Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Kang Konundrum

It is a measure as to how far the Pirates have come in the last three seasons that the biggest story out of what has been a pretty bland Spring Training has been the fact that Andrew McCutchen has cut his trademark dreadlocks.

However, the second biggest story has involved the guy pictured to the left, Korean Baseball Organization superstar Jung Ho Kang, in whom the Pirates have invested about eleven million dollars.

Kang started great getting two hits, including a home run, it the Bucs first exhibition game.  Since then, however, not much good has happened.  In thirteen games, Kang has all of four hits in 31 at bats (.129) and has struck out twelve times.  So, what are the Pirates to do?  By all indications, Kang is coming north with the team as part of the twenty-five man roster.  Many critics feel that Kang should start in Triple-A in Indianapolis (not In The Annapolis, by the way) to accustom himself to American pitching. The fact that this will not happen, the critics say, is the Pirates Front Office making a roster move to strictly avoid embarrassing themselves over what is CLEARLY a dumbass signing (sarcasm intended) on their part.

At this point, Kang will be the twenty-fifth guy on the roster, and as I have stated on many occasions over the years, getting in an uproar over who will be the last man on the roster is a colossal waste of energy.  At this point, the guy is going to be used as pinch hitter and may play one day a week when Mercer or Walker need a rest.  And what was the alternative?  Steve Lombardozzi (who has already been sent down and will start the season at Indy)? After four years in the majors, Lombardozzi is pretty much a known quantity - a .250-ish hitting utility infielder, a perfect 25th man.  Kang, on the other hand, has, to use a Neal Huntington expression, does have a much greater upside, so I say that keeping Kang is not only the right decision from a business standpoint (that $11 million dollars!), but from a baseball standpoint as well.  And unlike the perceptions that many of us, including me, have had over the twenty year losing streak, I am confident that if it becomes obvious that Kang is not going to work - and you don't make that decision based on 31 at bats - the team will do what is necessary in the pursuit of a pennant  to assure that the best twenty-five guys are on the team.

By the way, if you place any stock in Spring Training statistics, and if you think that at least part of the Kang signing was going to send a message to Jordy Mercer, it seems to have worked.  In forty-two at bats, Mercer is hitting .333 with two home runs and an .878 OPS.

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