SSG terminated its contract with head coach Kim Won-hyung on October 31. Coach Kim Won-hyung took the helm for the first time in the 2021 season. The first season failed to advance to the postseason, but the 2022 season had a perfect season. From the opening game to the final game, he never came down from the top spot. He led the KBO league to win the ‘Wire to Wire’ for the first time. He also won the Korean Series against the Kiwoom Heroes with four wins and two losses, lifting his first championship trophy. After the season, SSG signed a three-year extension contract worth 2.2 billion won (700 million won down payment and 500 million won annual salary) with head coach Kim Won-hyung. It was the best treatment for KBO league manager at the time.
SSG competed with the LG Twins for the lead early this season. After a brief ups and downs, he was on the verge of falling to sixth place in September, but he hit again in October and finished the regular season in third place. However, he was eliminated without winning a single game in the semi-playoff against the NC Dinos. And director Kim Won-hyung will put down the baton.
At the time, SSG said, “In short, it is definitely not a contract termination due to grades. After the end of the postseason, we conducted a cold review internally,” he said. “I thought change and innovation were needed for a team that continues to develop.” It was decided that it would be better to make a decision faster than late. At first, the formation of the team, generational change, team management, and overall game management were determined by the composition of players and coaching staff, but the change of coach was also carried out,” he said.
Since then, it has been reported that “Korean Express” Park Chan-ho and LG Twins coach Lee Ho-joon have been appointed as SSG head coaches. However, SSG denied this and announced on the 17th that it appointed head coach Lee Sung-yong.
Coach Lee Sung-yong talked about veteran players at the inauguration press conference on the 21st. Regarding Kim Kang-min and Choo Shin-soo, the oldest players in the KBO League, “I couldn’t meet or talk on the phone.” I will respect both players unconditionally. “Whatever judgment I make, I will discuss it with the club and I plan to go in the direction that the players want,” he said.
However, something shocking happens on the 22nd. SSG was thinking about Kim Kang-min’s retirement game next season. Therefore, Kim Kang-min’s name was not included in the 35-member protection list of the second draft. Then, the Hanwha Eagles nominated Kim Kang-min in the fourth round. SSG was also embarrassed by the unexpected situation. At the time, general manager Kim Sung-yong said, “I never thought I would nominate a player who was contemplating retirement,” adding, “We could not put Kim Kang-min on the 35-man protection list at a time when Choi Joo-hwan and an immediate power-sensitive pitcher were excluded from the protection list.” We were going to discuss Kim Kang-min’s future, he said.
Kim Kang-min was indispensable to SSG fans. He joined the SK Wyverns, the predecessor of SSG, as the 18th overall pick in the second round of the 2001 KBO Rookie Draft, and wore only one team’s uniform for 23 years until this season. There are also five winning rings (2007, 2008, 2010, 2018, 2022). In particular, he hit a come-from-behind walk-off three-run home run in Game 5 of the 2022 season and won the Korean Series MVP. This season, he appeared in 70 games with 31 hits, two homers, seven RBIs, 20 runs and a batting average of 0.226 OPS of 0.627.
Kim Kang-min, who has run for SSG for 23 years, will leave. SSG met and talked with Kim Kang-min on the 23rd, and Hanwha talked with Kim Kang-min on the 24th. Kim Kang-min’s choice was to extend his active duty. SSG had to say goodbye to “one club man” Kim Kang-min.
In the end, SSG made a decision. Kim Sung-yong, the general manager of the R&D center, was moved to the position. After a year of taking over as the general manager, I moved back. SSG said on the 25th, “We have taken personnel measures against Kim Sung-yong,” adding, “SSG will change Kim Sung-yong to the head of the R&D Center (former development team) by holding him responsible for the recent appointment of coaches and controversy that arose during the second draft.”
SSG fans showed their affection for the team by ranking first in the number of KBO League spectators (981,546) last season. This season, the second-place crowd (1,068,211) after the LG Twins (1,202,37) also visited SSG Landers Field in Incheon. The number of spectators exceeded 1 million twice in the 2012 and 2018 seasons when he was with SK, and it is the first record since the establishment of SSG.
In particular, it was slightly less than the record of 1,069,929 spectators in the 2012 season, which is the highest number of spectators in Incheon. SSG was a great disappointment in a situation where fans were sending a lot of love. The winning coach has left and the franchise star will no longer wear the SSG uniform.