A Korean reporter’s perspective on the Orioles and Kim Seong-Min (update)

Daniel Kim is a reporter for what is basically the ESPN of Korea. He has been closely following the story of Kim Seong-Min, the 17-year-old lefty high school pitcher signed recently by the Orioles that is from his country.

The Korean Baseball Organization, which runs the nation’s top baseball league, seems to believe the Orioles violated protocol in signing Seong-Min and have taken their concerns to Major League Baseball. The KBO has lodged a complaint with MLB over the Orioles’ alleged violation of a clause in an agreement between the KBO and MLB. A separate organization, the Korean Baseball Association, says it is banning Orioles scouts from the country.

Kim said that Seong-Min was a high school sophomore last year and would be a junior this year as the high school calender begins in January there. He explained to me that the KBO scouts high school players much more heavily in their junior and senior high school seasons and this is a player the Orioles essentially “scooped” out of there before he even moved to the top of the radar for the KBO.

One thing Kim believes is unlikely to happen is the Orioles signing of the pitcher to be overturned or voided in any way. He fully expects the left-hander to be an Oriole when this flap is over.

“I think the contract will go through. I believe the player already left the country and for now, I think it’s safe to say that Kim will be the property of the Orioles’ organization,” Kim said.

Kim feels what is at issue here is that the Orioles, reportedly according to the KBO, failed to first contact MLB, which was then to contact the KBO commissioner to get clearance for Baltimore to negotiate with the player. According to KBO rules, once MLB makes the contact, the KBO must respond within four business days.

“That is a process that all transactions must go through,” Kim said. “The Orioles, for whatever reason, they did not go through the steps. They contacted and signed the player directly. That seems to be the main issue with KBO. I think KBO feels somewhat disrespected.”

Kim said this all has become a hot button issue in his country. I asked him how this situation was being seen by the Korean baseball fans.

“The Korean fans are half and half right now. They understand if a major league team calls you and gives you a pretty good contract, there is no question about it. You have to take it and take the challenge. But at the same time, there is a sentiment out here in Korea that MLB teams are very disrespectful towards KBO and its procedures. That seems to be the main issue here,” Kim said.

“All the media outlets are reporting all very negative and the Korean fans are reacting negatively as well. Not because the Orioles gave him an opportunity but because they bypassed protocol and procedure.

“In the Korean culture, the process is very important and respect is very, very important in Korean business culture and baseball culture as well. When that gets overlooked, they feel like the entire industry is disrespected.

“If you look at Dan Duquette’s comments he made after the signing, he said basically something to the effect of, ‘What’s the big deal?’ That was his reaction and that just fueled everything and put gasoline into the fire.

“The whole thing is becoming a big issue here in Korea. I don’t think the Orioles realize that, unfortunately. If I was part of the Orioles’ organization, I think the first thing he should do is make a statement of some sort. Not really apologizing for the signing itself, but for missing an important piece of the process. I think they should urgently make some sort of gesture and that would put a big chunk of the fire out.

“KBO and MLB are going through the official process of determining what went wrong at this time. Until something gets officially said, I think this fire will not go out.”

While Kim Seong-Min did pitch for the Korean junior national team, Daniel Kim said he could not determine exactly how the player became known to the Orioles. Duquette said in this interview that Seong-Min Kim was scouted by Baltimore even before he took over as executive vice president.

“That is the most mysterious thing ever. Dan Duquette just became the GM of the Orioles. When did they have time to scout this kid, I don’t know. Dan Duquette sounded like they had been looking at this kid for a long time. Maybe he saw him before his appointment with the Orioles,” Kim said.

I want to reiterate for readers that this story presents the comments and opinions of Daniel Kim, the reporter, and he is not speaking for KBO.

An Orioles team official tells me the club is working with MLB on this matter and will not comment at this time, but may have a comment or release a statement, perhaps even as soon as later today.

Update: This story by Yonhap news agency explains that now the KBO wants to make changes to its agreement with MLB to make it tougher for Korean amateur players to sign with major league teams.

Also, it now appears that if the Orioles issue a statement on this matter, that it will come Friday and not tonight.

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