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KBO puts off plan to create 10th team

KBO chief Koo Bon-neung (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
KBO chief Koo Bon-neung (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
The local pro baseball governing body has postponed discussion on the creation of a 10th team.

The Korea Baseball Organization decided at an extraordinary board meeting on Tuesday to defer the creation of a new club, citing the lack of players.

The decision sparked strong opposition from players.

“As we forewarned, we will take actions. We will boycott the All-Star Game and the World Baseball Classic, and also seek to form the players’ union in an effort to stand up against current teams’ egoism,” the Korea Professional Baseball Players Association said in a statement on Tuesday.

The KBO also faces backlash from fans and players as well as local governments that competed to host the 10th club.

“We regret the decision. It was very embarrassing. The KBO has made an ill-informed decision. An even-number system is needed for normal operation of the league,” Baek Woon-ho, a sports promotion team official from Suwon City said. “The city will not let up its preparations to host the 10th club, such as an expansion of school teams.”

“The creation of the new team was put off, but it will take place eventually,” Lee Jong-seok, director of the culture, tourism and sports bureau of North Jeolla Province said. “We will continue steady efforts to improve baseball infrastructure.”

The KBO decision is expected to cause quite a few problems in operating a nine-team system starting next year when the NC Dinos are scheduled to join the field from minor league the Futures League.

The extraordinary board meeting convened to discuss the 10th club was attended by all 11 members -- two senior KBO officials and nine team CEOs.

From the outset, the KBO planned to manage the pro baseball season with 10 clubs starting in 2014, in a bid to prevent crippling the operation of the league with nine teams.

But, Samsung, Lotte and Hanwha are said to have strongly dissuaded other clubs from pushing for the immediate launch of the new team.

The board members agreed to defer the creation of the 10th club without taking a vote, officials said.

“It is not too late to discuss the 10th club after five or 10 years. For now, it is premature,” Chang Byung-su, CEO of Lotte Giants, told reporters before the board meeting. “No matter how ideal the 10-team league is, it is impractical given the current situation.”

As a major reason for their decision, the KBO board cited the possibility of a qualitative devaluation of Korean pro baseball due to a shortage of competent players at a time when Korea has just 53 high school baseball teams.

In the meeting, the board adopted a package of complementary measures to prop up local pro baseball before creating the 10th team.

The measures call for the establishment of favorable conditions for amateur baseball, such as an increase in high school teams and the improvement of the player draft system, as well as the betterment of existing stadium infrastructure.

The Korean pro baseball league started with six clubs in 1982, the Binggrae Eagles were created as the seventh club in 1986. Binggrae was renamed the Hanwha Eagles in 1993. In 1991, the Ssangbangwool Raiders joined the league, and from then, the league maintained the eight-team format. The Ssangbangwool Raiders disbanded in 2000 and were taken over by the SK Wyverns.

The NC Dinos, the ninth club created in 2011, is scheduled to join the major league next year.

If the pro baseball league is managed with nine clubs, all of them cannot be paired simultaneously. Theoretically, one unpaired team has to rest while the eight others are in play.

If the league is run with nine clubs next year, the total number of games will rise from 532 this year to 576, but the number of games per team will decrease from 133 to 128.

Baseball experts and local media say that the decrease in per-team games will lead to a drop in ticket sales and marketing revenue, as well as raising concern about a retrograde in such record stats as homers, hits, wins and saves.

By Chun Sung-woo (