Thursday, April 14, 2016

Oriole #1010- Hyun Soo Kim-or the Debut that Almost Wasn't

For those of you who follow the Orioles, which I assume is the vast majority of people who visit my little site, then you are familiar with the saga of Hyun Soo Kim' time with the Orioles during this past Spring Training.

The O's signed Kim to a 2 year, $7 million dollar deal back in December 2015. He had played in the Korean Baseball Organization (Korea's version of MLB) for the past decade or so, and he was a star in the league, who hit for power and average and got on base consistently. At the time that he signed, it was widely assumed that he would be the Orioles left fielder in 2016, due at least in part to the lack of organizational outfield depth.

But once Spring Training started, the emergence of Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard and his sensational success quickly eclipsed Kim, who had a polar opposite spring training experience from Joey. Whether it was a culture shock, language barrier, or the adjustment to a new league, Kim struggled from the start. He began the spring 0-23 and finished Grapefruit League action with a paltry .178 average with no extra base hits and a single walk. In fact, it seemed like most of his hits didn't even leave the infield and he was regularly over-matched by average major league fastballs.

Kim's contract stated that he needed to give his approval to be optioned to the minor leagues (a poorly thought out stipulation by the Orioles), and he refused, insisting that his contract be honored. It was a bad situation all around, because he clearly would have benefited by getting regular at bats at AAA, but it's hard to blame him too much since his contract gave him the control to decide and it was always his dream to play in the Major Leagues. I can honestly see both sides of the story.

Due to Hyun Soo's insistence about staying on the Major League roster, he ran down the orange carpet with the rest of the team on Opening Day, but was the only Orioles player to receive any boo's (again in my opinion only partially deserved).

It took him until the fifth game of the season to make his Orioles and MLB debut, when he started in left field against the Rays in the final game of the Orioles first homestand. He went 2-3 with two infield singles in his debut, and appeared in his second game last night against the Red Sox in Boston, where he was 0-4 but did walk twice. Only time will tell how this is going to work out, but right now, he is firmly entrenched on the bench as the team's fifth outfielder.

Finally, I'd be remiss to not mention my autograph experience with Hyun Soo since this is an autograph blog. I flat out had no success with him in Spring. In fact, I don't even know if he ever looked at me or the other fans I was with. At one point, I was with a group of about eight people, including 2-3 attractive Korean girls who were only waiting for him and had signs for him to boot. He was in the car with his translator and blew right past the group of us, with a small wave of his hand and his eyes never leaving his phone. So I'm not a fan of his not because of his contract situation and how he ended up on the 25 man roster, but instead because of how I saw him treat his fans in Sarasota. Bad form Hyun Soo.

As was the case with my Pedro Alvarez autograph, my autographing friend Alan once again was able to help me out. For whatever reason, Hyun Soo seemed to gladly sign for Alan, who got his autograph at least three times while I continued to strike out. So thanks to my dad's Old Man Card, and Alan's help, this autograph will always be in my collection.

No comments: