LG has fired both players, one of whom was the team’s biggest winner last year, with 13 victories for a club that wound up near the bottom of the league. No one questioned his pitching prowess – especially since he racked up all those wins purportedly after having deliberately walked batters at the behest of the broker who took the bets.
The other player, the broker’s roommate, who won only four games in 2011, is accused of taking bribes with another team before the Twins acquired him.
“This is the first time we’ve had such a scandal in Korea,” says Michael Park, who handles liaison between the Korea Baseball Organization and major league baseball in the US. “Probably it will hurt, but we hope the investigating will be over when the season begins.”
The KBO has suspended both of them pending the final verdicts but realistically sees no chance of acquittals. Eventually they will almost certainly be banned from playing professionally in Korea.
“I really want them to play,” says Mr. Park, “but for the benefit of the game, they have to be ineligible for life.”
The severity of the penalties reflects the need to protect the integrity of a sport that Royster, the former Lotte Giants manager, sees as rising rapidly in quality as well as popularity.
“Baseball is a big part of the Korean society and the international growth of the nation,” says Royster. “I am proud of the fact that I was the first foreign manager in Korea. I will be a follower of KBO for the rest of my life.”