Change-UpMay 21, 2008
The Night Grady Little Destroyed Byung-Hyun Kim
By Patrick Sullivan

As a Red Sox fan, I will confess to having my pets. Amongst my friends, I catch a lot of heat for this. As it relates to the current edition of the Sox, I have been accused of being a J.D. Drew "apologist" and heck, maybe I am. I loved Mark Bellhorn (remember, he was actually booed in Fenway Park during Games 4 and 5 of the 2004 ALCS). Heck, I was clamoring from the hilltops for Roberto freaking Petagine to be given an honest-to-goodness chance as Kevin Millar lumbered through his hangover 2005 season. Petagine, who was given just 36 plate appearances for the big club in 2005, hit .327/.452/.635 for Pawtucket that season while Millar hit .272/.355/.399 for Boston. Newly acquired John Olerud rendered Petagine useless down the stretch in 2005 as far as Terry Francona was concerned.

Another such player was Byung-Hyun Kim, a guy I could not have been happier to root for after Boston acquired him on May 29, 2003, especially given that he was traded for the likes of Shea Hillenbrand. The addition of Kim paid immediate and season-long dividends for the Red Sox. He was phenomenal, as shown below.

           IP   SO   BB   H   WHIP   ERA   ERA+
Kim       79.3  69   18  70   1.11  3.18   147

And yet, as good as he was for the Sox in 2003, here is how he is remembered around these parts:


This shot was taken before Game 3 of the 2003 ALDS. Keep in mind the above numbers. You might also consider that from September 1 on in 2003, Kim had allowed opponents a batting line of .136/.208/.182. He had been tremendous down the stretch. And yet, he was crushed by the home fans when his name was announced. Why? A fanbase already weary of a player who had failed so famously at Yankee Stadium, remembered his four Blown Saves during 2003 better than they did his stellar performance on the whole for the season. Moreover, he was tagged with a Blown Save in Game One of the series and Boston returned home on the brink of elimination, down 2-0 to a powerful Oakland Athletics squad.

So what happened in Game One? Staked to a one-run lead heading into the bottom of the ninth, Little hands Kim the ball to nail the win down. He promptly induces a Ramon Hernandez fly-out before walking Billy McMillon and hitting Chris Singleton. With men on first and second, he then strikes out Mark Ellis. With two outs, two men on and his best relief pitcher on the hill, what does Grady do? He pulls Kim in favor of Alan Embree with lefties Erubiel Durazo and Eric Chavez set to hit.

Here's what Little might have considered; Embree that season yielded a .696 OPS against lefties, compared to Kim’s .664. Further, Kim had been Boston's Closer and had just struck out Ellis! With one out remaining and a one-run lead in the ninth, Grady opts for Embree, who promptly gives up a single to Durazo which plates the game tying run. Because the run is charged to Kim, he gets the Blown Save. Oakland wins in the twelfth.

Of course after losing Game 2, a feisty (and dare I say a tinge racist) Boston crowd greets Kim for Game 3 with a chorus of boos. Grady capitulates and fails to use him for the remainder of the post-season. Yes, the very same Grady Little who would leave Pedro Martinez in the game too long in Game 7 of the ALCS just 12 days later.

Kim would never be the same after 2003, his age 24 season.


"a tinge racist" - understatement of the year.

Nice article Pat. Grady Little is a dope.

Actually, since Embree would have been credited with a save had he gotten Durazo out, it was Embree who was credited with a blown save. Kim actually was credited with a hold even though he was credited with the tying run, at least according to:

Not a bad article, but, to be honest, you barely scratched the surface on how Grady Little destroyed Byung-Hyun Kim's career. While that one instance you mentioned may have done the most damage to Kim mentally, Little also destroyed Kim physically. If you look at the number of pitches Little left Kim out there to throw per appearance that season and the number of days he used him in a row down the stretch, it's clear that Little abused Kim's arm as well as his psyche. I believe Seth Mnookin covers it pretty extensively in 'Feeding the Monster'.

Good point, SoCalTwins fan. Thank you.

And that's a nice contribution, Pawtucket Pat.

Thank you! Thank you for mentioning this. Grady Little was an abject moron in his handling of pitchers. He burnt Kim out then made the odd pitching change you highlight. Apparently Little didn't even know that Embree had generally had a reverse platoon split in his career.

As for the "tinge racist" thing. If Kim had been blond, blue eyed and traced his relatives back to the Mayflower, it wouldn't have mattered. The idiot portion of the Boston media, the columnists and radio station WEEI, had it in for Kim from the start because he was seen as weak agains the yankees. Every other closer would do fine if asked to throw 50 pitches on consecutive nights against the defending champions in a world series game. That Kim just can't be trusted! I'm sure there were some nasty remarks made. I was there in standing room up behind home plate but didn't hear anything other than boos. But, at a certain point, the particular words used for vitriol are just dependent upon the identity of the target and not necessarily indicative of an underlying disregard for anyone of that background.

"Apologist" means "defender," and has no negative connotations. Think of Socrates's "Apology," his defense speech, in which he apologized for nothing.

Thanks for the article, though - I've only been hearing Kim's name used as a punchline for years and had forgotten he used to be good.

You've touched on some controversial points here. Yes, Little did wreck Kim as pointed out by SCtwins fan. The other issue is the racism. Now I'd consider myself the most die hard of Sox fans, however racism has been inherent within the fan base for this club for waaay too long. There are many instances in which it seems to rear its ugly head more than at other clubs.
How about an article on that? And why? Does it originate from the prevelant Irish catholic background? Please let me make it clear that I am not directing this to you personally, I'd just love to see someone write about it honestly.

For me, Grady's idiocy regarding his pitchers was made plain on 5/28/03, when in a tie game in the 9th at Yankee Stadium, and after a Matsui double, he had Brandon Lyon intentionally walk Soriano and Giambi in order to pitch to Jorge Posada...Posada with the .405 OBP that year. Natually, he drew a walk and that was that. Perhaps Little was under the impression that walks were unpredictable acts of god, like lightning, instead of a skill at which some hitters excel.

That's the moment I wanted him gone. I didn't have to wait for Game 7.

I think one could argue that Bob Brenly had a hand in "wrecking" Kim. His useage in the 2001 WS was borderline criminal. I remember watching (Yanks fan) and being dumbfounded at how long he left him in after Tino's HR, and then at him being brought back the very next game.

Did Little's useage of him in the playoffs that year wreck his confidence? Maybe, but if his confidence wasn't shot after what happened to him in the 2001 WS, I dunno. I think it's even more likely that Brenly, Little (and maybe others) worked his arm off.

The idea that one specific outing that did not lead to an injury ruined a pitcher's career seems implausible to me.

Kim's K/IP ratio was declining for years starting long before Grady Little was his manager. It has stablized in recent years, but now his BB/IP ratio has declined dramatically.

Kim did pitch a huge number of innings and throw a huge number of pitches for a reliever in 2003, so arm fatigue seems plausible to explain a lousy 2004. Also, Grady Little definitely acted like a buffoon to not use Kim for the rest of the post-season.

I agree that it's implausible. The title of this post is more a literary device than reflective of my belief.

But there are three truths.

1) Kim was 24, great for the Red Sox in 2003 and very good in his career up to that point.

2) His 2003 ended ignominiously to say the least that season. An irresponsible yank by Grady, flipping off the Fenway crowd, never appearing again that season.

3) He was never again a consistently good pitcher.

After injuries to Prinz and Mantei, Kim pretty much WAS the bullpen in 2001.