Note: This is a place for MyKBO's ramblings. MyKBO is not an athlete, an employee of a sports team or organization, or a writer or journalist. He's simply a stay-at-home dad who's simply a fan of sports, thus why MyKBO's rough drafts are usually for the most part his final drafts, so apologies in advance for any spelling or grammatical errors and anything else that you may find incorrect. The following is only the opinion and views of MyKBO and does not reflect the thoughts and feelings of anyone else (unless stated) or any league, teams, organizations etc.
This past week, controversy involving Doosan’s Jorge Cantu hit the Korean baseball world. Jorge Cantu is active on Twitter and re-tweeted an offensive tweet. Whether the re-tweet was intentional or not (Cantu says it was an accidental re-tweet), both the Doosan Bears and Cantu have apologized via Twitter and also in a press conference saying that he is sorry. During that press conference, Cantu revealed that he received a message that threatened his wife and basically said ‘I will rape your wife in front of Korean people’ (한국 사람들이 보는 앞에서 너의 아내를 강간하겠다).
Here are a few thoughts that I have on this situation and some past ones that have occurred in the KBO. Intentional or unintentional re-tweeting of the tweet that some in Korea found offensive and unfunny, does not change the fact that it was put out there in the public by a player from the Doosan Bears organization. While Cantu did not directly write the tweet, simply by including it on his timeline he is guilty by association by re-tweeting it. Once it became a story within the Korean media, the Bears and Cantu decided to do more than simply issue an apology via press release, they met with the media in person. This is something that I commend the team for doing and is very different than what happened last season during the Kim Tae-kyun and Shane Youman incident and Liz and the comic strip incident (Hanwha simply issued an apology for Kim via press release and comic strip author apologized on Facebook). Doosan and Cantu have now set the bar a bit higher for teams and companies to follow if something similar unfortunately happens again, whether the offending party is a foreign or Korean player.
While I personally didn’t take as much offense to the photo as some others have (Note: Growing up in a primarily Caucasian community and being one of the only Korean-looking people around, I have heard similar comments, jokes, and way more offensive things than the picture involved and thus either find the humor in something or ignore it), that still doesn’t diminish the fact that someone else may have felt offended. Hopefully the apology by the team and Cantu will help fans (and the media!) to forgive and learn from this situation. It seems like last season, the media moved on quite quickly from the Kim Tae-kyun comments considering it involved the highest paid player in KBO (it seemed like they spent more time focusing on the Jung In-young water incident than the Kim/Youman one).
The thing I did find offensive are the alleged comments from a netizen to Cantu about his wife. If true, it’s quite disgusting, sickening and cowardly that an anonymous user could wish that upon someone’s spouse. No matter how wronged or offended this netizen may have felt, does saying such an outlandish remark help the situation? No it does not, two wrongs do not make a right. Some netizens (users of the internet) in Korea have said some outrageous things to athletes in the past and this is another example of that. (some past examples of netizen abuse include threats to Apolo Ohno and more recently Elise Christie during the Sochi Olympics) While a majority of netizens in Korea do not say or do such things, it’s sad that the only ones I hear about are the abusive ones. Let’s hope that in the future, netizens in Korea and across the world become a bit more constructive and positive toward a fellow human being (and that pro athletes become more careful on social networking sites).
[Note] Before his first at-bat during May 23rd's game, Jorge Cantu removed his helmet and bowed 90-degrees to the fans as an apology.
-Dan of MyKBO
You may have noticed that some guys in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) like to flip their bats after making contact with the ball. [MyKBO’s Bat-Flip Playlist] I will be the first to admit that I enjoy a good bat-flip whether it’s in the KBO, MLB, or any other league around the world. (I also happen to enjoy a good touchdown dance or goal celebration as well) Judging by the amount of press coverage and comments about Hong Sung-heon’s flips, it would seem that I am not the only one that also enjoys watching the bat gracefully spin in the air.
Former Lotte pitcher, Ryan Sadowski, once told me there is 'baseball' and there is ‘yagu’ (Korean word for baseball). Yagu and the yagu culture are unique to Korea, while 'baseball' is unique to MLB/MiLB etc. I attribute bat-flips to the yagu culture. While I have yet to determine the origination of the bat-flip in yagu culture, I did notice that players have ‘pimped’ their home runs for a while and even in the early ‘90’s bat-flips were present in the KBO.
One comment that I keep hearing is something along the lines of ‘If he was in MLB, he’d get drilled’ or something to that extent. While that may be true, the slight problem I have with that comment is that this player is not in MLB, he’s in Korea playing in the KBO. MLB has their own set of unwritten rules and baseball culture and the KBO has their own set of rules and yagu culture. In fact, the unwritten rules in MLB seem to be getting more difficult to understand and decipher what is deemed appropriate (Jed Lowrie bunting in 1st vs shift comes to mind).
Fans that grew up watching MLB, may feel that a bat-flip is poor sportsmanship or even disrespectful. If you think that, what you need to remember is that what is considered disrespectful in one country may not be considered disrespectful in another country. One example is that in the KBO if a younger pitcher hits an older veteran player with a pitch, the pitcher is expected to bow or tip his cap as a way to say he’s sorry and it wasn’t intentional. MLB pitchers for the most part do not bow or tip their hats after hitting a guy. Using this example, would it be fair for KBO fans to consider MLB pitchers disrespectful for not adhering to this yagu rule? No, it wouldn’t be fair because it’s another league in another country that does things another way. The same can be said about bat-flips and the KBO.
If a player were to come from the KBO to the MLB, I assume he would temper his bat-flippiness a bit because he knows MLB has a different set of rules. If he doesn't know this, I would hope that someone on his new MLB team would inform him that one does not need to flip their bat every time they make contact. This past spring during KBO Spring Training, Hanwha's Felix Pie (yes, that Felix Pie...he's now playing CF for Ryu Hyun-jin's former team) would greet the catcher and umpire with a soft tap on their shinguards. This greeting is something that can be seen done on MLB/MiLB fields daily and is usually seen as a subtle form of endearment and respect to the men behind the plate (exception being Brandon Phillips and Yadier Molina 'tapgate'). When Pie tried to bring this part of the baseball culture to the KBO, many fans and umpires did not know how to react, didn't think it was appropriate and was a sign of disrespect to the umpire. The team talked to Pie about this and to his credit, a week later, he simply did a quick bow to the umpire before his at-bat. At first I was a bit miffed by this reaction from the fans and umps in Korea (I was looking at via 'MLB-eyes', which I am guilty of doing from time to time), but I later came to chalk it up as another difference between baseball and yagu.
KBO pitchers usually don’t retaliate if a player 'pimps' or flips his bat. Some MLB pitchers on the other hand seem to take great offense to this action and will try and cause some sort of pain to the batter at a later time. The differences in reactions are just another way that baseball cultures across the globe interpret things differently. If you constantly make comparisons between the MLB and KBO and the way the games are played, you may miss a Park Byung-ho home run or Choi Jeong web gem. Is one baseball culture better than the other? I’m not going to sit here and make that judgment, but I do know that if you view the KBO through ‘MLB-eyes’, you will probably not understand everything about the league nor enjoy it near as much as if you were to simply enjoy the league for what it is…the Korea Baseball Organization (not MLB Lite).-Dan of MyKBO