Recently, professional baseball has seen an increase in the number of baseball players being appointed as managers, coaches, and commentators. In the past year or so, four teams, the Hanwha Eagles (Son Hyuk), SSG Landers (Kim Sung-yong), KIA Tigers (Shim Jae-hak), and Samsung Lions (Lee Jong-yeol), have appointed baseball players as managers.
In contrast, there were only a handful of cases in which a manager who was in charge of the team’s actual operations was appointed as a commander, making this an unusual choice.굿모닝토토
On November 17, SSG handed over the baton to Lee Seung-yong, who had served as a coach, general manager, and head of development at KT Wiz.
Lee became the first “manager-turned-commander” in five years after Yoon Kyung-yeop, the current LG Twins manager, who switched from manager of the SK Wyverns (SSG’s predecessor) to manager on November 13, 2018.
A month earlier, on October 19, 2018, Yang Sang-moon (currently the head coach of the Korean women’s national baseball team and a commentator for SPOTV), who had previously served as LG’s general manager, was appointed as the manager of the Lotte Giants.
Lee’s appointment was more dramatic than Yang and Yeom’s return to the field. While Yang and Yeom had extensive managerial experience before taking the helm, Lee is a “rookie manager.
Lee joined KT as a founding member in 2013 as a coach and was later promoted to head coach, helping the team win the 2021 title, but he has only one year of managerial experience.
“I am a novice coach, but I have prepared myself. I will believe in the players, communicate and collaborate with the front office to create a team that can consistently stay in the top tier,” he said, expressing confidence that he will be rewarded with good performances and results.
SSG also emphasized that although the coach has no managerial experience, he is the right person for the job, as he fits the direction the club is pursuing, including new structure, growth of prospects, and communication and collaboration.
After acquiring the SK Wyverns in early 2020, SSG finished sixth that year, but the team has been performing well in recent years, including winning the integration title in 2022 and finishing third in the regular season in 2023. The club is hoping Lee can lay the groundwork for a return to the top.
The report cards of the previous managers have been less than stellar. Yang and Yeom were disgracefully dismissed from Lotte and SK, respectively.
Yang, who signed a two-year contract with Lotte, didn’t complete a full season due to poor performance. After finishing the first half of the 2019 regular season in last place (34 wins, 2 draws, and 58 losses), Yang resigned along with former head coach Lee Yun-won amidst a wave of criticism.
Lotte played the remainder of the season under acting head coach Gong Pil-sung, adding just 14 more wins to finish last (48W3D93L).
It wasn’t quite as bad as Yeom’s last season, but he still didn’t accomplish his goals.
Yeom took over for former manager Trey Hillman, who led SK to the 2018 Korean Series title. He set his sights on a second straight title, but was unable to reach the top. In 2019, the team faltered at the end of the regular season, losing the top spot to the Doosan Bears and then being swept in three games by the Kiwoom Heroes in the playoffs.
The following year, the team plummeted to the bottom of the standings, and due to extreme stress, the team lost consciousness during a game and collapsed. He returned to the field with renewed vigor, but his health problems returned and he was unable to finish the season.
SK finished ninth in 2020 (51 wins, 1 draw, 92 losses), its lowest ranking since its inception. Yeom, who coached LG to the league title this season, reflected on his time at the helm of SK, saying he “failed miserably.”
It’s not often that a coach who steps down from a position of leadership to become a head coach has been able to produce clear-cut success. It’s interesting that SSG chose Lee despite this precedent. There are some interesting question marks floating around the baseball field as to what the outcome will be.