Jung Ho Kang: Off-Field Issues Need To Be Taken More Seriously

Sep 7, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang (27) hits an RBI single against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 7, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang (27) hits an RBI single against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Editorial: Jung Ho Kang has had a rough spell of off-field issues since joining the Pittsburgh Pirates. Most recently, he was cut from South Korea’s World Baseball Classic roster because he is still subject to investigation after crashing his car while under the influence of alcohol. This is not the first time Kang has had run-ins with the law in his time with the Pirates, so is it time to start taking these criminal shortcomings more seriously?

Jung Ho Kang arrived in Pittsburgh like a giant glass of water to the thirsty, third baseman-less baseball organization that was the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s been quite a long time since the Pirates had any semblance of a consistent corner infielder. Either they couldn’t hit, or they couldn’t field their position. Sometimes they couldn’t do either. I’m looking at you, Andy LaRoche.

But when Kang arrived from the Korean Baseball Organization’s Nexen Heroes in 2015, we saw a player who showed glimpses of brilliance on both sides of the ball. Jung Ho Kang can hit a baseball in the sixth inning that won’t land until after the game is over. He can make the mundane plays at third base, but also make spectacular diving stops down the line before firing to first with enough arm strength to singe the first baseman’s mitt. In the beginning, he did all these things with the consistency of bad porridge, but the signs were still there.

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We rioted when Chris Coghlan took out our beloved third baseman with a repulsive slide into second base, breaking his leg. Everyone grabbed their pitchforks and torches when Joe Maddon made his infamous “plantar fasciitis” comment. Bucs fans rejoiced with merry voice when he returned from that injury, blasting two home runs to lift the Buccos to a 4-2 win over St. Louis. He quickly became a fan favorite. The guy was just flat out fun to watch.

We loved Jung Ho, and it really felt like Jung Ho loved us back.

But then, on July 5, 2016, the Chicago Tribune broke a news story that made the whole Steel City gasp at once. Jung Ho Kang was being investigated by Chicago police for a possible sexual assault that supposedly took place when the Pirates were on a road trip to play the Cubs.

The details of the event given by the alleged victim were gruesome enough to make average Joes squirm. The allegations of date rape and sexual assault really shook many fans of Kang’s, including myself.

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“How could he do this?” I asked myself. “Maybe the allegations are false.” The most recent update on the case is that police were looking for Kang’s alleged victim to corroborate parts of her report. No word has come of this recently, but maybe the allegations should have been the first red flag.

Fast-forward until the end of the year. The Pirates finish the season with a putrid record of 78-83. Okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but it is when you consider that they finished a whopping 25 games back of the first-place, eventual-World Series champion Chicago Cubs. But as it does during the winter offseason every four years, the World Baseball Classic came rolling around. Jung Ho was on the WBC roster for South Korea, as he was in 2013.

But once again, a report came out that ended up being Kang’s undoing. Jung Ho Kang would be left off of South Korea’s World Baseball Classic roster after a report came out saying Kang was under investigation for leaving the scene of his car crash when he was under the influence of alcohol.

As if that news wasn’t bad enough, news came out shortly after that it was actually Kang’s third DUI since 2009.

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So, we need to ask ourselves this question, Pirates fans: Where do we draw the line? No charges have been filed against Kang in the sexual assault case in Chicago, but a long line of off-field incidents doesn’t exactly bode well for his image. This is his third DUI in seven years. For me, this is beyond a punishment from the Pittsburgh Pirates, or Major League Baseball, or the Korean Baseball Association.

At this point, we need to be asking if Jung Ho Kang might need to spend some time off to figure out what to do next. Driving drunk is a very serious matter. He wasn’t the only person on the roads that night. He could’ve cost not only his own life but the lives of unsuspecting drivers as well. It’s a stupid, selfish, not to mention illegal move that usually means serious trouble with the law.

So where’s the outrage? Where is everyone on Twitter ranting about how Kang needs to find help? Maybe I haven’t been looking hard enough, but I haven’t heard a peep out of Pirates Twitter about Kang’s situation. Maybe it’s time for Jung Ho Kang to take a good, hard look at himself and figure out what path he should go down next.

The Pittsburgh Pirates do too. At what point does it become not worth it to deal with Kang’s off-field agitations? These are very serious matters, and what message does it send if no reparations are levied for his actions?

It’s time to take these off-field problems more seriously, and it is time to revoke the Get Out of Jail Free Card that Pirates fans seem to have given Kang since he arrived in Pittsburgh.

What do you think? How should the Pirates handle Jung Ho’s situation, if at all? Is it a blessing in disguise that he won’t be playing in the World Baseball Classic? Did God send Jose Quintana to Earth to pitch for the Bucs? Let me know in the comments below!

Go Bucs.