“I was shocked when TAG asked me to make a team.”
When the LG Twins clinched their first Korean Series title in 29 years on Wednesday, manager Cha Myung-seok jumped up and down and celebrated with LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo in the dugout at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul.토토사이트
Turn the clock back 29 years to Oct. 23, 1994, when LG won its second franchise title, and the third-year pitcher quietly celebrated with his teammates in a dugout at Incheon’s Sungui Baseball Stadium (Dowon Baseball Stadium).
Cha kept the same spot for both the 1994 and 2023 championships, which will live long in LG Twins franchise history.
“It’s a little embarrassing, but in 1994, I was on the roster for the Korean Series, but I injured my elbow in the second half and couldn’t pitch, so I just watched the championship game in silence, because the team was so good that I thought they would win at any time, so it was a little less emotional, but this time it was different, because I built this team as an ‘architect’ (architect-architect), so I think I was even more happy that they finally won.”
The pride of being the one who designed and organized LG’s current squad was written all over his face.
No one in the Twins organization knows the highs, lows and indomitable challenges of LG Sindbarm Baseball better than Cha.
Cha, who spent the first two days of the championship drinking to celebrate, met with Yonhap News Agency at his office in Jamsil Stadium on Friday and unpacked a bagful of stories.
During his playing days, Cha was nicknamed “Cha Ducks,” after Greg Maddux, a control wizard in Major League Baseball (MLB) who was known for his slow fastball but good command.
He threw two pitches, a fastball and a slider, along with a two-seam fastball.
When Cha took over as manager of the LG Twins in 2019, the pitch he threw for the second year in a row was not a changeup, but a slow but heavy fastball.
“Why do you blame scouts? We don’t have a good coach”
Cha was appointed LG manager in October 2018 as he was preparing to travel to the United States for the MLB World Series as a broadcaster’s commentator.
“An official from the LG Group asked me to go out for a meal, and later I realized it was a managerial interview, but I didn’t realize it, so I boldly told him, ‘You said you want to strengthen the depth of the team, but you don’t have any of those factors, so what are you going to do? I’m jealous of the Doosan Bears baseball next door, but you don’t even think about how to lead the team, and you don’t seem to know how.'”
Cha also gave the official a clear developmental theory: “Everyone says that the scouts picked the wrong players, but I think the coaches didn’t develop the players. We need to think about bringing in good leaders,” he emphasized.
Cha was appointed to a three-year term as LG’s head coach and organized monthly coaches’ meetings.
He ordered the coaches to present what they taught, what results they achieved, and what the players’ reactions were. The main goal was to develop coaches who studied, and coaches who communicated well and gave feedback to their players.
For the fifth year, the monthly coaches’ meeting has been attended by Kim In-seok, CEO of LG Sports, who watches the sharp questions and answers.
While the coaches were often heard saying, “I can’t do this,” Cha pushed hard for two years.
As a result, players like Hong Chang-ki, Moon Bo-kyung, Moon Sung-joo (batting), Go Woo-seok, Jung Woo-young, and Lee Jung-yong (pitching) emerged and became the mainstays of the franchise’s first championship in 29 years.
“As soon as I became the manager, I had free agent (FA) negotiations with (Park) Yong-taek right away, and I asked him why our team is so weak, and he said, ‘Manager, please believe me, please organize the (roster) well. ‘ I think Yong-taek, who has been playing for 18 years, didn’t have that in his eyes, because you have to organize players and coaches to achieve your goals.”
Cha said he was shocked to hear the emotional cries of current KBS commentator Park Yong-taek, who joined the team in 2002 and played in LG’s last Korean Series that year, and has been through the dark days.
After a month of reflection, Cha presented a five-year plan to the organization’s top brass, which included training coaches, developing internal players instead of signing outside free agents for three years, maintaining a strong postseason presence every year, and winning a championship within five years.
The plan worked, and LG’s regular-season ranking, which was eighth when Cha took over, climbed upward to fourth in 2019-2020, third in 2021 and second in 2022, culminating in this year’s combined regular-season and Korean Series title.
They reached the postseason for the fifth consecutive year and achieved their goal of winning a championship in five years.
Three consecutive changeups with an 0-2 pitch count finally win the game
After changing the team’s system, Cha tried to strike out (and win) with a changeup instead of a fastball in a 0-2 ball count in 2021.
The ball was out of the postseason and the strike was the result of enjoying fall baseball but not achieving his goal of winning a championship.
“Now that we’re in the postseason for the second year in a row, we’re focused on winning, and we’re looking outside the organization to see how we can change the team.”
Cha signed a three-year extension in 2021 and focused on strengthening the lineup, bringing in hitting coach Lee Ho-joon and free agents Park Hae-min and Park Dong-won to accelerate the team’s pursuit of the coveted Korean Series title.
In January of this year, he presented franchise star Oh Ji-hwan with the club’s first multi-year contract totaling 12.4 billion won over six years.
Cha’s deciding pitch to Oh was a two-seam fastball that curved right into the right-handed batter’s body.
In Games 2 through 4 of the Korean Series, Oh hit a game-winning solo shot, a dramatic come-from-behind three-run homer, and a game-winning three-run shot.
“Last year, we were very, very disappointed that we didn’t make it to the Korean Series,” Cha said. “This year, we were confident of winning the regular season, as our Wins Above Replacement (WAR) projections before the season started had us in first place, KT in second, and SSG Landers in third.”
“We weren’t guaranteed to win the Korean Series, but I think Park Dong-won’s game-winning two-run shot in Game 2 was the ‘game changer’. If we had lost that game, do you think we would have had the same upset in Game 3? I think it was pretty much over after we won Game 2, and Park Dong-won’s home run changed everything.”
Cha will soon replace his old 1994 championship ring on the fourth finger of his left hand with a new one after 29 years.