Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Sometimes you can see moves happening from a mile away. It was well known for years that Dayton Moore had a fondness for former Atlanta Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur, all the way back to his days in the Atlanta front office. So when the Royals signed Frenchy to a deal in late 2010, it was a shock to literally no one. 

So it shouldn’t have been a surprise last week when the Kansas City Royals hired former St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny as special adviser for player development. The rumors of Matheny being brought into the fold go back a few months, as it was first brought up by Derrick Goold in August. Goold had this to say just last week after the hiring:


Matheny, 48, will take part in working within the Royals’ organization and the role will also have a scouting aspect to it, he said. Before becoming the Cardinals’ manager for the 2012 season, Matheny worked as a special assignments official for the Cardinals and spent time during spring training and the season working with the organization’s young catchers. Matheny won seven Gold Gloves during his 13-year playing career in the majors.

So in a lot of ways, we’ve been preparing for this move for quite awhile. Would anticipate be a better word? Probably not, since Matheny did not leave St. Louis with high praise. Our own Max Rieper covered many of the issues associated with Matheny’s time as Cardinals manager earlier this week and I touched on some of the problems he created about a month ago when discussing replacements for Ned Yost.    

So this move isn’t the most popular for Royals fans, but it also feels like a knee-jerk reaction to something that hasn’t even happened. The thinking is that while Matheny has only been hired as a “Special Adviser”, the true purpose for the Royals to bring him in is to make him the replacement for Yost, whenever he decides to finally hang it up. Call it a “Manager in Waiting”.

It’s easy to see why people have connected the dots. When Yost was brought in, he was also hired as a “Special Adviser”. He also had major league managerial experience. He was also someone that Moore spoke very highly of, just as he did with Matheny: 

“This is a great opportunity to have Mike become a member of our organization,” said Royals general manager Dayton Moore in a statement. “It’s always been our policy to hire the best baseball people we can and this is a perfect example of that.”

So it is easy to see why almost everyone has instantly assumed that Matheny will be the next Kansas City manager. But the truth is that this is all speculation and it even feels like people are jumping to conclusions.

Let’s start with the obvious: Ned Yost is still the manager of this team. That will probably continue to be the case until he doesn’t want the job anymore. From the outside looking in, that appears to be when the 2019 season concludes, but for all we know it could go on past that. The one thing we can probably place money on is that no one will be uprooting Yost from his seat except for Ned. 

There are also a couple of very viable options already on the Royals coaching staff that could replace Yost. Bench coach Dale Sveum, bullpen coach Vance Wilson and catching/quality control coach Pedro Grifol have been mentioned in the past as possible successors to Ned and all three have been in the organization for a number of years. In fact, after the 2017 campaign this statement was made by Yost after the coaching staff shake-up:

“We feel like we’ve got the right people to take over for me,” Yost indicated. “We’re not bringing someone in.”

Now, this comment was made over a year ago and things change. I’ve even made the comment in the past that sometimes people change their mind and decide to go in a different direction, even if they felt differently a month, a week or a day earlier. An organization can change their mind and often do based off of where they feel the direction of the on-field product is headed.  

That being said, it also appears that the Royals have discussed Ned’s replacement for awhile now and have someone in mind for the job. Considering that Dayton has the highest of respect for Yost and the years he has spent in baseball, it is easy to see Moore taking Yost’s recommendation under the highest of consideration. 

Along those same lines, it would make sense for the front office to also take the consideration of some of the veterans on the roster and who they feel would be a great fit as manager. Grifol has been a name bandied about these last couple of years as a candidate and he is someone the players respect and look up to. You don’t have to let the players choose the new manager, but allowing a few of them some input might not be the worst idea when the future of the team is in consideration.

Credit:  Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

One other item to consider is the effect that time could have on this situation. Matheny has been in baseball for a number of years and I’m sure still has a number of friends within the game. It is not out of the realm of possibility to see someone hire him as a coach somewhere, if that is something he desires.

Back in the day he was a great defensive catcher and it is easy to picture a team wanting him to come in and work with their young backstops. While he might have had a rough time communicating with some of his players when he was managing, it is possible that if you take the pressure of that job out of the situation, he could flourish with more one on one teaching. 

I could even see a team wanting him as a bench coach. Now before you snicker at that thought, remember how Trey Hillman did in his time as Royals manager and then remember that he eventually became the bench coach for both the Dodgers and the Astros. So yes, weirder things could happen.

The point of all of this is that there are no guarantees that Mike Matheny will be the next Kansas City manager. There is still quite a bit of time before that position is even open and things could drastically change between now and then. 

For all we know, Matheny was simply brought in as a fallback in case their first option becomes unavailable. Maybe he simply is just being brought in as an adviser and that is the only interest the organization has in him. Worrying about “what might happen” is dangerous and takes the focus away from the now and then.

So for now, don’t worry too much about Matheny being in the organization. As much as some of us don’t want him anywhere near the managerial position, for now he isn’t. That is where your focus should be. Don’t want to believe me? Then take the words of a man who has covered the team for quite a long time, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com:  

In Flanny we trust. Now go on and worry about anything else but Mike Matheny. Trust me, it will help your sanity.

Come to Beautiful Kansas City. We Have Fountains.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frank, Don’t Go Away Mad(Just go Away)

News came out today that Frank White, former Kansas City Royals legend, is getting ready to release a new book. A big selling point for the book is Frank delves into the messy split from this past offseason between himself and the ballclub. You can read a few excerpts here . Most Royals fans(myself included) was not pleased when the team bid him goodbye this winter. But as time has gone on, I now just want it to end. At this point, Frank White just needs to go away.

Frank White was one of those feel good stories that we all like to hear about. White went to college in the Kansas City area and when the Royals opened their baseball academy in the early 70’s, White ventured there and got himself signed by the ballclub. White rose through the minor leagues and eventually displaced the popular Cookie Rojas at second base. White was in the lineup because of his defense, as he would win eight total Gold Gloves, six in a row between 1977 to 1982. He was also a five time All Star, and by the mid 80’s had improved his offense enough that he was often slotted into the middle of the lineup. When Frank’s playing days were over, other than a short stint as a coach for the Boston Red Sox, Frank stayed in the Royals organization, floating around in different roles. White would do everything from coaching in the majors to managing in AA. He would also work in the Royals front office in the community relations department and most recently as a color commentator for the Royals TV broadcasts. White was relieved of his duties on Royals broadcasts in December of last year, and that seems to be White’s main source of bitterness.

In happier days…

White’s firing wasn’t the first issue between himself and the Royals. After managing three seasons for the Royals AA team in Wichita, White was given an interview for the open Royals managerial job and was even considered a favorite of Dayton Moore during the process. Alas, the job went to Trey Hillman, and White quit managing, feeling that he was ready for the next level. White felt that even though the team interviewed him, they only did it as a courtesy. The truth is Frank didn’t have a lot of experience, which I’m sure hurt his case.

White has always seemed to have a sense of entitlement when it comes to the Royals, with his presence in the community and him being  fan favorite being used against Kansas City management. White has been notorious over the years for complaining that the Royals weren’t using him in the correct role or making him a bigger part of the organization. This actually even goes as far back as the end of his playing career, as the Royals were letting him go and he “threatened” to go sign with another ballclub. It has been like this, back and forth, since then, but for the most part the two sides needed each other. White is loved by the Kansas City community, a local boy who became a local legend. It has always benefited both parties to work together, and for the most part they have. Unfortunately, White’s firing from his broadcasting job seems to have been the final straw.

White and the Feev.

Frank had started broadcasting for the Royals in 2008, as fellow former Royal Paul Splittorff had come down with a medical condition, that eventually was diagnosed as cancer. White wasn’t the greatest color commentator in the world, but he had been a baseball man all his life, and gave fans the point of view of the player in the game. He would call a play how he saw it, and sometimes even break down plays, explaining why it was either a good or bad play or call. White was gradually improving as time went on, and more than anything he spoke as a true Kansas City Royal. But Frank spoke his mind, and in the end, that is what cost him his job.

When word came out of White’s firing, the one thing that was mentioned was his “negative” remarks during broadcasts. Now, you can realistically see this both ways. One, no team wants their broadcasters talking down the ballclub. It just isn’t good for business. But there is an exception to this rule. When an organization has had losing seasons 17 out of the last 18, you can’t sugar coat it to your fans. You need to be honest about the situation, and that is what Frank did. The last thing any Royals fan wants to hear is that everything is great and just grin and act like there isn’t a problem. So for management to drop Frank for him vocalizing this, well, it comes across as short sighted and thin skinned. No one has specifically said who particular in management didn’t like White’s opinions, but Frank believes it is President Dan Glass. It doesn’t really matter who, as much as someone didn’t like it. Add in White leaving his community relations job at the beginning of 2011 due to salary complaints and it seemed like Frank was being unjustly pushed out.

Since the firing, Frank has said he is done with the organization and will never return. He has done countless interviews and has publicly denounced the organization over and over. Fans voiced their displeasure with the move, and most never accepted his replacement, Rex Hudler. But a funny thing happened as the year progressed. Frank’s bitterness came across more and more, and some fans felt less and less sorry for White. Some even now understood what the Royals had been putting up with. This fan was one of them.

I have always been a Frank White fan. He was one of my favorites early on, and he was one of the key pieces of that 1985 World Championship team. I even have a Frank White autographed ball that holds a special place in my heart. He will always be one of my all time favorites, but I’m finding it harder and harder to justify his complaints against the Royals. They have always treated him as an all time great, retiring his number and even building him a statue at Kauffman Stadium. But that isn’t enough for Frank. I hate to say it, but a lot of his bitterness stems from jealousy.

       It has been mentioned more than once, but it has always seemed that Frank White wants to be treated like George Brett is in Kansas City. Brett is adored in Kansas City, and it’s pretty simple to see why. He played his whole career in Royal blue and topped it off with a trip to Cooperstown. He was “the man” in his playing days and the fans still treat him as such. White wants that adoration. White wants to be “the man”. But the truth is he isn’t. He was really good, and deserves all the accolades he has earned. But he isn’t a Hall of Famer. He isn’t George Brett. Truth be known, the Royals have for the most part done right by Frank White. But ask yourself this question: has Frank White done right by the Kansas City Royals? At one point, I would say yes. But as time passes, it is looking more and more like White hasn’t done right by the only organization he ever knew as a player. It’s not all about Frank White; it’s about the community, the fans and organization. If he can’t see that, then he should never return. Frank, don’t go away mad. Just go away if this is how you are going to be.

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