paid Kiwoom 1 billion won in cash, players and a rookie draft pick to acquire catcher Park Dong-won. When Park Dong-won decided to move to LG after the season, the team received 620 million won in free agent compensation and Kim Dae-yu. This brings the total investment for the 2022 season to 25.68 billion won.

After quietly passing on Stovrig for the 2023 season, Kia opened its wallet again ahead of this season. It signed internal free agents Kim Sun-bin for three years and 3 billion won, and Ko Jong-wook for two years and 500 million won. They also signed catcher Kim Tae-gun to a three-year, $2.5 billion non-free agent contract, and Choi Hyung-woo to a one-year, $2.2 billion deal. The total amount of 8.2 billion won is small compared to the investments made ahead of the 2022 season. However, it was rather broad, as the team acquired pitcher Lee Hyung-beom and infielder Lee Hyung-woo in the second round of last year’s draft, and signed Seo Gun-chang, who left LG, for 120 million won. The team also made a behind-the-scenes effort to hire Jeong Jae-hoon Lee Dong-gul, a data-oriented pitching coach with strong communication skills with young players.

Kia’s move is not unrelated to its ‘V12’ goal.

For KIA, this season was supposed to be the season to see the fruits of their massive investments, starting with the signing of Na Sung-bum and Yang Hyun-jong. In the final year of former manager Kim Jong-kook’s contract, the team hoped to capitalize on the experience gained from hovering around the top five for the past two years, combined with preparations such as developing a pitching academy.

However, Kim’s shock departure threatened to bring everything back to square one.

It started with spring training. On the 30th, 47 players departed for Canberra, Australia, for their first training camp, but they were faced with the unprecedented situation of running the camp with only coaches and no manager as the final decision maker. Both players and coaches are worried about the quality of the training in a situation where they are bound to be emotionally agitated.

Kia is determined to find a new coach sooner rather than later, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. Just one day after the suspension, the team announced the coach’s dismissal. The team had planned and even held strategy seminars to ensure that the season would go on under Kim. The ‘change of manager’ scenario was never in the cards.

The problem is that even with a new coach, it’s hard to change the status quo. Most of the time, a new coach wants to create a “division” of coaches that he or she wants to work with. However, KIA has already started its spring camp, and there is only about a month left before the season starts. It’s impossible for a new coaching staff to get to know all of the players and get back on track for a pennant race in that amount of time.

This has led to speculation that Kia may enter the season on an interim basis, but Kia officials are quick to clarify that this is not the case. They believe that a leader with solid leadership and experience is needed to fix the initial situation and achieve the team’s goal of jumping to the top and challenging for the Grand Prix.

The day after the decision to replace Kim, several leaders are already being criticized. While it’s true that KIA is in a hurry, it can’t afford to let a “rookie driver” take the wheel. A rash choice could lead to a bigger failure. This is why it is important to be cautious and careful in choosing the next director.

Kia CEO Jae-Hak Shim, who had originally planned to leave for Australia, has canceled all plans and is going all-in on the search. It will be interesting to see what Kia comes up with.

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