Cleveland Indians Acquire Kia Tigers. (Fiction)

Jim BertschContributor INovember 19, 2009

Dolan creates a Korean pipeline to Cleveland

The Cleveland Indians primary owner Larry Dolan and Kia Motors have agreed in principle to a 250 Million cash and stock swap deal. The Tigers gain a 35 percent share of the Indians for 180 Million in cash and a 70 Million common stock. The Indians gain a 51 percent controlling interest in the Kia Tigers.

The Kia Tigers play in Moodeung Stadium. They are charter (1982) members of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) and are the most successful team in KBO history. They claimed nine of the first sixteen KBO titles with pennants in '83, '86-'89, '91, '93 and '96-'97. Based in Gwangju, they were formerly known as the Haitai Tigers.

When asked if the Kia Tigers are in for a name change, Mark Shapiro was evasive, “We have not yet considered any name changes. Obviously all the stakeholders and our marketing initiatives would have to be aligned before we made a name change.”

The Tigers supplied three players to the 2008 Gold medal winning South Korean Olympic squad: Han Ki-Joo (3 G, 1-0; 19.29 ERA, 2.1 IP), Yoon Suk-Min (5 G, 2-0, 1 SV, 2.34 ERA, 6 Ks, 7.2 IP ) and center fielder Lee Yong-Kyu. (.481 AVG). Baseball is hotter than ever in South Korea right now and Shin-Soo Choo is the best Korean in Major League Baseball (MLB).

“This is an exciting time for Korean baseball and the people of Gwangju,” said Shin-Soo Choo the Tribe's lone South Korean player.

Cleveland is the first MLB team to invest in a KBO franchise. In a related deal, SportsTime Ohio is partnering with Direct TV and Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) to create Korean sports programming here in the USA. KBS is working with the SportsTime Ohio to broadcast Cleveland games in South Korea. 

It is speculated that with the new cash, Cleveland will become very active in the free agent market this offseason. Cleveland is also said to be discussing opportunities with MLB to schedule half of the Indian's April home games in South Korea. The west coast teams, Seattle, Anaheim, Arizona and Oakland are the most likely opponents for such games.

Jim Bertsch, a lifetime Tribe fan and syndicated writer for Bleacher Report said, “Its about time the  Indians took the initiative. New York, Boston, Los Angeles and a few other major league teams have been taking the cream off the top of the MLB talent pool for years. It is obvious that we needed to expand our fan base beyond the shores of Lake Erie.”

This is a big win for South Korea, because they now have a MLB team willing to showcase their top talent. The 2008 Olympic gold medal certainly indicates a wealth of undiscovered baseball talent in South Korea. With their strong showing on the international level, the South Korean program is at a world class level. 

Bertsch commented, “It is reminiscent of Bill Veeck making Larry Doby the first African American player in the American League.” Bill Veeck knew that talent doesn't have a race or a color. If you can PLAY, then we need you on our team. Larry Dolan has been taking heat for creating a fiscally responsible baseball franchise. Unfortunately for Cleveland, being fiscally responsible means being anti-competitive. This move places the Indians in the center of the competitive picture for the foreseeable future.”

With significant Cleveland Cavaliers ownership in China and 35 percent ownership of the Indians in South Korea, The City of Cleveland is leading the charge for creating international leagues in basketball and baseball. Give credit to Dan Gilbert and  Larry Dolan for being the innovators who are ushering us into a new era of international professional sports.