After reaching the postseason in his first year, Doosan manager Lee Seung-yeop was criticized and even booed by some fans. Will he be able to appease the fans who turned to a more tenacious and bold style of baseball in the postseason?
After finishing ninth last year, the Doosan Bears earned their first postseason invitation in two years, finishing the season with 74 wins, two ties, 68 losses, and a fifth-place finish. With the arrival of “national hitter” Lee Seung-yeop and the return of free agents Max Er Yang-ji and Raul Alcantara, the Bears were able to erase the ninth-place shock within a year. Of course, a draw would have been enough to end the fall in fifth place, but they were in a three-way tie for third place down the stretch.
Nevertheless, coach Lee Seung-yeop was self-critical at the end of the season. He said, “There are more things I was disappointed with. It was my first year, so there were some immature points. I think we are in this position because I was not good enough in terms of integrating the players and solving the game. If I had been more diligent, I wonder if we would have been ranked higher than we are now,” he lamented.
Even some fans booed rather than applauded Lee’s first-year performance. The controversial scene occurred at the postseason kickoff on the 16th. Doosan showed the 2023 season wrap-up video on the big screen at Jamsil Stadium. At the beginning of the video, a video of Lee’s inauguration ceremony last October was shown with the words, “New manager Lee Seung-yeop is inaugurated,” and boos erupted from the stands. It was a rare sight to see at a postseason kickoff ceremony where the team was celebrating the joy of advancing to the fall baseball season.
Lee took the reins of Doosan for three years and 1.8 billion won with no managerial experience, but he delivered an applaudable fifth-place finish in his first year. He took over a ninth-place team and quickly cleaned up the mess, achieving his primary goal of returning to the postseason in two years. There were far more concerns than expectations when he took over, but Doosan made it to the postseason anyway. In professional sports, the outcome is often more important than the process.
However, the joy of jumping from the bottom to fifth place was outweighed by the regret that the team could have been higher. The team failed to stabilize its power, going on two 11-game winning streaks and a seven-game winning streak, only to go on a long losing streak and forget about winning, and failed to discover new faces, running the regular season like a short-term game of ‘use them or lose them’.
In that case, even the existing players should do their part, but Kim Jae-hwan, the “11.5 billion giant,” batted just 2-for-2 with 10 home runs, and Heo Kyung-min, the “8.5 billion captain,” batted just 2-for-6 with eight home runs. The post Kim Jae-ho, who is nearing retirement after failing to develop, played the main role in 91 games with a batting average of 2.8 ppg. At some point, the prospects Lee had been eyeing since spring training faded from the first team.
However, Doosan has become a postseason contender that other lower-ranked teams like Lotte, Hanwha, and Samsung aspire to. Although they were booed at their departure ceremony, there is a growing chorus of supporters hoping for a first-ever upset of fifth place in the wild-card deciding game at Changwon NC Park starting on the 19th. For Lee, it’s a golden opportunity to shake off the disappointment of the regular season.
Doosan will start Kwak-Bin, who has jumped to 12 wins and an ace, in Game 1. His record this year is 12-7 with a 2.90 ERA in 23 games, and he ended the 2023 season on a high note with a six-inning, one-run victory over the KIA in Jamsil on April 13. Even in the aftermath of the damaging injury he suffered at the Hangzhou Asian Games, he pitched well, striking out nine batters. According to Doosan officials, Kwak-Bin shook off the soreness with the extra rest.
Against NC this year, he went 1-0 with a 3.07 ERA in three games. He failed to win his first game of the season on April 4 in Jamsil despite striking out 10 in seven innings, followed by a no-decision in Changwon on May 31 with four runs in four innings and a loss in Jamsil on August 20 with four runs in 3⅔ innings.
The KBO’s wild-card deciding series, which can last up to two games, is designed to give the fourth-place team a one-game lead. The fourth-place team needs only one win or one tie to advance to the semifinals, while the fifth-place team must win two games to qualify for the semifinals.스포츠토토
Since 2015, no fifth-place finisher has ever beaten the fourth-place finisher in a wild card match to advance to the semifinals. In LG (4th)-KIA (5th) in 2016 and Doosan (4th)-KIUM (5th) in 2021, the fifth-ranked team won the first game to set up the second, but the fourth-ranked team went on to the semifinals without a win. Doosan will attempt to upset the fifth-place team for the first time.
On the other hand, NC is backed by foreign pitcher Tanner Tully. He finished the 2023 season with a 5-2 record and a 2.92 ERA in 11 games, including a six-inning, one-run victory over the Changwon LG on July 13. He joined the team in August as a replacement foreign player for Taylor Widener and quickly adapted to the league.
He picked up his first KBO win against Doosan on August 20, allowing three runs (one earned) in six innings at Jamsil. Coincidentally, Kwak-Bin was also the Doosan starter that day.