Hello there, Tribe Fans.
As some of you may know, I’ve spent the past year living in South Korea as a teacher, which has kept me from writing much about the Indians (7:05pm EST start time is 8:05am in my neck of the woods), but that doesn’t mean I’ve been away from baseball, oh no.
If you asked the average fan in the USA to name a foreign country where baseball was popular, you’d probably get a lot of answers in Latin America (Cuba, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, etc.) and some would certainly say Japan, but I don’t think many would say Korea. And that’s really unfair, because baseball (or 야구, Yagu, as it’s called here) is quite popular — perhaps even the most popular sport on the peninsula.
I have a much bigger article planned for when I get home regarding my experiences with Korean (and Japanese) baseball over the past year, but I came across something today that I just had to share.
This past weekend was my last weekend in Korea (I depart for other parts of the globe next weekend), so I was trying to plan a great weekend, hopefully with the baseball involved… I checked the Korean baseball schedule and something astounding caught my eye.
That’s right — Andy Marte, the ‘can’t miss prospect’ who missed is currently tearing up the Korean Baseball Organization.
I knew immediately I had to see the kt wiz (no capital letters in the team name), even if they were an expansion team in 2015 and currently sitting at 45-79. Andy Marte, the great Indians disappointment, was hitting .360 for them! I had to see this!
The trade that brought Andy Marte to the Indians after the 2005 season was bittersweet. On one hand, the Indians nabbed a hot prospect in Marte and a catcher (Kelly Shoppach) who would go on to post a 107 OPS+ in five years with the Indians, but on the other hand they gave up one of my favorite Indians ever in Coco Crisp. I know Coco never really reached those 2005 highs again (and the Indians didn’t lose that trade, if you go back and look at the numbers), but he was one of my favorite players and every Marte strikeout in the years following was a painful reminder of a trade gone wrong.
So imagine my glee when I see Andy Marte, he of the .218 career batting average in MLB, was hitting .360+ in the Korean League. I had to see it, I just had to see it for myself.
And see it, I did. The kt wiz, being an expansion team, aren’t very good. In fact, they’re downright horrible. In American baseball terms, the kt wiz would probably lose a 7-game series to the Akron RubberDucks, though that’s not true for most teams in KBO. It is a league in which a AAAA all-star like Marte can flourish, and another fringe MLB player in Eric Thames (21 career MLB HR) can put together a season in which he hits .378 with 41 HR and 119 RBI.
Honestly, I don’t hold any grudges against Marte. He tried his best, and he just wasn’t up to the task – it happens in baseball. It’s a hard sport to predict, and ‘can’t miss’ prospects miss all the time. I’m happy to see him getting some professional success, and I’m glad I was able to drop in and witness it.
I’m also thrilled I was able to snag the most obscure jersey I may ever own…
That’s right — a #5 kt wiz Andy Marte jersey… in Korean, of all things.
Here’s a quick Korean lesson – unlike Mandarin (which is much, much more difficult than Korean), each character is a syllable, and each letter within the syllable always makes the same sound.
마 = M + Ah (Mah)
르 = R + Eu (Reu or ‘ruh’)
테 = T + ‘A’ (Tay)
Or, Marte, in Korean.
I hope to have many more exciting stories for you all this fall and offseason, but I hope you enjoyed this little blast from the past.