Who Should Be the Next Royals Manager?

kc1

On the last day of the 2018 campaign it was announced that manager Ned Yost would be returning to the Kansas City Royals to helm the ship for the 2019 season. This wasn’t a big shock, as there had been a prevalent thought that Yost wanted to come back for at least another season and continue the rebuild that is currently in place (I know, Dayton said it’s not a rebuild. We all know it IS a rebuild. But nice try, DM).

It appears from the outside looking in that the job is Yost’s for as long as he wants it. He has a good working relationship with both Moore and the Glass family, and the fact he led the Royals to back-to-back World Series’ gives him a certain level of leeway that many men in his position would love to have.

kc2
Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

But at some point Ned is going to decide to call it a day and go home. In fact, that day is probably closer than you think. For all we know, Yost could decide to retire at the end of 2019 and hand off the reigns to his successor. It’s hard to remember, but Yost has been in this position since May of 2010, which is a lifetime for a major league manager. Imagining someone else leading this Royals team is difficult to picture at times.

But we are going down that road anyway. Let’s imagine that Yost steps down and the Royals are on the hunt for his replacement. Who should they look for? Should they hire from within the organization? Should they go with a younger manager or one with experience?

Sam Mellinger  of the Kansas City Star recently took a look into just what the Royals would be looking for and in some ways it is a bit eye-raising

From what I can gather, the Royals would basically want Ned 2.0, an updated version of Yost for the future of a changing game.

They would prefer someone with previous managing experience, which is worth noting, because the trend elsewhere is for fresh faces. They want someone with respect, who’s a good communicator, has a feel for the game, all the typical traits you’d expect. The biggest difference might be that they’d look for someone with a little more feel for metrics, and the ways baseball is changing.

Using the term “Ned 2.0” made me chuckle because I might have pictured him as a cyborg for a moment. But it is very telling of what they are looking for and it immediately led some to think of former Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, including Mellinger:

My friend Derrick Goold was first to the scene on the Royals’ interest in Mike Matheny. Not that Derrick needs it, but I can confirm the interest. There will be other names that come up, too, and they don’t necessarily have to check every box.

Just mentioning Matheny probably made you groan, right? I get it, since he isn’t my first choice for the job either. This past season really drove home the flaws in his managerial style, which was hit on ad nauseam this summer:

Even in the recent past, old-school managers such as Ned Yost, Dusty Baker, and Charlie Manuel have won not because they’re John McGraw, but because they can get 25 guys to pull together. For that reason, if you can’t get the tactics right, you damn well better bring the best out of your players.

Matheny was never able to do that. And ironically for such a young manager, he committed an age-old sin: inflexibility.

To me, that reads that Matheny is the exact opposite of Yost. Bizarro Yost? Very possible. So as much as we freak out when we hear Matheny’s name, I can’t imagine Dayton Moore will look past that, unless he can just charm the pants off of Moore.

kc3
Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

But there are options to replace Yost and some are definitely in-house. Pedro Grifol has long been a favorite and someone the players are very fond of. By the end of George Brett’s tenure as hitting coach in 2013 , the players had shown a strong bond with Grifol and preferred him to Brett when it came to hitting issues. He is also bilingual and obviously a good communicator.

Dale Sveum, the current Royals bench coach, is another option. Sveum has managing experience (he led the Cubs for two seasons, 2012-2013) and has been a coach for Kansas City for five seasons now. Sveum has obviously built a relationship with a number of the current players and would be able to slide right into the system the Royals have been utilizing these last few years.

kc4
Credit: MLB.com

My choice (and the person I felt was a future Royals manager from almost the moment he was brought into the organization) is Vance Wilson. Wilson managed Kansas City’s AA squad in Northwest Arkansas for four seasons and is the Royals current bullpen coach. Wilson has managed a number of the current players on the Kansas City roster and is familiar with their successes and failures. Wilson can be a bit old school, but has also been willing to use analytics as well to help the cause.

I found this comment from 2011 very telling into what kind of manager Wilson would be:

“I’m learning how to relate to the players, especially this new generation of players, and I’m learning to make guys better not only as players, but people. I will see where it takes me beyond this.”

This sounds like something from the Dayton Moore handbook. If anything, it fits the style of leader that Moore looks for in his managers.

kc5
Credit: Associated Press

Jason Kendall, a former Royals catcher, has also been mentioned as a future manager over the years. He currently works in the organization as the Special Assignment Coach and has long been a favorite of the Kansas City front office. Kendall is an interesting option, but he might be a bit too rough around the edges. I’m not for sure today’s players would be very receptive to his gruff managerial style, which I imagine is what you would get from Kendall.

We could also throw in former Royals outfielders Raul Ibanez and Carlos Beltran onto the list as well. Neither have any managerial experience, but both are highly regarded in the baseball community and great communicators. One has to wonder just where the Royals would be if not for Ibanez’s speech to the Royals clubhouse in 2014, a speech that motivated the team and led them on their run to the postseason that year. Could something like that motivate Dayton to hire Raul? Experience (or lack thereof) might not be the deciding factor if the Royals like a candidate.

kc6

There are a number of other candidates that Kansas City could consider when the time comes. Mike Maddux, Tim Wallach, Jay Bell (another former Royal), Bo Porter, Eric Chavez and Joe Espada are just a few more names that could be considered as the future Royals manager. The one thing to remember is that while the Royals might be looking for a Yost clone right now, that could change at the drop of a hat:

By the time Ned retires, the organization could have shifted their needs and desires in a different direction. Personally, I am fine with that. Deciding who leads this team moving forward shouldn’t be a hastily made decision and instead should be done with meticulous detail. Figure out where you want the team to be and decide at that point who is the best candidate to get you to your destination. That should be your choice.

kc7
Credit: Orlin Wagner, The Associated Press

But we aren’t there yet. This is all speculation on our part and it might change twenty more times before Yost steps down. But the future gets a bit closer everyday, a future without Ned. Hopefully the Royals are prepared when that day comes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Changing of the Guard: Royals Shake Up Coaching Staff

kc1
Credit: Kansas City Star

Coming on the heels of Sunday’s final game of the season where potential free agents Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Alcides Escobar might have played their final game for the Kansas City Royals, on Monday it was announced that the team had shaken up their coaching staff, saying goodbye to pitching coach Dave Eiland, bench coach Don Wakamatsu, assistant hitting coach Brian Buchanan and possibly parting ways with bullpen coach Doug Henry (Henry could stay at his position, as he can be named by the incoming pitching coach). Buchanan could still be re-assigned in the organization while longtime first base coach Rusty Kuntz will also be leaving the big league team, possibly for a job as a roving instructor within the Royals organization. All these moves are a bit of a shock to the system, as on the surface it would appear the team is dismantling but in reality these are moves that signify a true end to an era in Kansas City baseball.

kc2

Lets start with Eiland, who is widely regarded as one of the best pitching coaches in the league. It was assumed that he would return for one more year in 2018, but after Ned Yost and Dayton Moore discussed the future over the last few weeks, the decision was made to move forward in a new direction. It appears as if Eiland isn’t leaving on bad terms:

“Dave is a great mechanical pitching coach,” Yost said. “He formulates a great plan. He was an integral part of our championship.”

More than anything it appears the Royals are transitioning from a team that views themselves as contenders to one who will be looking to transition a number of their younger players into full-time roles:

The other factor in effect is the future of the coaching staff once Ned Yost leaves. Yost is signed through the 2018 season and while someone like Wakamatsu would appear to be a great candidate to replace him, it appears someone else might have already been picked to take Ned’s place when he leaves:

So if I was to make an educated guess, the Royals already have an heir apparent in place to replace Yost or at least someone they’ve been eyeing for a while. It would make sense that if it was someone within the organization, it would be smart to place them on the coaching staff and learn under Ned’s tutelage before taking over, possibly as early as 2019. With that in mind, there is an option I have felt would be in Kansas City at some point:

Wilson is the current manager for the Royals Double A affiliate, Northwest Arkansas and would be a great choice for future manager. If someone like Wilson (or help us, Jason Kendall) is being groomed to take over the helm, then Wakamatsu would be taking valuable experience away from whomever that may be. In other words, it would make more sense to promote someone from within and let them learn and allow Wakamatsu to go hunting for bigger opportunities (he was a finalist for Tampa Bay’s managerial position after the 2014 season). Like Eiland, I don’t believe Kansas City had any issue with Don:

“I want to personally thank both Don and Dave for the contributions they made to our success here, culminating with the World Series title in 2015,” Moore said.

Overall, it is very obvious the Royals will be taken in a different direction next year:

“We’re making some changes,” manager Ned Yost said Monday during a morning news conference. “We’re transitioning to a new group of players, and (general manager Dayton Moore) and I have been talking a lot about the coaching staff here that is going to move forward with a young group.”

So it will be interesting to see who Kansas City brings in to fill these spots and there are a few possible candidates within the organization, like Wilson, Brian Poldberg and Steve Luebber. But the coaching changes weren’t the only big news coming out of Kansas City today.

kc3
Credit: Kansas City Star

With the news of the mess going on in the Atlanta Braves organization and the resignation of GM John Coppolella, it almost instantly brought up the rumors and rumblings we have all heard before about Royals GM Dayton Moore returning to the organization that Kansas City pried him from. In years past this topic has been broached whenever Atlanta has an opening and every time Moore has held steadfast to his current position in Kansas City and how he is not looking to leave. That didn’t change this time around either:

So it would appear to be a non-issue, right? Well…

It does appear that Moore headed back to Atlanta is at least a possibility at this point and considering all the changes going on within the Kansas City organization it might be good timing on Moore’s part. That being said, I am still leaning toward Moore staying but not counting out the possibility of him moving on to an interesting situation, to say the least. The good news is that if it does happen, more than likely Assistant GM J.J. Piccolo would take over Moore’s job and the transition would be mostly spotless. Piccolo has been with Kansas City since 2006 and just finished his third season in his current position. Piccolo is well thought of within baseball and over the last couple years has been considered for front office jobs in Arizona, Philadelphia and Minnesota. If Moore is enticed by the challenge in Atlanta, the Royals should have a pretty seamless transition to Piccolo and more than likely the direction of the team will stay the course.

kc4

If the last few days have taught us anything, it is that the Royals are changing whether we as fans are prepared for it or not. The last five years have been a roller-coaster ride of emotions but it’s time to get off the ride and allow it time for repairs. The task in front of the Kansas City front office and coaching staff is one that will not be arranged overnight nor will it be an easy fix. Many fear change and trust me when I say we can all understand the frightening unknown. But change can be good and while we all loved the group of players and coaches during this run, it’s time for a new group to win our hearts. Winter is coming folks, and while there might not be any flying zombie dragons, there will be a new set of faces to guard the Royal wall.

 

Notes of Royalty: The Final Countdown

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers

Here we are, just a shade over a week left in the 2017 baseball season and the Kansas City Royals sit 4.5 games out of the second wild card spot in the American League, tied with the Angels and Rangers. With just eight games left on the docket, it’s going to be hard for the Royals to pull this off, but…it is baseball. So I’m not saying it’s over, but the odds don’t appear to be good. That being said…

kc2

I’ve been the optimistic Royals fan this year, even despite what we have seen the last two months of the season. Saying that, Friday night felt a bit like a microcosm of August and September for Kansas City, as they did everything possible to not win that game. Whether it was blowing a four run lead or the bad baserunning decisions, Friday night felt like the finality of the Royals run these last few years. What has been most frustrating with the Royals the last two years is that glint of a really great team is still there and even shows up for extended periods of time. But the consistency hasn’t been there and whether it’s the offensive struggles or the mediocrity of the starting pitching, this team has shown just as much ineptness as it has shown exceptional play. This period of Royals baseball will be heralded for years to come and there might even be the same sort of love thrown their way that the 1985 team received before them. But one has to wonder what could have been, what if a move here, a tweak over there had been made. Bottom line, this team still had it in them to be a great, contending team. But next Sunday could turn out to be one of the most heart-wrenching moments in Royals history. Next Sunday against Arizona will no doubt be the end of a great era in Kansas City Royals baseball.

MLB: Spring Training-Kansas City Royals at Seattle Mariners

While it wasn’t quite shocking news, Ned Yost did confirm this past week that he would be returning to the dugout in 2018. Yost’s contract runs through next season but some (like myself) thought he might duck out a year early, since a large chunk of the nucleus of this team will be free agents in the offseason. On the surface it sounds like Yost is excited for the challenge:

“I’m not walking away,” he said. “For me, I love this organization. And to be able to transition some of these young players, it’s going to be easier for me to do it than anybody else. So yeah, I want to be a part of it for a little bit longer.”

This being said, I really can’t imagine Yost will stay much past next year. If that is the case, hopefully the Royals have compiled a list of candidates they would be interested in as his replacement. My guess is that they will want to promote from within and both Dale Sveum and Don Wakamatsu have previous managerial experience in the big leagues. I’ve long felt Vance Wilson, who manages the Royals Double A affiliate in Arkansas, is being groomed to eventually take the managerial mantle in the Kansas City organization, but that is just my gut instinct talking. We’ve all heard the snickering comments about Jason Kendall and while I would like to dismiss them, there is a part of me that thinks there is some serious interest in him managing in Kansas City. So while Yost will lay down some groundwork next year, it will be interesting to see how long he sticks around and just who will be next in line for the job.

kc4

Speaking of next year, there has been a healthy amount of scuttlebutt going around these last few weeks on the possible destinations for the Royals big free agents. With that being said, there has also been a decent amount of discussion of just who the Royals will bring back. This is just an educated guess, but it would appear that Eric Hosmer has priced himself out of KC after his production this season, despite rumblings that he will be the front office’s “main priority”. Lorenzo Cain is looking for a long-term deal and it would appear the Royals are reluctant to sign someone with his injury history to a multi-year deal as he enters his age 32 season. Mike Moustakas is my personal pick to be the Royals priority this winter but he will get heavy interest from the West Coast, which is where he is from. Jason Vargas is coming off an awful second half of the season that has seen him post a 1.59 WHIP and a 5.21 xFIP. It would be playing with fire to offer Vargas a qualifying offer, which if accepted by Jason would put the Royals on the hook for around $18 million next year. My initial thought was the Royals would let Alcides Escobar walk after the year, but after his second half surge (.287/.316/.422) and the uncertainty of Raul Mondesi’s development, there is a part of me that wonders if they might ink him to a 1 or 2 year deal to ease the transition. Personally, as much as I would love a complete overhaul this offseason, I know it is highly unlikely. What I would assume is that Cheslor Cuthbert will take over third base, Bubba Starling could take over center field for Cain, while Raul Mondesi could see time at shorstop or even center field. For the longest time I felt Ryan O’Hearn was going to take over for Hosmer, but his numbers at AAA (.252/.325/.450 with 18 home runs and 48 RBI’s), while not awful weren’t blow away either. He was even sent to AA for a brief period late in the year as Frank Schwindel caught a massive hot streak and had taken over the first base job in Omaha. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Royals go out and sign a veteran first baseman for a year or two to hold down the position until O’Hearn or Samir Duenez is ready. No matter which way you shake it, this team will look different in 2018 and there will be more than a few bumps upon the road before it is all said and done.

kc5

So with seven games left after today, I would employ Royals fans to enjoy watching your boys in blue. Not only will it be the last few games for a number of them, it will also be the last Royals games we get to see until March of next year. I plan on being at the stadium on Sunday and hope that my fellow compadres help send Cain, Hosmer and Moustakas off with nothing but love. Most of us have  been aware for a while that 2018 is going to have its ups and downs and quite honestly, it could be more downs. The good news is that a number of fan favorites like Salvador Perez and Danny Duffy will be back and at the end of the day, nothing beats going to a game at Kauffman Stadium. Relish these next few days, folks. The discussions about this team will be more stressful and sometimes depressing in the next couple of months. Luckily, it’s still baseball…and with baseball, you can always find a glint of hope.

Problem Child

kc1

On Tuesday evening, the insecure part of Yordano Ventura got the best of him. After Manny Machado had some words for Ventura in the 2nd inning for pitching inside, Ventura’s pride got the best of him during Machado’s next at bat, as Yordano drilled him in the back with a 99 MPH fastball, his fastest pitch of the evening. To say it illicited a response is a bit of an understatement:

Most everyone felt like Yordano was past this, after the numerous encounters he had last year that got him in trouble. Instead, once again he allowed his emotions to run the show. This leaves the Royals in a bit of a pickle, since management, coaches and even players are tired of his behavior. So the question has to be asked: What do the Royals do with Yordano Ventura moving forward?

kc2

Since the circus that Ventura created spun out of control last night, there have been rumors that the Royals had talked to other front office executives about Ventura in possible trade talks. In my opinion, Ventura will not get traded any time soon. For one, his value has never been lower. It would make no sense for Kansas City to trade an arm like Ventura at his lowest value. Second, the Royals are having issues currently with their starting rotation so it would make no sense to trade away the starter with the highest potential out of their current crop of starters, especially with no relief to be seen down in the minors. So if Venura was to get traded, it probably wouldn’t be until the offseason or even next season.

Kansas City Royals v Cleveland Indians
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

So if Ventura is staying, the Royals need him to perform much better than he has this year. Through 12 starts this season, Yordano has issued the most walks in the American League, while posting the lowest strikeout rate of his career(6 strikeouts per 9). His ground ball percentage is down(44%) while his fly ball rate has rocketed(39.4%, up from 27.2% last year), which has also seen his home runs per 9 to go up as well. Basically, Ventura is getting hit harder than ever before and is way above the league average when it comes to the exit velocity off of his pitches:

chart

2016 is his third season in the big leagues and the advances that the Royals have expected from him just are not happening. There are still glimpses of the “ace” the Royals think he can be, but those become fewer and farther between each start. After Tuesday’s start, Ventura’s ERA rose to 5.32 while his FIP elevated to 5.29. Normally this would force him to the bullpen or even down to AAA, but the Royals just don’t have the starting pitching to let that happen. Instead, they need him to get his head on straight and at least produce like a league average pitcher.

kc4

So do the Royals at least have some options with Ventura? If you mean ‘can he be sent to the minors’ the answer is yes. He still has options left, so a trip to Omaha isn’t completely out of the question. In fact, I would think that Ventura is on a short leash with the coaching staff and if they feel he needs to work on something in the minors, then he will be sent down. One comment made after the game on Tuesday I did find interesting, especially when it comes to what Ventura has been told by the coaching staff. Here is Orioles manager Buck Showalter who said this:

 

“No, I don’t like when any of my guys are put in harm’s way, especially a guy throwing that hard and having some problems with his command tonight. But [its] not the first time. Obviously, it must be something that’s OK because he continues to do it. It must be condoned. I don’t know.”

Now, I take umbrage with this. No way does the Kansas City organization approve of what Ventura did. That implication by Showalter just isn’t true:

The Royals had squashed that “bad boy image” from last year and the team had moved on from those problems. Ventura has been the only one who still seems to think that reacting in this manner is appropriate. So much bad could have come from this, whether it meant another player getting hurt(and lets be honest, the Royals already have enough players injured), or starting a feud that would distract from focusing on the main goal, which is winning games and eventually, returning to the playoffs. There is no way to know for sure, but I would guess Ventura spent Tuesday night and Wednesday in meetings with teammates, the coaching staff and possibly even upper management. Ventura is at a point in his career where he needs to fix his mentality. I made a comment on Tuesday night about how Ventura’s problem was not his arm, but what is in between his ears. Adam Jones of Baltimore might have said it better than I did:

Yordano has to fix his mental approach during the game. It could be learning yoga, or talking with a therapist or even Jason Kendall’s ‘Tough Love’ approach, but a change has to happen. If it doesn’t, he will have more to worry about than just being dropped from the Royals rotation.

kc5

There are many reasons for the Royals to not give up on Yordano; he just turned 25, he has a team friendly contract that runs through 2019 and he has an electric arm that can be dominate when he wants to. But that is the thing-when he wants to, not all the time or even most of the time. Many young pitchers, especially those with dynamite stuff, struggle early in their career because they believe it is all about the velocity and not as much about the location or changing speeds. Ventura mentally seems younger than his age when it comes to maturity and hasn’t figured out how to deal with adversity. For Ventura to be a part of the Royals future, he has to learn how to let adversity roll off his back and learn from it. Otherwise, he will just be another in a long line of starters the Royals have failed to develop. This is the fork in the road; it’s time for Yordano to figure out which path he wants to take.

What the Royals Managerial Candidates List Should Look Like

kc1

It is a well known fact I dislike Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost. I’ve been saying for years that the Royals will never reach the promised land as long as he is in charge, and so far he has proven me right. This isn’t an(other) article explaining why Yost should be vanquished. Ken Rosenthal appears to be doing that for me. And Craig Calcaterra. No, his time is getting closer every day. With the Royals continuing to struggle during a season where many feel they should be sniffing the playoffs, and no help in sight in the minors or in a trade, there is an outside chance(albeit it a very outside chance) that Yost could find himself in the unemployment line soon. So if that happens, here are five managerial candidates that the Royals should be considered, at least in my eyes.

kc2

Mike Maddux

Sure, Maddux has the pedigree to help any team with their pitching. Being the older brother of Hall of Famer Greg Maddux helps, but Mike has done a great job on his own with Texas’ pitching staff and Milwaukee’s staff before that. Maddux has been mentioned in the past as a managerial candidate for the Red Sox, Cubs and Tigers, and it’s conceivable that in the right situation he would be a perfect fit. Mike is a smart baseball man who is hard working, dependable, well liked and respected by his players. He also seems to be a calming influence on the clubhouse, which could go either way for a team like the Royals. Some might say the Royals would be better off with a guy who has a bit more fire, but my gut tells me the Royals should go with the best candidate. Maddux appears to be in that upper echelon and should be at the top of most lists for managerial openings.

Dave Martinez, Joe Maddon

Dave Martinez 

There is something to be said for coaches that have worked for smaller market teams. A lot of times those coaches have had to do more with less to get their team to be contenders. One man who fits that criteria and is heavily underrated is Tampa Bay’s bench coach, Dave Martinez. It’s almost amazing at this point that Martinez has never managed in his career, especially while spending so much time under the tutelage of Joe Maddon. Martinez has an array of positives; he is willing to think out of the box(he is supposedly the mastermind behind the Rays defensive shifts), has worked as a translator before for the Rays young Latin players and has worked with many of the younger talent that has come through Tampa’s system. Add in that he thinks a lot like Maddon and you have a guy that could be very successful if given the chance. Martinez seems like a great fit for the young Royals team and would definitely bring a different vibe to the Royals clubhouse. I would not be surprised to see him get a managerial job sometime within the next year; I can only hope it will be with Kansas City.

kc4

Dale Sveum

Look, the Royals like to hire from within. I like minor league manager Vance Wilson, but he is probably still a few years away from being ready to manage a major league club. From the minute Sveum was hired it was hard not to see that he could be a possible future Royals manager. Hell, he was the guy who took over for Yost when he was fired from Milwaukee! Sveum has the managerial experience the team likes, as he was the Cubs manager the last few years and was well liked by the players and staff. There has been some concerns about his helping player development, or more to the point, the development of Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo for the Cubs. Sure, both regressed last year. But I tend to think part of Castro’s problems were that the team was trying to change his approach at the plate(take more pitches, work the count, not swing at so many pitches outside the zone,etc.), which was more of an edict of upper Chicago management, not Sveum. Castro has gone back to his old ways this year and has been vastly improved, which would seem to back up this point. Either way, he would be a solid candidate if Yost was yanked and would be a new voice in the clubhouse. When it comes to in house candidates, Sveum is a much better option than say, Jason Kendall. That thought frightens me.

kc1

Tim Wallach

Wallach is another former player that has turned baseball into a lifetime career, albeit now coaching. Wallach is currently a coach for the Dodgers but has managed before, in the minors for the Dodgers AAA team. Wallach managed for two seasons in Albuquerque and was named the Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year in 2009 as well as Baseball America’s “Best Manager Prospect” .  Wallach has also been interviewed by both the Tigers and Mariners this past year for their managerial openings. When Wallach interviewed for the Tigers job, their GM Dave Dombrowski(who was also Wallach’s GM in Montreal when he was a player) had nothing but positive things to say about him: “Quality person on and off the field, good family man, good work ethic, and a knowledgeable baseball person.” Wallach had been asked how he would describe his managing style and he said “Work at it, interact, communicate, and hopefully guys will take to what I’m saying. That’s pretty much what it comes down to. It’s about the players. You have to put them in the right spots to succeed. That’s probably my biggest job. Have them play hard every day and put them in the right spot so they can be successful.” It seems as if nothing but positives come out when people around baseball talk about Wallach. He has been on countless managerial lists, so it’s only a matter of time until someone gives him a chance. I could easily see him in Royal blue, managing the Royals.

MLB:  Greenville Drive

Gabe Kapler 

Kapler is my dark horse candidate and one that I think will have a successful career managing if he ever decides to do just that. He managed one season in the minors, for the Boston Red Sox as manager of their Single-A affiliate, the Greenville Drive, for one season in 2007. He didn’t have a successful campaign(58-81) but he learned a lot that one season and used that to return to the big leagues in 2008. Since he retired in 2011 he has worked around baseball, whether it be as a television analyst or as a coach for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic in 2013. What intrigues me about Kapler is his solid baseball mind. Kapler penned a column last year where he discussed how many current and former players would be wise to smarten up to advanced metrics. It is that forward thinking that I like and is of a guy who doesn’t seem to be trapped into a box with his way of thinking. Kapler might not have much experience, and might very well need a few more years managing in the minors, but with managers getting hired today with no experience whatsoever, it’s not completely foolish to keep Kapler in the conversation. To add to that, I have to feel that him being retired from the game for only a few years makes him more likely to understand the current player and his plight. If Kapler decides he wants to manage, I’m pretty convinced he will be one of the good ones.

 kc3

That is my top five list. You can play at home and add yours as well. I know guys like Joey Cora and Manny Acta came to mind for me as well. If you noticed I picked a few guys with no big league experience and I did that for a reason; I just don’t think it is that important. There is a bunch of former big league managers that get cycled in and out of jobs only for the reason that they have experience, even if it is not a good one. The game is evolving and even the guy in the dugout needs to evolve. Managers like Mike Matheny of St. Louis and Brad Ausmus(who I’ve always liked, even back when he was a player) have shown that you don’t need managerial experience to succeed in the big leagues. In no way am I saying this entire fiasco in Kansas City is Yost’s fault, either. The hitters aren’t hitting and at some point they have to take the blame for it and GM Dayton Moore should shoulder part of the blame. But the Royals appear to be going nowhere fast with Yost in charge and if things don’t get better I can see a change happening. If that happens, I would like to see a fresh young face take over the ballclub. Unfortunately, I have a feeling it will be someone like Yost who doesn’t challenge the status quo. That is unfortunate, because the option is there; you just have go out on a limb and take it.

 

Saving Salvy’s Knees

kc1

As most Kansas City Royals fans will tell you, catcher Salvador Perez is a special player. He isn’t just special because of his great throwing ability, or solid bat. He is a leader to the pitching staff and I have yet to hear one pitcher say they disliked throwing to him. In fact, almost every pitcher to a ‘T’ has said they love throwing to Salvy. Perez is loved by his entire team and helps loosen up the mood in Kansas City’s dugout. So when people throw names like Bench and Molina around when comparing Perez to someone, it isn’t just rose colored glasses or fan lust. But there is one thing that concerns me about our possible perennial All-Star, and it has nothing to do with anything Salvy himself does. No, what concerns me is how Perez never seems to get a full day off behind the dish. Even in games where George Kottaras starts in his place, before that game is over with, Perez is back behind the plate. This concerns me to no end.

kc2

Before we start, I’ve heard the arguments, and I get where some people are coming from. Perez is only 23. His only major injury was last year’s meniscus tear in his knee, which held him out for the first couple months of the season. You could probably also throw in there the concussion Perez encountered just a few weeks ago(and I do consider concussions very serious). Overall, Salvy has encountered very little wear and tear on him and is young enough to where it will probably be awhile before he shows the affects of crouching behind the plate for a 162 game season. But the point isn’t that he should be fine for the immediate future. No, what concerns me is where it puts him in about 5-6 years.

kc3

There is a thinking in baseball that catchers shouldn’t be tall and lanky. In fact, only 11 catchers over 6’4 in MLB history have ever accumulated 2,000 career at bats. The most high profile on this list is Minnesota’s Joe Mauer, who is a two-time batting champ and an exceptional hitter. Perez is only 6’3, but in my eyes that is close enough. The general thinking is that tall catchers don’t last because they encounter more injuries, especially in their knees, than smaller, squattier(I know, not a word. Consider this me making a new word) players who wear the tools of ignorance. Mauer is the perfect case of that, as his injuries over the years have made it to where the Twins have started playing him at first base. Minnesota knows that at some point, they will probably have to move Mauer to another position to keep his bat in the lineup. He wouldn’t be the first. Carlton Fisk had a stint in the outfield late in his career, even though it didn’t really stick. Johnny Bench was moved around, playing some third base, first base and even the outfield. These are elite catchers in the pantheon of the game, the best of the best and they were forced to move away from being a full time catcher. So history shows where Perez’s future could lie.

kc4

Knowing all of this now, I bring the question back up: why is Ned Yost insisting on putting Perez into  every single game behind the plate? I get that Perez is better defensively than backup George Kottaras. Kottaras is known to call a good game, but arm wise it’s not even close. Same for blocking pitches in the dirt. Like I said, Perez is just a really special ballplayer in that regard. I firmly believe that a lot of the reasoning Yost has for bringing Perez in late in the games he doesn’t start is for his defense and to hold a lead. Trust me, I get the thinking. But is it really worth it? Kottaras is probably one of the best backup catchers in the game, as he has the uncanny talent of basically being a ‘I’m either going to collect a walk here or hit a home run’ kind of player. His OPS this year is ridiculous for a guy hitting below .200. Really the only reason to take Kottaras out of the game is to have a better arm behind the plate. Like I said, I get the reasoning, but I don’t agree with it.

kc5

The perfect example of why I don’t agree with it happened a few weeks ago in a game against the New York Mets. Perez was brought in late in the game as a defensive replacement, and proceeded to catch a foul ball off his mask, causing a concussion. Now, I am fully aware that this could have happened at anytime, or any game. It’s part of the danger of being a major league catcher. But once again, Kottaras could have still been in the game, as there was really no reason to bring Perez in. If I had a choice, I would rather lose Kottaras for a few games than Perez. What if the concussion had held him out longer than the seven games used for concussions in baseball? Just look at someone like Justin Morneau, and how long it took him to come back from his concussion. It would seem that the more a player is in the game, the higher percentage of him getting hurt goes up. That is obvious. Perez so far this year has appeared in 95 games, 87 that he has started. He also missed time earlier in the year, as his grandmother had passed away. Perez was gone for nine games during his leave. Add in the seven he was on the concussion DL, and that is 16 games Perez was not available. The Royals have played 118 games so far this year, so he has missed a total of 23 games. So there are games that he didn’t come in as a defensive replacement, but not very many.

kc6

What befuddles my mind more than anything is that his manager, Ned Yost, was a former big league catcher. It is very well known within baseball that a catcher needs more days off during the season than a regular position player. A catcher squats a ridiculous amount of times in a game and the up and down movement wears a player down after awhile. So it would make sense that if your manager was a former catcher, they will take care of you and give you the extra time off you need. But Yost doesn’t seem to follow this philosophy. Perez isn’t the first catcher that he has attempted to run into the ground. Anyone remember Jason Kendall in 2010? Kendall played so much that year that I forgot backup catcher Brayan Pena was even on the roster. He had to be collecting dust and cobwebs as he watched Kendall play day after day. If it wasn’t for an injury late in the year that ended Kendall’s career, who knows just how many games Pena would have actually gotten into. For a guy who spent his career behind the plate, it sure seems like he’d rather run his catchers into the ground and say ‘to hell with the future’. For a team of youngsters, that just makes no sense to me whatsoever. To me, Yost should know when is a good time to rest his pitch caller and when not to.

kc7

It seems weird that I am preaching the case for resting a 23 year old catcher who is in only his third big league season, but I am. The Royals have Perez locked in for possibly the next six years, so this is an investment they should be taking care of. It’s a proven fact that tall catchers just don’t hold up as well to the rigors of catching duty on a daily basis the way a shorter catcher does. Just look at guys like Ivan Rodriguez and Yogi Berra as the cases for the short catcher. Hopefully Yost wises up within the next month and gives Perez some extra days off. The Royals could fall out of playoff contention sometime in September and if that happens, it would be as good a time to give more starts to Kottaras or even a Brett Hayes if he is back on the roster at that point. Unfortunately, you have to baby your catcher a bit more than say, your outfielders. If that means giving a guy like Salvador Perez an extra day off from time to time, you do it. Trust me, in six years you’ll be glad it was done. There is a famous line from the Neil Young song ‘Hey Hey, My My’: “It’s better to burn out than to fade away”. In the case of Perez, I hope we don’t find out whether that is actually true.

Stay Golden, PonyBoy

kc1

Last night I watched my Kansas City Royals go out there and…well, they looked like crap for 3/4 of the game. No patience. Made Carlos Carrasco look like Cy Young himself and did everything in their power to not win that game. Funny thing is, the Indians didn’t seem keen on winning either, and alas lost the game to Kansas City. The Royals are back at .500, but things are far from perfect for this ball club. Probably the two biggest questions asked last month was ‘Why are Chris Getz and Jeff Francoeur still employed by this team’? Okay, that is one really long question. But you could ask the same question individually for these two, right? Never mind, these two don’t deserve two separate mentions. It’s a question that has been asked for awhile now, and the answer is pretty simple: Dayton Moore loves his ‘Golden Boys’.

Jeff Francoeur press conference

Let’s start with ‘The man they call Frenchy’. Before the 2010 season was even over with, it appeared Moore was going to make a play for the former Brave. To be honest, it wasn’t going to be hard to convince Francoeur to come to Kansas City. Frenchy had spent most of the previous seasons on the bench for the New York Mets and Texas Rangers, so it wasn’t like teams were climbing over each other to be able to sign him. I remember knowing this was going to happen and just hating it. Francoeur was awful at this point, a guy who had a giant reputation as a great clubhouse guy but also a giant reputation for being a bad hitter. In my mind, there was no way this was going to end well. In 2011, Francoeur made me look bad, as he had a really good season and showed all the ‘experts’ that he still had some gas in the tank. Even Dayton was fooled, as he signed him to an extension that summer for two more years. So what had originally looked like a genius move started to look like a colossal problem waiting to happen….and boy did it happen! Francoeur had an awful 2012, a season where no part of his game was solid. Even his defense took a hit, as he went from being a solid defense guy with a great arm to one with no range or mobility…and a great arm. As good as a 2011 season Frenchy had, it was just as equally bad in 2012. It appeared as if THIS was the real Frenchy, not the guy who came to play in 2011.

kc3

On the other hand, you have Chris Getz. Getzie, as his manager and Rex Hudler love to call him, was acquired by Dayton Moore in the winter of 2009 as part of the Mark Teahen trade to Chicago. No big deal at the time, as he was just a middle infielder who had played the previous few years for the White Sox. Early on it was evident that Dayton and manager Neddy Yost loved this guy. Every time he was brought up, they gushed about how he was “mistake-free” and did all the little things that don’t get credit. Injuries plagued Getzie and if that wasn’t enough, he just didn’t supply much on offense. The running joke was that it would take a miracle to even get him to hit a ball to the warning track, let alone over the fence. Bottom line, it appeared that AT BEST Getz was a backup, with that being even questionable since he could only play second base. Despite all of this, Getzie continued to get playing time, even over former prospect Johnny Giavotella. It was more than apparent that Royals management loved a guy who did a lot of things average and very little above that.

kc4

 

Now just looking at what I have supplied so far, it would appear that if the Royals were serious about contending in 2013, Dayton Moore would have at least looked into possible replacements for these two in the offseason, right? I thought so too, even if it was just as a safety net. Instead, once Wil Myers was traded to Tampa, it appeared the Royals were pretty much done for the off-season and Getz and Francoeur were the early favorites for their respective positions. Dayton had even said that he felt Frenchy could bounce back this year and Getzie would battle it out with Giavotella for second. As expected, both started the year as starters in the Royals lineup.

kc5

Not only have these two not performed better than last year, both have regressed even more. I feel dirty writing out the stats so instead I will link Getz’s and Francoeur’s. Both are putrid numbers, numbers that shouldn’t be accepted by any major league team. Both guys have pretty much been relegated to the bench, but even that seems like it is too much. So why do these two still have jobs? Because Dayton loves certain players, players with intangibles. Frenchy and Getzie fit that bill. They aren’t even the first of their kind, not even close.

Jason Kendall

Jason Kendall was signed a few years ago by Dayton Moore, almost as a stopgap till some of their younger catchers(Read: Sal Perez and Manny Pina) matured enough to take over behind the dish. Now, Kendall wasn’t the worst player the Royals could have signed. He still knew how to handle a young pitching staff and worked well behind the plate. Sure, he couldn’t really throw anyone out, but for a guy in his late 30’s, he was fine for then. The thing is, he probably should have been a catcher who caught around 120 games a year, tops. Instead, he was in the lineup–every day. To make matters worse, he also was a regular near the top of the order, since he had a reputation of being a solid bat. Well, he had a solid bat in his prime. By 2010, he was a .250 hitter with his speed gone and was a singles hitter at best. In other words, the only way he should be near the top of the order is when he bats 9th and views the lead off hitter in the on deck circle. If it wasn’t for a career ending injury late in that season, who knows how much more Kendall we would have seen. The Royals love this guy so much that they have kept him in the organization. Hell, I’ve even said jokingly(or at least I think it’s a joke) that we could see Kendall as the Royals manager some day. Was Kendall good in his prime? Of course, he was an all-star. But by the time Dayton grabbed him from the land of misfit toys, he was a has-been. But they loved him–for his intangibles. A hard-nosed, gritty, playing the game the right way kind of guy. Which is fine–if he produces.

kc7

Willie Bloomquist was another Moore favorite. Willie was a career backup before he came to the Royals, a guy who played a lot of positions, but none good enough to play every day. He was the definition of a utility player, or a super-sub. Now, I had no problem with the Royals signing Bloomquist. Actually, I liked the signing. But that was because I thought we were getting a solid backup infielder. Instead we got a guy who played every day, at a myriad of different positions. A guy who had only had one season of more than 250 at bats, got over 400 in 2009, his first with the Royals. Once again, great guy, good glove and a solid bat. But he played waaaaaay  too much and (gasp) didn’t produce.

kc8

So we are back to the current day Kansas City Royals, a team that management thinks SHOULD be contending, but seems very poorly constructed. For every good acquisition Moore has(Shield, Santana) there seems to be an equal amount that fit the idea he has of what a winner really is(Getz, Francoeur). So for every step forward, there is a step (or two) back. What Dayton should be looking for isn’t a guy who can bunt really good, or one who loves being Captain Nut-Tap. It’s simple–he should be looking for good players. Players who can get on base, players who know how to pitch in pressure situations. Players who don’t hurt their team on defense, or can only be average at best. What Dayton Moore needs to realize is what he values(small ball, good character, hard-nosed, old school baseball players) doesn’t matter when you bring in players who aren’t good.   If they are serious about winning, bring players in who are good and know how to win. Then we can talk and I can be serious about this team. Until then, stay golden, Ponyboy.

Come to Beautiful Kansas City. We Have Fountains.

Waterfalls and fountains at the Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri copy

It’s hard to remember, but years ago, the Kansas City Royals were a constant in the playoffs. Most of what they built on the field was through the farm system, but there were some shrewd moves made by the front office at the time as well as some key free agent signings.  The bottom line was players wanted to come to Kansas City. Now, unless you are wanting to resurrect your career, or if you are a chubby infielder with “soft hands”, it’s hard to get players to WANT to come play for the Royals. It’s been asked and debated; do the Royals have to overpay to bring talent to Kansas City?

melkyOnce Dayton Moore took over as General Manager of the Royals, the team moved to sign better players and would pay them extra to come to Kansas City. The problem was that Dayton was signing level B and sometimes C or D free agents and practically giving them the keys to the city. Gil Meche was the first of these signings and if it wasn’t for former Manager Trey Hillman misusing him, the team would have gotten their money’s worth of that deal. Since then we have been abused with the ultimate clubhouse cancer Jose Guillen and Jason “Rewind Yourself” Kendall. It is almost like Moore felt like players of that level was the best they could do. I guess that is part of the problem here. When you believe that, everyone else will believe that as well.

Kansas City Royals Photo DayNow, to be fair, some of Dayton’s signings have worked. Bruce Chen was picked up off the trash heap and up until 2012, seemed to be playing above himself. Chen was signed at a low cost, but high value with both his play on the field and his jokes in the clubhouse. Unfortunately, he was then given a two year contract that has seemed to be one of many albatrosses around the Royals financial neck. Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur were two former Atlanta Braves that seemed to be on the downside of their once promising careers. A move to Kansas City in 2011 seemed to be a godsend as both players played above their past performances and helped solidified both the lineup and the outfield. Francoeur would sign an extension that seemed questionable at the time and horrific in the present, while Melky would be traded to San Francisco, have the best first half of his career, win the All Star Game MVP, then get busted for PED use. These two signings worked wonders for 2011, but looked awful by May of this past year. The Royals are a team that should constantly be looking to rebuild players who just need a new environment, but need to be selective about these signings as well.

jacksonSo this leads us to this offseason, where everyone and their mother is aware that the Royals want(and desperately need) pitching. We’ve heard over and over that the Royals will have to overpay or give a player extra years to get them to come pitch in Kansas City, but is that true? I know some scoff at this, but I believe it is. The Royals have a really good nucleus of young talent, with Perez, Escobar, Moustakas and Hosmer added to lineup mainstays like Gordon and Butler. The thinking is that if the Royals could just get some pitching, this team could make a run at the playoffs. There have been a number of pitching talents on the free agent market this winter, and some have signed for very cheap money. Brandon McCarthy just signed a two year deal with Arizona for $15.5 million. The Royals easily could have afforded just under $8 million a year, especially considering that they will be paying Ervin Santana $12 million for in 2013. Edwin Jackson is still on the market as is Shawn Marcum. Both could garner a one or two year deal for right around that same amount of money. Instead, the Royals seem content shopping top prospect Wil Myers in a deal for a top starter. That is all fine and good if they are able to pull in a David Price or any other top of the rotation starter. But the names being floated around aren’t of that ilk. All we hear are the Shields’, Dickey’s and Lester’s of the world. All are fine pitchers and better than anything the Royals have now, but are they worth losing the next six years of Myers? Um, no.

Jeremy+Guthrie+Kansas+City+Royals+v+Boston+Boqgv2aeQVLlSo why aren’t these pitchers coming to Kansas City? Well, I do believe part of it is Dayton Moore hasn’t really pushed for them. Ryan Dempster’s name has been tossed around, and the team offered him more than the Red Sox have. But he also wanted a third year on the deal, while Kansas City has only been willing to go two. I agree with them only wanting to give him two, as he is in his mid 30’s and had a hard time adjusting to the American League this year. But I have to believe part of why he won’t come to Kansas City is because this team just doesn’t win. Seventeen of the last eighteen seasons have been losing seasons in KC, and with the management in charge now, it would appear we are gearing up for season eighteen of nineteen. Most players want to win, but can be swayed away from winning if it means more money. If you aren’t getting the top dollar, you don’t want to sign with a perennial loser unless you think they have turned a corner. The Royals took a side road in 2012 and their road map didn’t seem to ever steer them onto the right highway. Players notice that and the losing atmosphere does not endear players to want to sign with the Royals.

MAG0522JUBILATION.IMGSo yes, the Royals do have to overpay to get major name free agents to play in Kansas City. Or at least they will until they put together another winning season. Having management value the wrong players will hurt as well, but until those members are gone( [cough] Dayton) we are stuck with a team that can’t even compete with the Baltimore’s and Brewer’s of the world. One day this awful cycle will be undone and the Royals will be a winning franchise again. Let’s hope this happens sooner than later.

The Tools of Ignorance

Earlier today, Jason Kendall called it a career. The former Royals Catcher and former All Star was trying to make a comeback in AA for Kansas City, although that wasn’t thought to be the case at first. The initial word was Kendall had been dispatched to NW Arkansas to be a tutor to the younger catchers while also working with the young pitchers, most notably struggling prospect Mike Montgomery. But the next day, Kendall mentioned he envisioned “10 days in NW Arkansas, 10 days in Omaha and then back in the bigs.” To say that scared many a Royals fan is an understatement.

Here are the facts. Kendall wasn’t the worst Catcher the Royals have ever had. He also wasn’t close to being the best. In fact, it’s safe to say his career was winding down when Kansas City signed him before the 2010 season. I was actually in favor of the initial signing, as Jason had a reputation of working well with pitchers and calling a good game. I figured, at the least, he wouldn’t spend half his time at the backstop like Miguel Olivo and hit for a higher average than John Buck. But by July

If this doesn’t scream GRIT, I don’t know what does…

of 2010, I was tired of Kendall. Or to phrase it better, tired of him playing every single game. Literally. It was bad enough that I wondered if Royals backup catcher Brayan Pena was encased in a giant cobweb, since he had been languishing on the bench for so long. Kendall was also not producing offensively and rarely throwing anyone out…all while batting second in the order. His shoulder injury late that year was like a godsend, as the Royals were forced to look for another Catcher. It was time for a change.

Since that time, Kendall has been used by the Royals in a coaching position in the organization, helping the younger catchers while in Kansas City. For the most part, I was okay with this. I mean, the guy is a second generation ballplayer, and just because someone wasn’t the best player doesn’t mean they can’t coach. It also gave us his infamous quote last year when a reporter asked Mike Moustakas a question that Kendall took as ‘stupid’. Who can ever remember Jason telling said reporter to “rewind yourself”? Either way, he seemed to be transitioning into his new career in baseball, and it seemed to be a natural fit.

Then last week happened. To say a lot of us freaked out when it was announced Kendall was signing a minor league contract might be an understatement. Look, the Royals organization has burned us so many times that we almost expect the worse every time a decision is made by management. Who remembers GM Dayton Moore saying that Infielder Yuniesky Betancourt was going to ONLY be a backup this year? How did that turn out? Exactly my point. I was already envisioning Kendall getting called up and taking game time away from Salvador Perez, who has developed into a future All Star catcher. Kendall could be a good mentor to Perez…but it would be ridiculous to have Kendall take playing time away from Perez. That was what we worried about. Thankfully, that is all in the past now.

So where does this leave Kendall? I still think he’ll get a coaching job in the organization, and I am fine with that. Like I said, I think he can be an asset. His one bad habit is he can be a bit of a curmudgeon, but hopefully that won’t rub off onto the younger players. I seriously question Kendall even trying to make a comeback with the surgery he had, but at the end of the day Jason Kendall was the only person who could have made that decision. Luckily, his body told him to shut it down before something more serious happened.

How will i remember Jason Kendall? He was a hard nosed player, and I always love those guys, the ones who can’t go a game without getting their uniform dirty. He was also very strong willed, as he came back from a couple of serious injuries, including the infamous leg injury he suffered earlier in his career. At the end of the day, Kendall probably overstayed his welcome, but anymore a lot of players do that. He actually can be proud of his career whenever he sits down and looks back on it. Luckily, for us Royals fans, those days are over now.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑