A tragedy like no other. Coach Larry Sutton (53), who has been leading Lotte this season, finally laid down his baton.
Sutton arrived at the stadium on the 27th to take charge of the game against KT at Sajik Stadium, but was forced to withdraw after feeling unwell and experiencing dizziness. Lotte entrusted head coach Lee Jong-woon to take the reins temporarily.
After returning home to rest, Sutton tendered his resignation to the club after the game, and Lotte deliberated until the morning of the 28th before deciding to accept it.
This is not the first time Sutton has missed a game. On the 17th, he was unable to take charge of the game against SSG due to dizziness. Despite visiting the hospital that morning, he was forced to go to work and even had a briefing with the press before the game, but his symptoms worsened and he had to leave the stadium.
On the 28th, Lotte said, “Coach Sutton has resigned as head coach due to health reasons.” Sutton had already missed two games due to health reasons, so there was no reason to believe it wouldn’t happen again. What good is the commander of a team of players going to war if he’s not on the field?” A Lotte official said, “Sutton expressed that he didn’t want to be a burden to the team anymore.
Luckily, this time it wasn’t serious enough to warrant a trip to the hospital. Sutton is expected to get his affairs in order and leave the country soon. His family is currently in South Korea and staying with him. A date has not yet been set.
Lotte plans to hand over the reins to assistant coach Lee Jong-woon for the remainder of the season, starting on Sept. 29 against Daejeon Hanwha.
Sutton’s first tie to South Korea was as a player in 2005. The now-defunct Hyundai was a team that excelled at scouting foreign players. After Cliff Broomba exploded for a .343 batting average with 33 home runs and 105 RBIs in 2004 and moved on to Japan, Hyundai looked to Sutton to fill the void with a new foreign hitter. Once again, Hyundai’s eye was spot on. Sutton broke out in 2005, hitting .292 with 35 home runs and 102 RBIs.
Not surprisingly, he was re-signed. However, Sutton hit just .266 with 18 homers and 61 RBIs in 2006, and although he got a chance with KIA in 2007, he left Korea with a .274 average with three homers and 10 RBIs.
Sutton, who was already in his late 30s when he played in Korea, went on to become a coach and was reunited with the country when he was named Lotte’s second team manager ahead of the 2020 season. He then took over as first team coach when Heo Moon-ho stepped down in May 2021.
“I want to create a championship culture at Lotte,” Sutton has often said. This meant not only having the absolute goal of winning the championship, but also building a sustainable strong team. However, Sutton’s wish was not fulfilled in the end.
Last year, the first full 144-game season under Sutton, Lotte finished eighth. The retirement of “Legend” Lee Dae-ho heightened the sense of crisis. However, Lotte invested aggressively, spending a total of 17 billion won on three free agents – Yoo Kang-nam, Noh Jin-hyuk, and Han Hyun-hee – and started the season with a bang, prompting many to say, “This year is different.”
In fact, Lotte finished the April race in first place and went on a nine-game winning streak to form a three-way tie with LG and SSG, heating up the league atmosphere. Their win-loss margin peaked at a whopping +11 on June 3 against Sasik KIA, thanks to Noh Jin-hyuk’s game-winning hit.
However, Lotte went downhill from there. The lack of power in the batting order was compensated for by concentration in scoring position, but it could only go so far. For a team that is still in the process of building up its depth, the team was also unable to deal with injuries to key players. This was compounded by injuries and poor performances from foreign players. However, the team did not rely on the mercenary skills of its bench. While the growth of young players like Na Kyun-an, Kim Min-seok, and Yoon Dong-hee, who are expected to lead Lotte’s future, was welcome, the loss of Han Dong-hee, who had been touted as Lee Dae-ho’s successor, caused Lotte’s batting lineup to slump.
After finishing the first half with a -1 win-loss margin, Lotte turned up the heat in the second half, using both of its foreign substitution cards, and won a huge 15-4 victory over Sasik SSG on the 17th to close to within 0.5 games of fifth-place KIA and ignite its will for fall baseball, but Lotte then suffered a seven-game losing streak.
Lotte continued its typical ‘winning baseball’ pace against Kiwoom in Gochuk on the 18th, taking a 4-2 lead in the top of the eighth inning, but suffered a shocking 4-5 loss in the bottom of the eighth when Han Hyun-hee hit a three-run homer off Lee Ju-hyung. In the end, Lotte was unable to recover from the shock of the upset, suffering a sweep at the hands of last-place Kiwoom, as well as two straight losses to leader LG and a three-game sweep at the hands of ‘August powerhouse’ KT, leaving a five-game gap to fifth-place KIA. The string of poor performances was bound to put a huge amount of stress on the manager.
However, Lotte’s 2023 season is far from over. They still have 36 games left to play. Now, Lotte will start anew under acting head coach Lee Jong-woon. Lee Jong-woon previously led Lotte as head coach in 2015. He returned to Lotte as the second team coach ahead of this season, and has been the first team head coach since June. He’ll need to turn around the team’s mood, which could easily turn sour. It’s not time to give up yet.
Of course, they have a lot of games left, but they are not in a position to relax. In September, the team will need to rebound as quickly as possible, as two of the mainstays of the starting pitching staff, Na Kyun-an and Park Se-woong, will be called up for the Hangzhou Asian Games. The Asian Games team will convene at the end of September. Of course, other teams will be equally affected, but Lotte’s loss of two starting pitchers will be even more devastating.메이저사이트
There are certainly some positives that could help them bounce back. Lotte currently has a solid one-two punch of foreigners in Aaron Wilkerson and Charlie Barnes on the mound, and Pil Seung-jo has a steady rotation of Koo Seung-min, Choi Jun-yong, and Kim Sang-soo, along with closer Kim Won-joong. In fact, the gap between Pil-Seung-jo and non-Pil-Seung-jo pitchers is a problem, but the team has a clear winning formula. The batting lineup has its own problems, with ‘0-homer’ Nico Goodrum nursing a hamstring injury, but it’s worth noting that Jeon Jun-woo, Ahn Chi-hong, Jeong Hoon, and Park Seung-wook, who is batting .442 in the second half of the season, are emerging as the new hope for Lotte, and the veterans are continuing to perform well. Can Lotte turn things around and rebound as soon as possible? The fateful month of September is upon us.