Reigning KBO MVP eyes championship in likely final season
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, March 30 (Yonhap) -- The reigning South Korean baseball MVP Lee Jung-hoo is heading into what could be his final season at home, and he'd like nothing more than a championship ring as a parting gift before potentially taking his talent to the majors.
The Kiwoom Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) have said they will post Lee for interested major league clubs after the 2023 season. Lee, one of the best pure hitters in the KBO in recent memory, has been drawing attention from major league scouts for a few years, and should have little trouble finding suitors in the winter.
But first things first: Lee wants to win the Korean Series title with the Heroes this year.
"There's nothing special about this year," Lee said Thursday in a group interview following the media day, when told of this being possibly his last season in the KBO. "I just want to win the title that we didn't win last year."
The Heroes lost to the SSG Landers in six games in last year's Korean Series. They led 4-2 going into the ninth inning in Game 5, where a victory would have given them a 3-2 series lead. Instead, Landers pinch hitter Kim Kang-min delivered a dramatic, three-run home run for a 5-4 victory. The Landers won the next game to close out the series.
The Heroes were the No. 3 seed in the postseason, and had to make it through two rounds just to get to the Korean Series. The Landers, on the other hand, advanced straight to the Korean Series after finishing first in the regular season.
The Heroes played 15 postseason games, compared to just six by the Landers.
The Heroes scripted an improbable underdog story just to reach the Korean Series last year, but Lee said he'd rather not have to go through that type of gauntlet again.
"If we play in the regular season the way we battled in last year's playoffs, we should finish first and head straight to the Korean Series," Lee said. "Nothing else matters but winning a championship. This year, I don't want to have anything to do with some romantic run to the championship series. We will try to play as few games as possible in the postseason."
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