Hot Stove League Review

Do you like watching sports drama or specifically ones that are centered around baseball? Do you like Moneyball? K-drama? Anime? Then you have come to the right place.

Welcome to Hot Stove League, a show centered around Korean baseball. As you might know, Korea(like its neighbor Japan) is crazy about baseball. This latest K-drama is about the nitty gritty of managing a professional baseball team turning its fortune around.

To start, what is the Hot Stove League? The name comes from the old days where people would gather around a hot stove in a public area during winter and discuss the trades going on during the off season. There are no teams competing in this league, just rumors. So, hot stove league refers to the off season management like drafts, player trades, and contract negotiations.This is where the bulk of the show takes place although in a few scenes the show writer(Lee Shin-hwa) took the name quite literally.

In this show, we follow a fictional team called Jaesong Dreams playing in a fictional league called KPB(as opposed to KBO in real life). Hot Stove League is about the operation aspect of baseball like that one Brad Pitt starred movie as opposed to playing baseball as shown by other films many times before. There are few parallels between both of the show and the film but mostly Hot Stove League heads in a different unique direction.

Viewers who come and expect Hot Stove League to be like Moneyball might be disappointed, in a good way. Before we go into the differences, let us look at the resemblance first.

Moneyball-Hot Stove League similarities;

  • Centered around a general manager of a baseball club operating under a tight budget to create a championship winning team
  • Baseball games are mostly few of the games at the end of the season highlights and some clips of off season matches/training
  • Both teams shared the same color theme; yellow, green, and white
  • Overcoming insurmountable barriers to succeed

The Premise

A pro-baseball team that was placed last in the league for four years in a row hired a new general manager that lacks baseball experience.

Characters and plot

Namkoong Min as Baek Seung-soo the Dreams new general manager. Seung-soo shared the same amount of professional baseball playing experience like real life managers; Rick Hahn(Chicago White Sox), Jeff Luhnow(Houston Astros), and Matthew Silverman(Tampa Bay Rays) which are none. As you can see, baseball is littered with managers that come from various backgrounds but this doesn’t stop the Dreams’ general manager coworkers from doubting his capabilities.

Baek Seung-soo was hired despite failing his interview with president Go Gang-sun(Son Jong-hak) and operations manager, Lee Se-young(Park Eun-bin) for his brash personality. He was nonetheless employed by acting owner of the club, Kwon Kyeong-min(Oh Jung-se) because of his track records winning the championships with different sports teams(wrestling, ice hockey, handball) only for his teams to be disbanded eventually. 

The issue of disbanding the team would soon become the main friction between our protagonist and the acting owner. Kwon would want Seung-soo to focus on the dissolution of the team while the general manager would want to stop the same fate that happened to his previous teams happening to the Dreams. Unlike Moneyball, Seung-soo approach is more conventional and focuses on the human aspect. You would not find complex sabermetrics here.

Most of the characters in the show started off as slightly cartoonish and over the top only to go more in depth as the series goes on. You will get to know each characters’ motivation, challenges, and dreams. The series director(Jeong Dong-yoon) is great at making each of the characters connect with the viewers. As you watch, you will feel the ups and downs as each staff/player/manager/coach goes through their life in the off season. Hot Stove League will make you laugh. It will make you cry. Overall, it is way more emotional than Moneyball.


Hot Stove League is a home run. Even if you know nothing about baseball  you will easily get into it as the writer makes it easy for us to understand. Like Rocky, Goal!, Lagaan, and Space Jam before it, on the core it is a story about regular people overcoming irregular challenges. Just kidding about Lagaan(apology for grouping Aamir Khan with mere mortals). If you are into this kind of epic plus a killer soundtrack, then Hot Stove League is a must watch! It is no wonder why this show was the winner of 56th Baeksang Art ‘Best Drama’ Awards.

How to watch?

Netflix Malaysia

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