Dunlap: Kang Really Screwed This Up

The Pirates sure could use his power

Colin Dunlap
August 19, 2018 - 1:22 pm

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

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Sat there on Saturday night at PNC Park in what turned out to be a win --- sat right there in Section 223 waiting and waiting and waiting for that Pirates player to step up who could turn a 3-1 lead into a 5-1 lead with one mighty swing. Someone with one big whack of the bat who could provide the insurance. 

Instead, I kind of had to sit on the edge of my seat as the Pirates eeked out a hold-onto-it win against the Cubs before the Fireworks dazzled above the river. It was a nail-biter, it was exhausting, it tested your nerves. 

Would have been nice to have that bopper who could put away a game, huh? 

Would have been nice to have some power all season, huh?

I was thinking the same thing as I watched the Pirates scuffle offensively on both Thursday and Friday --- allowing Ivan Nova and Trevor Williams to go out there, pitch well enough to win, but come away with their team losing 1-0. 

Would have been nice to have a legitimate power guy, or at least the threat of a guy who could change things in a hurry, huh? The kind of guy who quickly turn a deficit into a lead or, at the very least, a tied game. 

And the more I thought about it, I kept arriving here: Jung Ho Kang has let this franchise down mightily. Jung Ho Kang has let himself down mightily. I’m not saying the fortunes of the franchise the past few seasons would have changed in totality, but this is a guy who had his baseball life lined out in front of him on a golden platter and, somehow, managed to foul it all up. 

It really is one of the all-time head scratchers in Pirates history. And I mean that -- not being facetious at all.  

The pursuit of him, the promise he showed, the way he acclimated into Major League Baseball and we thought had such a wonderful future in front of him (and in the heart of the Bucs' order) is now all just questions. 

You see, the Pirates rank 11th out of 15 teams in the National League in home runs going into play on Sunday. They have 127 with the NL-leading Dodgers at 172. I’d like to think Kang would have bolstered that total significantly. 

Last season, the Pirates finished next-to-last in the National League in home runs with 151. Of course you know they played last season without Kang, who couldn't get into the country because his legal troubles led to visa troubles. I’d like to think Kang would have bolstered the home run total for 2017 significantly.

Kang is a guy who in 2015 hit the ball out of the park 15 times. He also ripped 24 doubles that season. In 2016 --- even as he played only 103 games --- Kang hammered 21 home runs and lashed 19 doubles. 

He was, make no mistake, a guy turning into someone the Pirates not only could count on for some power in the middle of the order, but someone they needed to have hit the ball over the wall in the middle of the order for the team to have success. 

Then came all the nonsense. The visa issues. The past DUI stuff. The legal entanglements and then, when he finally did get here, he got injured and has seemingly had setback after setback. 

In his stead, Colin Moran has played 110 games this season at third base. The truth of the matter is 8 home runs to this point isn’t going to cut it. The other truth of the matter is that third base is a position that you must get some power from and Moran, albeit a youngster, doesn’t profile as someone who potentially gives you anywhere near the pop that Kang could. 

Watching Nova and Williams and then Musgrove out there the past few nights pitch their backsides off sure has been enlightening. It has been something that’s been exceedingly pleasant and gives you hope moving into 2019 that the starting rotation can be the lifeblood of the organization. 

As with anything, though, they won’t be able to do it themselves. 

It sure would be nice to have a genuine power threat in the middle of the order right now and solidified heading into 2019. 

It sure would be nice to have the Jung Ho Kang we all thought we’d get. 

Real shame he screwed it all up. Who knows what his future holds, but I can’t get away from that fact that he’d be an invaluable piece to this franchise both right now and moving forward. Man, did he ever screw this up.