‘Iron Man’ Na Sung-bum has been gone for so long… We must persevere, there are still 10 billion to go
[Sporting News] If you had to choose between a third baseman who could play 110 games or a second baseman who could play all 144 games, most coaches would probably choose the latter. Having a starter who can play in every game, even if it’s at the expense of a third baseman, is a huge contributor to the team’s seasonal calculation.
That’s why they’re considered S-level players. Na Sung-beom (34, KIA) is one of the closest hitters in the league to fulfill that description. His on-field skills are top-notch, and his self-care has kept him injury-free. Now in his 11th season in the KBO, having debuted in the first team in 2013, Na has already played all 144 games in five seasons. In 2021 and last year, he played 144 games for the second year in a row.
His health is one of the reasons why KIA paid a six-year, 15 billion won contract to Na, who became a free agent ahead of the 2022 season. With a contract that covers the ages of 33 to 38, the risk is obvious. However, it was possible because the team was confident that Na’s body would be able to show off its health even in his mid-to-late 30s. Na played in all 144 games last year, giving us a taste of what it’s like to be an S-level free agent.
This year, however, he hasn’t been seen since the calendar flipped to June. This is due to a pre-season calf injury. Currently rehabbing, Na has missed all 46 of KIA’s games through March, and even if he returns in the last week of June, he won’t be able to play more than 60 scheduled games. The only time he didn’t look like this was in 2019, when he was out for the season after injuring his knee in a game.
“At first, I thought I just needed to rest. That’s what the initial examination showed. They said he could skip the exhibition schedule and get back in shape for the start of the regular season. But the timing of my return kept getting pushed back, and in early April, I was told that I would need eight weeks of rehabilitation before I could return to the field.
Even this was not honored. At that point, Na should have been back in the first team by now, or at least playing in the Futures League (second team) to get a feel for the game. However, further tests showed that his recovery was slow, and his return has now been pushed back to the end of June. In effect, the first half of the season was lost. Without their key batsman, KIA hasn’t been able to replicate last year’s form throughout the season.
But now is the time to persevere. Once a calf or thigh is injured, it’s likely to recur. He needs a thorough rehabilitation and will need to be monitored for some time after his return to the first team. At this stage, impatience is the biggest concern for both the player and the club.
This is especially true considering the length of his contract. Na’s contract ends this year and he still has four more years left starting next year. Considering his importance to the team, it’s more important for him to stay healthy for the rest of his contract than to play a few games now. The total value of his contract (15 billion won) is also a lot more than just the length of the contract, which averages out to 2.5 billion won per year and 10 billion won in total. As frustrating as it is right now, the best scenario is to come back as healthy as possible to avoid future problems.메이저사이트
After three days, KIA is in sixth place with a 22-24 (.478) record. While they are only 1.5 games out of fifth-place Doosan, it’s hard to see them making the postseason for the second year in a row, as the middle of the pack is expected to be very chaotic this season. Without Na Sung-bum, KIA’s strategy is to hold on to its 5 percent win rate. The plan is to get the win-loss margin back to positive for the remainder of the June schedule, and then start winning games in July when Na Sung-bum returns and the team is back to full strength.