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MVP-winning pitcher upset with team official's bad-mouthing, seeks 'fair' deal

All Headlines 18:30 November 21, 2016

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Nov. 21 (Yonhap) -- Having won two championships and a regular season MVP award with the Doosan Bears, American right-hander Dustin Nippert would like nothing more than to return to the club for his seventh Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) season.

And he would appreciate it if the front office stopped bad-mouthing him in the local media while the two sides are negotiating a new deal.

Fresh off capturing the 2016 KBO MVP honors last week, Nippert said in a local radio interview Monday that he was "upset" with how an anonymous team official was "making me look bad" in the media.

"Somebody in the Doosan front office was talking to the media and was saying how I was money hungry, and that if Doosan didn't sign me back, no other team would," Nippert said Monday on "Primetime" on TBS eFM, an English-language radio station in Seoul.

Nippert was referring to a Korean article that also quoted an unidentified team official as saying that the player ignored calls from the Bears during previous offseasons and asked them to deal with his agent instead.

Dustin Nippert of the Doosan Bears smiles after winning the 2016 Korea Baseball Organization MVP honors at a ceremony in Seoul on Nov. 14, 2016. (Yonhap)

"This whole article was completely false. I never once told Doosan never to contact me," Nippert said. "I don't know who would say that and who's trying to make me look bad. It kind of upset me because I am completely opposite of that."

Under the KBO rules, foreign players are only permitted to sign one-year contracts. The league abolished the US$300,000 salary cap and the 25-percent limit on annual increase in foreign players' salaries in January 2014.

Nippert earned $1.2 million in 2016, taking a $300,000 cut after a subpar 2015 regular season. If KBO teams want to bring back their foreign players, they must inform the league office of their intent by Friday.

He had an excellent postseason in 2015, helping the Bears to their first championship since 2001, and picked up where he left off in the regular season this year.

Nippert, formerly with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Texas Rangers, led the KBO with 22 victories and a 2.95 ERA. He is only the fourth foreign player here to win the regular season MVP honors.

In the interview with "Primetime," Nippert reiterated his love for Doosan teammates -- already well-documented in the local media -- and the Bears are "obviously my first choice" if he pitches in the KBO for his seventh season. Nippert is the longest-tenured foreign player with a single franchise in the league history.

His love for the club aside, Nippert said he still wants a "fair" deal.

"It's just like any other job. When you're good at your job, you make more than the other guys," Nippert said. "I don't want anything that I don't deserve. I don't have any of this high expectation of, 'I am going to break the bank.' On the other hand, I know what other players are making, and I know what's fair. I just want fans to know that."

Nippert also lashed out at anonymous Internet users who have written malicious comments on him and his wife in related articles, and said he's prepared to take legal steps against them.

Dustin Nippert of the Doosan Bears (R) smiles with his wife during the 2016 Korea Baseball Organization awards ceremony in Seoul on Nov. 14, 2016. (Yonhap)

Nippert divorced his first wife, an American, in 2014, and tied the knot with a Korean woman in January this year.

"There's a lot of negativity pointed toward at my wife. I really don't understand that. It really upsets me," he said. "I want people to know that we do read these and it does hurt. She's being harassed for no reason, and it needs to stop. If you think you're going to get away with saying bad things on the Internet, you're not."

Nippert said he and his wife have spoken to police and lawyers about the matter, and thanked them for tracking down Internet commenters and for "helping bring positivity back to our lives."

After taking his MVP trophy last Monday, Nippert had also talked at length about those anonymous online posts, saying they were "the biggest obstacle" he and his wife had to overcome this year.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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