Chinese Taipei to face Japan in tripleheader at Asian Games
Interest in repeating gold amid power concerns
The Hangzhou 2023 Asian Games are less than a month away. The Hangzhou Asian Games were originally scheduled to take place in 2022 but were postponed by one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be the first Asian Games in five years since Jakarta-Palembang 2018. They begin on Sept. 23 and end on Oct. 8.
The big question is whether the Korean Professional Baseball Organization will be able to redeem itself at the Asian Games. Baseball is one of the high-profile ball sports at the Asian Games. This time around, baseball will be played from October 1-7. South Korea is the most decorated country in baseball at the Asian Games. Since the sport was added to the program at the 1994 Hiroshima Games, it has won gold in Bangkok in 1998, Busan in 2002, Guangzhou in 2010, Incheon in 2014, and Jakarta-Palembang in 2018. South Korea has won gold in the last three tournaments in a row and is a heavy favorite to win again.
One of the reasons South Korea’s baseball team has been so strong at the Asian Games is due to strong motivation. The Asian Games is an international competition where baseball players can be exempted from military service. Baseball is effectively banned from the Olympics, so South Korea often sends its elite members to the Asian Games.
Other reasons to perform well
However, there are many other reasons for South Korea to perform well at the Games. South Korea has often been underdogs in international tournaments in recent years. The reality of Korean baseball’s position on the world stage has been painfully apparent. At the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, the team finished with no medals. Fans were shocked and disappointed to see the team fail to even qualify for the medal table as they tried to repeat the glory of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where they won the title with an undefeated record.
In March of this year, the team competed in the World Baseball Classic (WBC), but was met with a disastrous first-round exit, making it three consecutive first-round exits for South Korea. On the other hand, Japan, dubbed the “Rival of Destiny,” won the title with the help of two-hitting Shohei Ohtani (LA Angels). To add insult to injury, after the WBC, the eligibility of the national team players, including Kim Kwang-hyun (SSG), Chung Chul-won (Doosan), and Lee Yong-chan (NC), was highly controversial as they were accused of drinking alcohol.
South Korean baseball has imposed an age limit at the Asian Games after a self-examination following its disastrous Tokyo Olympics. At the previous edition, in Jakarta-Palembang, Korea’s baseball team was criticized for being a “military benefit team” despite winning the title. LG’s Oh Ji-hwan was at the center of the controversy, and Sun Dong-yeol, the first full-time head coach of the Korean baseball team to lead an Asian Games squad, resigned in November of that year due to the criticism.
The recent string of international defeats also led to calls for the development of younger players to ensure the future of the game. As a result, the team was limited to players under the age of 25 or in their fourth year of professional baseball, with three wildcards under the age of 29.
As a result, the Korean team has been criticized for not being as strong as it could have been. The Korean baseball team has been labeled as the “default” team for Asian Games gold medals, so there are concerns about whether they will be able to take the lead this time around.
Injuries to some of the team’s key players have added to their worries. Lee Jung-hoo, the 2022 regular season MVP, has been ruled out of the team and the Asian Games after undergoing ankle surgery. Several names have been floated as possible replacements for Lee, but it’s doubtful that anyone will be able to fully fill his shoes. Before his injury, Lee was the centerpiece of the Kiwoom batting order, hitting .319 with six home runs and 45 RBIs in 85 games.
Another left-hander, NC’s Koo Chang-mo, was diagnosed with a left forearm muscle injury during a medical examination in early June. A second examination revealed a fatigue fracture in his left arm, and it is unclear when he will return. Even if he is able to get fit in time for the Asian Games, it is doubtful that he will be able to regain his full game feel. After all, there are only three left-handed pitchers on the national team, including Koo Chang-mo, Lee Yi-ri, and Choi Ji-min (KIA). KT’s Kang Baek-ho has yet to return to the first team after being removed from the roster on July 26, the day after his appearance against LG Electronics, due to a cold and psychological reasons.
Unsettling factors scattered around, will it calm the public’s fears?
In addition, other countries such as Taiwan and Japan are very competitive this year. Japan has a strong record on the world stage, having won the WBC, and its amateur baseball is considered to be on par with the pros. Taiwan is also expected to send an elite squad to the Asian Games, comprised of players from its professional league, unemployed baseball teams, and the minor leagues of Major League Baseball. Chinese Taipei is in a similar situation to South Korea, as they receive military service benefits for winning.
For South Korea’s head coach, Ryu Joong-il, it is personally important to repeat his gold medal performance at the Games. Ryu was the head coach of South Korea at the WBC in 2013 and was the head coach at the Incheon Asian Games in 2014. At the WBC, he tasted the bitterness of a first-round exit, but in Incheon, he redeemed himself by leading the team to gold.
“I think this Asian Games is a great first step in laying the foundation for a good performance at the WBC in 2026,” said Liu. “As a coach, I’m very excited to see how much better the young players will become in three, five, and 10 years. I will do my best to coach them well in the short period of time.”먹튀검증
The Asian Games team will convene in September for domestic training before departing for Hangzhou, China. It will be interesting to see if the team will be able to put the public’s concerns to rest. In addition, the KBO won’t be suspended during this time, so teams with younger players will have to make do with what they have. The baseball world is also curious to see how the KBO standings will play out during the Asian Games.
Historically, international tournaments have had an impact on how well the domestic league performs. The Korean Professional Baseball League suffered a downturn in box office due to COVID-19, but this year, with the easing of distancing measures, the sport has regained its popularity. The Asian Games are bound to be one of the major factors that could affect the sport’s popularity.