Vote 2020 graphic
Everything you need to know about and expect during
the most important election of our lifetimes
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

The KBO Will Save Us All. Or At Least Give Us Something To Do. Here's What You Need To Know

With ESPN airing one Korean Baseball Organization game per night, we have that going for us, which is nice.
With ESPN airing one Korean Baseball Organization game per night, we have that going for us, which is nice.
Photo: Getty

Earlier today, ESPN announced that it will be showing one KBO, the Korean Baseball Organization, game per day after reaching an agreement with the league. Which means that there will be live baseball to watch. In the middle of the night. Which might lead some of you to ask who would bother to watch baseball in the middle of the night:

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled The KBO Will Save Us All. Or At Least Give Us Something To Do. Heres What You Need To Know

And the Coronavirus has turned us all into one or some combination of those things, so let’s not fuss. Oh sure, those of you with children will complain you can’t afford to stay up in the middle of the night to watch baseball from half a world away. But seriously, why do you have to wake up with your kids now? Where are they going? You can’t hide massive ennui from them forever. High school has come early for everyone!

Advertisement

So, what do you need to know about the KBO from someone who definitely started reading about it before today? Let’s find out together!

Wait, How Is Korea Able To Bring Sports Back Already? Amazing what can happen when your government listens to experts in the field, acts quickly and decisively, and in the interest of a populace that values societal health over the ability of the individual to yell at a clerk at a fucking Menards. That’s how.

South Korea was one of the first to act when COVID-19 cases started showing up in that country (the same time it appeared here, by the way). It has had just south of 11,000 confirmed cases and under 300 deaths in a country with a population of 53 million.

It was able to do this by immediately pivoting its medical companies to start mass-producing tests. Mass rapid testing was the order of the day, which allowed for quick isolation and quarantining of those that tested positive.

Advertisement

Of course, because South Korea is not a country with an overly-loud, childish ignoramus at the wheel, and a dangerous minority that still somehow gets its way over the rest, it was able to enact some measures that probably wouldn’t fly with selectively privacy-obsessed Americans (which still seem OK with Facebook selling your name and interests to whomever as long as you can buy socks). The government was able to use car and phone GPS, surveillance cameras, and even thermal image cameras to identify people with fevers or those who had come into contact with people who had tested positive. This led to even being more aware of the need to isolate themselves and hold the spread down. Koreans also thought nothing of widespread government advertising and texts to get tested, which we can be sure a swath of Americans would have compared to the Bataan Death March inside of Auschwitz inside of the Death Star (if some of them weren’t clamoring for a return to Auschwitz, that is).

So South Korea Is In The Clear? Hardly, at least not for the purpose of baseball. If a player shows any symptoms he will be quarantined and the last stadium he played in shut down. If he tests positive, contact tracing will see anyone in contact with him quarantined for two weeks as well, which you’d have to imagine would involve his whole team and possibly league. The whole season is basically that Wallenda goofus on a tightrope over whatever gargantuan drop you prefer.

Advertisement

What Measures Is The KBO Taking? Plenty. There will be no crowds to start, which is a shame as South Korean atmospheres certainly dwarf a good number of MLB ones. I can personally attest to sitting next to the South Korean fan section for a World Cup match in France ’98, which didn’t see any chanting or singing stop for even halftime and my right ear-drum taking a couple days to return to normal service.

A LG Twins team player practices with a mask on ahead of a preseason game between LG Twins.
A LG Twins team player practices with a mask on ahead of a preseason game between LG Twins.
Photo: Getty
Advertisement

All coaches and umps will wear masks and gloves at all times. Players will have their temperatures taken twice a day. And also no spitting, which would be the real challenge for most everyone, as it rivals breathing for baseball people in terms of reflexes. It’s hard to think of two things that go together more than baseball and spitting. It’s like sex and crying.

Ok, So Do I Know Anybody? You might! Have you ever participated in an AL- or NL-only dynasty league with 12 teams or more in the past decade? Then you definitely do. If you’re not an energy vampire, you still might have heard of one or two in the league.

Advertisement

Dan Straily bounced around the bottom of the rotation for a few teams, and even I once tried to pretend he could be the hidden prize for the Cubs in the Addison Russell-Jeff Samardzija trade of 2014 (the only hidden surprise was that Russell turned out to be a toilet ghoul). He’ll be toeing the rubber for the Lotte Giants.

Odrisamer Despaigne made three appearances for the White Sox last season, where he was the baseball equivalent to a shotgun blast to the face. But he did put together a decent half-season for the Padres six years ago. He’ll be suiting up for the KT Wiz, which is not the newest line of contraptions to beat a drug test. 

Advertisement

Aaron Altherr actually looked like he would be a real thing for the Phillies just a couple years ago as he put up a 120 wRC+. Then he spent 2018 and 2019 proving he couldn’t hit a bull in the ass with a banjo and watched his K% creep up near 40%. That’s landed him with the NC Dinos this season.

There are plenty of other 4A players that had cups of coffee with teams (mostly the Orioles as you might guess) that some of the more deranged will recognize.

Advertisement

What’s With Those Names? Oh yeah, that. Korean teams aren’t named after where they play but rather the company or business that owns them. Which if you think about it, is really a much more streamlined way of doing it. And it won’t be long before countries are going this route, too. We’re not so much “The United States Of America” as we are “The Loosely Affiliated Zones Under Jeff Bezos.” It’s best you just come to terms with this now. Perhaps one day it won’t be “Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers” but “TD Ameritrade Cubs vs. Crescent Capital Group Brewers.” Which in reality, it’s been for a while now.

Ok, Do I Still Get Awesome Bat Flips? You mean like this? I mean you probably will, though not as many as you’re probably expecting. For one, the lack of fans in the park will mean a lack of energy, so some probably can’t be bothered. Second, if you’re not pimping for the fans, to whom are you pimping for? The answer of course is much like dancing, bat-flips are for you and your soul’s well-being, and you shouldn’t be concerned if anyone is watching or caring. Anyway, you’ll get some (also, dance more, jerk).

Advertisement

However, there aren’t as many homers in the KBO as the golden age of bat-flips would suggest. Much like MLB, the league had an issue with juiced balls that have been deflated since at least last year. FanGraphs catalogued it here, but if you need a quick summation, the overall batting average of the league dropped 18 points, and the overall slugging of the league dropped 62.

So yeah, what you get is a game with far more contact, base-stealing, and pitchers that are emphasizing sinkers/two-seamers and using the defense behind them. Essentially Rob Manfred’s wet dream, to use an image that won’t have you eating for a few days. Basically it’s 1983 baseball, if you’re into that sort of thing. However that should make bat-flips stand out even more due to the paucity of home runs. Each will be a jolt of energy and surprise, like how normal people do cocaine once a year.

Advertisement

What Else Do I Need To Know? There are ties! After 12 innings you won’t see the left fielder pitching or a reliever who has been conditioned to throw 60 pitches per week seeing his right hand at the same height above the ground as his right ankle from use in one game. If you can’t figure it out by 12 innings, everyone moves on (15 innings in the playoffs, and if a playoff game ends in a tie they replay the whole thing which will give older English soccer fans some hot spots they haven’t had in a while {probably due to cirrhosis} as that’s how Cup competitions used to work there).

They also have a pretty neat playoff system, some of which MLB might want to think about it. The top five teams make the playoffs, but they use a step-ladder system which sees the 5th-placed team take on the 4th-placed team with the latter already leading the series 1-0. And the 4th-placed team only has to win or tie once, with the 5th-placed team having to win twice. The winner there takes on the 3rd-placed team in a best of five, with the winner moving on to face the 2nd-place team in a best-of-five before the winner there faces the top team in a best-of-seven to get a champ.

Advertisement

You may be wondering how it’s fair that the regular season champion can be sitting around for a few weeks waiting to play the final series, but it doesn’t seem to bother them much. The Doosan Bears won both last year, as the KIA Tigers did in 2017, and Doosan pulled the same trick the year before.

Are The Doosan Bears The Team To Know? It appears so. They’ve won three of the last five championships, and were runners-up in the two seasons they didn’t. The Kia Tigers have the most championships in the league’s history with 11. Along with SK Wyvens and Samsung Lions, the title has basically been a private discussion between those four teams the past few seasons. Among Lotte Giants, LG Twins, Hanwha Eagles, Kiwoom Heroes, NC Dinos, and The Wiz (sorry, had to) they haven’t managed a championship in this century and only three runners-up finishes between them in that time.

Advertisement

Look, if you’ve stayed up for a Wrestle Kingdom, you know the joys of feeling like an outsider with all your fellow weirdos on Twitter watching something through to sunrise. What have you got to lose? Your sanity? Your job? Your connection to humanity? It’s likely those are all gone anyway. Give in, accept what you are, and know true freedom.

Have you ever looked at a dollar bill, man?

Share This Story

Get our newsletter