Manager for slumping KBO club Eagles quits

Hanwha Eagles manager Choi Won-ho has an interview before regular-season game with kt wiz at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon, March 29. Yonhap

Choi Won-ho, manager for the struggling South Korean baseball club Hanwha Eagles, has resigned.The Eagles announced Monday that Choi had first expressed his intention to quit following an 8-4 loss to the LG Twins on Thursday, and the club accepted it Sunday.Along with Choi, Park Chan-hyuk, CEO of the Eagles, also stepped down to take the fall for the club’s poor performance of late.The Eagles said bench coach Chung Kyoung-bae will serve as interim manager but added, “We’ll hire a new manager at the earliest date possible.”Choi, 51, was in the second season of his three-year, 1.4 billion-won ($1.02 million) contract signed in May last year, when he took over from Carlos Subero.The Eagles entered the 2024 Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) season with postseason aspirations after perennial rebuilding had kept them at or near the bottom of the 10-team standings for five years running. Between 2008 and 2018, they only reached the postseason once.They began this season by winning seven of their first eight games but have since gone 14-28-1 (wins-losses-ties) to drop from first place to eighth place through Sunday’s action at 21-29-1 overall.Thursday’s loss, after which Choi tendered his resignation, had dropped the Eagles to last place for the first time this season.Choi is the first manager to be replaced in the KBO this season.

The Eagles have made some significant offseason signings in recent winters to augment their young core with veterans, and none was bigger than their reunion with left-handed pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin, the 2019 National League All-Star and major league ERA champion, in February this year.Ryu first pitched for the Eagles from 2006 to 2012 and then signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers to embark on an 11-year big league career. In rejoining the Eagles, Ryu became the highest-paid player in the KBO by signing an eight-year, 17 billion-won contract.However, Ryu has not yet justified the hefty deal. He is 3-4 with a mediocre 4.50 ERA after 11 starts. He has held opponents to one run over his past 11 innings, but that turnaround has come too late to save Choi’s job.Despite some rosy preseason predictions that had the Eagles challenge for a postseason berth as one of the KBO’s top-five teams, they sit just one game above the last-place Kiwoom Heroes.The Eagles have also dealt with injury issues, at one point losing both of their foreign pitchers, Felix Pena and Ricardo Sanchez, to hand and elbow injuries, respectively. Right-hander Moon Dong-ju, the 2023 Rookie of the Year, has not lived up to expectations this year and spent nearly a month in the minor league before returning last week.At the plate, team captain Chae Eun-seong has just three home runs and a .217 batting averae after 34 games on the heels of a 23-homer campaign in 2023.At the end of April, the Eagles set a KBO record for consecutive sellouts with 16, and despite their recent woes, they have sold out a league-high 21 out of 23 home games so far at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon, 139 안전 kilometers south of Seoul

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