The gap has widened too wide to simply dismiss it as a single appearance of Ohtani Shohei (Los Angeles Angels). Now, I feel sorry to even discuss the word gap. Japan’s victory is something to be delighted with in terms of the development of Asian baseball, but it is also like a strong whip that tells us that Korean baseball needs to change fundamentally.
Japan won the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC) by defeating the United States, which had a team made up of luxurious members who all play in the American Professional Baseball Major League (MLB). On the 22nd (Korean time), Japan defeated the United States 3-2 in the final held at Rondipo Park in Miami, Florida, USA, and took the top spot in the WBC for the first time in 14 years.
Starting pitcher Shota Imana (Yokohama DeNA Baystars), Dogo, Hiroto Takahashi (Chunichi Dragons, 5 innings), Hiromi Ito (Nippon Ham Fighters, 6 innings), fifth sidearm Ota Daisei (Yomiuri), Darvish , Ohtani’s subsequent throws prevented the U.S.’s powerful batting line with 9 sporadic hits and 2 runs. Based on the baseball statistics site Baseball Reference, the total annual salary of the US team in 2023 is $ 211.29 million (about 276 billion won).
However, Japan did not lose at all in the power confrontation with the United States. When Turner (Philadelphia Phillies) hit a home run, Murakami Munetaka (Yakult Swallows) responded with a home run with a batting speed of 185 km/h. At the end of the 4th inning, Kazuma Okamoto (Yomiuri) hit a solo home run to left center. Now, Japanese baseball has grown to the point where it is not inferior to the top players in the major leagues in velocity and power. What’s even scarier is that most of these can come out intact at the next WBC.
It is made up of a young team. Four-time pitcher Yamamoto is only 25 years old, and final home runner Murakami is only 23 years old. There is an environment in which the second and third Ohtani can emerge.
On the other hand, there was no generational change at all in Korea. No pitcher threw better than Kim Gwang-hyeon (SSG) in this WBC. The most painful thing is that the growth of young players is not satisfactory. Compared to players in their early 20s, such as Loki Sasaki and Hiroto Takahashi, who belong to Japan’s rookie class, they are devastating. They showed a velocity of over 160 km/h, which did not fall at all compared to major leaguers.
Lee Eui-ri (Kia) and Kim Yun-shik (LG) received sympathetic attention from the foreign press for saying that players who could not throw a strike at all were selected for the national team. Other young players are too weak to use on the international stage where 160km/h is common. Currently, there are only Korean pitchers who have a speed that can be passed by international standards, such as Ahn Woo-jin (Kiwoom) and Moon Dong-ju (Hanwha).
The most heartbreaking thing is that Korea was completely defeated by Japan in terms of attitude towards baseball and sense of duty as a national team member.
In his speech before the final game against the United States, Ohtani said, “Let’s stop pitying for just one day today. We came here to surpass the United States,” he encouraged the players. Not only that. In an interview immediately after winning the championship, he encouraged the development of Asian baseball by saying, “I hope that Taiwanese and Korean people will love baseball even more. I hope they can win the championship,” and demonstrated the spirit of partnership. Ohtani repeated these words even before the finals. He
showed a big heart that took the lead in the globalization of baseball more than MLB, leaving the game simply. He even showed tears of joy right after the semifinals. At the end of this season, a player who comes out with a $500 million story is so desperate for the national team. It is also rare to see them.
However, in Korea, Go Woo-seok’s thoughtless remark, “If there is no place to throw at Ohtani, I will hit it,” was criticized by the Korean and Japanese media. After Kang Baek-ho’s death ceremony was highlighted by the media, and after the elimination was confirmed, Kim Hyun-soo’s remarks, “Seniors who have not appeared in the national team, speak carelessly of the national team,” are causing internal cracks between seniors and juniors in the baseball world. 안전놀이터
Japan has significantly narrowed the gap with the United States, the home of baseball. On the other hand, Korea is now losing to baseball peripheries such as the Netherlands, Israel, and Australia in a row, and has been eliminated from the WBC 1R three times in a row, and infighting is also taking place.
At this rate, a nightmare time in which Korea will never be able to beat Japan in baseball may unfold.