Monday, March 30, 2009
When I went to ESPN.com yesterday afternoon and meandered on over to the baseball section, I had to do an eye-rub/head-shake to reassess what my eyes had just taken in. The only picture visible on the page was a huge one of Zack Greinke. After quelling the overwhelming disbelief at seeing a Kansas City Royal headlining the Major League Baseball content on a Sunday afternoon at ESPN, I read the feature Peter Gammons article that echoed many of the same sentiments that others (Christina Kahrl, Bill Simmons, and Tom Verducci to name a few).
Of particular note was the quote of an anonymous baseball executive saying he thought Greinke would win the Cy Young. This year.
Anyway, the point I set out to make was that it is kind of weird reading about the Royals in national media outlets. I am not sure how I feel about it. Maybe I am too much of a fandom protectionist, but there was a certain appeal, personally, in rooting for a team that no one cared about. Now that they're the sexy dark horse pick I find myself grappling with the definition of myself. Who am I if I'm rooting for a possibly good baseball team? It's been so long...
It is also somewhat frustrating to read articles of a glossier nature that miss what I feel to be key points in the potential for a break out season--like talking about Kyle Farnsworth and Ron Mahay in the pen without making mention of possibly the best signing of their offseason, Juan Cruz. Obviously, there is no way to talk about absolutely everything, but Cruz is the acquisition that clearly makes this bullpen potentially great, not the Professor.
What should be most important to Royals fans is the following Trey Hillman quote about Mark Teahen:
I still think I'll probably mix and match with [Alberto] Callaspo," says Hillman. "But we've seen some very good instinctive plays from Teahen, plays that encourage us.
The signal that sends (Willie who?) is very encouraging.
So this season finds the lot of us entering into some weird fan limbo where our team has been historically awful since the Strike but they might actually be good.
What am I?
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Now, when the Royals first announced that they were going to be working Teahen out at second, I was open to the idea because his bat is above average at second. I also was less than crazy about having Wee Willie Bloomquist and Callaspo the Abuser be the lone candidates for the position, as the bat of one and off-field issues of the other worry me. So if Teahen and his bat (and stability) could play even remotely serviceably, I was game.
Now, his play in the field could generously be referred to as an adventure. From what I gather, his play at second is getting less bad as he tries to acclimate to the position, but I would hardly say that I am brimming over with confidence when I think of Teahen manning second.
The craziest thing about this situation is that he played horribly at second and then went to play for Team Canada in the WBC. After the overwhelming folly that marked his initial foray in the world of the second baseman, I had pretty much dismissed the possibility of him working out there since he was not going to be getting any time at second with Team Canada.
Of course, here we sit, going into action on March 29th, and Mark Teahen is leading all regulars in Spring Training in slugging percentage, with a shocking 1.000 through 47 plate appearances. His on-base percentage sits at a robust .553, good for third amongst players with at least 40 PAs. His batting average is .500 placing him behind only Milton Bradley and Chris Shelton of players with at least 39 PAs. He has fewer home runs than only seven players (Mike Jacobs is one of those players).
When Royals fans see these numbers, visions of 2006 come to mind. The promise that young Mark Teahen showed looks like it may possibly be fulfulled.
Obviously, these are Cactus League numbers. Anyone who needs a reminder of what that means need look no further than Dee Brown's monster spring of a few years ago (2004, I think). Numbers--especially the inflated offensive numbers--from Spring Training largely mean nothing. It is doubtful that Mark Teahen's HR/2B ratio stays at 2.5 for the entirety of the regular season. It is encouraging to see a player like Teahen to flash this hot streak, especially since we all have seen one in the past.
The most shocking part of this assault on every baseball currently found in the State of Arizona is that it came after it seemed all but certain that he would be playing the role of super utility player. Each day he continues his tear makes it harder and harder for the Royals to not award him the starting spot at second, and maybe for the fly-ball pitchers in the rotation, it won't cost them too much. There would certainly be a learning curve which would likely see Teahen getting more and more competent as time (and repetitions) go by.
Consider my fingers crossed.
While it might make more sense to save this for its own post, it can be excruciating as a fan of a team like the Royals to read tidbits like Ken Rosenthal's article from the 25th, which states that:
Free-agent right-hander Pedro Martinez is reaching out to prospective suitors, but finding little interest in his $5 million-plus asking price.
The Royals, before signing free-agent right-hander Sidney Ponson to a minor-league contract, rejected an overture from Martinez because they were unable to afford him, major-league sources say.
Martinez contacted the Royals through two of the team's Dominican players, right fielder Jose Guillen and catcher Miguel Olivo. He also knows Royals special assistant Luis Silverio, who was the third-base coach for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, and another of the team's special assistants, Rene Francisco.On MLB Trade Rumors, Dierkes ponders whether Pedro would have been a better signing than Bloomquist and Horacio Ramirez. I am not sure that thinking is entirely fair. I don't think Ramirez was a good signing. In fact, I think it might have been the worst of Dayton Moore's offseason, but he wasn't committed $5 million in guaranteed money that Pedro's asking for. Bloomquist is at the very least a utility player with a serviceable glove at many positions. Pedro is optimistically good for 130 innings pitched, a mark he has not reached since 2006.
In fairness to Dierkes, he surely doesn't spend hours a day thinking about the Royals. It is surely frustrating that it was Pedro reaching out to the Royals in this situation, but I do think that we as fans tend to hold on to notions of a return to dominance that simply doesn't seem likely in Pedro's case.
At a $5 million price tag in this market, Pedro Martinez simply does not make sense unless that $5 million is only reached after incentives are met. His 5.61 ERA in 109 innings pitched last season doesn't play well in my book. I think his relevance for this season is largely driven by East Coast Bias and inattention to the past three seasons and not by realistic expectations.
Lastly, I'd like to thank Will McDonald over at Royals Review for yet another shout out. Each one absolutely blows this blog up. It is interesting to know that Royals Review also has spent a fair share of his life in Austin and has also studied English. Thanks, Will.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Starting two Sundays ago, my insanely time-consuming keeper league began its tediously long drawn out draft (essentially rounds 16 through 25) on a Yahoo! Group that we obsessively converse on. There are twelve people in the group and two Januaries ago we posted 5,176 times. A month without at least 1,000 posts is simply unheard of. As the reigning champion (second time in five years), I have the unenviable task of overseeing this draft, which means little by little I have to input the draft results into both Yahoo! and an Excel spreadsheet. The problem is that there are owners in the league who take hours to pick, so we're edging closer and closer to the roster input deadline for the first week of the season to count waiting on fucking lollygaggers. Whether it really needs to or not, I kind of have to police these half-assers to try to get them to make the life-changing selection of Jeff Francoeur in the 21st round.
To add insult to injury, the Yahoo! Group has begun to have posting lags in excess of two hours, so over the weekend, it was nearly impossible to follow what was going on in terms of draft progress.
Then tonight (Monday), the other fantasy baseball league in which I am commissioner was supposed to have its draft, only to have the manager who finished second last year pull out of the league 30 minutes before the draft because he didn't want the computer to auto-draft his team, which I found out as I walked into Little City (the coffee shop I work at) with three minutes to go until the draft began. As it was a head-to-head league, the draft was cancelled by Yahoo! and now it is not going to happen until Tuesday night.
Oh, and Austin was overrun by SXSW and the corresponding influx of hipster tourists who don't fucking tip but ruin the town for days while everyone who lives here has to do double the work for 10% more in tips while simultaneously getting fucked in that we can't do anything we'd normally do without having to pay twice as much to do it and wait ten times as long in line to get into where we normally go.
I fucking hate people.
My only real day off is Sundays, which also finds me writing a fantasy basketball column (soon to be fantasy baseball!) for Sports Grumblings--for which I do not yet receive compensation, and while I generally write a blog entry for both of my blogs, Sunday found me writing an entirely unnecessarily lengthy blog entry about Knowing for my other blog, Inconsiderate Prick, while being distracted by Tournament games, thus cutting into any time that I could have put into a Royalscentricity entry--especially considering the fact that I also went to I Love You, Man last night--entry on IP to come soon.
Anyway, so I've kind of wanted to write an entry regarding the release of Jimmy Gobble, who does actually get lefties out, and the semi-puzzling nature of the club's statement about not having room for a LOOGY on the roster while trying to force Horacio Ramirez into the rotation. Initially, I was intending to have this be an in-depth look at this issue, but it's already 2:30 as I write this, and I have to work in the morning.
I'll have to paraphrase, I guess.
So, as you've most definitely read, the Royals said after releasing Gobble that they simply didn't have room on the roster for a left-handed specialist (I'm pretty sure it was in a Bob Dutton article, initially). Royals fans have taken umbrage at this statement given the (seemingly) stubborn insistence upon having a left-handed starter in the rotation despite the fact that it would appear as though Horacio Ramirez has no right being in any starting rotation.
Now, I am not going to make some sweeping judgment call based on Spring Training stats--if I were, I'd be freaking out about Greinke and Meche--but Horacio Ramirez doesn't have a glowing resume. His only time in which he was effective was last year in Kansas City as a reliever, but the statistical sample size is too small to make any meaningful determinations by. Upon being shipped to Chicago, he promptly blew up.
But he was at least league-average early in his career, which of course happened to be in Atlanta, so at the very least, Dayton Moore has seen a lot of him. He surely knows him as a pitcher much better than we do.
While I am not crazy about the notion of having Horacio Ramirez starting every five days, I am also not vehemently against at least trying him out in that role (as long as something better doesn't come around when teams cut loose their players embroiled in battles for roster spots) and seeing if he can cut it for a few starts. If he blows and lasts into May in the rotation, then I will be up in arms, but it does increasingly feel like Bannister might be best served by trying to put it together in Omaha to start the season. While the Royals do seem perversely married to the notion that a left-handed starter is a necessity, I think there is value to having one (just not necessarily one who finds himself on the 40-man roster) and more value than we tend to acknowledge. Sure, Moore's fixation on the issue seems a bit odd, but there are quite a few prominent lefties in the division that it would be nice to neutralize here and there.
Which brings us to the recently dismissed Jimmy Gobble. The Royals' aforementioned statement has been taken to fly in the face of the Horacio insistence by many in the Royals blogging community. I get how it can be construed that way. I just think it is a matter of apples and oranges.
In stating that the Royals do not have room for a LOOGY, they're stating that they want pitchers who are more flexible than that, and if Gobble has proven anything of late, it is that he cannot get righties out to save his life. While one could argue that Horacio Ramirez may not be able to get either righties OR lefties out, he would theoretically be pitching to more than one hitter in any given day, and over the course of the week would be facing more than, optimistically, seven batters. Maybe Mahay and Tejeda aren't as dominant when facing lefties as Gobble, but they do carry in their bag of tricks the ability to actually get righties out as well. If it is the difference between Tejeda making the 25-man roster and Gobble, I'll take a chance on Tejeda, personally, and I do not think that the statement is necessarily in direct opposition to what the Royals are attempting (as pointless as many see it to be) to do with Ramirez.
Releasing Gobble when they did may also allow for him to get on with another club earlier in the game, which would certainly be doing a guy with years of time within the organization a favor.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
Fan-favorite Brian Bannister has struggled mightily this spring (12 runs allowed in 12 1/3 innings) while Luke Hochevar lowered his spring ERA to an encouraging 2.92. It would probably take something fairly disastrous for Hochevar to lose the spot in the rotation, and you'd think that he may likely be the fourth starter if his current level of performance is one that can be maintained.
Hochevar's strong show in Spring Training isn't really the story here. While we all decried the reckless signing of a sub-standard lefty in an effort to once again shoe-horn a left-handed pitcher into the rotation, it would almost appear as though the Royals may have been smart to sign an extra starter like Ramirez.
Now, granted the money given to Horacio was, to put it kindly, too much, but I am not sure that if the candidates the Royals were to choose from for the final spot in the rotation were Brian Bannister and Horacio Ramirez that Ramirez wouldn't be the front-runner. After all, Banny's spring ERA is 8.52. Sure, Ramirez's has obviously been deflated by the six unearned runs that have happened on his watch, but the fact remains that his ERA sits at 5.25, and those Teahen errors seem to have been on fairly likely outs. Ramirez has allowed one more baserunner than Bannister, so it is not like his pitching has been beyond reproach, but is Bannister the answer--at least right now?
Maybe Bannister would be better off starting the season at Omaha to work out the kinks.
Obviously, it would be nice if the Royals had spent the money they spent on Ramirez on a capable pitcher who can actually miss bats, but Ramirez may actually be the better pitcher than Bannister right now, as much as it pains me to say.
The best we could hope for, right now, would probably be for the Royals to sign someone who is DFA'd coming out of Spring Training, but if it comes down to one of those two, Bannister seems to be getting worse as the spring progresses.
Regardless, the Royals would appear to have a big hole at the fifth spot of the rotation, and that is a big hole in relation to the fairly big question marks punctuating Kyle Davies' and Luke Hochevar's prospects for this coming season.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Now, nevermind the fact that Davies was set to turn 25 in September of that season. He had been in the Majors long enough to not put up a partial season with a 6.66 ERA and 1.78 WHIP in Royal blue. After 50 innings pitched, Royals fans had seen enough.
As we now know, our collective hopes are now pinned on Kyle Davies being able to pick up where he left off in September of that 2008 season--you know, the season that took place after everyone was calling for Davies' head. If Davies can replicate the success he had last season and build upon his late season surge (and his spring has been fairly encouraging), then there may be justification for our annual delusions of contention.
The thing is if we fans exercise a little more patience, especially with the greener players, we may find that we won't find ourselves eating our words next offseason, having come around on players we spent this offseason villifying. We could be singing entirely different songs about anyone on the roster. Maybe even Horacio Ramirez.
Well. All right. Probably not him.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
To start, Cameron grades Ownership out at a D. If anything, this evaluation errs toward generosity. In Glass's defense, he has begun upping payroll at the behest of his General Manager. Cameron also designates Glass as a meddler, although not to the level of Peter Angelos or Drayton McLane. I guess I cannot speak unequivocally to the degree that David Glass is a cook in the baseball operations kitchen at this time, but I get the impression that he has more or less handed the reigns over the Dayton Moore. Of the complaints levied against Glass, this may be the only one that is somewhat overblown, but again, his history should be a huge knock against him, so I'd tend to agree that the D has been earned. Really, much would need to be done to raise that grade in my book.
As Dave Cameron moves on to the Front Office, he gives Dayton Moore a D as well. The crux of his argument against Moore's effectiveness is that Moore has thrown money around fairly carelessly in his short time here, and nearly all of it has been handed to players whose previous performance did not warrant the paycheck. Now, obviously Moore hit on Gil Meche, but most of his other big free agent signings have been in the (Bruce Hornsby and the) range of disappointing to disastrous. The thing is while Moore has signed and acquired guys that have occasionally bordered on dubious, he has also pulled off deals that have turned the Tony Graffaninos of the world into Coco Crisp (with JDLR and RamRam in the middle of that sandwich). He got Joakim Soria in the Rule V Draft. He oversaw what was overwhelmingly deemed a great draft last year. He has filled the organization with a lot more depth than he had when he took over for Allard Baird. His teams have improved every year. I completely understand the criticism of his free agent signings in the past (although I am hesitant to chide him vociferously for his acquisitions this past offseason until some games are played, and there are some actual results by which to begin to assay his work this winter), but the Front Office has probably performed slightly above the D level.
Cameron gives a C to the Major League club, which is probably justified. The one thing he probably short-changes is the bullpen, which really could be one of the best in baseball. Obviously, past the top two starters nothing would seem certain. He classifies DeJesus and Gordon as guys who would play for any team in baseball while ignoring Crisp. And while we all expect Aviles to regress, coming off of last year, he'd be starting on nearly every team in baseball.
When evaluating Minor League Talent, he also hands out a C to the system. As Royals fans, it might be a little hard to look at this farm system and see it as only a C. This comes largely because we're not far removed from the days where the only Royal on the Baseball America Top 100 Prospect list was David DeJesus somewhere in the 70s (I want to say 73). So keeping that depressing fact in mind, it can be hard to see a system that might actually produce Major League talent as only a C. When it comes down to it, the Royals farm system is probably only average. Everyone outside of the top two have question marks around some pretty solid potential but the question marks a deserved. Maybe a full summer with the 2008 draft class shows us something, but our hopes as a fanbase are largely pinned on the promise of a hopeful draft class. We were given three arguable first-rounders last season, but these guys don't always pan out. Ask Colt Griffin. So, for now, we're looking at an average farm system, but that's a whole helluva lot better than things used to be.
The only teams Cameron has that are worse off than the Royals are the Astros, Marlins, and Nationals. I, for one, have a hard time believing that the Royals are worse off than the Pirates. I think teams like the Mariners and Rangers (I know their farm system is supposed to be great and all, but name one effective pitcher they've had in the past, I don't know, 15 years--you can't because there wasn't one--I'd imagine even can't-miss Neftali Feliz won't pan out unless he gets a change of scenery) must always be in the conversation, too.
Really, the Royals hopes this year are pinned on two starters, a near-great bullpen on paper, and two young studs breaking out on offense. Oh, and the fact that the AL Central is just bad enough that an average team could actually win the division. I guess we'll have to take what we can get...
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Maybe you are the ones who are fucking out.
Second poll coming. Equally important.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
As the Yankees are wont to do, they are panicking and the Royals stand to potentially gain from their alarmist tendencies. Granted, no one would be crazy about facing a month-plus of throwing Cody Ransom out there at the hot corner, but the Yankees need to address this issue now, and if the Royals could net someone like Robinson Cano (who the Yankees have always seemed to be very impatient with and would obviously address the issue at second base) or perhaps some starting pitching depth (the Yankees are likely to start the season with both Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy on the outside looking in for the fifth spot in the starting rotation), then it may be in their best interest to play the part of the opportunist here.
I, for one, would be perfectly fine with trading Teahen as long as the Royals get back Major League-ready talent that addresses a roster deficiency. It would be even sweeter if the Royals could con the Yankees into taking on Jose Guillen (or hell, even the more tradeable Mike Jacobs) if it netted someone like Nick Swisher, who seems to be a man without a home in New York but wouldn't fit into the Royals plans unless something happened in right or at first. All right, I've set down the crackpipe and returned to reality.
Sorry about that.
The Teahen rumblings also follow closely on the heels of news that multiple teams are interested in the crew of catchers the Royals find themselves carrying this year. It seems to me that Dayton Moore perceived catchers as currency this past offseason, stocked the system with serviceable ML-ready catchers, and knew he would be able to use this strength in the spring as teams started to become uncomfortable with their own catching situations. While I am not ready to lump Matt Tupman in with the ML-ready catching corps, the Royals do have Olivo, Buck, Brayan Peña, J.R. House, and Vance Wilson who can at least play the part of back-up catcher. Obviously, either Peña or Buck is on their way out, but the interest of other teams in Royals' catchers means that something may come of having so many serviceable backstops, and at the very least, there may be a couple more low-level prospects welcomed into the system, which is better than simply cutting bait with Buck/Peña.
Moore certainly has wheeled and dealt in springs past. It would seem that the improved organizational depth may allow for him to net even more in 2009.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Now that Manny has signed, everyone can talk about the real story this season: The Kansas City Royals!
OK, so that more than likely won't happen--at least not until the Royals are contending for the division into at least June.
Now, I just have one hypothetical to throw out there that I intend to put up as a poll shortly:
- For this season, would you rather have Barry Bonds or Kenny Powers in a Royals uniform?
I should also apologize for the relative brevity of this post. Its utter lack of worthy content and, well, content can be chalked up to the fact that I have been writing another fantasy primer column for Sports Grumblings. I was tasked to write the Top 50 Outfielders capsule (which I took quite seriously, as can be seen here), and now I am writing another beast, which has already run up to nearly 1,700 words and is nowhere near complete. That assignment has taken up more time than I'd have liked, and for that, dear reader, I am sorry. I promise I shall do better in the future (like when basketball season is over and I no longer have to try to juggle that column with all of the pondering on baseball I do).
Sadly that is all I can give you this evening, as tomorrow is the one day a week I have to work at 8:00 am.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
C - Miguel Olivo
1B - Billy Butler
2B - Alberto Callaspo
SS - Mike Aviles
3B - Alex Gordon
LF - David DeJesus
CF - Coco Crisp
RF - Jose Guillen
DH - Mike Jacobs
1B/3B/LF/RF - Mark Teahen
2B/SS/3B/LF/CF - Willie Bloomquist
C - Brayan Pena
1B/LF/RF - Ross Gload
RHP - Gil Meche
RHP - Zack Greinke
RHP - Kyle Davies
RHP - Brian Bannister
LHP - Horacio Ramirez
RHP - Joakim Soria
RHP - Juan Cruz
LHP - Ron Mahay
RHP - Kyle Farnsworth
RHP - Robinson Tejeda
LHP - John Bale
RHP - Doug Waechter
Jacobs and Butler are more or less interchangeable at 1B/DH, so their placement is more for show than anything else. Obviously, I am leaning toward Alberto Callaspo winning out in the second baseman sweepstakes. His glove leaves a bit to be desired, but any shot Mark Teahen had at winning the starting job at second was reliant upon his getting the requisite reps in. Playing in the WBC will surely cut into that time, at least insofar as the club is concerned from its own evaluation standpoint. With Teahen and Bloomquist able to fill in at all seven of the positions in the field, they have two of the utility spots. Gload is under contract and management seems to love him. Barring a trade, he is likely on the team, as his contract was a two-year deal signed in January of 2008. As a guy who has to fill in here or there, I suppose there could be worse. Then backup catcher, as I asserted last week, will be Brayan Peña.
This means John Buck, whose contract when trimmed from the books roughly pays the remaining difference between what was saved on Esteban German's contract and what the Royals are paying Juan Cruz, is likely gone--unless of course Olivo goes down. Also not making the cut in this scenario is Tony Peña, Jr., that is of course unless he uncorks a miraculous Spring and bests Callaspo with his new bionic eyes. Ryan Shealy is a casualty, too, as his paltry contract makes him more expendable than Gload (and I believe he is out of options), and his relative upside could conceivably yield a low-level prospect. The fact that he also fails to provide Jacobs with a viable platoon split as he cannot even begin to come close to hitting lefties certainly hurts his cause as well. If they have to cut him, the amount of money it would cost them would be about one-third the amount that cutting Gload would cost them, so he'll have to prove he is worth quite a bit more than Gload while playing a more limited role defensively.
As far as the pitching is concerned, it will sadly probably take Horacio Ramirez at least a month of the regular season to play his way out of the rotation, much in the same way mistake-signing Brett Tomko did last year. If John Bale starts the season on the DL, look for Jimmy Gobble to take his place as staff LOOGY, since Mahay, the other lefty in the pen, doesn't have the decided advantage over lefties that a LHP would usually have.
If no one sustains significant injuries, I really believe this is how things will shake out coming out of Spring Training. Hochevar will likely join the rotation once the Royals cut the cord that is tethering them to the notion of needing a left-handed starter. Horacio Ramirez won't work, but having him toe the rubber for five starts is more than likely not going to kill their season in the mediocre AL Central. By the second week in May, Ramirez will be relegated to the pen until they can find somewhere to put him (my vote is for HoRam being put out to pasture).