Friday, June 09, 2006

Guess Where Home Is Now For the Knucklehead Pitcher Whose Fastball Killed An Endangered Florida Osprey? Here At Good Ol' No-Name Ballpark!

The Chicago Cubs have a big right-handed pitcher from South Korea named Jae-Kuk Ryu in their organization, and unfortunately for all of us he's now on the starting staff of the Iowa Cubs.

I use the word unfortunately because Ryu [right] has had a story following him around for three years that won't go away.

Ryu would like it to go away, Chicago would like it to go away, Des Moines would like it to go away, even the poor embarrassed bastards wearing those nail aprons who have to follow the I-Cubs' owners' orders and charge fans $5 to park their cars at No-Name Ballpark would like it to go away.

But it won't.

Ryu was signed five years ago by Leon Lee [the father of Chicago Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee.....more on him later] out of high school to a professional contract. The Cubs thought so highly of Ryu that they awarded him a $1.6 million bonus.

Ryu, of Choon Chung Do, was regarded as the best amateur and professional player in South Korea. Lee thought he could be dominant in the major leagues. In the last game of his high school career, he pitched a no-hitter and stuck out 20 of the 21 batters he faced.

After making stops in Boise and Lansing in the low minor leagues, trouble found Ryu when he was assigned to the Daytona Cubs.

For some idiotic reason, he intentionally threw a baseball at "Ozzy," a male osprey [left] that is an endangered bird. Ozzy, who had nested near the Daytona baseball park, died and Ryu received death threats from Ozzy-lovers, osprey-lovers, other bird-lovers and Ryu-haters

In other words, he pissed off a lot of people.

Ryu even faced possible deportation.

The Orlando Sentinel said angry people in Florida were calling Ryu a "murderer." However, long after Ryu killed the bird he still couldn't explain why he did it.

Public backlash became so strong in Florida that the Cubs had to demote him to the Lansing Lugnuts of the Midwest League.

If you ask me, a dummy who killed a bird with a baseball deserved to be a Lugnut at sometime in his life.

I suppose you could defend Ryu by saying he was no more of a jackass than those in this nation who wear funny-looking outfits on Saturday mornings and shoot defenseless pheasants, geese and ducks with powerful guns. But at least defenseless pheasants, geese and ducks aren't endangered.

Ryu tried to explain his actions to the Sentinel.

Through an interpreter, he called what he did a "terrible mistake." Despite orders from the Chicago Cubs to shut up about the osprey-killing incident, he said, "I want people to know me inside, not just the outside. I want everyone to know I'm not a bad person."

Prosecutors pushed for the maximum $500 fine and community service.

Somehow, Ryu -- who has a fastball in the low 90s -- has continued to move through the Cubs' farm system, and has made two appearances for the Chicago Cubs already this season.

Neither has been pretty. Obviously, he's not ready for prime-time yet.

He lost to San Diego, 9-0, and to Atlanta, 13-12. In 1 1/3 innings against the Braves, Ryu surrendered four home runs.

I think Atlanta thought it was batting practice. Ryu's earned-run average for the National League Cubs is a whopping 40.50.

That's ideal for a lousy team like the Cubs. Ideal for a lousy manager like Dusty Baker.

Ryu's record with the Iowa Cubs is 2-4. The next time Chicago sees him will likely be when the September call-ups are made. Maybe TV announcer Bob Brenly will have replaced Baker as manager by then.

Then he can deal with Ryu, who is said to lack character and isn't liked by his teammates.

I suppose it's fitting that someone like Ryu would be a Chicago Cubs farmhand.

After all, Ben Christensen was, too.

Talk about goofballs.

Christensen was at the top of thst list.

Christensen is the former Wichita State pitcher who did a horrible thing Apr. 23, 1999. He threw a warmup pitch at Anthony Molina, an Evansville batter who was waiting in the on-deck circle 20 feet from home plate.

The ball hit Molina above his left eye, breaking bones and permanently damaging his vision.

The injury ruined any hope Molina had of being a professional player. Christensen, however, was the Cubs' 26th pick in the 1999 draft, and received a $1.06 million bonus. He reached Class AA in the Cubs' organization, but then had shoulder surgery and may never be heard from again.

Let's hope that's the case.

Leon Lee, the one-time Cubs' scout who signed Ryu, has also come on hard times.

After being with the Cubs' organization from 1998-2002, he managed in Japan in 2003. However, his team went only 41-76 and he didn't last a full season for his last-place team.

In 2004, he was managing the Class A Brooklyn Cyclones when he was charged with exposing himself to four women in a hotel in Port St. Lucie, Fla., during spring training.

The team forced him to resign. He was offered a chance to perform community service and pay $500 to clear his name, but refused. To pay legal fees, he liquidated many of his assets.

Tough thing for his son, Derrek, to endure.

But, as they say, that's baseball.

Especially when you're talking about the Cubs.