Gone But Not Forgotten

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Credit: Associated Press

When the 2017 Kansas City Royals wrapped up their season this past October, we all knew it was the end of an era. It was not only the end of the line for a number of players who had been a large part of the Royals return to postseason play for the first time in decades, but it also meant the end of contending baseball in Kansas City, at least for a while.

It’s not always easy to say goodbye. Max Rieper talked the other day about how much we end up caring about these players, not only for their on the field work but who they are as people. It’s why players from the past, like Bret Saberhagen or Bo Jackson, are still cheered when making rare appearances at Kauffman Stadium.

It’s also why we still check up on former Royals to see how they doing after they leave Kansas City. Good or bad, we want to know what they are up to and in most cases hoping they have found success outside of their former home. Except for Neifi Perez. He was the worst.

So with that, let’s take a peek into what some former Royals are doing in their first year away from Kansas City.

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Credit: Associated Press

Lorenzo Cain has been absolutely amazing in his return to Milwaukee, as he is hitting a robust .293/.393/.427 with a wRC+ of 125. Cain is third in the National League in fWAR at 3.6 and has the most defensive runs saved for a center fielder with 14. Maybe the most impressive improvement in Cain’s game this year has been plate discipline, as he is posting a 13.4% walk rate, which would easily topple his career high of 8.4% from last year. Cain’s increase shouldn’t be too surprising, considering the Royals have put a heavy emphasis on putting the ball in play these last few years and less focus on working the count.

Overall, Cain has been worth the money Milwaukee spent on him this past offseason and he looks to be in the running for National League MVP as the Brewers attempt to play October baseball. Milwaukee currently sits in 2nd place in the NL Central, 2.5 games behind the Cubs while holding down the first wild card spot in the league.

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Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Jason Vargas on the other hand has been a disappointment for the New York Mets. Vargas has started in nine games for the Mets, posting an ERA of 8.60 over 37.2 innings with a FIP of 6.60. Vargas’ walk and strike out rates have stayed consistent but teams are hitting a hot .337 off of him with a .367 BABIP. Vargas has also seen his hard hit rate increase, jumping to 37.4% from last year’s 32.7%.

Vargas has spent considerable time on the disabled list this year and recently has been rehabbing in the minors. The news could get even worse for Vargas when he is activated, as the team could ease him back into action by making him a long reliever rather than a return to the rotation. Considering this is his age 35 season, we might be seeing the last leg’s of Vargas’ career.

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Melky Cabrera has had a “roller coaster” type season so far in 2018, as he didn’t sign a contract until late April, when the Indians signed him to a minor league deal. Cleveland would punch his ticket back to the majors a few weeks later, as he was recalled on May 20th.

Melky would be less than impressive during his stint for the Tribe, as he would hit .207/.242/.293 over 66 plate appearances with 11 RBI’s, a wRC+ of 38 and -0.5 fWAR. Cabrera would elect free agency about a month into his stay in Cleveland rather than accept an outright assignment back to the minors.

But the ride wasn’t over yet. A few weeks later, the Indians would re-sign Melky on July 5th, and assigning him to Triple-A Columbus. Cabrera has at least been productive for Columbus this year, hitting .324/.333/.423 with a wRC+ of 111. With Lonnie Chisenhall out of action, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Cabrera back in Cleveland before the summer is over.

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Scott Alexander has also had an up and down year during his inaugural year in Los Angeles. Alexander struggled in the first month of the season, posting a 6.35 ERA while batters were hitting .286/.412/.381 off of him over 11.1 innings. Alexander would even get sent down to the minors for a short spell to right the ship.

Luckily for him, he would turn things around in May. Since May 9, Alexander has a 2.25 ERA and has held hitters to a line of .214/.285/.304 while keeping the ball on the ground. In fact, throughout the month of June he only allowed one fly ball the entire month. One!

Alexander has essentially returned to form and is now a vital part of the Dodgers bullpen. He was even used as an “opener” for Los Angeles, as they attempted to thwart the Rockies use of a bunch of lefties at the top of the order. It doesn’t matter what role he is inserted in, as it appears Dodgers fans are starting to see the pitcher who might have been the most valuable arm for the Royals in 2017.

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Credit: MLB.com

Speaking of valuable, Joakim Soria has been just that for the White Sox this year. Soria has a 2.75 ERA, 149 ERA+ and a 2.20 FIP so far in 2018. He has already almost reached his fWAR total from last year (1.2 to 1.7) in 20 less innings and has seen a major increase in his soft hit rate, bumping up this year to 29.6% from 18.4% in 2017. Soria will probably be dealt before the July trade deadline and should help the White Sox pick up a nice return for him.

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Credit: Rick Yeatts/Getty Images

Mike Minor’s return to starting has been a mixed bag. Minor signed with the Rangers this past winter and has started all 18 of his appearances so far this year. While the expectation was that some of his numbers would see a decline this year due to his change in roles, it hasn’t completely been a bad move.

Minor has seen his strike out rate fall and his hard hit rate increase, but his walk rate has actually gone down. In fact if you compare his numbers this year against his time as a starter with Atlanta, he is either on par with what he was doing back then or slightly better.

But at the end of the day, it appears Minor has more value as a reliever, as evidenced by his WPA of -0.42, compared to last year’s 1.97 in Kansas City. Minor wanted to be a reliever and got his wish, but one has to wonder where he would be if he had stayed in the bullpen.

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Credit: Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images

There have been some other former Royals who have had interesting seasons. Trevor Cahill has performed admirably for Oakland this year, as he has an ERA of 3.10 while increasing his strike outs and lowering his walks. Unfortunately, he has only started nine games due to injury, tossing 52.1 innings.

Ryan Buchter also missed some time due to injury but returned to the A’s in late June and since then has lowered his ERA to below 2.00 while lowering his walks and seeing an uptick in K’s.

Sam Gaviglio has become a regular part of the Blue Jays rotation but is still performing slightly below league average. Luke Farrell has become a valuable arm out of the Cubs bullpen and Matt Strahm has become what many of us feared he could be when he was traded to San Diego last summer.

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Credit: Denis Poroy/Getty Images

But the name that most are interested in is Eric Hosmer and what he has done for the Padres this year. This has not been a magical year for the “Man Called Hos”, as he is hitting a lowly .249/.317/.397 with a -0.1 fWAR.

In fact, Hosmer is on pace for the second worst offensive season of his career, behind only his miserable 2012. His walks are down, strike outs are up and his wRC+ is at 95. Hosmer has gotten away from hitting the ball to the opposite field, as he is only hitting the ball to left field 27.3%. The only two seasons he has hit oppo less is 2014 and 2012, his two worst seasons in the big leagues.

But the number that really speaks of Hosmer’s struggles is the same one we have been talking about for years, his groundball rate. He currently is hitting the ball on the ground 61.9%, the highest of his career. For all the talk these last few years that Hosmer would leave Kansas City and start hitting the ball in the air, it appears things have actually tilted the opposite direction.

The funny part is that Hosmer has known for years he should be hitting the ball in the air more, yet his fly ball rate has been declining these last few years. Here is a quote from 2017 where Hosmer admits he should be taking to the air more:

“You look at the averages and all that, it’s definitely better with the ball in the air,” he said. “Most guys, especially power hitters, are trying to hit the ball in the air. Our stadium is playing a little different, it’s bigger out there, but still, somebody in my spot in the lineup, and type of hitter I am, I should definitely be trying to hit the ball in the air.”

So this notion that he would change his style as soon as he left Kansas City and Kauffman Stadium always felt like wishful thinking. A change could still happen, but right now Hosmer looks to be stuck in one of his infamous cold spells that last for weeks on end. The good news for him is that he will still get paid $20 million this year and has lots of time left on his contract to figure things out…or at least the Padres hope he figures it out.

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So after seeing all the talent that Kansas City lost this past winter, it’s easy to see how the Royals are on pace for the worst season in team history. The combination of losing some key pieces while their substitutions are performing either at or below replacement level is a good way to post a .284 winning percentage.

So while there is little joy in Mudville (Kansas City), feel safe in knowing that a number of former Royals are excelling in their new homes. It’s not hard to still cheer for the Cain’s and Soria’s of the world and there is a bit of solace in seeing them performing so well, even if it isn’t in royal blue. There is absolutely nothing wrong with cheering on our old friends from afar. Except for Neifi Perez. He is still the worst.

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The Most Mediocre Players in Royals History

Royals catcher Brent Mayne.
Credit: Barry Taylor Photography

As the Kansas City Royals enter the 50th year of their existence, it’s commonplace to take a deeper look into the franchise’s history and the gold and glory that comes with it. It’s easy to look at all the accomplishments and the positives that come with it. But it also can lead you down a dark tunnel, one that many refuse to even glance at.

When I saw this tweet, my brain started churning:

Now, this is obviously a bracket for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but it tossed a question into my brain: who is the most mediocre player in Royals history? Has anyone really delved into that? Or has anyone even been brave enough to jaunt down that rabbit hole?

Closeup Of George Brett

We could do a list of the best Royals of all-time, but we can answer that without even looking up any stats: George Brett is the greatest hitter and Kevin Appier is the best pitcher. See, simple enough?

Astros v Royals X
Credit: Getty Images

We could even do a worst of all-time, but we all know that is Neifi Perez. Hey, the numbers might not back this up but I find it hard to believe that much of anyone will argue with Neifi being the choice. Sure, Dee Brown has less fWAR (-4.1 to Neifi’s -3.2) but Neifi was like that family member that just shows up on your doorstep and invites themselves to stay for a month. Then they just crash on your couch, watching reruns of ‘Family Guy’ the entire time. Sorry about the tangent but you get the point. When the only Royals player Sung Woo Lee has ever disliked is you, you are officially the worst. So Neifi, you officially get that honor. Congrats, I guess.

But what about mediocre? That doesn’t mean you are good or bad. It means you are…just there. Ordinary, average, middle of the road, run of the mill, pedestrian and probably forgettable. There have been a number of forgettable names that have put on a Royals jersey over the years, but it takes a special kind to be mediocre.

So when I decided to take this challenge, I needed to decide on my criteria. Initially I thought of making a bracket, if for no reason then so I could toss in a Jeff Reboulet here or a Dave Wickersham there (I’m not joking when I say that is not a made up name. Totally real).

Instead I decided to go with players who have a career 0.0 fWAR during their entire tenure in Kansas City. Nothing says ‘mediocre’ like a middle of the road number like 0.0. I thought about using wRC+ for batters and ERA+ for pitchers, but that wouldn’t deliver the true scope of mediocrity that I am looking for.

Since there was a decent amount of players who actually achieved this wearing the royal blue, I then went ahead and broke it down according to those batters with the most plate appearances and pitchers with the most innings while accomplishing 0.0 WAR. So let’s start first with the pitchers:

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#3- Don Hood

Hood comes in third place for this ‘race of the mediocre’ as he pitched 114.1 innings as a Royal, with a respectable 2.99 ERA, 4.31 FIP, 3.78 K’s per 9, 2.83 BB’s per 9 in 57 games for Kansas City. Honestly, the only reason I even remember Hood is because I have his baseball card. He pitched for the Royals during his last two big league seasons, 1982 and 1983, while primarily pitching out of the pen.

Not only was Hood’s ERA pretty good, but he also posted an ERA+ of 137. So he actually was a decent contributor for the team but alas had a 0.0 fWAR, which left him on this list.  Just for posterity’s sake, he did put up 1.2 bWAR, so Baseball Reference does rate him a bit higher.

Hood might actually be a decent representation of forgettable, as I would bet it would be hard to conjure up many Kansas City fans who remember Hood’s time with the team.

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Credit: Stephen Dunn

#2- Blake Wood

Wood is a more recent contributor to the ‘House of Mediocre’, as he pitched for the Royals during the 2010-2011 campaigns, his first two seasons in the majors. Wood compiled an ERA of 4.30, 4.15 FIP, 7.01 K’s per 9 and an ERA+ of 97 over 119.1 innings.

Amazingly, Wood appeared in 106 games during that two year span and while Fangraphs has his WAR at 0.0, Baseball Reference once again has it a tad higher, at 0.9. Maybe the funniest part about this entire test is that Wood continues to be pretty pedestrian, putting up a career ERA+ of 95 (slightly below average) and an fWAR & bWAR of 1.0 over seven seasons. It’s easy to see now that Wood is a great fit as a mediocre former Royal.

Detroit Tigers vs Kansas City Royals
Credit: Barry Taylor Photography

#1- Jorge De La Rosa

The most mediocre Royals pitcher of all-time is someone who has been around forever and I’m sure a few of you don’t even remember his time in Kansas City. De La Rosa spent a part of the 2006 season in Kansas City after being acquired from Milwaukee (for Tony Graffanino) and would also spend 2007 in a Royals uniform. Over 178.2 innings, he would compile a 5.64 ERA, 5.57 FIP, 5.94 K’s per 9, and an ERA+ of 82.

Like the other two, his Baseball Reference WAR skews a bit higher (0.2) and it does feel important to remember that De La Rosa spent his first full season in the big leagues with the Royals in 2007. Since then, he has gone on to pitch 11 more seasons in the majors (15 overall) and is currently pitching for the Diamondbacks.

Maybe the best part of this project is seeing how these players have turned out and De La Rosa has continued down a path of mediocrity. De La Rosa’s career ERA+ is 99 and has accumulated 14.6 fWAR over 14 seasons, or a shade over 1.0 wins above replacement per season. De La Rosa proves that while being average could appear bad to some, it can also lead to stability in Major League Baseball.

Alright, so there are the mediocre pitchers, so now we shift over to the hitters.

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#3- Butch Davis

I’m just going to be honest: I don’t remember Butch Davis. Davis was an outfielder that played in Kansas City from 1983 to 1984. In those two years, Davis made it to the plate 258 times, posting a line of .248/.285/.370  with 4 home runs and 30 RBI’s.

The weird part is that Davis actually had a really solid rookie year in 1983, as he hit .344/.359/.508 with a wRC+ of 135 over 130 plate appearances. Davis would plummet in ’84 though, hitting just .147/.211/.224 in 128 plate appearances.

Combined, this led to a wRC+ of 79, a fWAR of 0.0 and a bWAR of 0.2. Pretty average numbers for a player who ends up as the third most mediocre hitter in Royals history.

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#2- Rudy Law

I do remember Rudy Law, as he was signed by Kansas City after the 1985 season to play in the outfield. In fact, Law was actually a pretty good player for the White Sox during the 1982 and 1983 seasons, almost even posting a 3 win season in ’83.

Law would appear in 86 games for the Royals in 1986, with 341 plate appearances. He would hit .261/.327/.388 with one home run and 36 RBI’s. He would also post a wRC+ of 95 (pretty average), which was actually on par with his 1983 season.

The biggest difference for Law appeared to be on defense in Kansas City, as his dWAR fell to -0.9 after being around average the previous few seasons. This led to the 0.0 fWAR and a 0.5 bWAR. While I do remember Rudy’s time in Kansas City, it’s easy to see how you could forget his short stay there as well.

Royals catcher Brent Mayne.
Credit: Barry Taylor Photography

#1- Brent Mayne

All of this middle of the road talent has led us to this, the guy who not only is the #1 most mediocre position player in Royals history, but the overall #1…and it isn’t even close. It only makes sense that the most run of the mill Royals player would be a guy that the team drafted in the 1st round back in 1989.

Brent Mayne would pull multiple tours of duty for Kansas City (1990-1995 and 2001-2003) and just looking at the numbers show how pedestrian he really was. Mayne would hit .244/.305/.322 with 20 home runs and 205 RBI’s in a Royals uniform. The honest truth was that Mayne was more wildly known for his defense than his offense, which also explains the career wRC+ of 74 and a 63 for his tenure in Kansas City.

So why does Mayne stack above everyone else? Most of the other players on this list had very brief careers as a Royal whereas Mayne would play nine seasons for our boys in blue. He would rack up 2200 plate appearances over 664 career games for Kansas City and no player on this list can even come close to those numbers while also posting pure mediocrity.

In those nine seasons, Mayne would have only four seasons with a fWAR above 0.0 and in 2002 he actually finished the season at 0.0! You’ve probably also noticed that throughout this experiment most of the players would put up a better WAR according to Baseball Reference than Fangraphs.

So in an ironic twist, it appears that Mayne’s fWAR (0.0) is actually higher than it is on Baseball Reference (-1.2). This obviously is because of how each site factors their wins above replacement, but it does show how Mayne’s value can shift according to what you are looking for.

If you watched the Royals during what I like to refer to as ‘The Lean Years”, you probably saw Brent Mayne play and you are probably completely agreeing with him ending up at the top of this list. The funny part is that while I am poking a bit of fun toward a list of mediocrity, Mayne is more proof that being average can actually be a strength. Mayne ended up with a 15 year career, got to appear in the playoffs in 2004 and racked up over $13 million dollars in his career. All in all, that speaks of a very blessed career for Mr. Mayne.

Mayne homers in the eighth inning.
Barry Taylor Photography

So there you go, the most mediocre players in Royals history. Now it’s your turn: who do you think should be the most mediocre? Who was your favorite mediocre player? Would you go by a different point of reference to determine an average player? Maybe break it down to decades? Let us know who you feel is an all-time mediocre Royal.

The Expectations for Jorge Soler

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Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

“Boy, you gotta carry that weight
Carry that weight a long time
Boy, you gonna carry that weight
Carry that weight a long time”

~The Beatles, “Carry That Weight”, 1969

History has shown that the Kansas City Royals are no strangers to bad trades. Ed Hearn for David Cone. Mike Wood, Mark Teahen and John Buck for Carlos Beltran. Neifi Perez for Jermaine Dye. Yuck…I feel dirty just writing Neifi Perez’s name. I’m sure you the reader can think of a few more bad trades that the Royals have been party to. To take that a step further, I’m sure a few would even mention the trade last winter of Wade Davis to the Cubs for slugging outfielder Jorge Soler. But don’t count me in that camp…yet. Because while Soler was awful during his short time in the majors in 2017, this trade is not won or lost on one year alone.

In fact, the whole crux of this trade was about team control. The reason the Royals only got Soler for Davis was because Kansas City was giving up one year of Wade for four years of Soler. While it would have been nice to get a haul similar to what the Yankees got for Andrew Miller, the truth is they were able to get that much since Miller had 2+ years still left on his contract. Even the Aroldis Chapman deal was a different beast, as it was a trade made right before the deadline. With the Davis trade going down during the winter, it meant the Royals weren’t going to get the same kind of deal as other elite relievers. With that being said, four years of control for a younger talent is nothing to sneeze at.

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Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

It also means that a little bit of patience should be involved when it comes to Soler. He will be entering his age 26 season and more than anything he will need consistent at bats this year for the Royals to really see a difference. One of the reasons the Royals sent him to AAA a couple of times last year was the lack of at bats he was getting for the big league team. At the time, Kansas City was pushing for a playoff spot and the team just didn’t have the time necessary to help him get out of his slump. More than anything, he just wasn’t comfortable:

“It’s just been a struggle to get going,” Yost said. “He just doesn’t look comfortable in the box. He just hasn’t been able to get on a roll up here. We were hoping after his stint down there where he was hitting .320 and hitting homers that he could get up here and get comfortable. But we just need him to get at-bats.”

Between the spring oblique injury, the sporadic playing time for Kansas City and the demotion to the minors, Soler never got a chance to get situated with his new team. Luckily, 2018 will be a new year and with the Royals looking to rebuild it will give him the perfect chance to just go out and play.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Tampa Bay Rays

While there wasn’t much positive to come from last year, there are a few glimmering signs of hope that Royals fans can clutch onto. One is his walk rate, which has always been a positive and 2017 was no different. Soler put up a 10.9% walk rate in 110 plate appearances, which is above his career rate of 9.3%. In fact, one of his issues last year very well could have been too much patience, as addressed early in the season at beyondtheboxscore.com:

Right now, Soler is displaying the difference between plate approach and pitch recognition. His current approach at the plate is a good one: take a lot of pitches, look for ones to drive, and hit the ball in the air when they come. But there’s no evidence Soler has made progress in pitch recognition. While he’s laying off the pitches he shouldn’t chase early in the count, he’s also laying off the pitches he needs to swing at early in the count. This is leading to a lot deep counts, walks, and strikeouts; it’s not leading to a lot of hits and home runs, which are kind of important.

Sounds like what we saw last year, doesn’t it? The good news is that pitch recognition is something that players normally grow into the longer they are in the league. A number of the advances that both Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas saw these last 3-4 years appeared to be from recognizing pitches and realizing which pitches to pounce on and which ones to try to go the other way with. While it can be frustrating, it can also be worth it in the long run.

Kansas City Royals v New York Yankees
Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

It also appeared that Soler was hitting the ball in the air a tad more, as his fly ball rate continued the upward trajectory it has been taking throughout his career. Soler’s bread and butter is the home run and it won’t do him any good if he is hitting the ball on the ground. I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more line drives, as they have taken a downward turn these last few years. Soler’s high for his line drive rate was 27.8% back in 2015; the last two years he has posted rates of 17.1% and 18.0%. Those two years have also seen a slight move up in ground balls, but not enough to get worried about. It does appear obvious what he should be working on when he reports to camp next month.

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Credit: AP images

With Terry Bradshaw sliding into the hitting coach role this year, Soler should be near the top of the list of priorities for him this spring. With a focus on pitch recognition and driving the ball, we could see Soler start to put up the numbers we all envisioned from him when he was acquired last winter. It’s unfair to expect him to produce at the level of the man he was traded for. The legend of Wade Davis is of an unstoppable force that compiled two of the best seasons for a reliever not only in Royals history, but in baseball lore. He will also be remembered as the man on the mound for the final out of the 2015 World Series. The expectations for Jorge Soler aren’t to match what Davis did in his Kansas City tenure. No, the expectations are simple. All the Royals need from him is to go out and produce above league average for a couple of seasons and be a force in the middle of the batting order. Asking him to be on par with a legend is being unrealistic of why he was acquired in the first place.

Thank You Sung Woo, For Showing Us True Magic

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Almost two weeks ago, Royals super-fan Sung Woo Lee finally made his trek to Kansas City and see the team that he had followed from his home in South Korea since the mid-90’s. It might be one of the warmest, fuzziest and doggone best stories ever connected to baseball; to read the whole story, go ahead and click here. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, the skinny is this: Lee decided to watch baseball games to teach himself how to speak English. He saw a Jeff King(yep, just name dropped the former Royals 1st baseman) hit a home run and fell in love with Kauffman Stadium. Ever since that moment he has been a Royals fan, watching Royals games at odd times because of the time difference and he has communicated over the years with other Royals fans online. What initially was supposed to be a trip to see a few games at ‘The K’ turned into a city and a community embracing one of their own and showing him how great Royals fans really are.

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I could go into all the things that Lee got to do on this trip, but I truly can’t do it justice. To REALLY  get a grasp on how great this story is, you should read this synopsis that Michael Engel put together about Lee’s visit. It is a long read, but damn if it didn’t get me pumped again for how great this whole story is. Now, the point of all this isn’t to discuss the trip or to bring up how great it is that Lee probably just had the best vacation he will ever have(and I have to believe it will be hard to top). No, the point I want to make is how Sung Woo is the fan we probably all should strive to be.

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One of the main items I have taken away from this whole Sung Woo thing is that the guy might be one of the most positive sports fans I have ever seen. For most of us, there are times all we can see is the negative. In some ways it is easier to do that, rather than look for the gleam of light. Sure there are appropriate times for honest criticism. But there are other times where finding the nugget of hope is far and away the better route to take. I am just as guilty as anyone else of doing this, but watching Sung Woo be excited about even minor things made me realize how we as fans need to view the game at times in a better light. For Lee to say that the only Royals player he has ever not liked is Neifi Perez(and let’s be honest; Perez deserves this shame), that says a lot and covers quite a bit of ground. Watching him get excited about something like meeting Mitch Maier just has to make you realize it is simpler than we make it(although I would probably be excited about meeting Maier as well; I always felt he was underrated). Sung Woo’s outlook of the game is almost of a child, just excited about his team. I still have my moments like this, like anytime I walk into ‘The K’. The little kid comes out in me and I forget about any complaints I have about the team, focusing on getting to see ‘my team’ for the next few hours. It’s  a simple approach, yet one that could be put forward a bit more.

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The fact that the Royals went on a winning streak during Sung Woo’s time in Kansas City just made things that much better. Here was this huge Royals fan from halfway across the world and after almost 20 years of watching Kansas City, he get’s to see in person the Royals play some of the best baseball they have played during that entire span of time. The Royals community started claiming this was “Sung Woo Magic” and after awhile it really felt like it. What other logical reason was there for the Royals playing out of their mind than Sung Woo bringing them good luck? Sure, it seems implausible but sometimes logic doesn’t factor into baseball. Sometimes guys just get in a groove and don’t know any better. I mean, you have seen the movie “Major League”, right? Even if Sung Woo played a small part in this, you can see why. His love of this team was infectious.

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It’s been about half a week since Sung Woo went back to Korea and I find myself still wanting to check up on him. After his dream vacation, I feel a bit like I am a Royals AND Sung Woo fan now. The fact that the Royals fanbase went out of their way to make Sung Woo a part of everything Kansas City made this story even better. I have never been prouder to be a Royals fan nor prouder of every fan that showed him how great being a Royals fan can be. Even the Royals organization did a fantastic job of showing Sung Woo real Royals pride, showing him around the stadium, giving him gifts and having him throw at the first pitch at last Monday’s game. There are 39 games left in this season and hopefully more in October. For the rest of the season we should all be the fan Sung Woo is. We should enjoy every moment of every game and be thankful we have something to cheer for. Enjoy the now and worry about the rest later. That is the true magic that Sung Woo Lee gave us, and I am thankful for it.

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’!

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