Baseball

Exhibit 1.4.9

Royals Season Review

Blog crossover! So fellow fiction writer, Nebraskan, and Royals fan Theodore Wheeler asked me if I’d like to trade some questions about this Kansas City Royals, and I of course said yes. Talking about the Royals is one of my favorite things to do in the world, ranking somewhere between eating French Toast and talking about eating French Toast.

For those of you not paying attention to this season in Royals baseball–which, according to my math, is all of humanity minus about 100 people currently inside an Arthur Bryant’s–the Royals finished up the year 71-91 which was good enough for 4th place in the AL Central, besting only the lowly, lowly Twins (let’s not take the time to remember my Royals season preview in which I predicted the Twins to win the central).

Buried in another miserable record, however, were real signs of hope, mostly centered around an improving offense led by a resurgent Alex Gordon, career years from a couple of fan-hated castoffs, and, of course, the long awaited arrival of some of the best prospects in baseball. The Royals ended the season looking like a team ready to compete for the division as early as next season and, indeed, advance stats have them as the second best team in the division already with a lot more talent on the way.

Are the Royals finally legit? I don’t know. Ted might. I asked him. Below are my questions to Ted and his answers.

You can find my answers to his questions at Ted’s site The Uninitiated right here.

Adam: What does 2012 look like for the Royals? There’s certainly a sense of excitement around the team now that the season is ending that wasn’t there in June when the losses mounted, the rookies struggled, and the farm system fell back to Earth. Is this just a September mirage made possible by journeymen and young guys filling out 40-man rosters or are these performances real? I guess the question is this: can this team compete for the division in 2012 or are they a year (or more) away?

Ted: The Royals have made a September surge an annual event in the last decade, so I’m inclined to be skeptical of the results of late. However, I expected Hosmer, Moustakas, and Perez to play well—so maybe seeing is believing at this point. I do think the Royals have a chance to compete for the division in 2012, although a lot of that optimism comes from the fact that they play in the AL Central. The Tigers probably have a couple more years in their run (Verlander has to regress at some point, right?), but I’m not all that scared by anyone else. The Indians have a chance to be good, yet they had a lot of guys playing out of their minds this season, and still finished as a mediocre team. Although it won’t be as bad as it has this year, the Twins are on a downward slide. And I can’t imagine the White Sox find anyone who can hold all the head-cases on their roster together better than Ozzie Guillen. (Here’s hoping Hal McRae gets another shot. That would be quite a show.) So the Royals will have a shot. From top-to-bottom, I don’t see a huge weakness in the lineup. Both Frenchy and Melky Cabrera will probably regress—but it’s important to remember that 2011 was still just their age 26 and 27 seasons, which is typically when a hitter is at his peak. So it’s possible that they, along with Gordon and Billy Butler, are just settling into the prime of their careers. At the least, with that in mind, I doubt anyone falls off a cliff. Add that to a solid bullpen, and I think the Royals hopes in 2012 all come down to how well the rotation can compete.

A: This year’s starting rotation was, frankly, terrible, and it’s painful to imagine how much worse they would have been without the performance of Felipe Paulino who was picked up for nothing at the end of May. What do you see the Royals doing this offseason and what would you want them to do? Can they count on Paulino to repeat his performance? Will Duffy make a leap? And—I guess we’re still asking this—will Hochevar? A better question: do the Royals currently have anyone in the rotation who they can count on in their long-term plans?

T: This is the factor that can, and probably will, sink the Royals in 2012. Paulino has been a horse this year, and he has the kind of stuff and physical attributes that could lead to an out-of-nowhere special season. I think Duffy will get better, but it will probably be a couple years before he gets comfortable challenging MLB hitters. I’m pretty sure Luke Hochevar is what he is at this point. So we have three maybes, not one you can count on—and it gets a bit darker from there, unfortunately. Moore needs to find a top starter, if not two, if they expect to be a playoff team. That being said, the Royals aren’t going to find anyone on the free agent or trade market who can compete with Justin Verlander pitch for pitch. CJ Wilson would be a great sign, but he’s not coming here. Would Edwin Jackson be worth overpaying for? Or worth risking team chemistry over? Maybe. There may be some interesting prospects on the trade market—Clayton Kershaw, Gio Gonzalez, Dan Haren—but no one knows how that will shake out at this point. And would it be worth it to give up Mike Montgomery and Wil Myers, plus two middling prospects, for two years of a potentially elite starter. Maybe. But Montgomery has a ton of talent—Chuck Finley is the comp I’ve heard the most—and could be that guy himself if he figures some things out this winter.

I’ll hate myself for saying this, but I kind of wish Moore would make a run at signing Mark Buehrle. (And back from a quick shower…) He isn’t a great pitcher anymore, but Buehrle’s influence on the young White Sox pitchers the last few years has been evident. I’d love to see what that kind of veteran influence would do for guys like Duffy and Montgomery. And for Paulino and Hochevar for that matter. I could live with a rotation of Buehrle, Hochevar, Duffy, Paulino, Teaford. Is that a playoff-caliber rotation? (Please hold all derisive laughter.) Of course it isn’t. But maybe it’s good enough to stay in the race until July, if the offense continues produce like it has in the second-half this year, and at that point Moore can go out and get a premier starter. (Zack Greinke anyone?) Or maybe Montgomery could give a surge. 2012 probably won’t be the year that KC makes it back to the playoffs. But if that year is going to come in the next decade, 2012 has to be the year the Royals get used to being in the conversation.

A: So you asked me about the prospects who played this year, but I’m curious about your take on prospects who are still in the system. Obviously this gets tricky as we don’t really see these guys (at least I don’t down in Texas), but my question is this: what prospects who haven’t yet seen the majors do you see having the biggest impact on the team next year? Long-term? Also, is there still enough talent in the system to round out a complete roster or are the Royals going to have to go shopping?

T: The Royals debuted five position players this year, four who are starters, and three who performed pretty well. Seven pitchers have made their debut, with an astounding five rookies with an ERA under 3.65. (Each of the five are bullpen guys.) It’s no surprise that they are the youngest team in the majors, and it isn’t even close. So you couldn’t really blame the Royals if the cupboard was bare. Fortunately, there’s still a ton of quality down on the farm. If anyone does fall off, or get hurt, there’s some depth to fill in. There aren’t a bunch of superstars left, but there are plenty of guys who should be able to hold their own over the course of a month or two if needed. David Lough is a guy who, on Royals teams of the past, probably would have spent most of the year with the big club. Yet, with the organization as it is now, it’s likely that Lough will never see meaningful time with major league squad. That’s great progress. There’s no reason for Moore to go shopping for spare parts this year, or any year in the foreseeable future, with the rotation as a possible caveat.

Just going down the organizational ladder, there are many guys who we might see in KC over the next few years. Lorenzo Cain will be an MLB regular somewhere. Clint Robinson will play for the A’s someday. Yamaico Navarro and Jarrod Dyson are capable bench players now. Kelvin Herrera will be in the bullpen. Mike Montgomery has ace stuff—but he’s also a tall lefty, so it might take a while before he learns to control it. Wil Myers is still a top talent, if he can avoid injuries and regain his confidence. Chris Dwyer will be a quality bullpen lefty at worst, and can still be a mid-rotation guy. Jake Odorizzi has the looks of a two or three starter in the majors. John Lamb won’t start throwing again until late in the summer, but most people I’ve heard are confident that he’ll rebound and be in the majors sometime in 2013. (The guy had a 3.09 ERA in the Texas League, a notorious hitter’s league, as a 20 year-old with an injured shoulder that kept him from throwing his best pitch. If it wasn’t for his undergoing Tommy John surgery, Lamb would have been in the rotation by August this year.) There are a bunch of guys in A-ball to keep an eye on too: Noel Arguelles, Cheslor Cuthbert, Brett Eibner, Jason Adam, Yordano Ventura, Jorge Bonifacio, Michael Antonio, and Robinson Yambati. Bubba Starling is starting instructional league this week in Arizona. Then there’s the next wave of bullpen guys to keep an eye on: Kevin Chapman, Patrick Keating, Henry Barrera, and Kendal Volz. Cuthbert and Bonifacio have the kind of talent that they could find themselves as Top 20 prospects in the next couple years.

There are plenty of question marks—Will Chris Colon ever rebound? Will Rey Navarro ever hit enough to get his glove on the field? Do Myers, Dwyer, and Montgomery reestablish themselves as top prospects?—but a few bad things were bound to happen after everything went right in 2010. I think we’ll see things come back to center in 2012, as far as the farm goes. There’s too much talent there to not have a few guys ready to pop every year.

Theodore Wheeler’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Best New American Voices, The Kenyon Review, Boulevard, The Cincinnati Review, and Confrontation, among other venues. He is a senior fiction reader at Prairie Schooner, and is currently at work on a novel that is mostly about German-American political thugs, the First World War, and the events surrounding the Omaha Race Riot of 1919.

And don’t forget to check out Ted’s site and my answers to his questions.

Comment / Posted in Baseball, Crossovers, Teds

Exhibit 1.4.7

Things

* You definitely need to check out the new The Literary Review which is really beautiful and full of great work and also a couple of [SPOILER ALERT]s. You can actually read those online, but then you’d be missing out on the rest of the fantastic stuff and that would make you, I hate to say it, some kind of idiot. Don’t be an idiot.

* There are also some [SPOILER ALERT]s in the new Copper Nickel which–and this isn’t just talk–is also beautiful. Seriously. I don’t get it. We feel very lucky to have the pieces in two very cool journals. Or at least I do. I don’t know how Laura Eve feels. Let’s go ask her.

* I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel good about my thoughts on Rick Perry so quickly proving themselves accurate. Or maybe that’s not what happened. I don’t know. The important thing is that everyone seems to have realized he’s an idiot (probably because he didn’t read all the way through his literary journals). Bush overcame it. Can Perry? Something tells me he can’t. Romney it is (which is actually maybe scary though the John Kerry parallels would be both eery and reassuring).

* “Hey, that final baseball day sure was crazy, wasn’t it?” – everyone.

* And yes, yes it was. Look for more Royals thoughts soon in the rare SPM-other blog crossover. And by rare I mean it’s never happened and I’m surprised anyone asked.

Comment / Posted in Baseball, Journals, Politics

Exhibit 1.3.17

Royals Thoughts

Eric Hosmer, Kyle Davies, Tim Collins, Chris Getz

What each Royal is presumably thinking during this picture. Royals hat-tip to Anders for sending me both links.

Hosmer: Hey, Stephen Malkmus knows who I am! Just like I know that “Jenny and the Ess-Dog” is the best song he’s ever written. Well, there’s “Tide to the Oceans” but that’s a Silver Jews song and really it’s only co-written.

Davies: I can’t believe they haven’t caught on to the fact that I haven’t been on this team for two months. Just keep wearing blue and showing up every five days and nobody asks questions. It’s unbelievable. Kinko’s figured it out after a month, and I was even good at that job. Maybe if I throw left-handed next start…

Collins: Wait until I tell the Make-A-Wish Foundation how well this worked out. Sure, I might be Benjamin Button-ing back into a baby, but at least I look cool with my glasses hung like this…O, go to hell, Getz.

Getz: If I get released am I going to disappear from this picture like Marty McFly? I should ask Davies if that keeps him up at night, too. I wonder if he’s Jewish. I’d like a Jewish friend. His real first name is Hiram and Hiram Davies sounds Jewish, but he’s also from Georgia…wait, is Hosmer humming “Cut Your Hair”?

1 Comment / Posted in Baseball, Royals, Thoughts

Exhibit 1.3.13

Things I Would Rather Be Doing Than Re-Reading My Novel

1. Finally deciding, for once and for all, whether my favorite type of soil is loamy sand or sandy loam.

2. Planning an Amanda Knox-themed murder mystery dinner party. Pizza! Tragedy! Pizza!

3. Arguing over what stats would be included if one were to–hypothetically–start a Fantasy Poetry league.

4. Writing this blog post, apparently.

5. Creating an even better version of the Four Pawns Attack–my favorite chess opening–called the Eight Pawns Attack which, presumably, I would like twice as much.

6. Emailing Bud Selig ideas for new All-Star game events like the Cake Walk, a game Jeff Francoeur can’t participate in because he doesn’t understand the basic concept of walking.

7. Plotting an elaborate scavenger hunt around Houston the only task of which is to eat at every Shipley’s Do-nuts.

8. Playing two estranged siblings against each other until they realize it’s me they don’t like and come together to save Thanksgiving. Or, instead of actually doing that, just writing a family comedy about it while thousands of real siblings remain tragically estranged.

9. Inventing “Roller Basketball” because it suddenly seems like something that should exist.

10. Preparing my victory speech should I somehow win the Iowa Caucuses which, frankly, doesn’t seem as unlikely as it probably should.

Comment / Posted in Baseball, Chess, Good Ideas

Exhibit 1.2.22

Things

* I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but making fun of stock photography has really caught on. This, far more than my declining health or general disinterest, is why I haven’t written about it in a while. Still, some fantastic examples here (thanks E).

* This is pretty great if you’re a fan of The Wire. And if you’re not a fan of The Wire, I really think you should get on that (Thanks H).

* The Cupboard‘s contest deadline was extended over the weekend and so you’ve now got until April 4th to submit here. Please do. Or, at a minimum, tell your father.

* Speaking of The Cupboard, we’re going to be at the Houston Indie Book Fest alongside a bunch of other great presses, some fantastic readers, and, I’m told, a crepe truck.

* When I told my class about the crepe truck, one student asked with devastating seriousness: Sweet or Savory?

* I answered some questions about The Cupboard for the festival here. O, and when I say “we” are at the festival, I mean me, in the sun, eating a crepe of ambiguous savoriness. So come say hi.

* The Royals lost on opening day, but, in perhaps the brightest spot, got a good performance out of Aaron Crow. Still, I’ve long been aware of the folly of my optimistic season preview and the shortcomings only seem more clear now. It’s possible winning 70 games with this rotation is actually impossible.

* If I’m still alive, I’ll post something about my fantasy team soon. Because that seems like something I should put on the internet. In the mean time, ponder their name and mascot:

THE HAYS CODE

Comment / Posted in Baseball, Hays, The Cupboard

Exhibit 1.2.18

Royals Preview

Look. This is happening. I’m sorry.

So, in summary, here’s what the Royals did this off-season: traded away their best player for a package of prospects somewhere between underwhelming and whelming, mostly stayed away from the free agent market except for one smart signing, and fully committed to the youth movement they’d only been sort of casually seeing for the last half decade. Basically, the Royals are that guy who suddenly realized they’re middle aged and living in a terrible town and that the options available to them aren’t as grand as they might have been the day after their high school graduation. So he finally sold his expensive but aging Corvette, stopped spending his paychecks on electric guitars he could only use to play “Enter Sandman” on, and used the saved money to replace his beleaguered girlfriend’s promise ring with a diamond engagement ring.

These are good things. These are always good things.

That it should have happened a decade ago is beside the point. Here’s what matters: the Royals, like this guy, finally get it. They don’t have all the options, and, even better to know, they might finally realize that nobody does. That fallacy destroys teams–and people–by making them think their job is to find the correct choice rather than the best choice. There is no correct choice and, at least in the Royals case, if there is one, somebody else is going to get there first. So the Royals, needing an outfield bat, would make their offer to Torii Hunter or whomever, get rejected, and then spend $36 million dollars on Jose Guillen because he was next on the list (it’s also probably important to note here the Royals suck at making lists). They sought the correct thing rather than the best thing–which in this case would have really been anything other than giving that much money to a washed up, HGH using headcase–and they did it because they cared to much about perceptions. Without a plan (or confidence or the ability to, you know, win baseball games) the Royals could only win media battles. This seemed like the correct thing, to be able to say, “Well, sure, we overpaid, but now you guys can’t say we’re not serious about competing.”

It took 10 years for someone to finally realize that a team serious about competing would, well, compete, that the Royals don’t have all the choices, they only have theirs, that of the choices they do have some are better than others but none can be called correct unless they lead to the World Series, that being called correct doesn’t matter anyway, that only wins matter.

This last bit–the seeking of approval from outside sources who are at best disinterested and at worst openly hostile to a small, incompetent team–still worries me a little. You see, the Royals have the best farm system in baseball. They may have the best farm system since people started keeping track of these things. Everyone thinks so and rightfully the Royals are proud of this fact, a little too proud maybe. A smart organization wouldn’t care or would only care insomuch as they make it their goal to be #1 year after year. The Royals…well…we’ll see.

To see the danger here, one need only look at the Royals epic Gil Meche signing. Let’s chart the conventional wisdom here:

2006 – The signing – “The Royals are stupid.”
2007 – Meche is good – “The Royals are okay.”
2008 – Meche is better – “The Royals are brilliant.”
2009 – Meche’s arm falls off – “The Royals are unlucky.”
2010 – Meche’s arm fails to reattach – “The Royals are stupid again.”
2011 – Meche shockingly retires – “The Royals are lucky.”

And here’s the thing: it’s all true yet none of it matters. The Meche contract was both brilliant (they really did “fix” him and turn him into the player they paid for) and stupid (he was never going to single-handedly put them into contention). It was, in the end, a big waste of time and money and attention yet the Royals chose to ride this wave of perception rather than simply focus on winning games. They were defensive then geniuses then, I guess, they were just Odysseus getting blown around the Mediterranean by fate. They wanted to be seen as having made the correct decision when really they should have made a decision, lived with the consequences, and then tried to continuing making decisions in service of a coherent plan.

Now these prospects again have the Royals feeling like geniuses and taking thinly veiled shots at anyone who ever doubted “the Process.” But prospects fail or get injured or maybe, even with the abundance of talent in the system, there’s still just not enough there to turn the franchise into a winner. Who knows what will happen. I also know this: at least at the moment, the Royals are doing it right. The question now is if they keep doing it right or if they again find themselves competing over perceptions when they should be competing on the field.

Can they do it? I don’t know. It’s so easy for a team to get fixated on what they should do or would do or are supposed to do rather than what they can do. Nothing has likely changed about their reliance on old timey baseball wisdom that might as well chalk everything up to magic (or “grit”) and I wish they’d go about their business with a little more of a yeoman’s humility rather than a scared child’s tendency to plead for attention then lash out when it’s negative. Still, despite some considerable apprehensions, it’s a wonderful time to be a Royals fan.

The Prospects

Just a quick top 10 done with no scouting knowledge at all.

1. Eric Hosmer – Not even my favorite player, really, but do guys like this ever miss?
2. Mike Moustakas – I do worry about the strikeouts and the (lack of) walks.
3. Wil Myers – Part of me still wishes they would have kept him at catcher.
4. Mike Montgomery – If he’s healthy, he’s nearly unstoppable.
5. Danny Duffy – Threw a 59 MPH curve in a game the other day.
6. John Lamb – O, why not. Great stuff, great makeup.
7. Christian Colon – Everyone says he’ll be solid like it’s a bad thing.
8. Jake Odorizzi – Curious about how slowly he’s moved though.
9. Brett Eibner – Could be a poor man’s Sizemore. Or he could never hit.
10. Cheslor Cuthbert – A lifetime away but sounds great.

The Roster

C – The less said about this position the better. You always hate to root against a guy getting healthy, but at my darkest moments I do wish Jason Kendall’s surgery would have been performed at the Cleveland Institute for Staph Infections.

1B/DH – Kila Ka’aihue and Billy Butler will switch off between the two. Nothing may be more indicative of the Royals finally getting it than the fact that Kila is not only in their plans, but that they seem set on giving him a full year. The old Royals would have fed him to the Sarlacc after his first 0-4 then started the Sarlacc for the rest of the year even though everyone knows Sarlacci can’t hit lefties and never walk. Or something.

O, and Billy Butler is good. I see 30 HR this year. I do.

2B – Chris Getz. I really just don’t care about him at all. He’s sort of like that student who I forget is in my class until I have to give his paper a D. Here’s a sign the Royals don’t get it: Getz’s name is sometimes mentioned as a possible leadoff bat because he’s vaguely fast. Let me save you the trouble of looking it up: his career OBP is .315.

SS – Alcides Escobar. I can’t help it, I like this guy even though he hasn’t played a game for the Royals yet. I’m a sucker for toolsy prospects and if we’d gotten this guy for Greinke a year ago, everyone would have been thrilled. Plus, his name sounds like he borrowed it from Scarface. I’m on board.

3B – Mike Aviles. He’s good. Wilson Betemit is a nice bat of the bench, too. Yeah, this will work out just fine. Plus, look for Mike Moustakas to step up at some point and move Aviles over to 2B after Alcides “White Knife” Escobar takes Chris Getz for a walk in the Everglades.

LF – Alex Gordon. God, I have thoughts. Here’s what I’ve been saying about Gordon recently: he’s either going to shock people or fall apart completely. And this is the season. I don’t think he’s going to be just average. There’s too much talent and too much that says his problems are mental. I think he either becomes a .280/.370/.500 guy or is somewhere in Nebraska hanging out with Eric Crouch next year. And, frankly, I still think he’s going to put it together. Yes, I know this is stupid, but I don’t care. He’s the one player on the Royals who knows how to take a walk, the power is real, and those two things usually lead to success.

CF – Lorenzo Cain! He’s my new favorite Royal. I don’t even know if he’s good, but between him and Alcides “Blow Back” Escobar, the Royals won the name side of the Greinke trade. And, yeah, I think he’s a little good, too. Another toolsy player with some important skills (defense, speed, solid onbase), I think he’s going to be a key part of the Royals future. Unfortunately, that future likely starts in July after Melky Cabrera eats his way to the bench.

RF – Sigh.

SP #1 – Luke Hochevar is best known for looking vaguely like my Royals buddy Anders, but occasionally he’s a solid pitcher. It’s not Luke’s fault–I think he’ll have a good year–but every time I think this Royals team might be better than people are talking about, I remember that he’s going to be the opening day starter. No offense to this rotation, but, um, there are holes. Luke is a fine #4 and I think he’ll turn into a solid #3. If he’s your opening day starter, however, it means your #5 is going to be some donut like Sean O’Sullivan.

SP #2 – Jeff Francis. This is the smart free agent signing. Really no downside here and, in fact, a whole lot of upside. It does make me wonder why the Royals weren’t making signings like this before. Or was Brett Tomko this signing and we’re all just pretending otherwise? Best to move on, probably.

SP #3 – Bruce Chen. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Bruce Chen is the best Chinese-Panamanian pitcher in the game.

SP #4 – Vin Mazzaro. Hey, any time you can deal your 2nd best position player for a guy who can’t beat out noted donut Sean O’Sullivan for a roster spot, you’ve got to do it. Seriously, there’s a strange silence in Royalsland over the David DeJesus trade. Yeah, they had to trade him. It made sense. But this trade? Making less sense by the day as it becomes clear Vin Mazzaro isn’t very good and no one ever thought he was. You can sign guys like this everywhere. Why trade for one? Seriously, it’s like the Royals answered a Craigslist ad from someone who wanted a new car stereo and offered to trade next Tuesday. Enjoy driving around blaring OMG, Billy!

Royalsland, incidentally, is Scandinavia’s worst country though features a strangely compelling ride at Epcot.

SP #5 – I did some looking into this, and the Royals aren’t going to need a fifth starter until mid-April 2013.

Fine, if you must know, it’s (Hiram) Kyle Davies or proto-cruller Sean O’Sullivan.

The best part about detailing out the rotation is that at various points I realized I was probably getting the numbers wrong, but it honestly doesn’t matter. It’ll go Hoch, Francis, and then the next three spots can be filled in any order by any of those pitchers. And don’t worry, that will happen. It’s like a game of musical chairs at the vertigo ward.

(How are my similes doing today? Feeling a little off).

Bullpen – Here we go. I like the bullpen this year no matter how it shakes out. Say what you will about the rest of the Royals prospects, but they’ve got a wealth of young, cheap, and intriguing arms for the bullpen. Sure, it’s the least important place to have prospects, but it does make it fun. In particular, I’m excited to see Tim Collins who is shorter than your sister but throws in the mid to upper 90s as a lefty. Your sister can’t do that.

One bit of sadness here: Joakim Soria no longer wants to be called the Mexicutioner due to the ongoing drug violence in Mexico. I completely understand this, of course, but it’s the end of a glorious era.

(Brief aside on people who want to trade Soria: I get it. Maybe they should. Hell, if they did it for that Montero package, I might even be excited about it. But keep in mind the correct vs. best choice thing again. Stats give us the illusion of thinking we know the correct choice, but it doesn’t excuse the reality of the situation which is that of the limited options available to the Royals, the best one likely involves some continuity. The Royals can build a winner by trading Soria, sure. They can build one without trading him, too. There’s not one correct way, and, in this particular case, I’m unconvinced trading Soria makes winning easier).

The Division

1. Minnesota – The window is closing, I think, but they can win it one more year.
2. Detroit – Miguel Cabrera can do all that drunk?
3. Chicago – Because someone has to be third.
4. Kansas City – Despite that rotation, I think there’s some talent on this team and quite a bit of flexibility to either move parts and/or bring up prospects after the All-Star break.
5. Cleveland – Or they could end up 4th or cease to be. It doesn’t really matter.

The Season

So here’s how I see it playing out: a middling first couple of months and a lot of games where the starters don’t make it to the 6th inning. Still, a sense of optimism as the minors continue to produce (though not at last year’s level) and Moustakas eventually joins the major league club. Already well out of contention by the break, a few other guys (Crow and Duffy?) get looks before September and maybe a few more guys come up around the trade deadline as the few remaining veterans get shipped out.

Breakout performers: Butler, Gordon
Beats expectations: “No Pablo” Escobar, Hoch, and, sigh, Francouer (granted, expectations are so low they are currently recording an album of graceful indie rock songs)
Regresses: Betemit, Chen
Gets traded: Melky, Francouer, Francis
Comes back way too early: Jason Kendall
Proves to be bad: Getz, O’Sullivan, Mazzaro, Kendall
Remains a mystery: Davies, Kila and, to a degree, Aviles
Never gets a chance: Maier, Dyson, Blanco

And there we have it, 2.5k words on the Royals. Really, all you need to know is that the real test will be whether or not General Manager Dayton Moore can avoid screwing the roster (or the payroll) up, whether Ned Yost can prove worthy of managing into the team’s rosy future, and whether the kids continue to climb the organizational ladder toward the majors. Sooner or later decisions are going to have to be made about which prospects to keep or trade and how to build the roster around them, but for now, at least, Royals fans are drowning in hope rather than tears.

Seriously though, Lorenzo Cain! He sounds like a guy who beat up a train!

Record: 75-87

5 Comments / Posted in Baseball, Royals, Sports

Exhibit 1.1.27

Things

* A nice review of Andrew Borgstrom’s Explanations here.

* And another one here.

* I guess what I’m saying is, you should probably order it here.

* In all seriousness, this volume has gotten a great response and we at The Cupboard are really excited about it. Many thanks to all the kind reviewers spreading the word.

* In non-Cupboard news, Royals’ pitcher Gil Meche walked away from $12.4 million dollars because he couldn’t help the team this year. No, really, he retired instead of taking money he was owed on his contract. To be honest, I don’t know if it’s honorable, exactly, but it’s certainly unique. Not that it’s not honorable, just that I think Gil earned that money whether or not he was injured, and I’d rather see it in the pocket of a player who carried the Royals for two seasons than in the owner’s.

* O well. Good for Gil. Sad to see him go, but it’s the rare athlete who honestly assesses himself and does what he thinks he’s obligated to do. In a fair world, the Royals’ owners would reward his behavior by paying him some/most of the money anyway. As much as this ever happens–and it never happens–usually an injury settlement is involved. The Royals claim that’s not happening so I guess all Meche earns in the final year of his career is a lot of respect.

* Yesterday I heard an elderly professor use the words ‘hullabaloo’ ‘poppycock’ and ‘Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.’ I just thought you should know that.

* It was a weird class.

Comment / Posted in Baseball, The Cupboard, Things

Exhibit 27.10

Congratulations

To The Nebraska, Steves who (I think) won my fantasy baseball league this year. I say I think because I still don’t really understand what’s happening. I keep waiting for other people in the league to tell me that now the super playoffs begin and we all have to redraft our teams using only players from the 2002 Mets.

In any case, the victory is a fluke. I never knew what I was doing but had enough lucky waiver wire pickups to overcome clubhouse cancer Alex Rodriguez choking down the stretch. Mostly, my strategy of denying myself all non-Billy Butler Royals worked out. I think Royals GM Dayton Moore should try this himself.

The , Steves by the way take their name from Brendan Fraser’s character in Albert Brooks’s greatest work, The Scout. I’m not entirely convinced the movie wasn’t just a hoax to get Bob Costas to have to say ridiculous things:

1 Comment / Posted in Baseball, Nebraska, Steves

Exhibit 26.15

Apartment Searching

That’s what I’m doing instead of writing some long celebration of how Jose Guillen is both no longer on the Royals and no longer barred from marrying whomever he wants in California. Okay, so both of those things aren’t fully settled but indications are good. Jose Guillen can now strike out alone to explore a more loving society.

And it’s too bad I’m searching for apartments because I’m full of other Jose-Guillen-is-terrible and marriage equality-related wordplay: Hopefully everyone on the right side of the playing field has seen the error of their intolerance. If Guillen doesn’t like the direction we’re moving in, he should get on the base about the poor showing. This swing-for-the-fences decision made a double play for his heart and his mind. He can no longer run from acknowledging the public’s shifting opinion. Sadly for him, he didn’t have the power to change yesterday’s outcome. He’s bad at baseball.

I’ll admit the wordplay sort of broke down there at the end. But a good two days for everyone all the same.

Comment / Posted in Apartment, Baseball, Celebrations

Exhibit 26.12

The Royals


The thing that continues to kill me about the Royals is that since they’re clearly not good at baseball, they must be good at something else. Like, is it possible that maybe they made a mistake early in life or had parents that pushed them in the wrong direction or somehow did something that led them away from their true talent? I mean, sure, they’re a terrible baseball team, but maybe they’d be the best news team.

This is what I thought about for most of the 3rd inning.

1 Comment / Posted in Baseball, News Teams, Royals

Exhibit 25.16

Umpire Jim Joyce vs. Novelist James Joyce

FACIAL HAIR

vs.

Winner: Jim Joyce

HEAD ACCESSORIES

vs.

Winner: Tie.

SMOKING JACKET WEARING ABILITY

vs.

Winner: James Joyce by default

VISION

vs.

Winner: No one.

2 Comments / Posted in Baseball, Fiction, Jims

Exhibit 24.22

Bad Ovums


Today a student gave me a confetti egg which, I was told after some time to lament my ignorance, is a Mexican Easter tradition. I was excited because the egg was a nice Royals-like powder blue. A good omen for Opening Day, right?

I immediately broke the egg.

I don’t know exactly what this means, but I’d be feeling more optimistic about this season if I broke a mirror while opening an umbrella to scare away a black cat tracking spilled salt inside Zack Greinke’s house.

Now you’ll know who to blame if Jose Guillen cracks in half and a bunch of doughnuts come rolling out. Not that that would be bad or unexpected, exactly.

Comment / Posted in Baseball, Eggs, Royals

Exhibit 24.3

If Given Access to Future Wikipedia I Would Search For, In Order, These Things

1. Kansas City Royals World Series
2. Apocolypse
3. Apocalypse
4. Adam Peterson pope
5. Twin Peaks episode guide
Comment / Posted in Baseball, Future, Searching

Exhibit 21.20

Zack Greinke Should Win Both Cy Young Awards

And maybe next year’s, too. Now, lest you think this is just hyperbole, let’s look at his numbers against the NL during interleague play:

3 GS
2-1
21 IP
7 ER
3.00 ERA
17 K
2 BB

Good but not so fantastic relative to the rest of his remarkable year, but let’s look at the current NL Cy Young favorite, Adam Wainwright, and his performance against the AL:

3 GS
2-1
20 IP
8 ER
3.60 ERA
18 K
6 BB

Comparable, right? Ah, but one of those games was against the Royals and the Royals scored 5 runs off him in six innings. This despite the Royals being terrible at baseball. Naturally, the Royals still lost that game and Wainwright got the win, but the point is this: Zack Greinke would dominate the Royals.

So let’s imagine what would happen if Greinke got to face his own Royals team. This will be like when two friends both pick the same team in a video game, same rosters, different uniforms, two virtual Mark Teahens winking at each other from across the field. My guess for a line is this:

8 IP
2 R
0 ER
14 K
0 BB

(Naturally, since Zack would still have the Royals playing behind him, he’d lose the game after an Alberto Callaspo-A error extended an inning and Mike Jacobs-A went 0-4 with 3 Ks. Kyle Farnsworth-B would get the win then promptly start a fight with Kyle Farnsworth-A).

I guess my point is this: Zack Greinke should get all the Cy Youngs we’ve got. Until the NL can produce a candidate who didn’t allow a HR to Jose Guillen and his .367 slugging percentage, I’m not changing my mind.

Comment / Posted in Baseball, Please, Royals

Exhibit 19.21

Why I Will Never Write About the Royals Again

As always the Royals have completely fallen apart since I did so much as write their name here. And it’s not so much that I control their destiny–I do–or that I can change the direction of their season with a mere mention–I can–or that I have the power to do this with anyone I write about on this blog–this kid is now dead–no, it’s none of those things. It’s that you don’t believe me. It’s okay, neither does the Royals’ management and you don’t have the benefit of the letters I send to them (maybe using a lambskin scroll and ink made of cherries was a mistake, but I was just trying to be classy, Dayton Moore).

So let’s take a look at the five games following a mention of the word ‘Royals’ on this blog (and I’ll limit it to usages that indicate the baseball team so all of my Prince Harry gossip posts don’t count. I don’t want there to be anything skewing this highly scientific exploration of my magical power). In reverse chronological order:

* 6/17/09 – Record over the next five games: 0-5
Oh, god, this went worse than that time the kid I mentioned died. Combined score over these five games: 53-21. And it’s not just the losing that’s bad, it’s that this came on the heels of a nice four game winning streak where it looked like the Royals had figured things out. Now Coco Crisp is likely out for the season, Kyle Davies is in AAA, and I’m writing posts that mention voodoo and Jose Guillen together in an upcoming sentence. Things really came apart quickly.

* 6/10/09 – Record over the next five games: 4-1
Okay, I forgot about this one, but it’s only one small mention in a post otherwise about robot baseball players. I’d say it’s likely that whatever demon is in charge of this thing was too bored to read the entire post so didn’t get the chance to stick pins in the hip of the Jose Guillen voodoo doll he has. In the demon’s defense, I think everyone would have felt that way.

* 5/22/09 – Record over the next five games: 2-3
So this was just a mention of the proper name of Rany Jazayerli’s radio show, but I’m counting it because it slightly proves my point.

* 5/19/09 – Record over the next five games: 1-4
So this one really proves my point. My point: I don’t remember. But I do remember mentioning a lambskin scroll up above. So basically I’m coming off as crazy but forgetful and therefore incompetently crazy. I’ll take that.

* 5/13/09 – Record over the next five games: 2-3
Speaking of crazy, this is the second post in a row where I’ve mentioned that I believe I have magical powers.

* 4/16/09 – Record over the next five games: 3-2
Which means it might be time to quit this blog. Seriously, this is either going to end with me jumping out of my office window because I believe hitting coach/boyhood hero Kevin Seitzer has to me how to fly (and work a pitch count) or, slightly more likely, I’ll move to a town where every post has to be about how much hotter it is than Lincoln today.

* 4/07/09 – Record over the next five games: 2-3
This was the Tom Berenger-heavy season preview. Sure, I mention them the next day, too, but I’m not going to count it because they went 3-2 over that stretch. Okay, fine, I’ll count it. But I’m not doing it for you, I’m doing it for science.

So, after a mention on this blog, the Royals went 17-23 over the next five games, good for a .425 winning percentage and negligibly below their season clip of .426. I don’t know if that counts as ‘magical,’ per se, but it’s something. Okay, not really. More likely it’s just ‘vaguely not at all spooky but tainted by sample size and the principle accountant’s lack of understanding of basic math concepts.’

Just for fun (fun?) I did the same thing for 2008. After a mention on this blog, the Royals went 20-25 over the next for games for a .444 winning percentage, basically indistinguishable from their season mark of .463 (trade one loss for one win and they’re more or less identical). So ‘vaguely not at all spooky…,’ right?

It might mean I’m slightly more likely to write about the Royals during a losing streak. Which means that their losing is probably part of the reason I’m a fan (fan?). Which means I’m still both crazy and incompetent. Yep, crazy and incompetent, just like Trey Hillman.*

*Just a joke, George Brett!

4 Comments / Posted in Baseball, Royals, Sports

Exhibit 19.13

10 things I’ve learned about the Lincoln Saltdogs today, or, alternatively, 7 things about the Saltdogs then some stuff about robots

1. The Lincoln Saltdogs continue to exist
2. Tomorrow is pitcher David Humen’s birthday
3. They’re currently in last place
4. They’re probably still better than the Royals
5. The promotion for June 14th is to not sell peanuts
6. I missed the auditions to sing the national anthem by several months
7. Pete Rose Jr. has not been on the team for five years
8. One of their pitchers is named ‘III Cory’ or, more likely, is a robot named Cory III9. As a robot, Cory III hasn’t given up any runs but has been on the DL
10. A good joke for a robot pitcher going on the DL would be, “I hope he doesn’t have to have Autommy Johns surgery.”
11. It’s unclear how Cory III affects the likelihood of a Base Wars-esque league where mortal men compete against machines
12. What is clear is that Michael Biehn would be the first overall pick in that league’s human draft
13. How many hotdogs will it take to make me feel good if I go to tonight’s game and there’s not a robot pitcher?
14. Probably four

Comment / Posted in Baseball, Lincoln, Robots

Exhibit 18.9

My coming in from the bullpen song

Too obvious?

1 Comment / Posted in Baseball, Music, Obvious

Exhibit 18.3

So Mathias clearly won blogging this week with his series of Google posts. Just go check them out now. There’s nothing I can do to top that. I quit.

Here are some posts started and abandoned.

Reconstructed live blog of watching baseball with Anders on Tuesday

7:00p.m. – Yes, I will have a beer. Only one, probably.
10:00p.m. – Wait, the game is over? Who won?
2:00a.m. – Um, I should go home now.

That sums it up. By the way, I’ve never posted it before but I will now that my jealousy has subsided. This is Anders in the greatest Royals-related photo of the past decade:
God I love that picture. Somehow he managed to both catch a fly ball and see an awkward John McCain and Sarah Palin at a restaurant after a game. Needless to say, I hate him.

I hold an imaginary conversation with this girl


Me: You have really fantastic penmanship.
Girl: Thanks.
Me: But why don’t your exclamation points have dots underneath?
Girl: I can’t afford them with all of these taxes.
Me: Jesus, it’s always that with you isn’t it, little girl?

I post a random Dwight Yoakam performance from the 1980s

I answer one of the questions posed in those Google searches

Q: Is Gordon Ramsey having an affair?
A: Who? I’ll still say maybe.

2 Comments / Posted in Baseball, Dwights, Music

Exhibit 17.23

Royals Season Preview

(I know, I know. You don’t care. I’ll make it up to you. For the moment, just indulge me).

So this was supposed to go up yesterday, but the game in Chicago got preemptively rained/snowed/winded out so I thought I’d hold it back a day. Anyway, I know who to blame.

That’s right, Chicago’s own Tom Berenger:

At night, children in Chicago can still hear him singing.

By the way, if you took the under on the number of Tom Berenger references in the month of April, I’m thinking you lost. Sorry. I’ll now go back to my previous policy of never mentioning anyone from the cast of Major League.

And we’re back to baseball.

So last year my Royals season preview took them seriously enough to say they’d win 78 games (they won 75) but not so seriously that I didn’t spend the entire preview classifying the players based on The Sound and the Fury.

(By the way, Jose Guillen is much more of a Jason than I could have ever imagined. I swear he’s stealing Tony Pena Jr.’s paychecks and Tony is too scared to say anything about it. In Guillen’s defense, it’s not like Tony’s earning those checks either…)

This year, I feel like the team has earned something a little bit better. I don’t know if you noticed, but they finished in 4th place last season. If you don’t follow baseball, you should know that A) that’s out of five and B) it’s a very big deal for a team like the Royals. How big of deal? Well, let’s take a look at the box score of a game I went to in 2002. It was my first baseball game in a long, long time and something about how awful the Royals were that day made me want to start rooting for them again like I did when I was a kid. I mean, look at this kicked puppy of a lineup:

D. Sadler
N. Perez
C. Beltran
M. Sweeney
M. Tucker
R. Ibanez
L. Alicea
B. Mayne
C. Febles

Their leadoff hitter was Donnie Sadler–does anyone know what Donnie Sadler’s career on-base percentage is? It’s .262. In case you don’t know, even a less than ideal leadoff hitter should get on base at a .350 clip (at least). Not only is a .262 on-base percentage nearly unheard of for any regular position player, it’s suicide for a leadoff hitter. Oh, and his career OPS+, a measure of offensive ability, was a stellar 39 (100 is average). Maybe this will help to put it into perspective. That’s an article analyzing the worst leadoff hitters since 1957. Let me summarize it for you: Donnie Sadler, if he led off enough to qualify, would have been the worst and it wouldn’t have been particularly close (Sorry, Ivan DeJesus). Now I know what you’re thinking. Surely he’s fast, right? Nope. 25 career stolen bases over 8 years of irregular major league playing time. Okay, so he must be a defensive wizard at SS, right? Oh…this is the best part:

He was the left fielder!

That’s right, the Royals, in the 14th game of the season, led off the game with a guy who only got on base a quarter of the time. They also started a left fielder–traditionally a place to put one of your best hitters–who would finish his career with a 39 OPS+. And that was the same person! I may have been lying before. This may actually be the best part. The starting pitcher of the opposing team was:

Pedro Martinez!

The same Pedro Martinez who already owned 3 Cy Young awards and would finish 2nd in the voting that year. It goes without saying, the Royals got mowed down. Pedro pitched 8 innings, threw 92 pitches, gave up one hit (not, of course, to the valiant Mr. Sadler), no walks, no runs, and generally acted like he was bored. The Royals got another hit off of a token relief pitcher in the 9th, but it didn’t matter. For my first baseball game in about a decade, I watched my once beloved team throw out 5’6″ Donnie Sadler to lead off against the best pitcher of his generation. I watched them hit two singles. I watched them get shutout in about as lopsided a game as can be played.

I loved it.

It surely says something (not good) about me that if the Royals had trotted out a lineup of stars, destroyed some lesser team, and gone on to win the pennant that year, I probably wouldn’t have cared. But they were awful. I mean just unthinkably terrible, the sort of terrible that there are rules against in other sports. So naturally I started following along through the subsequent 100 loss seasons, the mirage of 2003, and the delayed promise of the Alex Gordon/Billy Butler era. It’s been a tough ride. I don’t need to rehash it all here, but let me just give you this example: for awhile in that stretch, their best pitcher missed a season for psychological reasons and this wasn’t even nearly the worst thing that happened.

Now for the first time since 2002, the Royals are actually poised to take a leap. They won’t win the division, but it’s not inconceivable this year. Gordon and Butler seem ready to make good on at least some of their promise, Greinke and Soria are locked up and ready to cement themselves as two of the best in the American League, and even Mark Teahen seems like he’s going to make this 2nd base thing work. Hell, even Kevin Seitzer is back as the hitting coach.

So it’s a good time to be a Royals fan, they’re just good and young enough to make you think they might finally do something but not so good that anyone can really know. That’s why I’m excited for this season. They could win 70 games. They could win 90 games. I really have no idea. I’ll hedge my bets and say 80, a 3rd place finish with Greinke and Soria going to the All-Star Game, Gordon leading the team in HR, and Jose Guillen punching at least one fan.

Here’s my best prediction: Donnie Sadler will not be in the lineup.

That should count as one win right there.

(In case it seems like I’m picking on Donald, let me say two things: 1. it’s not his fault the Royals used him in this way and 2. he really battled against Pedro, taking more pitches than any other Royal).

2 Comments / Posted in Baseball, Donalds, Seitzers

Exhibit 16.26

Notes

* My college friend Mallory was mentioned in the New York Times yesterday. That’s pretty cool by itself, about as cool as you can get, really, but her description takes it to another level:

The radical technologist, Mallory Knodel, 25, of the Lower East Side, writes code to help further leftist causes. She said Drupal had been helpful for her group, May First/People Link, a network that includes trade unions and political pranksters who oppose globalization.”

I would kill to be a radical technologist. I might get the business cards printed up just in case it ever happens for me.


And I know they are referring to her politics here, but if it’s okay with everyone–especially Mallory–I’m just going to go ahead and assume that, in addition to her politics, she is engaged in some kind of supervillainy. I wouldn’t put it past her.

I don’t really know, but I assume Fox’s new hit drama Fringe is about such things. Oh, who am I kidding, I totally know.

Anyway, the point here is that Mallory is awesome. I remember once trying to explain to her the 200-level astronomy class I’d taken. I’d say her reaction was akin to a parent listening to their child describe the marshmallow castle they planned on living in as an adult. She just seemed sad.

* My brother’s radio show is hitting its stride and has had some quality guests recently, including all-around great guy Scott Hales who shares the list of people he’s going after when he gets back from Afghanistan. You can always find the downloadable version at their blog here.

* Joe Posnanski’s new column is a heartbreaking story of a Royals scout who’s both A) Getting married at 81 to a girl he first proposed to in 1958 and B) Very excited about Royals prospect Derrick Robinson. I don’t know whether to cry or take my proposed 2012 Royals lineup out of my hope chest and start modifying. I’ve never told you about my hope chest? Hmm, I sort of wish I hadn’t now. As you might imagine, it’s mostly full of fake business cards.

3 Comments / Posted in Baseball, New, Notes

Exhibit 16.8

Royals Offseason Review

I was waiting to write about the Royals offseason until it was actually finished and…and…and…I suppose it finally is. Barring something unexpected, it seems like the current roster goes to Surprise for spring training and all of the redundancies and gaping holes work themselves out on the fly. Personally, I expected the team to look a bit more like the team that will take the field on opening day–or at least the team I hope will take the field on opening day–but the stagnant economy has led to an odd stasis in the free agent and trade markets as most teams seem to be paralyzed by the impossibility of trading their high priced players to free dollars for the increasingly cheap free agents. Most teams seem to be holding at least one or two contracts they’d gladly ship out if given half the chance, especially if it means $6 million for, say, Luis Castillo could become $6 million for Adam Dunn.

That nobody wants a $6 million dollar Luis Castillo, that Adam Dunn is going to wait until one of the big market teams gets desperate, that a lot of free agents require giving up draft picks to sign, that most owners have lost billions in the last 9 months…well, these are problems. And, as isn’t particularly surprising, everyone’s reaction is to sit on their hands, close their eyes, and wait it out.

But not our beloved Royals. You see, they have a renovated stadium financed largely by the good people of Kansas City and, more than that, an owner who just so happens to be the former long term CEO of a little company called Wal-Mart. Just yesterday Wal-Mart nearly doubled analysts’ projected increase in sales. While most retail stores’ profits are rapidly decreasing, Wal-Mart is doing better than ever. The reasons for this are as sad as they are obvious, but, in the far less important world of baseball, the economic downturn has meant only good things for the Royals.

Unfortunately, this unexpected leveling of the playing field has mostly meant that they alone have the right to overpay for the Kyle Farnsworths of the world. Oh well.

Let’s take a look at what they’ve done with Mr. Glass’s depressing windfall:

Traded RHP Leo Nunez for DH/1B Mike Jacobs
The offseason’s first move continues to be perhaps the most confusing. The Royals have an abundance of 1B/DH types. Some of them are young and filled with promise (Butler, Ka’aihue), some of them are old and not very good (Gload, Shealy), all of them are still on the team as if this writing. Jacobs, a salary dump from the Marlins, is somewhere in between. He hits a lot of homeruns, he plays awful defense, and he doesn’t get on base. Otherwise, he’s great.

My thoughts on the move can pretty much be summed up as follows: If Jacobs mostly DHs and hits 30HR, I don’t think most Royals fans will care how bad his on-base percentage is. I’m one of those fans. If Jacobs plays everyday at 1B and forces Butler to Omaha for most of the year and hits 30HR, I’m going to constantly be lamenting his OBP and awful defense. It’ll end up somewhere in the middle.

Traded Ramon Ramirez for CF Coco Crisp
The Red Sox didn’t have a starting spot for Crisp anymore and the Royals (for reasons that are only sort of clear) hate playing David DeJesus in center. I’m actually sympathetic to this line of thinking as I think DeJesus has proven to be more durable in LF. It was a little annoying when it meant Joey Gathright in CF with Teahen on the bench, but Crisp is a legitimate starter who has a chance to put up nice numbers at the plate while playing plus-plus defense. Ramirez is tough to give up, but, considering they essentially gave up nothing for him, turning nothing into one season of great relief pitching and two years of an above average (if overpaid) center fielder is a nice move.

There’s definitely an argument to be made that Crisp shouldn’t lead off, but there really aren’t any better options in a lineup that, outside of Gordon, DeJesus, and Callaspo, has some kind of grudge against first base.

Signed RHP Kyle Farnsworth for 2 years/$9.5 million
Things we know about Kyle Farnsworth:
1) He’s insane
2) He hasn’t been good since 2005
3) Everyone hates him

Yep, I think this will work out great. It’s a shame we couldn’t lock this guy up for more years.

Signed UI Willie Bloomquist for 2 years/$3.1 million
I don’t care as long as he gets less than 175 ABs and backs up every position except catcher. If he does anything else, I hate him. If he is the opening day 2B, I hate you. As long as you are the Royals’ general manager. Are you?

I’m kidding. Sort of.

Extended RHP Zack Greinke for 4 years/$38 million
Hooray!

There were other moves, too, but that last move is really the big one and what makes the offseason a success. Nothing else the Royals have done since the Meche signing carries over to the 2011 season and, if they’re being honest, that’s when the team has its eye on seriously competing. Everything else is about putting a competitive team on the field, creating a winning culture through competition, and (I believe) stretching out the payroll so that it’s there if the Royals want to make a big splash after Guillen, Farnsworth, Crisp, and Bloomquist all come off the books. Only Jacobs has a chance to still be around when this team is ready and even then he seems like trade bait since he plays the only position where the Royals show depth throughout their system.

Of course, people a lot smarter than me will tell you aiming for .500 is a bad way to build a team. That school of thought says that spending money on guys like Farnsworth and Bloomquist is a negative since it could go to Latin America or be saved for a time when competition is possible and not just a pipe dream. This line of thinking has never made much sense to me as nothing about such a criticism seems to account for how baseball payrolls actually work.

There are still plenty of issues. The Royals don’t seem to want any of the second basemen they acquired to actually play second base. They have at least one too many starting pitchers and it remains to be seen if they’ll make the right move in choosing the backup position players or if they’ll get sentimental and march out Ross Gload again when they no longer need his “ability” to play the OF and they have better options.

Still, most teams are similarly stymied with ungainly rosters so the Royals aren’t in bad shape. If nothing else, this team is looking better than last year’s overachieving squad and .500 is a legitimate goal. Greinke’s extension is the real key, however, and if he pitches to form the Royals look to be a team with great pitching, poor offense, and wildly uneven defense (great in the OF, bad in the IF).

They should be fun to watch, and not just on the days when Kyle Farnsworth decides to throw at batters.

1 Comment / Posted in Action Teams, Baseball, Sports

Exhibit 14.9

Thoughts on the Coco Crisp Trade

Before we begin, let me welcome Mr. Crisp to the Great Names of the Royals Hall of Fame. Coco, please take your seat between Vida Blue and Pete LaCock.

Anyway, the Royals made their second major move of the offseason, acquiring center fielder Coco Crisp from the Boston Red Sox for reliever Ramon Ramirez. As with their first move, this was all about Royals GM Dayton Moore spending a fungible commodity (relief pitchers) and getting back value in the form of position players who are harder to find and who, ideally, should be more predictable in their performance. Crisp, like Jacobs earlier, is a player who had outlived his usefulness to his former team but represents an easy upgrade for a team like the Royals who suddenly seem willing to pay above-market salaries as long as they send back below-market players in the trade.

And that’s really what this comes down to from the Royals’ perspective. Moore has proven to be almost preternaturally talented at assembling great bullpens out of retreads and so players like Ramirez and Nunez are less valuable to the Royals than they are to other clubs (sadly, the opposite might be true when it comes to position players as Moore has so far struggled to identify and utilize cheap talent). It’s possible he’s just been lucky, but I can say as a fan that I’m not one bit worried about the bullpen despite having lost two quality arms in the past month.

Those two arms brought back a 1B/DH who will likely see near full-time duty as part of a three-man rotation over two spots and a CF who will start and (probably stupidly) leadoff. Say what you will about the logic of trading young, cheap pitchers for expensive older who players who may or may not block homegrown prospects, these two trades represent significant upgrades to the everyday lineup and almost certainly make the Royals think they’ll finish above .500 for only the second time since 1994.

As for Coco Crisp specifically, he’s a good player who used to be better but is still in his prime (29) and might very well be better in Kansas City’s roomy ballpark than he was in Boston’s bandbox. His defense is good-to-great, his power is adequate for a CF, he’s not an OBP guy but he’s okay, and he has one true skill with his exceptional speed. His contract has two years left on it–$5.75 million this year, $8 million club option next year with 500k buyout–but I’d put the odds squarely against the Royals ever picking that option unless:

A) Crisp reverts back to his 2005 form
B) The Royals compete for the division this year
C) The Royals trade Jose Guillen

And I think all three of those things have to happen. So for one year of average to above-average production and great (if weak-armed) defense, the Royals gave up a reliever who probably had his career season last year. Ramirez was great, but he’s due to fall back to Earth and the Royals were smart to sell high.

(Which is maybe the most overlooked part of both of the trades this offseason. Dayton Moore turned 1/2 a season of Benito Santiago into a guy who hit 30+ HR last season when he traded Nunez for Jacobs. Then he turned Tony Graffanino into Jorge de la Rosa into Ramon Ramirez into Coco Crisp. And that doesn’t even count the productive seasons he got from Nunez and Ramirez in the interim. The Royals, if nothing else, have been trading up).

Crisp allows the Royals to shift DeJesus to left where his defense should go from adequate to outstanding, and, though they haven’t mentioned it, it seems clear that they also think DeJesus will stay healthier if he’s not throwing his body around in center every night. It also frees up someone for a trade though the Royals could also just release Ross Gload and Joey Gathright and I don’t think you’d hear any complaining out of the fan base.

Like I said, this team has gotten substantially better in just a month and while some analysts are taking it to the Royals for aiming for the middle rather than aiming high, I think that one year of creating a winning culture while some young guys develop isn’t the worst thing in the world (especially since nobody is being blocked with these moves who wouldn’t be blocked otherwise). We’ve all seen what true replacement-level players look like in KC and it’s not pretty. Crisp and Jacobs are both fun players in the sense they make big plays (good and bad) and they’ll adequately serve as plugs in a leaky ship until 2010 at which point I doubt either is still on the team.

I say it’s a good move that has a small amount of upside with no real downside other than salary. As the owner of the Royals is an evil ex-Wal-Mart executive, not only do I not mind spending the money, I wish there was some way we could spend more of it. Perhaps a golden statue to commemorate Mr. LaCock’s one season in KC…

Better takes on the trade here, here, here, and here.

1 Comment / Posted in Baseball, Cocos, Sports

Exhibit 11.5

It wouldn’t surprise me if this video gets pulled due to MLB’s draconian policies, but that’s Royals shortstop Tony Pena Jr. coming in to pitch during the 9th inning of a blowout. This pretty much made my night last night. Not only did he show some nasty stuff, he pitched the whole thing with his sunglasses on and a monumental plug of chewing tobacco in his mouth. Oh, and he struck out a future Hall of Famer.

Look, they lost 19-4. I’ll take what small pleasures I can get.

For those who care about such thing, here’s an analysis of his Pitch F/X. Also, for the statheads, take comfort in knowing that Pena’s Win Shares, VORP, and WPA are all almost certainly higher for him as a pitcher than as a shortstop (which says a lot about how awful he’s been).

You know what else says a lot about how awful he’s been, the fact that if he was a full-time pitcher in the National League–as opposed to, you know, a full-time hitter in the American League–his OPS+ would rank 28th among pitchers with 30 at bats according to Sam Mellinger.

Translation: Tony Pena Jr.’s one inning of pitching is more valuable than his half-season of playing shortstop. Also, there are at least 27 pitchers in the National League who are better at hitting a baseball than he is.

I don’t care. TPJ just provided one of my favorite baseball memories.

Comment / Posted in Baseball, Penas, Sports

Exhibit 10.21

Congratulations to Royals All-Star Joakim Soria.

Stats

23 SV
37 IP
41 K
1.22 ERA
.730 WHIP
349 ERA+
1 Old-Timey Beard

Soria didn’t even have to grow that beard, it actually jumped from Abraham Lincoln’s face once it found a worthy suitor.

Too soon?

And did I mention his intro song is “Welcome to the Jungle”? Or that his nickname is “The Mexicutioner”?

Yeah, he’s pretty much your favorite player.

2 Comments / Posted in Baseball, Blasphemous, Sports

Exhibit 8.21

Royals thoughts after an arbitrary number of games.

Record: 7-5
Team MVP: Brian Bannister
Team LVP: Jose Guillen
New Powder Blue Uniforms: Welcome
New Video Board: Absurd/Awesome
New Manager’s Ratio of Chin to Chin Hair: 1:1
Distressing Early Season Performer: Gil Meche
Tony Pena Jr’s OPS: .99 (this, it should be noted, is almost impossible)

Comment / Posted in Baseball, New, Sports

Exhibit 8.10

Royals Season Preview

So it’s probably time to write about baseball. Opening Day is Monday–no matter what we are supposed to think about those real games in Japan–and as always the Kansas City Royals are primed to play 162 games of baseball with a moderately exciting level of skill.

There’s a lot to like about the Royals right now: new manager, renovated stadium, an influx of very young talent, and the commissioner appears ready to void the suspension of their key offseason acquisition. So it’s like they’ve won something already (if having three more weeks to spend with a guy who appears to be an insufferable prick is “winning”).

Let’s take a look at the roster as it will likely be to start the season, grading each player with one of the Compsons from The Sound and the Fury.

(ed note: I will be ignoring the 4-game suspension of another one of their key offseason acquisitions. Yes, that’s right, they signed two guys who were known to be suspended to start the season. And I was for these moves):

Pitchers
Starters
Gil Meche – Caddy.
Brian Bannister – Quentin.
Zack Greinke – Way Quentin. Too much Quentin.
John Bale – Dilsey. Technically not a Compson.
Brett Tomko – Way Benjy. Too much Benjy.

Relievers
Joakim Soria – Caddy.
Ramon Ramirez – Too soon to tell in my complex analysis.
Yasuhiko Yabuta – Japanese.
Ron Mahay – Jason (the father).
Jimmy Gobble – A Quentin if Quentin only came in to face left-handed characters.
Leo Nunez – Miss Quentin.
Joel Peralta – Jason (either one).


Position Players
Catchers
John Buck – The mother.
Miguel Olivo – Jason if Jason told everyone he was going to start and then blamed his Spanish translator.

Infield
Ross Gload – The golf course.
Alberto Callaspo – Caddy.
Mark Grudzielanek – The corpse in As I Lay Dying.
Esteban German – Soon to be traded for (hopefully) a Caddy or a Quentin.
Tony Pena Jr. – Bit of a Benjy.
Alex Gordon – George Brett.

Outfield
Mark Teahen – Sometimes a Caddy, sometimes a Quentin.
David DeJesus – Another Dilsey.
Jose Guillen – Name might as well be Jason Guillen.
Joey Gathright – Can jump pitchers. Oh, and Miss Quentin.

DH
Billy Butler – Benjy but in the best possible sense. He’s stupid good.

Well, that was pointless. My prediction: 78-84.

Comment / Posted in Baseball, Caddies, Sports

Exhibit 7.3

Pitchers and catchers report for spring training today. In honor, some baseball links:

*Here is a blog dedicated to featuring each baseball card from the 1988 Topps Set. This was one of my favorite sets as a kid. I think I had about two dozen of the Kevin Seitzers from this set. For the record, he’s number 275. I can barely wait.

*This is K.C. Star columnist Joe Posnanski’s blog which is pretty much essential reading whether you like sports or not.

*Baseball Genius/Doctor/Royals Fan Rany Jazayerli has just started a Royals blog. His first post spells out his qualifications if you’re not familiar. Needless to say, the fact that the Royals have some of the best baseball minds as fans/locals (Rany, Bill James, Rob Neyer) and the best sports columnist in America writing about them (Pos) makes them by far the most spoiled of any team that hasn’t reached the playoffs in over 20 years.

Comment / Posted in Baseball, Seitzers, Sports

Exhibit 4.8

Buck O’Neil

This week’s long overdue correction of a national shame is that the Hall of Fame announced a Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award that will be given out a maximum of once out of every three years to “an individual whose extraordinary efforts enhanced baseball’s positive impact on society, has broadened the game’s appeal, and whose character, integrity and dignity are comparable to the qualities exhibited by O’Neil.” Appropriately, the first winner is O’Neil who they will honor with a large statue outside the entrance to Cooperstown. This almost makes up for the tragic way they denied him a spot in the Hall during the last year of his life.

If you don’t know anything about Buck, read his wikipedia entry or Joe Posnanski’s book on him. Basically, he was a great Negro League player and manager, the first African-American manager in the MLB, a long-time scout who discovered and mentored some of the all-time greats, and the man who almost single-handily created the Negro League museum in KC and kept the legacy of the Negro League alive.

In my opinion, he’s one of the 5 or 10 most important people in baseball history, an embodiment of everything that’s great about the game. Yet somehow when the Hall of Fame got around to inducting a group of players, managers, owners, and coaches from the Negro Leagues in 2006–something Buck led the fight for–he didn’t get enough votes (this would be the equivalent of creating a Hosts of Saturday Night Live Hall of Fame and not inducting Alec Baldwin). At the time he said, “God’s been good to me. They didn’t think Buck was good enough to be in the Hall of Fame. That’s the way they thought about it and that’s the way it is, so we’re going to live with that. Now, if I’m a Hall of Famer for you, that’s all right with me. Just keep loving old Buck. Don’t weep for Buck. No, man, be happy, be thankful.”

Always a man of class, Buck O’Neil gave the induction speech for the 17 people they did induct that year. He was dead 6 months later.

MLB was humiliated with what happened to Buck as there was no other way to elect him into the Hall (short of ignoring procedure and doing it by fiat) so I guess this award/statue is their solution. Honestly, it’s a pretty good one. Buck deserved better while he was alive, but, as he would be the first to remind everyone, it was never about him.

Maybe it’s just because Buck is Kansas City baseball–even more than, say, George Brett–but I feel a little better about things today. Let’s end this by watching Buck sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” a Kauffman Stadium tradition.

If that didn’t give you chills, you might be dead.

Check out the next edition of correcting a national shame where we discuss the return of habeus corpus some time around 2009.
Comment / Posted in Baseball, Shame, Sports

Exhibit 2.23

This is what it’s like to be a Royals fan.

From today’s Kansas City Star:

“[Last year] the Royals were set to receive outfielder Melky Cabrera in return. The deal was all but done until a strained thigh sidelined Sanders just before the trading deadline.”

Oh, Reggie Sanders. Go ahead and break my heart again.

I mean, I know Melky Cabrera may not be any great shakes yet, but he’s only 23 and his season this year is positively David DeJesus-like. As opposed to Sanders, whose season this year was positively David Madden-like. Literally, I think Dave played in more baseball games this summer than Reggie Sanders. And even if Dave played in none, the most Reggie could beat him by is 24.

The thing is, things like this happen to the Royals all of the time. There are always these painful rumors/facts that wait like snakes in the middle of the most innocuous article or early-inning banter. Sometimes Paul Splitorff will just say something like, “Of course, we all know the Royals were set to take Kansas City-native Albert Pujols in the 14th round of that draft. Boy, he’s worked out for the Cardinals.” Or in the second to last paragraph of a game wrapup in the Star there will be a line like, “Sweeney, who hasn’t played in a game since early May, was signed to a 5 year $55 million deal when the Royals decided against trading him to the Angels for John Lackey and using the money to lock up Carlos Beltran long term.”

(Ed note: none of those things actually have come out. Yet.)

It’s not a curse or anything. It’s just the combination of desperation by a small market team that needs perfection to succeed, the frustration that sets in when that inevitably doesn’t happen due to tight purse strings and shoddy management, and hope for the future that hinges on the gratitude of a team like the Yankees deciding they can’t have anyone on their team who hits less than 15 home runs.

I don’t even get sad anymore.

2 Comments / Posted in Baseball, Inaction Teams, Sports

Exhibit 2.20

Teams That Will Not Lose 100 Games This Season:

*The Company B-Ball Skins

*The A-Team

*The Governor’s Green Action Team

*The Tampa Bay Devil Rays

*The Miami Dolphins

*The Super-Team Family

*The Kansas City Royals!

Comment / Posted in Action Teams, Baseball, Sports

Exhibit 2.10

Standings

Cleveland –
Detroit 4.5
Minnesota 8.5
Kansas City 15.5
Chicago 18.5

Now, I’m not here to say “You’re next Minnesota” or anything like that, but let me just say that I don’t care if there is only a month left in the season, You are so next Minnesota.

Comment / Posted in Baseball, Sports, Who's Next? Minnesota.

Exhibit 1.24

The Royals moved into sole possession of fourth place in the AL Central over the weekend, and are making a run at their third consecutive winning month. For the record, they haven’t done that since 1994. Here’s hoping.

The man pictured above took fourth place in some kind of pinball competition in the U.K. I like to think of him and the Royals as kindred spirits, always competing against those with more money but smaller souls. With greater talent but lesser will. With larger, more reactive paddles, like really expensive ones with lights and all but with slower fingers. Or something.

Comment / Posted in Baseball, Pinball Wizardry, Sports

Exhibit 1.14

The kid that Odalis Perez ate and whose skin he wears Vincent D’Onofrio style.

Odalis Perez was unexpectedly bad for the Royals last night. Which is to say that he is always bad, but last night he was worse than usual, somewhat surprising considering he has developed into quite the consistent pitcher. Which is to say consistently bad.

The normal Odalis Perez start goes something like this: 5.2 IP with 4 runs earned (and sometimes, just for fun, an unearned run) with 8 hits, 3k, 2 BB, 3 visits to the mound by the pitching coach, and 1 me turning off the game until a Gil Meche or Brian Bannister start. That’s not statistics based, that’s just the perceived line of watching him pitch–except for me turning off the game, that I can document.

The Royals can’t complain as they aren’t even paying his salary (or at least not most of it). This may be one of the all-time great things about sports that, if translated to the real world, would make absolutely no sense (though we may need to do it anyway). If my company traded me to say, McDonald’s, I’d probably perform pretty poorly too until I learned from my McManager that my old company was still paying my salary but just didn’t want me around anymore. At that point I might start making a few more Quarter Pounders per hour just to prove them wrong, but I guess Odalis and I are just different people.

(This concept gets even more ridiculous in the NBA. Can you imagine being, say, Theo Ratliffe and repeatedly getting traded from team to team, each one of which only wants you because A. they need your awful, awful contract to make a deal for a superstar work and B. that awful contract is about to expire and provide cap relief? How could this situation possibly be comfortable for anyone. “Should I start warming up, Coach?” “No, Theo, why don’t you just go sit at the end of the bench until your deal expires in 2009.” The concept of the buy-out is even worse. The Portland Trail Blazers just gave Stevie Francis something like $30 million to not play basketball for them. Actually, this one we may need to institute in the real world).

Odalis’s contract is somewhat understandable considering his remarkable 2002 season:

222.1 IP, 3.00 ERA, 4 CG, 2 SO, 155 K, 38 BB, .226 BA against, .99 WHIP, 15 wins and 10 losses.

That’s a damn fine season. Not Cy Young worthy, but I could see it getting a vote or two (Ed note: it didn’t because Randy Johnson was incredible that year). He probably should have won 20 games. He was an All-Star. Odalis was 24-25 years old throughout that season (scary considering that’s my current age and an Odalis Perez-like collapse could be just around the corner) and he had never been that good again when the Dodgers locked him up in 2005 based mostly on the promise of that earlier season. Within a few months of the deal the Dodgers already regretted it, and within 18 months they’d shipped him, two legit prospects, and something like $20 million off to the Royals for a 35-year-old reliever who, ironically, had been on the Dodgers the year before but who they didn’t want to resign. Ouch.

This is the equivalent of the company I work for trading me, my salary, the basket of Take Fives, my purple editing pens, and one of our data analysts to McDonald’s for a number four. I don’t even think they’d be able to get it super-sized unless they threw in one of the coffee pots.

Comment / Posted in Baseball, Odalises, Sports

Exhibit 1.3

[Hiram] Kyle Davies

The Royals just traded Octavio Dotel for this guy. He’s basically a 23-year-old ex-prospect who was once considered the best pitcher in the Braves system until he got through their system and proceeded to not be very good. A lot of potential. A lot of issues with how fast he’s advanced. A lot of questions about why he doesn’t use his given name of Hiram. A few things to make note of here:

1. It doesn’t seem like the Royals necessarily got the best deal for Dotel, but they did get a guy named Hiram which is hard to argue with. That’s much harder than getting a guy who throws strikes. Sub-things to note. Things I would do if my name were Hiram:

  • Not go by Adam anymore.
  • Name my kids Adam.
  • Learn how to handle my curveball.
  • Learn if the name is properly pronounced Hy-Ram or Here-am.
  • Correct everyone who pronounces it one way by telling them I pronounce it the other.
  • Make it unclear if I were Jewish or Scottish by wearing a yarmulke and a kilt.

2. A lot of Royals fans seem upset that they didn’t get Wlademir Belentien. I can understand this as the team desperatly needs a power-hitting OF as long as Teahen keeps doing his David Dejesus impersonation and David DeJesus keeps doing his…you get the idea. I can’t be too dissapointed, however, as getting someone named Wlademir is presumably harder than getting someone named Hiram. I mean, that name has a spelling error in it.

3. Dayton Moore has earned the right to trade for whatever pitcher he wants and have everyone’s trust until he messes up. So far he’s given up Tony Graffanino, Mike MacDougal, and Ambiorix Burgos for Brian Bannister, Jorge de la Rosa, Tyler Lumsden, and Daniel Cortes. Jury is still out on all of those guys, but would any GM rather take the Graffanino/MacDougal side there?

4. A lot of deadweight still on this Royals team but things are looking up after the deadline. The only players I can definitely see clearing waivers are Emil Brown and Odalis Perez with Reggie Sanders a maybe. It’s unlikely any get dealt, but it would be nice to see Joey Gathright back up. Check out this video.

Is it too late to add jump cars to the list of things I would do if I were named Hiram?

1 Comment / Posted in Baseball, Hirams, Sports