From ‘Jang Rolko’ to ‘Jang Kujun’, the man who wrote a new history for the KBO.
Incheon SSG Landers Field on October 17, 2023. Doosan Bears’ final game of the regular season. Doosan did not release starting pitcher Jang Won-jun even though he gave up 5 runs. With one out in the bottom of the fourth inning, Jang Won-jun’s pitching was over. As I came down from the mound, the players came out to meet me in front of the dugout. Kim Jae-ho, the most senior player of his age, embraced Jang Won-jun. Although Jang Won-jun only revealed this story later, it is said that he shed a storm of tears behind the dugout after finishing pitching. As if he sensed that it would be the last time…
Jang Won-jun announced his retirement. After his professional debut in 2004, it marked the end of his 20-year professional career. It was far from glamorous. However, he was always the type to quietly carry out his duties. For him, that was the driving force that allowed him to play baseball for so many years. Meanwhile, he had accumulated incredible records, including a total of 132 wins and becoming the 9th player in history to pitch 2,000 innings.
In fact, he has gone down a steep decline since the 2018 season. After signing a huge four-year free agent contract worth 8.4 billion won in 2015 and joining Doosan, he led the team to two consecutive wins in the Korean Series and three consecutive Korean Series advancements. He pitched a lot, 169⅔-168-180⅓ innings. He was paid a lot of money, and his team’s performance peaked every season, so he had no choice but to do his best to live up to expectations. And he could not rest and was selected to the World Baseball Classic (WBC) national team. As I was getting older, it was inevitable that fatigue would accumulate. The aftermath seemed to come quickly.
Only 3 wins in 2018. Total 129 wins. Jang Won-jun somehow wanted to achieve 130 wins. But once I got out, it was so difficult to win. He did not win a single game in four years from 2019 to 2022. He couldn’t quit like this. I met Director Seung-yeop Lee in a desperate situation. Coach Lee, who took the helm at Doosan, helped Jang Won-jun play baseball to his heart’s content during the season. That’s how Ma’s 130-win barrier was broken. And he even reached the 2,000th inning milestone.
Wonjun Jang has recorded double-digit wins for eight consecutive seasons, starting in 2008 when he was a member of the Lotte Giants. He earned the nickname ‘Jang Steady’. However, his original nickname during his time at Lotte was ‘Jang Rolko’. The reason was that his pitching content had severe ups and downs, like riding a roller coaster. He wasn’t a fastball pitcher, but his pitch control wasn’t that precise either. In fact, while recording double-digit wins, there were many seasons in which the average ERA was well over the 4-point range. He is also from Busan, and was also pointed out by Lotte fans’ affection for the promising first-place player.
So, when Doosan invested a large amount of money in Jang Won-jun, there were some doubts. However, Jang Won-jun, who met solid Doosan infielders in the spacious Jamsil Stadium, showed his true worth. What Doosan initially expected from Jang Won-jun was not an overwhelming pitch. He had the ability to consistently play innings. However, the content exceeded expectations. In this way, Jang Won-jun presented the ‘dynastic era’ to Doosan.
Doosan plans to hold a retirement ceremony for the veteran who gave him many glorious years. No, if he wanted to extend his active duty, I was willing to grant that too. However, Jang Won-jun refuses the retirement ceremony, saying he is embarrassed. He is a pitcher who fully deserves that honor. Of all the free agent starting pitchers who transferred to other teams, I wonder if there was one that was as successful as Jang Won-jun. Pitchers become free agents with a lot of use to their shoulders, which reduces their chances of success.먹튀검증 For this alone, Jang Won-Jun deserves to be evaluated as having made a mark in the history of the KBO League.