The same coach who was fired eight years ago is now acting head coach of the same team. The fate of Lotte’s remaining season is in the hands of acting head coach Lee Jong-woon (57), who took over the reins following the resignation of Larry Sutton (53).
Lotte announced Sutton’s voluntary resignation on Monday. Sutton announced his resignation after the game against KT on Nov. 27, citing health reasons, and the club said that after deliberation, it decided to respect and accept Sutton’s wishes.
Coach Sutton, who had a contract until this season, was absent for health reasons on the 17th against SSG. He then missed another game 10 days later, showing signs of ill health, and eventually stepped down without finishing the season.
Sutton’s position will be filled as acting head coach by Lee Jong-woon. The acting coach, who was promoted to first-team coach on June 27, has been at the helm for just two months. In the two games that Sutton was absent, the acting coach went 1-1. The team will play its remaining 36 games under Lee, starting on Sept. 29 against Daejeon Hanwha.
Lee has a long history with Lotte. The left-handed outfielder from Gyeongnam High and Dong-A University joined his hometown team Lotte in 1989 and played until 1997. In 1992, he played 108 games as the starting right fielder, batting 3-for-4 (401 at-bats, 126 hits) with three home runs, 57 RBIs and 21 stolen bases, and helped Lotte win the Korean Series.
After ending his playing career with Hanwha in 1998, Lee spent time in Japan with the Chiba Lotte Marines before beginning his coaching career as Lotte’s first base coach from 2000-2002. He then served as the head coach of his alma mater Gyeongnam High School from 2003 to 2013, where he gained 11 years of amateur experience, most notably coaching the national team to victory at the 2008 World Youth Baseball Championship in Admonton, Canada.
In 2014, he returned to his hometown team Lotte. That year, he became the head coach of the Dream Team (third team) and the first base coach of the first team before being named the head coach in 2015. He took the helm of Lotte for 3 years and 800 million won, but was fired after just one year when the team finished eighth in 2015 (66 wins, 77 losses, 1 draw, .462 winning percentage). He was criticized for not performing up to his potential, revealing the limitations of a novice manager.
After a stint with the Chicago Cubs, Lee returned to the field in 2018 as the head coach of SK (now SSG)’s rookie team, serving as SK’s second team coach in 2019 and 2020 before rejoining his hometown team this year as the head coach of Lotte Futures. Lee is the third Lotte coach to take over the second team after serving as the first team coach, joining Kim Yong-hee and Yang Sang-moon.먹튀검증
He will now lead the team for the remaining 36 games. Lotte, which was in third place through May, has been on a steep decline since June. They have lost seven straight games and are in seventh place (50-58, .463 winning percentage). They are five games behind fifth-place KIA, and while fall baseball is far away, they are not at the point of giving up completely. Lee is tasked with cleaning up the mess and keeping the team in the race.
It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s also an opportunity for Lee. If he can rebound the team for the rest of the season, he could be in the running to become the next Lotte manager. Lotte has a history of bringing back former managers who stepped down from the team, including Kang Byung-chul and Yang Sang-moon.