Deciding Who Will be the Next Royals Pitcher to throw a No-Hitter

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Credit: Jim Mone-Associated Press

On Saturday night, Kansas City Royals history was almost made. Jorge Lopez, in just his fifth start in a Royals uniform, went into the 9th inning with a perfect game. Throughout the 50 year history of the Royals, no pitcher has ever thrown a perfect game and there have been only four (4!!) Royals no-hitters during that span.

The last one was all the way back in 1991, as Bret Saberhagen threw a no-no against the Chicago White Sox on August 26 of that year. Saberhagen would hold the “Pale Hose” to two walks and five strike outs over the nine innings. The fact that this was 27 years ago probably eliminates a number of you from seeing this feat but I remember it fondly.

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It was rare at that time for the Royals to have a home game on television so it felt like a real treat to take in the game that August evening. Add in that Saberhagen was one of my favorites AND it would end up being his final season in Kansas City (which would crush me as a young fan just a few months later) and you can see why moments from that game still take up residence inside of my mind.

But that was then and no one has thrown a no-hitter for the Royals since. Not Kevin Appier, not Zack Greinke, not Jose Rosado and definitely not Jonathan Sanchez. There have been a number of one-hitter’s thrown during that span: most notably Kevin Appier’s complete game loss against Texas back in 1993 and Danny Duffy’s sterling performance against Tampa Bay just two years ago, where he threw seven no-hit innings.

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So Lopez’s performance got me thinking: who are the most likely candidates within the Royals organization to throw the team’s next no-hitter? While it is no guarantee it will happen with the current talent, as with Lopez, all it takes is one night where things just fall into place.

Now Lopez is obviously one of the prime candidates, if not the most obvious. When his fastball has the kind of movement we saw on Saturday and when he is able to mix in his curveball as a real weapon,  it can make for a lethal combo. As evidenced by this past weekend, it’s not always about missing bats, as Lopez struck out only four batters. It does take a nice mix of good stuff, solid defense and a little dash of luck.

But Lopez is just one candidate on this list. Here are a few more choices, in no particular order:

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Danny Duffy

Duffy is not only a possibility because of his past performances but also because of his ace status on this club when he is healthy. While this season has been a disappointing one for Duffy, there were outings this year where we saw the guy who was “shoving” on the mound that night in Tampa back in 2016.

Just go back to June 9th against Oakland, where he went seven deep, giving up three hits while striking out ten. For Duffy it’s not as much about his stuff that day as it is his efficiency. When Duffy is being efficient by throwing strikes and not driving up his pitch count, he is more likely to get into a rhythm and continuing to throw strikes. It’s not hard to see him throwing a game where his pitches have bite and hitters aren’t able to make good contact off of him. If that happens, a scenario could unfold where Duffy is throwing zeroes.

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Credit: John Sleezer/KC Star

Jakob Junis

Junis might seem like an odd choice here because of the sheer amount of hits he gives up on a regular basis. Yes, those hit things are a bit of a problem if you are trying to throw a “no-hitter”. See, it’s right there in the name. No-hit.

In fact, Junis on average gives up about a hit per inning. So far this year, he is averaging 8.8 hits per 9, while last year he averaged 9.2. Once again, this would have to change for him to throw a no-no.

But there is a reason I picked him as a candidate and it’s a solid reason: his slider. Junis has one of the most vicious sliders in the game and when it is working it probably means Junis is coasting (and not just against the Tigers). Junis’ “out pitch” gives him a special weapon, especially since hitters know it is coming and still have trouble doing anything with it.

On those nights that Junis’ slider is at a peak level, anything is possible. But more than likely if he is going to throw a no-hitter it will be against the Tigers. In fact I’ll call my shot and say if he throws one, it will be against Detroit. That just feels like a safe bet.

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Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Staumont

The first step for Staumont is obviously to just perform consistently enough to reach the big leagues. But if he does, he would instantly have some of the most electric stuff on the team. Staumont has a fastball in his arsenal that can reach triple digits, a good breaking ball and a curveball that has power and depth.

But his control…yep, his control is the whole issue. The lowest walk rate of his career is 15.8% from this past season and over his career he has averaged over seven walks per 9. If he ended up throwing a no-no, he would be one of those pitchers who haven’t given up a hit but have walked like five or six batters. It would even be possible he would give up a run or two because of it.

But all it takes is one night of unhittable stuff to place yourself in the record books. Staumont has the stuff, he just has to learn to control it better to be put in that situation in the first place.

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Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar

It might feel a bit early to toss the two biggest draft picks from this year into the mix, but it also feels like both will be in the majors sooner rather than later. There is a good chance these two will be a focal point of the Royals rotation once they get there and with that comes the opportunity needed to throw a no-hitter.

Both pitchers have great stuff and while Singer is the farther developed of the two, Kowar has shown gradual development throughout his college career and has already shown some of what he is capable of at the minor league level these last couple months.

That being said, if either is going to be the one to reach the achievement last done by Saberhagen, it isn’t going to be anytime soon. Both will be spending time moving up the ladder in the Royals system these next few years and while Singer could be up in the big leagues as early as next year, that is also a best case scenario.

While that feels like a deeper look into the future, the honesty of the situation is that we are talking about an accomplishment that hasn’t been done by any Royals pitcher in  27 years. Yes, the no-hitter drought for Kansas City is reaching the playoff drought level that was snapped in 2014. So while Singer and Kowar are still a ways off, they also could be the best chance the team has of giving up no hits in one game anytime in the near future.

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But before anyone feels like they should feel bad for us Royals fans, know that it could be worse. The San Diego Padres, a franchise that came into existence the same year as the Royals, have never had a no-hitter thrown in their history. The New York Mets, who were founded in 1962 and have such greats as Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden as part of their alumni, didn’t get their first no-no until 2012, when Johan Santana shut down the St. Louis Cardinals.

So while some of you have been Royals fans all your life and have never seen your team throw one, take solace in knowing it has happened. Like all great things in life, sometimes you have to be patient to get something as rare as a no-hitter. The Royals will get there again; it just might take some time.

Straddling The Fence

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Being a longtime Kansas City Royals fan can give someone a different perspective of the team than say, someone who has only been around the last couple years. There is a section of the fanbase that sat around during the “Lean Years” so to speak, an era where many a time we would be accepting of an errorless game, or a quality start from the starting pitcher that day. Trust me folks, years ago the bar was set really low. With that being said, this winter the Royals have been fairly quiet on the acquisition front, as we have essentially seen the Jorge Soler trade and the Nate Karns trade with a few minor signings sprinkled in. I’ve actually felt like both trades made sense and were quality deals on GM Dayton Moore’s part. I even liked the Peter O’Brien signing and don’t hate Jonathan Sanchez being brought in on a minor league contract. But something else has been gnawing at me this winter and these trades have reinforced my worries. It appears on the surface like the Royals are neither “going all in” this off-season nor “rebuilding”. In fact, it appears as if Kansas City management is straddling a fence that often isn’t very successful.

KC Royals VS NY Mets, Game 2, 2015 World Series

I feel like I need to be a bit more clear in my estimation, as it could be taken as if I am saying the Royals won’t be in a position to contend in 2017, which I don’t feel at all. In fact, I feel as if Kansas City has a great chance to be in the playoff hunt this year, as we enter the final year of a contending window with the current nucleus in place. That is a big part of my worries right there; after this season, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain will be free agents. Danny Duffy was also set to go out on the market, but luckily he was given a long-term extension while Wade Davis and Jarrod Dyson, two more potential free agents after 2017, were dealt in the trades mentioned above. The front office has known for years that this was the final year of winning with this group and while the initial plan was for the farm system to keep spitting out major league ready talent, that hasn’t turned out to be the case. Knowing that there was not really any help on the horizon down in the minors (although someone like Hunter Dozier could contribute as soon as this year), this felt like the season where the team should be “all in” and put the team in the best position to reach the playoffs. That has not happened and not all of that can fall at the feet of Moore. No, you have to look higher up on the food chain to find the biggest issue facing the front office.

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Back in December, it came out that Royals owner David Glass didn’t want the team to increase the payroll for the 2017 campaign, putting Moore and his associates in the front office in a weird position. Moore over the years has always tried to temper expectations and kept his cards close to the vest, but apparently he really meant it this year when he said that the team wouldn’t be able to take on more payroll:

“We’re simply not in a position to add to our current payroll,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said.

This is why Davis was traded and why Dyson wasn’t far behind; Moore was trying to shuffle the roster by unloading any payroll he can why acquiring players who are younger, cheaper and are under club control for the immediate future. In fact I will go a step further and say Moore has done an admirable job trying to keep the foundation of the team together to make another run while keeping the payroll within Glass’ desired level. Yes, some of this falls at the feet of Moore; he is the one who gave Ian Kennedy his 5 year contract, Omar Infante’s contract that the Royals are still paying for this year and backloaded a number of contracts to make the team’s money situation work in years past. But more than anything this feels like Glass being cheap, which he really hasn’t been these last few years. Why pull back now when more money could be had if the team goes back to the playoffs?

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When I first started understanding the business side of baseball, I learned very quickly that to make money in baseball you have to spend money. There has never been a major league owner that pinched pennies and made a fortune off of it; maybe for one year or some random event but none consistently. Instead, the teams that have made a ton of money did so by spending as well. Now, I am not saying that the only way to make money in baseball is to spend like the Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers; in fact, many of those teams that were high spenders didn’t even profit from playoff teams to really max out their wealth. So I am not saying Glass should just spend willy-nilly and expect profitable results; no, there is a way to spend wisely while not going over any self-imposed budget. The perfect definition of that could very well be those Royals teams that made the playoffs in both 2014 and 2015. Glass spent more money those two years than any other Royals team and he made more money both of those years than ever before because of the team playing into October. I am not saying Glass should give Dayton an open check and tell him to go get what they need; that should probably never be done, period. But a slight bump in the payroll could give this Royals team a chance to improve a few holes in the team’s roster and improve their chances of winning this year. With the Twins and White Sox rebuilding and the Tigers also straddling a fence (they have hinted at dealing some of their veterans this winter but alas none have been dealt), realistically that would leave the Royals and Indians to battle it out for the American League Central in 2017. That could still happen, but one has to wonder how this team will improve based just off of players being healthy and expecting many to improve on their 2016 output.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals

The other issue at hand is tied up in Moore’s trades this winter and what they mean for the future of this team. Like I said, I have liked both trades he has made and feel getting Karns and Soler were excellent acquisitions for what Kansas City is trying to do. But…it does appear on the surface that they are trying to win this year while also building a club controlled roster after the expected departures next winter. The team is neither “all in” or “rebuilding” and this is a problem. In the past, team’s who have tried to leverage a situation like this have eventually decided to take either one path or the other once they figured out that taking neither wasn’t working. We don’t have to look far to see what kind of problem this can cause-just look at the Philadelphia Phillies. In 2012, the Phillies finished .500 while employing a roster of veterans like Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Roy Halladay. The team attempted to re-stock in 2013, adding Michael Young and Ben Revere while keeping the older nucleus in tact. The team floundered that year, losing 89 games and it appeared a rebuild was in their future. Instead, they acquired A.J. Burnett right before Spring Training that year, and would rack up another 89 loss season. It wasn’t until after that season that the organization put forward a full-scale rebuild on the franchise. The Phillies learned that straddling that line between rebuild and contending normally doesn’t work out and I’m afraid Kansas City will learn the same lesson.

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Since the idea of drifting between contending and rebuilding sounds counterproductive to me, I am in the camp that the Royals should be going for it this year. This is the last year of the window with Moose, Esky, Hos and Cain, so now would be the time to give this team its greatest opportunity to return to the playoffs. The farm system has very little in the way of help next year and this is an organization that didn’t make it to postseason play for 29 years before 2014; now is the time for one last run. The logic I am using is that if Glass agrees to spend even just an extra $10-$15 million to upgrade a few spots, they would at least be giving this squad the best opportunity to reach October baseball. We have zero idea of what will happen after 2017, and the likelihood that the Royals are even able to bring back more than just one of those four free agents is probably slim and none. The thinking is that if the team puts forth another winning season, the stadium will be packed and Glass will make his money back and then some. Instead, it feels like he is saying “we won a World Series, I think we’ll just stop there”. Even if the team doesn’t make it back to the postseason this year, Glass can go cheap in 2018 with a much younger ballclub, make his money that way and no one will think less of it, since they would be “rebuilding”. This group of players deserve one last shot at etching a legacy in Kansas City but the chances of that happening at the moment don’t look as good as it should be.

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So what does this all mean for the 2017 Kansas City Royals? It means that while this club on the surface still looks like a contender, things could go awry very quickly as well. One does have to wonder, after the soul-crushing death of Yordano Ventura, if the team might go out and pick up a replacement starter for the rotation or if they will attempt to fill his spot with a Matt Strahm or a Mike Minor. Even if another acquisition is looming, I’m not sold that this is the best Royals team that could be pieced together. Could they contend with this squad? Of course. But does this feel like a team that could cause damage in October? Not likely. I could be wrong but it feels like ownership is not giving this team the best chance to bring the World Series back to Kansas City, and that saddens me. It’s easy for me to sit here and say “spend more money”, when it isn’t my own. But if I understand the structure of a major league baseball team that wants to contend, you don’t half-ass the project. It should be all about winning the whole damn thing again this year and instead it feels like someone just waiting to turn the lights out. We have no clue how much of a chance the Royals will have to make the playoffs again after 2017; why not go out with a bang and get the band back together for one last gig? Instead it feels like a farewell tour where we keep asking them to play all the big hits one last time before hitting the road. At this point, Royals ownership should do right by the fans, the front office and even the players who have given their blood, sweat and tears these last 4-5 years. It’s time to push the chips all in and go for broke. Now is not the time to stop halfway and assume that will do the trick. It’s time to go for broke…and trust me Mr. Glass, this won’t make you broke. In fact it could increase your wealth for years to come…

You Wanted The Royals To Sign Someone…

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It’s been a slow winter for the Kansas City Royals so far. Outside of the acquisition of Jorge Soler, the possible next biggest news for Kansas City might be the team re-signing backup catcher Drew Butera. Yep, that is how slow it has been. In fact, you’ve probably heard many a Royals fan utter the phrase “Just sign someone, anyone…”. Well…you got your wish, as Kansas City signed four players to minor league deals on Christmas Eve. On that list is pitcher Bobby Parnell, infielder Brooks Conrad, outfielder Ruben Sosa and…former Royal Jonathan Sanchez. Yes, the same Sanchez who was acquired for Melky Cabrera at one point. The same Sanchez who was absolutely atrocious during his short stint in Kansas City. We will get back to him in just a moment. But first, lets look at all of these signings and what to expect from them.

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Let’s start with Parnell, who is the biggest name on this list. Parnell used to be a solid contributor out of the bullpen for the Mets, including a four year run from 2010 to 2013 where he produced an average 140 ERA+ during that span. Injuries curtailed Parnell’s run after that, appearing in just one game in 2014 (due to Tommy John surgery) before returning to the Mets for 30 games in the 2015 season. That year was nothing to write home about, as Parnell posted an ERA+ of 61, a FIP of 4.18 and an ERA of 6.38. Parnell signed a minor league deal with Detroit last year but threw most of the year in AAA, putting up very pedestrian numbers. He did appear in six games for the Tigers, throwing 5 innings, striking out 4 while walking 5 in that short span and would eventually be let go by Detroit. The one positive in 2016 for Parnell was that the velocity on his fastball did increase, picking up to 94 mph on average, one mph faster than he racked up in 2015 and closer to the upper 90’s fastball seen by him before the surgery. I actually think Parnell could be a valuable asset in the Royals bullpen, as he could be in the vein of a Ryan Madson, who had been out of baseball for a couple of years before signing with Kansas City before the 2015 season. This is a quality signing by Dayton Moore in my eyes.

MLB: San Diego Padres at Chicago Cubs

Conrad is a veteran journeyman who has floated around baseball for about 15 years now and played in the Independent League in 2016. Conrad last saw action in the minor leagues back in 2015, posting a line of .190/.280/.319 in 83 games. Conrad has basically been used as a utility infielder throughout his career, seeing most of his time at third base. He has played parts of 6 seasons in the major leagues, putting up a line of .200/.271/.389 over 515 plate appearances. It’s pretty obvious that Conrad’s signing was a depth move, as he can fill a number of roles if the Royals end up placing him in either AA or AAA. In fact, I would dare to say there is a chance he was signed for the sole purpose of working with many of the younger players in the farm system and might even be a future coach in the Kansas City system. This might be a signing that was being eyed more for a future role in the organization than anything else, so I wouldn’t really expect to see him in Kansas City at anytime in 2017.

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Sosa is an outfielder who has spent most of his career in the Astros and Angels organizations. Sosa hasn’t had a horrible minor league career, posting a career line of .282./.366/.391 over six seasons. Sosa is a speedy outfielder who seems to take a good amount of walks, but also strikes out quite often (319 strike outs in 419 games). What probably caught the Royals eye is his work in the Mexican League in 2016. Over 70 games, Sosa hit .371/.458/.517 with 22 stolen bases. Sosa probably is a backup outfielder at best if he would reach the big leagues, used mainly as a defensive replacement and pinch runner would be my guess. Sosa would be a long-shot to get to Kansas City and has been assigned to the Kansas City AA affiliate, Northwest Arkansas.

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Finally, we have reached the main event, former Royal Jonathan Sanchez. I’m sure many a Royals fan cringed when they heard Moore had signed Sanchez to a minor league deal, as he is not fondly remembered by Royals fans. Lets not mince words-Sanchez was awful during his short span in Kansas City. In just 12 games (and yes, it feels like he pitched more than that for Kansas City), Sanchez 0.82 Strike out to walk ratio, an ERA+ of 54 (100 is league average) 6.45 FIP and a -1.3 bWAR. Before you ask, yes, Sanchez was as bad as the numbers indicate. The worst part of his run in Kansas City was that it just seemed like he didn’t want to be with the team, so he was dealt to Colorado in July of 2012 for Jeremy Guthrie. Incidentally, my first post on this blog was spent talking about that deal, a deal that was definitely one of Dayton Moore’s best. All this being said…it doesn’t really bother me that the Royals have brought Sanchez back into the fold. The honest truth is that the likelihood that he makes it to the big league club is slim and none. Sanchez hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013, where he pitched in 5 games for Pittsburgh, throwing only 13 innings, allowing 18 runs and 7 home runs in that short amount of time. He was in the Reds camp last year for Spring Training, but was released at the end of camp. It is very simple math with this signing: if he is awful, the team will release him in Spring Training and that will be that. If he does good, then he can actually contribute to the Royals in 2017, something he didn’t do the first time around. Kansas City doesn’t lose anything by bringing him in, other than a small amount of time.

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The honest truth is that moves like these are necessary for any major league ballclub. Most minor league deals are done for one very big reason: depth. A team never knows how the season will unfold and the more depth you have stored away in the minor leagues, the more likely you will stumble across someone who can contribute to the major league team. It’s a total win/win situation, as most of these signings are done very cheaply and don’t cost the team anything. Over the years the Royals have succeeded on a few of these signings, especially with a few guys who were coming off of injuries and were able to be a part of the big league roster. Ryan Madson is the most prolific, as he pitched good enough in 2015 to earn himself a lot of money from Oakland that following winter. So while these signings aren’t going to blow anyone away, you never know what might actually pan out. So I’m not going to get worked up about Sanchez being in Royals camp this spring; the honest truth is the Royals gave up nothing for him and he either pitches good or he is gone. This time around, Sanchez needs the Royals more than they need him.

New York State of Mind: Royals Swept by Yankees

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My, how a week will change things. About ten days ago the Royals took a series from the New York Yankees in Kansas City, a series where the Royals looked to be playing at a different level than the ‘Bronx Bombers’. Jump forward to this week and there was very little in this series that the Royals did good. The defense was there. The bullpen was pretty solid. The offense…well, it was pretty much M.I.A. The starting pitching? Eek. So with that said, lets take a look at a series that will hopefully be forgotten by the end of the weekend.

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Series MVP: Mike Moustakas

Honestly, a part of me just wanted to leave this spot blank. No one really stood out in this series as the offense basically took a powder in this series. Alcides Escobar and Kendrys Morales both got 4 hits in this series but didn’t provide much in the form of runs. Moustakas went 3 for 11, including his 5th home run of the year on Wednesday afternoon:

Moustakas has been one of the ‘feel good’ stories of the year so far and nothing says ‘improvement’ like a spray chart:

It almost feels like every week Moose will fly by some other accomplishment that surpasses his dreadful 2014 season:

Look, we all scoffed when manager Ned Yost said he was going to bat Moustakas second in the order to start the year. What started out as Yost trolling us(hey, it felt that way) turned into motivation for Mike and it has paid off in spades. Unfortunately, this series saw very little offense from the Royals despite the efforts of Moustakas, Escobar and Morales.

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(Worst) Pitching Performance of the Series: Jeremy Guthrie

Look, I’m not happy about picking on Guthrie here, but Monday’s start was so bad for Jeremy that it felt like it should get it’s own section. Since no one else really went out there and stood out(besides one reliever who I will discuss in just a bit) I figured we would point out how monumentally bad Guthrie performed. The numbers in just a moment; first, take a look at the destruction:

Alright, that was just as painful as the first time. It was obvious early on that Guthrie was going to be left out there to take the beating, although apparently 11 runs was all the bleeding Yost could muster watching(I was done after the first 8 runs). 1+ inning, 9 hits and 11 runs while walking 3, hitting a batter and striking out 1. Oh, and 4 home runs given up. Hey, at the least there were some eye popping stats that came out of his outing:

Just an ugly performance all the way around. Guthrie has long been an anomaly; a pitcher who allows a lot of baserunners yet allows very few to score. That has not been the case this year and honestly he hasn’t put up numbers this bad since his short stay in Colorado. Before this start it had seemed like maybe he had gotten behind some of his struggles but Monday it appeared as if he was leaving the ball out over the middle of the plate and the Yankees made him pay for it. The numbers right now are staggering: An FIP of 6.01, ERA+ of 61(lowest total since 2006 for Cleveland, where he appeared in 9 games), he is allowing 11.9 hits per 9 innings, and 3 walks per 9. Most of the numbers so far are very comparable to his stay with the Rockies, where he was rescued by Kansas City for infamous space-waster Jonathan Sanchez. I still feel like Jeremy has value and still feel like he can bounce back from this. But the longer it goes on, the more you ask two questions: ‘how long can the Royals continue to throw him out there?’ and ‘when is Kris Medlen expected back?’. Hopefully Guthrie chooses to rise like the Phoenix.

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All-Star Dominance

There was some good news that came out this week in the form of the the All-Star balloting being announced and it looks like the Royals have something else they are leading in; votes! There are 5 Royals leading their respective positions and so far Salvador Perez is the overall vote-getter. I’m sure there will be some talk about Royals fans stuffing the online ballots, but like many others, I could care less:

If anything else, this is happening for one reason; the Royals are winning. Winning does this, especially for a fanbase that has been dormant for a number of years:

Look, I would be happy with one Royal starting in the All-Star game. Five Royals? That would just be awesome. I have reasons to cheer for each of the five guys who are leading but a start for Alex Gordon would mean a lot, especially considering how his tenure as a Royal has been over the years. Escobar also seems to be cherishing the idea of being in his first ‘Midsummer Classic’:

So Royals fans, if you have not yet voted, what are you waiting for? Go vote here and let your voice heard. I also have yet to vote; just wait until I get my 35 votes in for all 8 of my e-mail accounts! I can’t wait to vote for Gordon 280 times!

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Now onto the news and notes section of this series:

  • I mentioned earlier how there was one stellar pitching performance in this series and that was the outing Brandon Finnegan had on Monday following Guthrie’s awful tribute to Memorial Day. Finnegan came into the game in the 2nd inning and threw 3 shutout innings, allowing zero hits, 1 walk and 1 strikeouts. It was exactly what the Royals needed and lowered Finnegan’s ERA below 2.00 on the year. For a guy who has been bounced around this year, between the rotation and the pen, between the minors and the majors, he has managed to excel in the situations the Royals put him in. Now if the team could decide on a role for him and stick with it…
  • Finnegan had been recalled earlier in the day as Danny Duffy headed to the disabled list. I had actually mentioned this after the last series against the Cardinals and how it wasn’t a bad thing for this to happen:

There are a lot of theories out there about what is wrong with Duffy and it could be the shoulder stiffness that landed him on the DL, or it could be overthrowing or it could be him overthinking. Actually, I tend to lean toward all 3 to be honest with you. I’ve heard he could get up to 5 starts down in Omaha before coming back, so I wouldn’t expect to see him anytime soon, unless he is needed before then.

  • Finnegan was sent back down to the minors after Monday’s game to make room for Jason Vargas’ return from the disabled list. Vargas was on a strict 75 pitch limit(which was apparently not relayed to Steve Physioc in the Royals radio booth) and struggled out of the gate in his return. Vargas threw 4 innings, giving up 4 hits and 2 runs while walking 1 and striking out 6:

Vargas had a rough 1st inning but settled down and it would have been interesting to see how he did if he hadn’t reached the pitch limit imposed on him. The Royals need Vargas to pitch closer to his performance in 2014 than what we have seen so far this year and hopefully this was the first step toward that.

  • I mentioned a moment ago about Physioc not knowing about Vargas’ pitch limit on Tuesday night and it was just one of many miscues he made on air that night. Maybe it was because I was following the broadcast closer than normal, but Physioc was atrocious that night and he seemed to not do any homework at all. I’ve never been a fan of his work, but this series really highlighted how bad Physioc is as a broadcaster. I’m sure he is a nice guy, but nice guys don’t always make good on air talent.
  • Speaking of the broadcasters, if I had to hear them say ‘well that wouldn’t have been a home run at Kauffman Stadium’ one more time in this series I was ready to pull my hair out. Yes, Yankee Stadium has smaller dimensions than ‘The K’; but these games weren’t played in Kansas City so it didn’t matter. The Royals had the same advantage the Yankees had in this series, so comparing the two stadiums is ignoring the fact that the Yankees took more of an advantage of the shorter porch in right field. It came across as sour grapes.
  • Paulo Orlando hit his first career major league home run on Tuesday. Orlando has seen a lot of playing time this year thanks to Alex Rios’ injury, and while his average has slipped the last few weeks, he is still one of the best feel good stories of the year. Even if he never hits another one over the fence, he will always have his one at Yankee Stadium.

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Tweets of Royalty

 

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As far as I am concerned the best thing to do about this series is forget about it and move on. The Royals will venture to Chicago this weekend for 3 games at Wrigley Field against the Cubs. I am pretty excited for this series, since I grew up watching tons of Cubs games on WGN(as did a lot of people my age) and have a deep fondness for Wrigley and the ballclub. I am also looking forward to seeing some of Chicago’s young talent, guys like Jorge Soler, Addison Russel and Kris Bryant; I’m looking forward to seeing them, even if I don’t want them to do very good in this series. The Royals will be throwing Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez and Jeremy Guthrie in this set and hopefully the pitching and offense can put forth some solid effort. It is only May folks, so I am not worried at all. We knew a slump would happen; the question is just how long it will last, especially with Minnesota playing so good. It’s going to be a fun 3 games and my plan is to just enjoy the Royals being at Wrigley, since this only happens about once every six years. I can’t imagine this series will be worse than what we just saw…

 

If Not Dayton, Then Who?

Milwaukee Brewers v Kansas City Royals
Last week I took a look at five possible managerial candidates if(or when) Neddy Yost ends up fired. Many pointed out that as much as a new manager would be nice, Royals GM Dayton Moore shouldn’t be allowed to hire a third manager. I agree with that sentiment, that Moore should be fired before Yost(although both being gone would be fine for me). Rany Jazayerli has made the best argument so far for Moore’s dismissal, one that obviously I agree with. Here is the problem; I don’t see Moore getting fired soon. There is a far greater chance of Yost getting the heave-ho, which is why I took a look at possible replacements. With that said, it seems only fair that I take a look at possible replacements for Moore. But to be honest, you don’t read about possible general managers very often. There are the candidates you read about from time to time, most being assistant GM’s for other ballclubs. There are also those that are under the radar but make total sense when you think about it. I might not be up on possible replacements for GMDM, but I can tell what the Royals should be looking for. Here are some tips for Kansas City to use when perusing the classifieds for Moore’s successor.

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1)Pick Someone Who Has Worked for a Small Market Team

There are many reasons why I think Kansas City should look at other small market franchises when picking a new general manager. The most obvious is to pick from the ones who have a winning pedigree. Off the top of my head comes Tampa Bay, Oakland and Minnesota. These are teams that have worked with less and been successful in spite of it. The first two are obvious, but I have massive respect for Minnesota’s front office. You might not know it from the last few years, but there for a long time they produced player after player and when it came time for one to leave, there was another prospect to take their place. The funny thing is soon the Twins will be a force again, as they have been stockpiling talent in the minor leagues for a few years now. If the Royals bring in a candidate from one of these teams, they will already understand the restrictions placed under them and have a leg up on how they can work around it. There are some from bigger market teams that could still succeed, but they just aren’t as used to the parameters set on them as an executive from a smaller market franchise. There are a few exceptions to that rule, most notably being St. Louis and Boston. Both franchises work with a bigger budget and are able to do things the Royals realistically just can’t do. But both also focus on drafting and player development and then adding the rest of the pieces through trades and free agents. The formula is the same for Kansas City, just on a bigger scale in those two markets. No matter what, Kansas City needs to be looking for someone who isn’t conventional. Which leads us to the next thing they should be looking for…

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2) Pick a GM Who Will Be Creative

Honestly, this might be the most important thing for the Royals when hiring a new GM. Ever since Billy Beane started incorporating ‘Moneyball’, almost every team in baseball has either stolen ideas from him or tried to catch up to the way he structures a team. Beane’s biggest attribute has been to be creative and think outside the box when acquiring talent. This has allowed Oakland to be a perennial playoff contender despite the fact they have a small payroll, play in a crappy stadium and have a hard time convincing big-name talent to play for them. For the GM of a small market franchise, being creative should be an everyday staple. Unfortunately, I’ve never felt like Dayton was creative in his outlook of picking up pieces. Sure, Moore has had some good trades, some even great(Guthrie for Sanchez? Still a steal!). But most of what Moore does is thinking that most other GM’s would do as well. It’s almost like they follow the same handbook. That is what the Royals next GM should not do; follow a handbook. Instead he needs to be ahead of the pack, thinking in ways the other GM’s in the league aren’t thinking. Beane has made a living out of being unorthodox and it has paid off well. Whomever the Royals hire next needs to work along that same vein.

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3) Build a Team Around Your Strengths

It’s conceivable here to make the argument that the Royals in a lot of ways have already done this. There is some truth to that statement. The Royals are a team focused around pitching and defense, which is a large chunk of this team. But if you look at the Royals teams of the 70’s and 80’s, they were catered to Kauffman Stadium. Their hitters were good hitters who knew how to hit the ball in the gap for extra bases. They had power, but not exactly power hitters(minus a John Mayberry or a Steve Balboni here and there). In some ways this Royals team is the same way-only the Royals hitters have forgotten how to hit. You very rarely ever see them hit the ball in the gaps, which means they seem to be a station to station team. Whitey Herzog understood this and helped build his Cardinals teams in the 80’s to play faster than everyone else. It helped that Herzog was one of the best managers in the history of baseball, but he understood playing to one’s strengths. The Royals will need hitters who can hit, not just hit home runs, although a power hitter would be nice for this team. Whoever ends up being the next GM needs to realize this and draft, trade and sign accordingly. Home Runs can happen at ‘The K’, but a team full of them probably won’t give them the success they want. A balanced lineup is really what this team needs to add to the already stellar pitching and defense.

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4) You Need to Charm David Glass

Sure, it seems as if it doesn’t take much to charm David Glass. I mean, Dayton has made him think that eight years is a perfectly fine amount of time to rebuild a team. But is he easier to charm than this David Glass?

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Or this David Glass, who seems to be looking for a good time?

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Now that I have given you nightmares, let’s get back to the point of this. I’m not so sure Mr. Glass really understands baseball, or at least understanding what a real GM should look and sound like. Moore was smart enough to get Glass to open up his pocket book over the last eight years, not only for major league talent but money for drafting and signing young talent. Moore had a plan lined out and even though it appears to be a total failure, I’m sure Glass was impressed that he had something lined up. If a candidate is going to interview for this job, they are going to have to show him they know what they are doing and give him a reason to hand him the keys to this struggling franchise. This is where it doesn’t matter one’s qualifications; it will come down to what Glass wants. I’m positive the Glasses know nothing about sabermetrics or just how unbelievable it is that team’s like the A’s and Rays compete year after year. But there is always hope that he will listen to other people within the Royals organization that know what they are doing and weigh his decision with them in mind. Or this is all for nothing and it is all about who can charm the pants off of a 78 year old man.

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5) Player Development Plan

I’m sure Dayton learned a thing or two about player development when he was with the Atlanta organization. Problem is, it hasn’t shown with Kansas City. So far, the only real players the team has developed and are high caliber major league players are Salvador Perez, Yordano Ventura and Greg Holland…and even Ventura is questionable, since he has only been with the team a few months. There is obviously something wrong with the development of these players, otherwise why would guys like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas succeed in the minors then struggle so much once they made it to the big leagues? There is a chance the problem lies in the major league coaching staff, but there is also a chance that some things are fishy in the minor league development. At the end of the day, the next GM needs to have a plan outlined and hopefully it is one that has succeeded in the past. Look at a team like the Cardinals; they have a simple plan outlined for their entire minor league system and a lot of their success can be tied into that plan. Those players get to the majors and already know what they need to do to succeed. The Royals need a system like that, one in which there are simple plans to follow but also one that lets each player be an individual. Not every player is the same and what works for one player might not work for another. That is a big part of the entire player development program. The next Royals GM needs this to be a big part of his plan and be ready to implement it in any way possible.

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These are just some of the bullet points that the Royals should have in mind once Dayton Moore is shown the door. Most seem like simple things but just because something is simple doesn’t mean it works out that way. We are seeing that now, as GMDM’s ‘Process’ has turned into an eight year nightmare. Whomever is chosen needs to not make the mistakes that Moore has made over the last eight years. He needs to be not only creative when acquiring talent, but creative when putting together his master plan and no matter what they shouldn’t have a process. It just has a negative connotation now. All that Moore’s successor really needs is a winning formula. Do that and that person will be made in Kansas City.

Royals Offseason Needs: Right Field

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Most people who follow the Kansas City Royals know that there are three major needs this off-season for Kansas City to be a contender in 2014: a starting pitcher to replace Ervin Santana(which is pretty much a probable), a second baseman and a right fielder. Today I’ll take a look at possible candidates for right field. It’s safe to say that a right fielder with some pop would be nice, and might be the way Kansas City goes. But for the sake of this article, let’s take a look at some major candidates for the Royals to either sign or trade for.

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Carlos Beltran

Carlos Beltran is probably not only the best candidate for Kansas City, but the sentimental choice as well. Now, we should preface the rest of this with the point that Beltran is probably a long shot to sign with the Royals this off-season. But he would be a great choice and who wouldn’t want the greatest playoff hitter in baseball history on their team come September? Many a Royals fan was crushed when Beltran was traded to Houston, especially since he was such a great talent. Kansas City would welcome him back with open arms and his bat would be great to have in the middle of the Royals lineup, which tends to lean very light when it comes to power. There would be issues, though. For one, Beltran will be turning 37 within the first month of the 2014 baseball season, so he is not a spring chicken. Defensively, he is not the outfielder he used to be. Sure, you can give him the occasional start at DH, but then you are sitting Billy Butler(or Eric Hosmer if Billy is moved to first). Sure, you can replace Beltran late in games and let David Lough or whoever else is the backup outfielder get some time in the field, but then you are taking his bat out of the game. I still think Beltran would be the best choice, but I also think that is highly unlikely. It would be neat to have him sign with Kansas City, hoping to be the guy who returns to his old stomping grounds and take them to the playoffs for the first time since 1985. Yes, he would be a certifiable God in Kansas City if that happened. But it is probably a giant ‘IF’.

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Shin Soo Choo

Choo had a great 2013 season, his first in Cincinnati. Choo brings a lot of weapons to the table, mainly his potent bat and the ability to get on base at the top of the order. The Royals are very familiar with Choo after his tenure in Cleveland, on top of the Royals hitting him numerous times over the years, much to the displeasure of  Mr. Choo. Part of me wishes he had taken care of Jonathan Sanchez right then and there. Anyway, Choo will be a free agent here within the next few weeks and will looking to be cashing in. Like, REALLY cashing in! So more than likely, Choo is out of the Royals price range. I know Dayton Moore said that Kansas City was going to stay at the same payroll for 2014, but they said the same thing last winter and went out to spend where they felt they needed to. I personally believe the same for this winter, but even with that said, Choo will be too expensive. Scott Boras gets his clients the most money humanly possible. That just isn’t Kansas City.

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Kyle Blanks/Chris Denorfia

There is a reason I mention both Blanks and Denorfia. Earlier this summer the Royals sent scouts out to check out a number of players on the San Diego Padres. At the time second base and right field where both still major issues(funny how some things don’t change). I’m pretty sure both of these guys were scouted, as was Will Venable, another Padres outfielder. Venable’s value took off not too long after that, so I’m sure he is probably off the market. But I would have to think both Blanks and Denorfia are there for the taking. Blanks had a rough year, as he spent most of the year injured or benched. Blanks has very raw talent, but he also has the main thing the Royals need: power. Denorfia had his best season in the big leagues in 2013, but his numbers just won’t jump out at you. He doesn’t have the power Blanks has but seems to be a bit more consistent. I’m not sure either guy is better than a David Lough/Justin Maxwell platoon, but I could see Moore taking a flyer on either one of these guys. Remember, Moore did the same thing with Maxwell and he turned out to be a good acquisition.

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Giancarlo Stanton 

Stanton is the long shot of all long shots. It will take a HUGE package of players to acquire Stanton in a deal, and I do mean HUGE. But the Royals have the prospects to pull it off. Now, the only problem would be a deal like this would probably kill the farm system and it could take all the top players in your system(Zimmer, Bonifacio, Ventura, Mondesi,etc.). I LOVE Stanton’s power, which is just ridiculous and would solidify the middle of the Royals order. But…if it took all of those prospects to make the deal happen, it’s probably not worth it. I would like the Royals to stay in contention for years to come; not one good year and then have to wait a number of years before winning again. Once again, this would be a very long shot, so don’t expect this one to happen.

Nelson Cruz

Nelson Cruz   

Yes, THAT Nelson Cruz. The one who was suspended from the Biogenesis scandal. But it is also the same Cruz that has played in the postseason and has had success in it. Cruz’s power is very intriguing and is the kind of bat Kansas City needs. But I have my worries with him, and it’s not just the Biogenesis thing. For one, he is a streaky hitter. Sure, when he is hot, he is hot. But when he is cold…it’s like Hoth and he has no Tauntaun to cut open and stay warm inside of. Cruz is also not the greatest defender in the world and, after having Jeff Francoeur out in right the last few years, we all know how that goes. To add to this, I’m not real big on how he has acted in the past. I don’t always put a lot of value in character, but we all know Moore does. Cruz’s value is about as low as it’s been in quite awhile, so there is probably at least a chance he could wind up in Royal blue.

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Corey Hart

Out of all the guys I have mentioned so far, THIS is the one who I think has the best chance of being a Royal in 2014. For one, he is coming off of an injury filled season in 2013, one where he didn’t even play in a single regular season game. This would also mean there is a good chance Hart could be had on the cheap, maybe even a contract with a lot of incentives. Two, Hart played under Royals manager Ned Yost, so Yost already knows what kind of player he would be getting. Hart hits for power, drives in runs and puts up a good batting average. His defense isn’t great, but it’s not awful either. He’s versatile as well, as he could play any of the outfield positions and first base if needed. As long as Hart is healed, I could see him patrolling right field at Kauffman in 2014. The Royals could actually do a lot worse.

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Jacoby Ellsbury/Curtis Granderson   

I know what you are thinking: aren’t these guys center fielders? Yes, yes they are. They are also both free agents this off-season. Yes, my interest would be for them to play center field. So who would play right? Lorenzo Cain. Royals management prefers Cain in right field, where they feel he is better suited. If that is the case, why not acquire a center fielder and shift Cain to right? I would have to assume Ellsbury will take a large chunk of money to be signed, so he would be a long shot. But Granderson? Sure, he isn’t the guy who used to be a perennial All-Star and put up huge power numbers. But he still has power, has a bit of his speed left, and could be had at a realistic price. I don’t know if he would want to play in Kansas City, but the Royals are closer to a playoff spot at this point than the Yankees are. It is at least another option, one the Royals should at least consider.

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No matter which direction Kansas City goes in, it is obvious that they do need an upgrade at the position. I like both David Lough and Justin Maxwell, and a platoon of them isn’t the worst idea in the world, but if the Royals want to reach the playoffs they will need a more potent bat. There are options out there; one can only hope Dayton Moore does his research and makes a move that not only improves the Royals, but is smart for the team as well. If he wants an extension of his own, making a shrewd move here would be in his, and the Royals,  best interest.

The Dividing Line

The 2012 season for the Kansas City Royals has been one of many ups and downs, so many that it would feel like a novel to go over them all right now with you. But maybe the biggest story to come from this roller coaster is the giant divide that is growing daily between Royals fans and Royals management. Speaking as a fan for close to thirty years, I have never seen such a strong division between the two. How did we get here?

This season started innocent enough. In fact, I would say there was more optimism in the air than there has been in Kansas City for a very long time. For once, this team looked like one who could at the least hold their own in a very weak division. But a massive trip and fall in the form of a12-game losing streak in April killed the buzz. Oh, and that ‘Our Time’ slogan. Man, that died a quick death. It did leave some nice wordplay of that slogan, including “Our Time to Lose” and “Our Time to Perform Below Expectations”. All that was really obvious was the expectation of just a .500 season was too much for these Royals. We went from just looking at the positive of things to the dog shit that you find on the bottom of your shoe. It was “Our Time” to reevaluate.

I think to many, this really was the breaking point. But to be honest, our story really starts in the offseason. When the Royals jettisoned fan favorite Frank White from his broadcasting duties, the backlash was severe. Was Frank great at his job? Not really. He was improving, but not great. But Frank is honest and that didn’t sit well with Royals management. Look, we get you don’t want your announcers talking trash on the team. But let’s put this in perspective a bit. The Royals have had losing seasons 17 out of the last 18. The last thing I want from my announcers is a sugar coating. So of course, that is what we got. Management has shown a tendency to be very thin skinned, which further alienates a fanbase that wants to win. Put a winning team on the field, and you don’t have to worry about criticism. At the end of the day, this was the beginning of the rift.

Obviously, the awful start of the season was strike two between fans and management. Hey, we didn’t expect them to go out and win every night, but we did expect them to be competitive. It took close to a month for that to happen, but by then things were already sour. Manager Ned Yost would comment that things were fine, which wasn’t the truth, and GM Dayton Moore would give out his vote of confidence. The truth is that is what leaders do; the problem is as fans, we have seen this story unfold so many times that it was too much to take. ANOTHER losing season. ANOTHER season of being the butt of jokes. More than anything, it felt like we fans were the only ones who cared. When you get the feeling that management doesn’t really want to fix things, it makes it difficult to want to be a fan.

Some of the good feeling came back at the All Star break, as the town of Kansas City rolled out the red carpet for major league baseball and really showed them that it is a baseball city. Even more evidence was at the home run derby, as a crowd mostly made up of Royals fans booed Robinson Cano for him going back on his word, while cheering for their guy, Billy Butler. As someone who was in the crowd, I can tell you the place was deafening and I have no doubts that is what it would be like if playoff baseball ever returned to Kansas City. You can’t create that sort of passion, and showed just how much the fans care.

Coming off that high, the Royals get back from the break and proceed to stink up the place. It felt like all the goodwill that was felt from the All Star break was now gone in one fell swoop. Management did acknowledge that starting pitching was a major problem for the club, but it took way longer than it should have to do something about it. Most fans were ecstatic when Jonathan Sanchez was sent packing to thinner air, and Jeremy Guthrie was acquired. It has ended up being one of Moore’s better moves, and Guthrie has helped solidify the rotation.

But I think that right there is where some of this discontent comes from. Jonathan Sanchez started probably a good 3-5 more games than he should of, when everyone was clamoring for them to either ship him out or at least quit having him go out to the mound every fifth day. Look at Luke Hochevar, a guy who is a former first round draft pick. The Royals have said publicly that they are bringing him back for another season in 2013, which blows the mind of most. The consensus is that if he hasn’t figured it out now, he isn’t going to. We see him as a pitcher with good stuff who isn’t consistent. Management sees him as a guy who is on the cusp of turning the corner…even though he has sat on that very corner the past few years. Look at the Yuniesky Betancourt signing. All are signs of what the fans perceived as trouble yet management continues to wait out until it becomes one big frakkin mess.

So we are just about a week away from the end of the season, and the Royals are saying all the right things. David Glass told Bob Dutton yesterday that he was willing to spend money this offseason to upgrade the starting rotation. He even said he was committed to building this franchise into a contender. All great words, and I truly hope he means it. But when that comes out the same day as word that season ticket prices are going up, that makes my skeptical radar go batshit crazy. Add in the letter sent to Royals fans for “their commitment”, and it seems as if the organization is going all out to butter us up. To be honest, if they mean it, I think that is great. I don’t think there is any doubt we are committed. I mean, we continue to venture to the ballpark and spend our hard earned money on a team that hasn’t won since 2003, and is the only team in the last twenty years without a playoff appearance. We are about as devoted as it gets. But even that is part of the problem.

At the end of the day, the disconnect builds from one simple truth. Actions speak louder than words. So the organization has given out a lot of lip service this season, but the play on the field isn’t backing it up. We want a winner. We want something to cheer for. Bottom line, anything less than that is unacceptable. For too long, we have accepted this team because we love them and want to be able to say we hung around in hard times and we were rewarded. In the end, we need the actions to speak to that commitment. Otherwise, it is just words blowing in the wind. I can honestly say that if I don’t feel like they put forth a good foot this offseason, then I am very likely to not be as involved next year. We have enabled this team long enough, Kansas City. Time for them to step up and hold them to their words. Otherwise, this endless cycle of losing will continue. Give us a winner, and we are yours.

My Top 5 Most Hated Royals

If you are a fan long enough of one team, you gradually start to demise certain players. There could be lots of reasons, although normally it is just bad play on the field that makes you wish they were executed in a field by a couple of guys wearing jumpsuits. Being a Kansas City Royals fan for close to 30 years has not only made me a bit jaded, but I’ve also accumulated my fair share of hatred for certain players. I’ve noticed I don’t have much venom for players during my youth. It must be how naive I was, or maybe because when I was young the Royals weren’t one of the worst teams in baseball. Either way, I’ve only ever really hated (HATED) a handful of Royals over the years, with some just a passing thought. Before we dive in, I do have to throw out a couple of honorable mentions. First, Miguel Olivo gets an honorable mention for his atrocious defense. I know I’ve heard broadcasters mention how good Olivo is defensively, but I don’t remember that guy. I remember the guy who spent half his time at the backstop of the K, looking for the baseball that got away from him (again). Between that and his knack of being a ‘all or nothing’ hitter at the plate, I wasn’t sad when the Royals let him go as a free agent. Another honorable mention should go out to one Jonathan Sanchez. Yep, a guy gets a mention even though he was with the team for only half a season. That’s how bad he was. It wasn’t just that Melky Cabrera got off to a great start for the Giants, or that Sanchez couldn’t seem to get past the fifth inning. No, the worst part was it seemed that Sanchez just didn’t want to be in Kansas City. If his goal was to receive a one way ticket out of town, he got it. The amazing part is that even though Sanchez was really, really bad (really), someone was willing to take him. Thank you, Colorado. Not only did you give us Jeremy Guthrie, but you took the albatross that was around our neck.  Alright, with that out of the way, let’s get to the top five.

5) Yuniesky Betancourt

“See no ball, field no ball…”

I’m sure my hatred for Yuni is bigger since he donned the powder blue more than once. I know some thought that he welded a solid bat, or they didn’t realize just how bad his range really was. But I saw a player who had amazingly regressed throughout his major league career, and was to a point where he had no game plan at the plate and no clue on defense. Sure, he’d occasionally pull out a good play on the field, but only if the ball was hit right to him. Forget him getting something to his right, and his left wasn’t much better. The worst part of having Betancourt on your team would be that occasionally he would show flashes of what was once a good player. A clutch hit here, a nice play there. But they were so few and far between that it couldn’t make up for all the holes in his game. The fact that Royals management thought that he would be a solid backup infielder shows just how little they actually pay attention to the play on the field. For all those reasons, I will forever hate the one I christened ‘Jabba the Betancourt’.

4)Luke Hochevar

I can only hope he was hit by a comebacker in this photo…

A part of me wonders if Luke would be on this list if he wasn’t still in a Royals uniform. Part of me wonders if he didn’t show signs of talent from time to time if I would loathe him so much. But the truth is he is still a Royal, and from time to time we see this guy put it all together. But right there is why he comes in at #4. Hochevar has good stuff, which would explain why he has been drafted in the first round by two separate teams.  In fact, maybe we should blame this on the Dodgers. If only they had signed Hoch when they drafted him the year before the Royals did(or even back in 2002, when they drafted him then), then his mess wouldn’t be on our hands. Instead, he goes unsigned, played some independent ball, then is drafted by the Royals in the first round of the 2006 draft. The rest is history, as in the past five years, Hochevar always seems at the cusp of being a solid major league starter. Well, it’s not quite history yet, as the Royals still trot him out every fifth day, and that is where the problem lies. Five years is more than enough time to know whether a guy can pull his weight in the majors or not, and Hochevar seems to do just enough to keep a job. He is probably one of the most frustrating players I have ever watched,  which makes me dislike the guy more and more. I want to think he can be the solid starter the Royals need, but alas it seems he is destined to just be what he is. A guy who occasionally goes out and dominates. Or the guy who goes out and gives up eight runs in less than two innings. It’s hard to root for a guy who can’t decide if he wants to be Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde.

3) Neifi Perez

My guess is Neifi didn’t hit this pitch.

Ask any Royals fan from a decade ago, and Neifi Perez evokes either anger or sadness. Perez was the Royals big gain from the Jermaine Dye trade(in fact, their only gain) and was coming off a couple of very good seasons in Colorado, including winning a Gold Glove. Some baseball folks even thought he was one of the top Shortstops in the National League. Dye was a fan favorite, but the Royals thought he was getting too pricey and needed help in the middle of the infield. In came Perez, and it was obvious very early that he wasn’t the player the Royals thought they were acquiring. Perez barely managed a .241 average those last 49 games of the season with only nine extra base hits. 2002 wasn’t much better for Perez, as his bat vanished and his glove seemed to as well. You couldn’t rely on Neifi to do much of anything at the plate, and even less on defense, which used to be a positive for him. Instead we ended up with an infielder who couldn’t hit, field and cost just as much as Dye would have. Why this trade was made makes absolutely no sense not only to me, but to most Royals fans. To top it all off, Perez complained about his playing time, only to then refuse to enter a September game as a defensive replacement. To sum it up for newer Royals fans, Neifi was Yuniesky Betancourt, only with even less value. The day the San Francisco Giants signed him was almost a holiday in Kansas City, as fans rejoiced everywhere. To this date, I can’t think of one positive thing Neifi did in a Royals uniform. Not one.

2) Hiram Davies

“Hiram, in all his glory.”

For anyone wondering, since the day after his release, I abstained from referring to him by Kyle. No, from that point forward, I will call him by his given name, Hiram. Davies was a Dayton Moore acquisition from his time in Atlanta. Hard to believe, but when Davies first reached the majors with the Braves, he reeled off 3 scoreless outings in his first three starts. Kansas City got him for gypsy reliever Octavio Dotel, and was seen as a future part of the rotation. In fact, in Hiram’s first full season in KC, he actually had a decent record(9-7) and ERA(4.06). Unfortunately, he seemed to slide backwards in 2009, with an ERA well over five and a WHIP of 1.5. Probably my biggest complaint of Davies was his lack of attacking the strike zone. No great pitcher ever got anywhere by nibbling constantly, yet that was almost the biggest part of Hiram’s repertoire. Davies was known to have good stuff, and his strikeout totals show that. Unfortunately, he never learned that if he threw more strikes, he could last longer in the game. It never failed, the fifth inning would roll around and Hiram would be approaching one hundred pitches. It was fairly certain that if a guy throws that many pitches, he is going to end up out of the game early, and will tax your bullpen. Davies never got around this, and when it was all said and done, it cost him his job in Kansas City. Hiram Davies was so historically bad that unless former teammate Luke Hochevar passes him in the next couple seasons, he will continue to hold down the title of ‘Worst Starting Pitcher EVER’! Davies has the highest ERA and WHIP of any pitcher who has started 90% of his games and thrown over 700 innings. Ever. That covers a lot of ground, folks, and most of it is charred earth. It can be really simple sometimes in baseball. For instance, if you throw strikes, you are more likely to succeed than if you don’t. Hiram Davies learned this the hard way. Davies didn’t leave on the best of notes, as he was arrested the day before he was released last year for disorderly intoxication. Now, I have no way of knowing or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear ol’ Hiram found out that day he was going to be cut by the Royals and decided to tie one on. Far be it from me to blame him for that, but it does make for an interesting story. Davies signed with Toronto’s AAA team for the remainder of last year, but no team has taken a chance on him in 2012. I hated watching Davies pitch, and in some ways I’m glad he hasn’t signed elsewhere. God forbid some longtime fan has to sit through watching Hiram throw his version of craptastic magic for over thirty starts a year. We Royals fans took that medicine, and now can only hope we will forget it someday.

1) Michael Tucker

“I’m surprised he got that close to the ball. That would take effort.”

Michael Tucker, how I hate him so. I could tell you so many reasons why, but the main one is that Tucker was a lazy bastard. Here is a guy who might not have ever been a five tool player, but it wasn’t out of the realm of possibilities that he could be a four tool player. He had speed, good defense, hit for average, smart baserunning skills, but not a lot of power. Unfortunately, he didn’t do any of these things as well as he should have, because he always seemed to half-ass it when playing. Here was another former Kansas City first round pick that just never lived up to expectations. He was good on defense…when he wasn’t loafing it to the ball. He could hit for average…when he would actually focus. He even screwed up being speedy, as he just didn’t hustle every time he was on the field. Here was a guy with all the talent in the world, but maybe used only a third of it. Instead of being an All-Star, or even just a full time starter, Tucker was at best a platoon player who never learned to hit lefties. Guys like David Eckstein and Chris Getz would kill to have the kind of talent that Tucker had, yet it was given to a guy who preferred to coast. Tucker actually had a few decent seasons in Atlanta, but in his two stints in Kansas City, he was an average .260 hitter with a .330 On Base Percentage. You would think someone with that much speed would steal a lot of bases, or at least a decent amount. Not Tucker, as he could only muster 43 in four seasons for the Royals. Tucker would actually have a long career, lasting twelve seasons in the bigs. But at the end of the day, he was a platoon player at best who never learned how to up his game. Guys like Michael Tucker never figure out what god given advantages he has. Instead, guys like him piss it away to ‘just get by’. That is why he is my host hated Royal. That is why I will always refer to him as ‘Michael F’n Tucker’!

A New Beginning

Another day at the office…

Last week, the Kansas City Royals made a trade I wasn’t for sure GM Dayton Moore was capable of. Moore was somehow(no really, HOW??) able to unload problem child Jonathan Sanchez to the Colorado Rockies for Jeremy Guthrie. First look, and you see two pitchers who have had awful years in new surroundings. Sanchez was horrible for the Royals, and as if that wasn’t enough, didn’t seem like he wanted to be in Kansas City. Guthrie had been traded in the offseason to Colorado from the Orioles, but it was very apparent Coors Field didn’t agree with him. In fact, just looking at the numbers, Guthrie only really seemed to have issues in Colorado, as an ERA of over 9 there attests to. Meanwhile, away from the thin air of the rockies, Guthrie had a very respectable 3.67 ERA. In that last sentence alone,   it gives me hope that at the least Guthrie can be a solid starter, giving the Royals 6+ innings a start, which the team needs badly. On the other hand, Sanchez’s issues range from lack of control to loss of velocity. I can’t imagine a move to an offensively driven ballpark will change that. First glance, and it looks like Dayton won this round, and if that is the case, kudos to him. I give him crap for a lot of his bad major league acquisitions(Yuni TWICE, Francoeur, etc…) but it looks like Moore pulled off a good one here. Time will tell, but it’s conceivable to see the Royals sign Guthrie to a new contract if he performs even moderately like we assume. It’s a boom to a team that needs pitching badly, and needed to rid themselves of Sanchez. Maybe Dayton Moore isn’t as inept as I started thinking he was.

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