Kim Jong-kook (R), new manager of the Kia Tigers, shakes hands with his general manager, Jang Jung-suk, in this photo provided by the Tigers on Sunday. (Kia Tigers)
As a former stolen base king himself, new Kia Tigers manager Kim Jong-kook would like to see more thieveries from his players going forward.
Kim, having been a coach with the Tigers for a decade before being named skipper on Sunday, knows as well as anyone that the Tigers aren't going to slug their way to prominence. But it could be a different story when it comes to stealing bags, Kim said.
"Objectively speaking, we're not much of a power-hitting club, but we can be competitive with our speed," Kim said Monday, a day after agreeing to a three-year deal worth 1.05 billion won ($890,000). "We'll try to take advantage of that speed."
Kim is replacing Matt Williams, who was let go after the Tigers finished ninth in the 10-team Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).
They ranked last in the league with a .336 slugging percentage and had the fewest home runs with only 66 in 144 games.
They were second-to-last with 73 steals, and they also had the second-fewest attempts with 104. Their would-be stealers only got caught 31 times, tying for second-fewest in the KBO.
"I think the players were afraid of getting thrown out," Kim said. "Aggressive base running can put pressure on the other team. I'll tell the players to keep running. They have to overcome fears. The more passive you are, the more afraid you'll become."
Kim wasn't much of a hitter during his 14-year career, spent entirely with the Tigers, as attested by his .247 career batting average. But Kim stole 254 bags in 1,359 games and led the KBO with a career-high 50 steals in 2002. He ranked among the top 10 on three other occasions and reached double figures in stolen bases in 11 out of his 14 seasons.
After his playing days ended, Kim served in multiple capacities on the Tigers' staff, including as base running coach and bench coach.
He won three Korean Series championships as a player and once as a coach in 2017. Kim said he will not settle for anything less than a title with the only club he's known in his professional career.
"Pros should always set out to win championships," Kim said. "I'd love to win one as a manager." (Yonhap)