Chan Ho Park Has Not Learned His Lesson

87toppschanhopark.jpgOh, Chan Ho Park. What are we going to do with you? You would think that after parts of 15 seasons in the bigs, you would have figured out what everyone else has – that you’ve got a sickness, and not even cowbell is the cure. Once acquired, Giovanni Cararra Disorder simply cannot be eradicated. Named for the three-stint Dodger reliever who put up a 2.71 ERA in Chavez Ravine yet was sufficiently awful enough everywhere else to finish with a 4.69 career ERA, there is only one known cure for this debilitating disease: not leaving the Dodgers when you’ve proven conclusively that you will only be successful in Dodger blue.

Put another way, not doing this:

Righthander Chan Ho Park said in a press conference in Seoul today that he has agreed to a 1-year contract with the Phillies.

According to the Korea Times, Park, 35, will have a base salary of $2.5 million with incentives that could push the total package to $5 million.

There had been reports that the Phillies were close to coming to terms with Park to improve their bullpen. However, the pitcher said he opted for the Phillies in part because they viewed him as a starter.

“I was a little worried about the Citizens Bank Park, the home of the Phillies, which is hitter-friendly,” he said. “But as they considered me a starter, I signed with Philadelphia.”

Might want to get the women and children out of the room, because this is going to be a car wreck. Chan Ho, let’s take a quick look at your career and try to connect the dots. Park first appeared in the bigs with two short cups of coffee in 1994 and ’95 – and in case you’re wondering just how old Park is, the Braves lineup he faced in his first game included Deion Sanders and Terry Pendleton, while the Dodgers behind Park featured Brett Butler, Tim Wallach, and Billy Ashley. In 1996, he made it up for good as a reliever and a spot starter before becoming a full time starter in 1997, and between ’96-’98 he was very effective, with ERA+ scores over 100 each year.

parkkicksbelcher.jpgAfter a eventful but unproductive year in 1999 (come on, a dropkick of Tim Belcher and allowing two grand slams in the same inning to Fernando Tatis have to be entertaining enough to outweight a 82 ERA+, right?), Park bounced back in 2000 and ’01 with two of the best years of his career, winning 33 games and striking out over 200 in each season, along with ERA+ scores of 133 and 113. Before the 2002 season, he signed a 5 year, $65 million contract with the Texas Rangers, who probably should have known better.

At this point, I can’t blame Park. The Rangers offered him a ridiculous amount of money, and really,  what’s the point of coming to America if you can’t sell yourself to the highest bidder? Sure, maybe going to the launching pad that is the Texas homefield isn’t the greatest idea, but what the hell.

Of course, it’s all downhill from here. Park lasted just three and a half miserable injury-prone seasons in Texas, never once posting an ERA below 5.46. In mid-2005 he was dealt to the Padres, which should have immediately helped him – because how could you possibly have more of an upgrade as a pitcher than going from the worst AL park in Texas to the best NL park in San Diego? Yet, somehow Park’s ERA rose after the deal, and he wasn’t much better in 2006. In fact, he was so bad that in 2007, all he could manage was a minor league deal from the Mets. What’s more depressing? That a Mets squad so desperate for starters that they went through 10 besides Park wouldn’t give him another shot after he gave up 7 runs in 4 innings in his only start of the year? Or that even in AAA, he could only put up a 5.57 ERA? At 34 years of age, if that doesn’t signify that your career is done, I don’t know what does.

But, deciding to give it one more shot, he came back to where it all began, agreeing to a minor league deal with the Dodgers for 2008. Believe it or not, the healing powers of Chavez Ravine worked their magic (or maybe he just really likes smog, who knows) and Park was, well, good. Better than good, in fact, because as a multi-inning reliever and occasional 5th starter, Park proved to be an incredibly valuable member of the pen. Over the first four months of the season, Park’s monthly ERA’s were 3.00, 1.93, 2.70, and 2.12. Of course, he went completely off a cliff in August and September with ERA’s of 6.00 and 6.54, which is worrisome for a pitcher of his age, but still – four solid months is about five more than I ever expected from him. And as usual, Park loved LA (2.18) while getting hit hard on the road (4.50). This falls just in line with his career numbers, in which he’s got a 2.96 career ERA in nearly 700 innings at Dodger Stadium, but has been so bad everywhere else that his career ERA is 4.34 overall. 

All of which is a long way of explaining the very simple equation: Chan Ho Park as a Dodger = good. Chan Ho Park as anything else = awful. One would think that after so much proof over and over, that at this point of his career you wouldn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, right? That not only would you never voluntarily leave Dodger Stadium again, that you’d have to be dragged kicking and screaming.

And on top of all that, you go to Philadelphia of all places – didn’t we learn this lesson about flyball pitchers in bandboxes in Texas? Park’s only pitched 9 innings in the new Philly park, which I’ll admit isn’t much of a sample size, but even then it didn’t go well, allowing 12 hits and 5 earned runs.

Hey, I wish him the best of luck after how much he helped us out this year. But old pitcher + faded down the stretch + long history of failure when not a Dodger + worst pitching park in baseball can’t possibly end well, can it? Seems as though Phillies blogs The Good Phight and Beerleaguer are a bit worried as well.

That said, I look forward to him throwing a 2-hit shutout when the Phillies visit Los Angeles.