The World Baseball Classic (WBC), which determines the best baseball in the world, is back. The WBC is the only tournament in which major leaguers compete. Starting with the first round held in the US, Japan, and Taiwan on March 8, the three-week fierce battle begins.
The WBC is a tournament that revived the popularity of the KBO League, which had fallen in the early 2000s. All the players representing Korea showed off the competitiveness of Korean baseball in international competitions. However, in the last two competitions, it has produced disappointing results. Looking back at the four tournaments that presented both joy and disappointment to Korean baseball.
Park Chan-ho, Lee Seung-yeop, and Lee Jong-beom worked together to make the semifinals
The WBC is a tournament created by the MLB Secretariat and the MLB Players Union. Unlike the World Cup hosted by the International Football Federation (FIFA), major leaguers did not participate in the Baseball World Cup held by IBAF (International Baseball Federation, predecessor of the World Baseball Softball Federation). When baseball was kicked out of the Olympics, MLB created the WBC to popularize baseball.
Korea, whose popularity in baseball was noticeably declining, took the WBC as an opportunity to leap forward again. Coach Kim In-shik took the baton, and professional team coaches and coaches such as Kim Jae-bak, Seon Dong-yeol, Ryu Joong-il, Jo Beom-hyeon, and Yoo Ji-hyeon participated as staff. Only seven major leaguers participated, including Park Chan-ho, who was a member of the San Diego Padres, Kim Byung-hyun, Seo Jae-eung, Bong Joong-geun, Kim Seon-woo, Choi Hee-seop, and Koo Dae-seong. Here, Lee Seung-yeop, a ‘national hitter’ who transferred to the Yomiuri Giants, joined. The domestic wave consisted of top-notch members such as Lee Jong-beom, Kim Dong-ju, Lee Byeong-gyu, Son Min-han, and Jeong Dae-hyun.
In the first round, Kim In-shik, who hired Park Chan-ho as a closer, defeated Taiwan, China, and Japan sequentially. In particular, in the final match against Japan, Lee Jin-young, the ‘national right fielder’, had a good rain, and Lee Seung-yeop, who trailed 1-2, scored a come-from-behind two-run gun in the top of the 8th inning to win the game. Later, it was revealed that it was somewhat distorted, but the scene where Park Chan-ho caught Ichiro Suzuki, who made the ’30-year remark’ was also excellent.
Korea went on a winning streak in the second round. With starter Seo Jae-eung’s good pitching, they defeated Mexico and then overcame the United States. The United States, the home of baseball, had an all-star lineup including Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, and Ken Griffey Jr., but bowed their heads. In the third game, Lee Jong-beom’s 2 RBIs and a timely hit in the 8th inning led to another 2-1 victory over Japan.
However, in the third match against Japan, he could not laugh. In the semifinals, they faced tight 0-0 until the 5th inning, but failed to advance to the final if they lost a lot in the 6th inning. Japan won the first championship by advancing to the final despite losing to Korea twice.
The Myth of Taegeukgi on the Mound of Tokyo Dome
Korean baseball won the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Members of the 2001 World Youth Championship (Edmonton Kids) such as Lee Dae-ho, Kim Tae-gyun, Jeong Geun-woo, and Oh Seung-hwan became the main players. It was a result achieved by the addition of young blood such as Ryu Hyun-jin, Kim Gwang-hyun, Yoon Seok-min, and Kim Hyun-soo. And less than a year later, at the 2009 WBC, he faced the world’s best teams once again. Coach Kim In-sik led the national team once again.
The national team that went to the 2nd WBC was almost the same as the members of the Beijing Olympics. Choo Shin-soo, who received permission from his team, the Cleveland Indians, joined as the designated hitter. Park Chan-ho, Lee Seung-yeop, and Lee Jong-beom were missing, but expectations for the national team were still high.
The WBC introduced a double elimination method and a first place match in the 2nd tournament. Accordingly, teams assigned to the same group in the first round could meet up to five times. And in fact, a situation that couldn’t be laughed at was unfolded in which the war between Korea and Japan took place five times.
In the first match of the first round, Korea suffered a 2-14 cold game loss to Japan. He was tied up by starter Daisuke Matsuzaka. However, in the match for 1st and 2nd place, Bong Joong-geun’s good fight led to a 1-0 win and revenge. The two countries met again in the winner’s match of the second round. Bong Joong-geun defeated the Japanese lineup again this time, and Korea advanced to the semifinals. The Korean players’ yard held a ceremony by placing the national flag on the mound of the Tokyo Dome, the symbol of Japanese baseball. 헤라카지노
In the first place match, the national team took a deep breath and lost 2-6. However, in the semifinals held in the United States, they defeated Venezuela 10-2 and advanced to the final. Starter Yoon Seok-min pitched well, and Choo Shin-soo and Kim Tae-gyun hit homers.
The final opponent is Japan. After 2 wins and 2 losses, we met again on the highest stage. Bong Joong-geun started again for Korea, and Hisashi Iwakuma sortied for Japan. Korea gave up the first run, but Jung Hyun-wook and Ryu Hyun-jin, who pitched afterwards, threw well and led the game. South Korea caught up with Lee Dae-ho’s sacrifice fly in the 8th inning, trailing 1-3, and finally balanced the score with Lee Bum-ho’s tying hit in the 9th inning with 2 outs on 1st and 2nd base.
In the top of the 10th inning, Lim Chang-yong, whom he trusted, gave Ichiro a 2 RBI double, and the cup eventually went to Japan. However, the potential that Korean baseball showed was very impressive to the people. New fans came in through the Beijing Olympics and the WBC’s promotion, and promising players called ‘Beijing Kids’ grabbed the bat and gloves. The rise in baseball popularity continued until the founding of the 9th team, NC Dinos, and the 10th team, KT Wiz.
Taichung Disaster and Gocheok Disaster, Korean Baseball in Crisis
There was a question mark on the national team that participated in the third competition held in 2013. Negative public opinion about a professional team manager taking over the team came out on the field. After twists and turns, manager Ryu Joong-il of the winning team Samsung Lions took over, but noise arose from the start. Power also fell compared to the previous competition. Ryu Hyun-jin, who joined the Los Angeles Dodgers, was left out, and Kim Gwang-hyun also left due to health problems. Kim Jin-woo and Choo Shin-soo failed to join at the last minute.
Even so, no one doubted the possibility of passing the first round. They were placed in a different group from Japan, and the Netherlands, Australia, and host country Taiwan were all judged to be worthy opponents. Korean players gathered in Taichung, Taiwan to prepare for the tournament.
Expectations were dashed from the first game. It lost 0-5 to the Netherlands, which had a large number of minor league top prospects. The performance of players from Curaçao, a Dutch island in the Caribbean, made Korea weak. Korea, which defeated Australia 6-0, was drawn 0-2 by Chinese Taipei and struggled to win 3-2 come-from-behind. However, the Netherlands, Chinese Taipei, and South Korea tied with 2 wins and 1 loss, and were eliminated in the third place in the group after being pushed out of the TQB (total runs/total innings-total runs/total innings) calculation.
Korea skipped the 4th tournament held 4 years later. For the first time in its history, it hosted a first-round tournament. This was possible thanks to the construction of Gocheok Dome. However, the power was not solid this time either. Oh Seung-hwan of the St. Louis Cardinals was the only foreign player.
Again, Korea lost the first match. They struggled against Israel, which consisted of minor leaguers, and lost 1-2 in overtime. The second leg was also lost 0-5. The Netherlands, which includes only four major MLB shortstops, was stronger than four years ago. Samsung-born pitcher Rick Vanden Hulk also failed. They beat Taiwan 11-8 and avoided defeat, but they lost their pride. Park Chan-ho, who appeared as a commentator, said bitterly, “This is the skill and level of Korean baseball.”
Recovering honor after 6 years, is it possible?
This tournament will be held six years after the 4th tournament in 2017 due to COVID-19. The roster of players is spectacular. Star players such as Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw (Above USA), Shohei Otani (Japan), Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Manny Machado (Above Dominican Republic) announced their participation.
South Korea announced a list of 30 players (replaceable) with manager Lee Kang-cheol, who led the KT Wiz to win the Korean Series in 2021, taking the helm. It has seven former and current big leaguers, including Kim Ha-seong, Choi Ji-man, Kim Gwang-hyun, and Yang Hyeon-jong, and elite members such as last year’s MVP Lee Jung-hoo. For the first time in Korean history, mixed-race players Tommy Hyeon-su and Edmund (St. Louis Cardinals) were also selected. Korea’s goal is to advance to the semifinals for the first time in 14 years.
This tournament, in which 20 countries participate, is divided into 4 groups to play the first round of the full league, and the top two teams advance to the second round. Korea, in Group B, faces Australia (9th), Japan (10th), Czech Republic (12th) and China (13th). If placed within 2nd place, the Group A team (Taiwan, Netherlands, Cuba, Italy, Panama) will play a single round 2. If they win here, they will advance to the semi-finals held at the Rondipo Stadium in Miami, USA. The finals will also be held at the same venue.