Byung Ho Park is a great story, the hottest local sports story in Minnesota based on conversations and traffic, and the primary reason touches on a fundamental element of human nature.
With virtually every athlete — even high school athletes entering college or college athletes entering the professional ranks, though these get tricky — we can make educated guesses that border on ironclad projections as to how they will perform. To do this, we look at things we can measure and, many times, use comparable past performances. Sometimes these guesses are wildly wrong, but at least we can convince ourselves that the logic is sound.
Park, a Korean superstar who has hit 105 home runs and struck out a ton over the past two seasons in a league with inferior pitching and shorter fences, is very much the opposite. He is consistently being compared to exactly one person, Jung-Ho Kang of the Pirates, who had a nice season after making the leap to MLB last season. There could not be a smaller sample size. In polite terms: we know nothing.
And that’s exciting.
Park signed a relatively modest contract, with the Twins on the hook for a little less than $25 million total investment over four seasons, including posting fee. The Red Sox just threw nearly 10 times as much at David Price. In the context of contracts, this is small. Park himself will make less in four years with the Twins than Mike Pelfrey made in three. So it’s not the magnitude of the signing that has so many of us intrigued.
Rather, it’s the unknown. Park could be a massive bargain, a colossal failure or somewhere in between. He could hit 30 home runs or strike out 200 times or do both. Everything that happens will be a surprise, a rare thing in sports these days.