Maybe Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were wrong. The Los Angeles Dodgers may prove you can get what you want and what you need. The only question left is whether Dodgers fans will get satisfaction.
Ryu Hyun-jin pitched for Korea in the 2009 World Baseball Classic at Dodger Stadium.
After the 2012 season ended, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti made it clear he would be looking for a couple of top-notch starters. Colletti first got what he wanted when he reached an agreement with the grand prize of this winter’s free agent list, Zack Greinke. And faced with the prospects of a soon-to-be 37-year old Ted Lilly and 34-year old Chris Capuano as the lefthanded starters who would follow Clayton Kershaw, the team certainly needed a southpaw to slot in behind the right-handed Greinke.
On Monday, the Dodgers introduced starting pitcher Ryu Hyun-Jin(rhymes with Gin). Say who? Well, considering the team is paying the man $36 million dollars over the next 6 years, it might be a good idea to learn who he is.
Ryu is a 25-year old left hander who has been pitching in the Korean leagues for seven seasons. He has a career record of 98-52 with a 2.80 ERA. Of course, Ryu is unproven but the Dodgers are hoping they can repeat the same success they had when they drank from the Korean well 18 years ago.
The Dodgers signed Chan Ho-Park from South Korea in 1994. Park fared pretty well amassing an 84-58 record in nine seasons(1994-2001, 2008) as a Dodger. Park may also hold a special place in the hearts of Orioles fans forever. He made the All-Star team in 2001 and served up a meatball pitch for Cal Ripken to drive over the left field wall in the Iron Man’s final All-Star game. In a post-game interview, when asked if the pitch to Ripken may have been more like a slo-pitch softball toss, Park quipped “think of it as my going away gift to him.”
The Dodgers released this statement in regards to Ryu(note his name is reversed in the U.S.):
“We are excited to welcome Hyun-Jin Ryu to Los Angeles and the United States, continuing the tradition of Korean pitchers with the Dodger organization. The Dodgers continue to show the commitment to signing players from Asia and other international areas where baseball is played at the highest levels. We are looking forward to watching Ryu pitch for the franchise.”
Ryu is listed at 6’2”, 230 and reminds some of David Wells in his physical stature. And like Wells, Ryu isn’t an overpowering pitcher but he certainly knows how to strike people out – he’s won the Korean League strikeout title five times.
Ryu’s signing now means that under the new ownership, the Dodgers have committed $78 million dollars to players that haven’t spent one day in the American major leagues. Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig signed a $42 million deal earlier this year. Ryu also adds another dimension from a marketing standpoint.
The Asian community of Los Angeles really loves it when the Dodgers reach out over the Pacific for talent. Not only was Park popular but Japanese pitcher Hideo Nomo became almost the second coming of Fernando Valenzuela in 1995. Just as a Valenzuela start filled the seats with Hispanic fans, a start by Nomo became the hottest ticket for the local Japanese fans. So maybe we’ll witness Ryu-mania next year.
Once again, one has to be wondering what is running through Kershaw’s mind. He is entering the second year of a three year, $19 million deal and has had to sit back and watch as the Dodgers committed to paying out about $180 million dollars to two pitchers, one of which is 0-0 at the major league level.
It seems ironic that last winter, it was the Dodgers who found themselves on page 2 of the sports pages. While Colletti was hampered by a bankrupt owner, he had to drum up enthusiasm for Aaron Harang. Meanwhile, the Angels had ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” crew drooling over their signings of Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson. Talk about your 180’s. This week the Angels may be relegated to including high school newspapers to get coverage of signing Joe Blanton while the entire baseball world will be all over the news conference that welcomes Greinke.
Of course, all the headlines got the Angels nothing more than a nice seat on their sofas when October rolled around. They got what they wanted but not what they needed. Jagger and company may be right after all. Of course, the Dodgers may prefer Bruce Springsteen-Are the “Glory Days” ahead?