“We have no desire to let him play at this point”
The Lotte Giants caused a stir in the KBO early this season. They finished April in sole possession of first place, and Lotte fans jumped on the bandwagon with enthusiasm. And the biggest difference from last year is that they didn’t fall off in May. Last year, Lotte also finished April in second place, but started to stall in May, but this year they kept the good momentum going. As a result, at the end of May, Lotte was in contention for the top spot alongside LG Twins and SSG Landers.
But in June, the nightmare began. Injuries were the biggest reason why Lotte started to fall last year, and this year, it was the same story. One by one, key players like Ahn Kwon-soo, Noh Jin-hyuk, Jung Hoon, Yoo Kang-nam, and Na Kyun-an left the team for various reasons, and Lotte started to fall. The problem was that the fall was too fast. It didn’t take long for Lotte to erase their 11-game win-loss margin.
After spending a combined 17 billion won to acquire Noh Jin-hyuk, Yoo Kang-nam, and Han Hyun-hee in the offseason free agency market, Lotte began making moves around the All-Star break to prevent further decline. Injuries to key players have been the biggest reason for Lotte’s decline, but foreign players have also had a significant impact. Dan Straily, who was dubbed the “hairy ace,” has been underwhelming, and Jack Rex, who replaced DJ Peters last year, has been injured and hasn’t been able to perform at his best.
Lotte replaced both of their foreign players, most notably Nico Goodrum. Goodrum is a “proven” player who has played six seasons in the Major Leagues, debuting with the Minnesota Twins in 2017 and also playing for the Detroit Tigers and Houston Astros. He specialized in defense. Despite his lack of offense, he was able to stay in the big leagues for a long time because he could play a variety of positions.
In particular, Goodrum was a finalist for the American League Gold Glove in the 2020 season, even though it was a shortened season, because of his defense rather than his offense. And this year, in 65 games at Triple-A for the Boston Red Sox, he hit .280 with 61 doubles, eight home runs, 36 RBIs, 49 runs scored, and a whopping .448 on-base percentage. 65 games is not a small sample size, so Lotte had high hopes for Goodrum.
However, the signing of Goodrum has been a complete failure at this point. He hasn’t been able to showcase his skills in either offense or defense. Offensively, he’s hit just .261 with a .676 OPS in 37 games this year. While he hasn’t been a long ball player since his time in the United States, Goodrum has always had the power to hit over the fence, but he has yet to produce a home run in the KBO.
The defense is just as bad as the offense. It’s hard to pinpoint a single position, as they’re making mistakes at every position. Goodrum has 11 errors in 37 games. That’s tied for 18th in the league with 21 games to go. However, of all the players with 10 or more errors, Goodrum has played the least amount of games. His fielding percentage is an abysmal 0.893.
The biggest problem is that Goodrum, who cost the team $400,000 ($536,000), hasn’t been playing consistently lately. It’s unlikely, but he’s not helping the team at all as they have to keep their hopes alive one game at a time. The main reason for Goodrum’s continued absence is a hamstring injury. He hasn’t been in the starting lineup since September 9 against the NC Dinos.
A medical examination did not reveal any problems, but Goodrum continues to complain of discomfort. On the 19th, he entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Sajik Kiwoom Heroes, but he was booed by the fans at Sajik Stadium. It looked like he was going to continue to play, but Goodrum was once again left out of the starting lineup on the 21st.
When asked about Goodrum’s condition before the game against Suwon KT on the 21st, acting head coach Lee Jong-woon said, “He still didn’t look very good. He said he was ‘fine,’ so I used him as a substitute, but we don’t want to play with a sick player at this point. We need to use the best players,” he said. “He said he was ‘okay,’ so we used him in the last at-bat, but after he hit, he didn’t look complete.”
While it is true that a wicketkeeper is needed, Lee Jong-woon believes that a wicketkeeper who cannot perform at his best is not needed. With a hamstring that’s neither perfect nor unplayable, the option of dropping him from the first team and giving someone else a chance isn’t an easy one. It’s a situation where not playing might actually help him, so it’s hard to see how he can be used as a substitute. In effect, he is a non-roster player.
Acting manager Lee Jong-woon said, “We’ll see how he hits, but I think he can hit when he’s in shape. It’s hard to say how to use him right now. I think it’s a very difficult problem,” he said, adding, “I don’t want to let him play at this point. Maybe he can’t hit, but he doesn’t feel like he’s playing properly. I don’t know if he’s not playing because he’s sick, but he’s going to have to be fit to play.” 레고토토
In the end, the team will give other players a chance rather than Goodrum, who is not fully fit. Acting coach Lee Jong-woon said, “Other players are waiting for a chance to play, and it’s better to give other players a chance than to play a player who is not fit. If he’s at his best tomorrow, we’ll see, but I don’t think he’s at his best right now.”
Lotte had hoped for a performance like Jack Rex’s last year, when he joined the team as a replacement for DJ Peters and made a huge impact, but their hopes have long since turned to disappointment. With Goodrum complaining of discomfort and not being able to play even when there was nothing wrong with him in a medical examination, it’s time for Lotte and Goodrum to part ways.