By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, April 21 (Yonhap) -- This was to be a day of celebration in South Korean baseball, as the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) announced May 5 as the new Opening Day after more than a month of delay caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
But with the league looking to salvage a full, 144-game season in a compressed calendar, not every manager was in the mood to rejoice the start of the season.
Kim Tae-hyoung, skipper for the defending champion Doosan Bears, said he has long thought 144 games are a few too many in a normal season. This season would have begun on March 28 if not for COVID-19, and teams will have missed 32 days worth of games when they take the field on May 5.
Assuming there won't be any interruption, the regular season will end on Nov. 2. The Korean Series, if it goes the full seven games, will end on Nov. 28. In case of rainouts, teams will be asked to play double headers and also compete on Monday, a designated offday during a normal year.
"Managing all 144 games from this point (May 5) and on will be really difficult," Kim said at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul, before his team was to face the LG Twins in an exhibition game. "I am worried that players may get hurt and that quality of play may suffer, too. Managers have already told the league that 144 games are too many, and I honestly don't know why we haven't seen any change."
Kim went so far as admitting that there will be some games when he will choose not to try to rally from a deficit and save his bullpen arms for the future.
"We're supposed to play hard and not give up in any game for our fans," Kim said. "But we'll have to make compromises at some point. As a manager, I have to think about the next game."
He said he hasn't thought about a specific number of games he'd like to see -- "I don't sit around punching numbers," he said -- but he said he wished the KBO would have considered the fact that teams will be over a month behind schedule by May 5.
"We'll have the usual monsoon season in the summer, and there will be a lot of other factors to consider," he added. "I understand fans have high expectations (of the quality of play). But from my vantage point, it's not easy to live up to those expectations."
The Twins' manager, Ryu Joong-il, met with the media before the KBO announced the new Opening Day. He said, no matter when the season begins, he only wanted to see the end of the pandemic.
"I hope we can all return to the normal life, and not just with baseball," Ryu said. "If things are back to normal, then baseball will also be better for it."
With seasons on hold due to coronavirus, baseball and football leagues moving in opposite directions
Ryu Hyun-jin to slide into No. 1 spot in thin Blue Jays' rotation
S. Korean MLB hopefuls face long waiting game amid uncertainty, mixed reviews
S. Korean IOC members hopeful DMZ meeting will offer breakthrough for sports cooperation
Defending champs in S. Korean baseball threaten to run away with pennant