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(WBC) S. Korean manager says players might have become complacent

All Headlines 17:56 March 09, 2017

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, March 9 (Yonhap) -- In light of South Korea's first-round elimination at the ongoing World Baseball Classic (WBC), manager Kim In-sik said Thursday the national team players might have grown more complacent than in the past.

South Korea lost its first two games to Israel and the Netherlands, and will not make it to the second round even with a victory over Chinese Taipei later Thursday at Gocheok Sky Dome.

The national team, largely made up of Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) stars, has come under fire not so much for the losses themselves, but the way the players handled themselves in those defeats. Both losses -- 2-1 to Israel and 5-0 to the Netherlands -- were uninspired games, with the hitters unable to make any solid contact and the pitchers not attacking the zone with authority.

And the fans have bombarded online message boards and comment sections to news articles with angry posts, questioning the players' work ethic.

When told of criticism that the national team players of today are perhaps less driven than their predecessors, Kim said, "I guess you could say that."

"Compared to some 10 years ago, it's become more difficult to assemble a national team," Kim said. "And it's not as though you can force these guys to come and put on the national team jersey."

South Korean manager Kim In-sik looks toward the field before the World Baseball Classic game against Chinese Taipei at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on March 9, 2017. (Yonhap)

Kim was referring to the notion that the expensive professional players have become less inclined to dedicate themselves to the national team before their KBO season. Gone are the days when pride and honor of representing the nation took precedence over money.

Kim said finding the right balance is the key.

"The honor of wearing the national flag on your chest is obviously important, but when these professional athletes get hurt, no one will take the responsibility for that," he said. "So you have to find the balance somewhere. But I am not sure if we're headed in the right direction."

Kim lamented a lack of dominant starting pitching. The WBC team was missing Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin, who was not considered for the team because of his rehab from earlier shoulder and elbow surgeries, and another left-hander Kim Kwang-hyun, former KBO MVP with the SK Wyverns who underwent an elbow operation himself.

"After Ryu and Kim, we haven't had a pitcher who could instill fear into the opposing hitters for 10 years," said Kim, who managed South Korea to second place at the 2009 WBC. "And we struggled here without a strong right-handed starter."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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