Yesterday evening, Roch Kubatko of MASN announced the most unexpected: The MLB had voided the Baltimore Orioles‘ contract with 17-year-old South Korean pitcher Seong-Min Kim.
Kim had signed with the Orioles earlier this year, but the $550,000 signing almost instantly sent the peninsula into an icy rage. The Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) decried the MLB for not affording it the same unspoken courtesies as Japan’s NPB league. This week, the MLB, the Orioles, and the KBO have taken the tack of calling the signing a “breach of protocol.”
Which is funny because:
Protocol, by definition, is official. Yet this signing hoopla is about an unofficial rule: You don’t take amateur talent from East Asia (or at least Japan and South Korea). For the Orioles’ breach (which has been officially undone now), the KBO outlawed Seong-Min Kim (on February 8) from playing in Korea (that may/should be rescinded), and they have forbid the Orioles from sending scouts to South Korea (that does not appear likely to be rescinded).
In a shame-based culture such as Korea’s, a social breach such as this, however unintentional, can leave a damaging, lasting, and — to Americans — overzealous impression, and that is bad news for the Orioles.
But there is even a bigger issue here, that of the differing expectations and standards in the international market for talent. Because while the KBO complains about MLB teams snatching away talent from the amateur levels, the Puerto Rican baseball community has begun to complain about the opposite issue.
Read the rest of this entry »