Byung-Hyun Kim is headed to the Colorado Rockies, with quite a bit of financial hijinks on the balance sheets. The Rockies only have to pay the major league minimum of $315,000, leaving the Red Sox with the remaining $6M and LHP Chris Narveson, who was then optioned to Pawtucket. The shell game was with Charles Johnson, whose $9M salary was immediately removed from Boston’s books when he was released. In return, the Rockies got the difference between Kim and Johnson’s salaries. For the Sox, this doesn’t apply to the luxury tax, so it’s a bit of a break.
I saw Kim pitch when the Red Sox matched up against the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 8, 2002. Curt Schilling was the starter, and Mike Myers made a relief appearance as well, ironically enough. Three Diamondback pitchers with World Series rings that eventually get a matched set with the Red Sox.
In 2002 I had seats right near the visitor’s bullpen. I got to see and harass some of the best that year, from Mariano Rivera to John Smoltz. The interesting thing about Kim pre-Sox days was that he inspired sympathy among fans, almost a kinship. Is there a Red Sox fan who doesn’t know what it is like to see their team face the Yankees in a big moment, and then watch them fail? Despite his disastrous 2001 World Series, he went on to be an All-Start the next year.
Trading Shea Hillenbrand for Kim freed up the glutted infield. Without Kim, there’s no Bill Mueller batting champion season. No Kim, possibly no Ortiz breakout year. Sans Kim and his 0.00 ERA in September of 2003, we’re likely not in the Wild Card that year.
Those facts evaporate in the intense heat of fan scrutiny. He flicked off fans after they booed him. He didn’t have a public relations machine to smooth over friction and didn’t live up to expectations. The rancor was compounded by his race, language skills, and nationality. Sadly for him, Colorado is the worst place to rehabilitate a pitcher, but I hope he’ll find some peace there.