Friday, February 25, 2005

Chiefs' Chance

Well, the Pats have released Ty Law. Didn't think it was actually going to happen, but it did.

How can the Chiefs not step up and sign him? Their window of opportunity is closing. The offense is still very impressive but getting old. Their biggest defensive weakness, among many, is their cornerback play. Law is somewhat risky at 31 coming off an injury, but he's just one season removed from being the best cover corner in the league.

The Chiefs MUST add Law, and perhaps Samari (which I believe means "wife beater" in some unidentified foreign langauge) Rolle. Along with Warfield, that would make a potent cornerback combination and instantly make the Chiefs contenders next season.

Carl, go out with a bang.

UPDATE (2/28/05): This little snippet of rumor from's Don Banks:

The Raiders suspect Woodson and his agent Carl Poston made the decision to
sign the franchise tender in an attempt to force a trade. And the team they
believe Woodson has a tentative deal with and is hopeful of being sent to? AFC
West rival Kansas City, which is desperate to acquire a shut-down cornerback at
some point this offseason.

I'd be fine with Woodson, too, if he's truly available. I don't think he's quite lived up to his billing as a true shutdown corner, but he's very good nonetheless, and massive upgrade over anything the Chiefs have right now. It also does sound like Law's injury is more serious than I thought, which obviously makes him a more suspect signing. There seems to be an abundance of solid cornerbacks on the market now (Law, Rolle, Woodson?, Surtain), which plays right into the Chiefs' needs.

Now, what about linebacker....

Matt Diaz

Kevin is understandably excited that the Royals' most recent moves correlates with his earlier suggestion to do so. I agree that its abundantly clear that Diaz should be given every opportunity to displace Abraham "Its My Inalienable Right to Hit .205 as a Switch Hitter" Nunez, who might want to purchase a new set of luggage right about now.

Diaz, unfortunately, has the discipline of an army interrogator at Abu Ghraib, which makes me worry if his minor league success will translate to the big leagues (are you listening, Ken Harvey)? But I'm 90% confident he'll be an offensive upgrade from the below-replacement level Nunez. I don't know anything about his defensive prowess, however, which in newly cavernous Kauffman Stadium should be a factor in the Royals' decision making.

Knicks Sidebar

Living in NYC, and without any recent basketball legacy in Kansas City, I have become a fan of the New York Knicks, a curse on par with being a fan of the Royals. Yesterday's self mutiliation at the hands of Isiah Thomas deserve some comment.

I don't recall an executive in all of professional sports who makes trades simply because he needs to be in the news. Thomas' behavior as GM has passed the point of "debatable" or "controversial"; it is verifiably pathological. New York City has become the place where bad NBA contracts come to die. There is no justification for either of these moves other than Thomas' inquenchable thirst for media attention. Trades in the NBA these days are about two things:
  1. Making your team better now;
  2. Giving yourself salary cap flexibility later.
These deals don't make the Knicks better now NOR do they give them any flexibility for the future. The Knicks have traded away their only legitimate center. Malik Rose and Maurice Taylor are backup forwards on a roster full of 'em - and they add $32 million in salary over the next four seasons between them. Thomas claims that the acquired draft picks will help the Knicks build for the future, but remember, he's pathologically crazy. The Spurs' draft pick has as good a chance to produce a solid NBA player as I have making the Knicks' roster next season. The Rockets' first round draft pick COULD be useful if the Rockets don't make the playoffs, but I'm 95% confident that they will.

Jim Dolan certainly deserves plenty of blame for this debacle; hiring Thomas was like handing a pyromaniac a flamethrower and gallon of gasoline.

But Thomas is simply a terrible manager. His need to be in the headlines severely clouds his judgment and has lead to countless terrible decisions.

Ah, to be a Royals AND Knicks fan. Fantastic!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Elvys - There's a Fine Line Between Courage and Moron

There isn't much hope for the upcoming season, but plenty of Royals fans are pinning their slim hopes of a Royal surprise on the right arm of Runelvys Hernandez. As the conventional widsom goes, Hernandez was on his way to a sure-fire Cy Young award in 2003 before injuries derailed him.

How'd it happen? Let's hear it from the man himself.

But I'd been throwing hurt for five years. I got a problem in 1999 when I was playing in the summer league (in the Dominican Republic), but that's not going to make you stop," he said. "When you come from a poor city, you want to do extra work every day. You don't want to look bad." ...

What he had not done is tell the Royals that his elbow problem had flared up.
"I didn't think I had to tell anybody. I wanted to show my teammates that I was there to help the team," he said.

I suppose I can appreciate his work ethic, and it seems like he genuinely felt like he needed to pitch through pain in order to maintain his integrity. In the final analysis, though, it was plum stupid. Who knows what kind of additional damage he's done to his elbow from the years and years of pitching in pain without telling anyone about it, especially the serious pain he experienced for half of 2003. At some point, courage becomes idiocy, and he hurt his team a lot more by keeping quiet about it.

In any case, I've never been as high on Hernandez as many other fans. His career peripherals are thoroughly mediocre. His entire resume is based on the first month of 2003, which wasn't as great as many remember:

6G, 33IP, 22H, 16BB, 21K.

Even at this best, he walked too many batters, wasn't missing many bats, and clearly benefited from a short-run string of luck defensively. Over time, these peripherals would not sustain anything close to ~1.40 ERA.

I place Hernandez in the category of Kyle Snyder. He's probably a pretty talented pitcher, but he's going to be 27 years old this season and he's going to be a pretty serious injury risk going forward.

Frankly, I'd be surprised to see him achieve any kind of serious success in the majors.

Monday, February 21, 2005

What Holiday?

My company does not recognize the value of celebrating the greatest presidents in United States history, so I'm working today. But I'm not working very hard! Le resistance!

I'm none too pleased about it. To make matters worse, I had to slog in wading through 6 inches of sludge on the streets of NYC. Oh, and the subways aren't running express today, adding 20 minutes for my commute.

Its a holiday EVERYWHERE else.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Harvey Drool

The Star has yet another "Why does Ken Harvey, All-Star, get no respect" article today.

Bob Dutton - who actually calls Harvey a "cornerstone of the Royals' rebuilding plan" - cites injuries and fatigue as the major factors contributing to his pathetic second half.

"When I'm tired, I swing at EVERYTHING." -- Ken Harvey

Let's be clear about something - Harvey did not have a great first half. He had a very good first 45 games, followed by four months of yuck. OPS by month:

April - 1.022
May - .881
June - .684
July - .673
August - .702
September - .510

I don't know if I buy this "league caught up with him" business. His strong 1/4 season was driven by slightly better home run power and lots of luck. I watched quite a few games in the first 6 weeks of the season, and it seemed to me like Harvey was getting an awful lot of lucky hits - bloop doubles, seeing-eye singles, scratch hits.

When those hits stop coming, you end up with Ken Harvey.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

On the Eve of Spring Training, Where Do the Royals Stand?

Allard Baird and the Royals' brass believe (at least publicly) that their master plan is finally in place. They've cycled through the previous batch of veterans and near free agents, and now their core group of young players - Greinke, Teahen, Berroa, Buck, DeJesus, Bautista, Gotay and others will be with the team through 2010. This is merely the latest 6 year window of opportunity the Royals are presenting to their fan base among a cast of thousands, but I can't say there is no reason for optimism. The last draft produced Billy Butler and J.P. Howell, two top 100 prospects who appear - right now - to have what it takes to contribute on the major league level. Throw in the #2 overall draft pick in 2005, some long awaited development from the middle aged set of Affeldt, Gobble, Hernandez, and maybe the Royals are on to something.

But momma didn't raise no fool.

First, the good news. Detroit doesn't appear to have improved much in the way of minor league player development, and although they have considerably more market power than the Royals, they are hamstrung with considerably fewer resources than the big FA players and a city that no players seems to want to play in. The signing of Magglio Ordonez is a case in point; they had to massively overguarantee and pay on a risky, 2nd tier star player. They do have some nice young pitching, though, in Bonderman and Robertson.

That's the end of the good news. Chicago doesn't have a strong track record of recent success, and I'm not enamored with their manager or GM, but a team that has that kind of money will eventually start to get things right. Signing Freddy Garcia to a completely reasonable deal was a good start. Their player development system leaves something to be desired, but its at least as good as the Royals' system right now.

Cleveland and Minnesota are much more worrisome. They simply have better management and superior farm systems, and their major league ready talent is better than the Royals. Even if the Royals' young players develop as we all hope, there's a pretty good chance that Minnesota and Cleveland's young players will still be that much better.

-- C: Would you rather have John Buck, Joe Mauer or Victor Martinez?
-- 1B: Would you rather than Justin Huber, Travis Hafner or Justin Morneau?
-- CF: Would you rather than David DeJesus, Lew Ford or Grady Sizemore?
-- P: Would you rather have Zack Greinke, C.C. Sabathia (still 24!) or Jason Davis? (OK, the Royals win this one)
-- 3B: Would you rather have Mark Teahen or Casey Blake?

The Royals come up short in most of the positions we consider to be "strengths". Poor pitching could cripple any of these teams, but the Twins have Santana for the next 4 years, Radke and a better closer.

Plus, the Twins and Indians have better prospects in the minors than the Royals right now.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Is It Stinky?

The 2005 ZIPS projections have been in for some time, and they reveal this interesting nugget - the Royals have the lowest predicted runs created total among their top run producer (predicted to be Sweeney, with Pickering close behind). In other words, the Royals' best offensive player is the "worst best player" on any individual team. Go figure. On the pitching, no Royal pitcher is predicted to give up fewer hits than innings pitched - another bad sign. But it also has Greinke pitching 156 innings with 176 hits, which I see as implausible. I see Greinke's line as 180IP, 170H, 35BB, 130K, 25HR. He'll still be hurt by the long ball.

Tangotiger's Marcel, another prediction system, has Chris George with the 2nd worst ERA in all of baseball next season, assuming he sees the light of day in the major leagues. He best stay away for everyone's sake. It also does not see Brian Anderson achieving the comeback season we all dream of, to the tune of 156IP, 185H, 78K, 56BB, 5.11 ERA. Anderson is outdoubtedly hurt in the algorithm by his historically awful 1st half of 2004, and I think his peripherals will beat those predictions. But his ERA still might not be any better than 5.

Anyway, download the Excel files and check them out. They're fun and free.

Friday, February 11, 2005

No Downtown Stadium? We'll See.

The Royals and David Glass held a press conference today to announce that they will not support a downtown stadium -- for now. Instead, they'll focus on the sales tax initiative in September that will provide money for modest renovations to the K and play out the string until 2014 -- when their lease expires.

My fellow Royals fans are up in arms on the Royals board, but I'm not buying it. Lots of people are giving Glass grief for being "cheap" or "uncommitted to KC" for not supporting a downtown stadium. I think his statements today were more about GETTING a downtown stadium than not, but in any case, what do fans expect from Glass? Do they think he should cough up tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars of his personal fortune to invest in a baseball stadium just because he's rich? Does he REALLY owe that much to Kansas City?

Glass didn't become rich making large, risky investments like baseball stadiums in the smallest markets with little expectation of support. Why should he not expect complete public support for a stadium when so many of his fellow owners are getting it? Milwaukee and Cincinnati - the two smallest markets - secured new stadiums with full public funding. I don't support public spending for stadiums, but David Glass sure should.

I'm not a huge David Glass fan, mostly because he's disingenous, as I explained in my prior post. He likes to give the impression that he COULD invest money into the Royals if he wanted, but there's just never seems to be a right time. I wish he'd just be honest and say its foolish to spends boatloads of money on free agents in a place like KC, because they'd just end up with a team of second rate players - like the Devil Rays circa 2000.

But this stadium criticism is unwarranted. The Royals just put all of their weight behind a big stadium proposal - Bistate II 3 months ago, and they lost (thankfully, because it was a bad idea). A downtown stadium is a better idea. But I don't expect the Royals to jump on a new bandwagon simply because a few mouthpieces in high places think a downtown stadium is a great plan.

I still think his "rejection" of a downtown stadium is a carefully orchestrated tactic to create more leverage to actually GET a good stadium deal, whether its downtown or not. He's trying to create the impression that the Royals will make modest improvements to the K, play out the lease -- and move somewhere else. I thought the subtle relocation hints would begin after Bistate's failure, and sure enough, here we are. The threat of leaving KC is the Royals' biggest bargaining chip - and Glass has just started to play it.

David Glass, Money Man

OK, now that I've read this article in the Star today, I actually have something to say about the Royals. Check out this quote from Glass:
“I have no plans to have a low payroll,” Glass said. “We could have gone after someone like (free-agent first baseman) Carlos Delgado, but that didn't fit with our (long-term) plan and wouldn't have helped us win our division.”
How does Glass expect us to take him seriously as an owner when he unleashes nonsense statements like this? Does anyone truly believe that the Royals were even remotely prepared to spend the kind of money it would take to obtain a player of the caliber of Carlos Delgado? Why does he offer the hint that it COULD happen when any reasonable fan knows that it won't? This is the owner of the team whose signature free agent signing this offseason was Jose Lima - 1 year, $2.5 million. Last year wasn't much better, and that team was expected to contend - Juan Gonzalez, 1 year, $4 million.

Of course its true that the Royals have no business signing a player like Delgado. The Royals are already jammed at 1st base, and the Royals certainly aren't one player (or five) away from contending next season anyway. But his casual assertion insults the serious fan base by hinting that the Royals "could" have signed a player like Delgado when they have no recent history of ponying up anything close to that kind of money.

Mr. Glass, your fan base will respect you more if you just tell it like it is:

"The bottom line is that we can't afford players like that. There's too much risk involved in tying up that much payroll in one player. The last time we spent that kind of money on one player - on Sweeney - we were burned and we're still paying for it now. And last year we nickled-and-dimed by adding risky, second-rate free agents for a few million bucks each and we got burned again. Fool me once...well, you know how it goes. The Royals' philosophy going forward, as long as the CBA stays the way it is, has to be that our productive, winning players must come of age in years 1 through 6 - and if they won't take much, much less money from us to stay beyond free agency, they're gone."

No amount of messaging or media savvy is going to make fans feel otherwise. So please stop trying.


Its the calm before the storm, and there's simply nothing to say about the Royals right now. I can't quite pull the trigger on a Baseball Prospectus subscription to get PECOTA projections, so I'm not available for comment. I still have a visceral anipathy towards subscribing to Internet sites. Place ads everywhere, please.

On Jason Giambi - this has to be the biggest non-story of the year. Bottom line - if he plays even reasonably well this season (and I think he will), all of this steroid nonsense will fade into the background.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Rob and Rany have finally chimed in after nearly a month of radio silence. Their latest target of scorn: top prospects. Of course, the problem is that the Royals don't have any beyond rookie ball. Their organizational depth has improved, but they still lack top tier talent throughout the organization. As Rany points out, their top two talents from last year (Greinke and DeJesus) have graduated to the Bigs and have already acquitted themselves quite nicely.

No question, it is absolutely imperative that the Royals hit a home run (snicker) with this year's #2 amateur draft pick.

Monday, February 07, 2005

The Tigers' signing of Magglio Ordonez is likely to bring howls of protest from the SABR community, and I count at least one of my feet planted within that community. Count me out on this critique, though. I don't know exactly how teams like the Tigers, with no recent history of winning or spending, are supposed to attract quality free agents without overpaying to some extent. Overpaying was rampant this offseason, even for the best players (Beltran) and pitchers (Martinez) on the market, so Detroit is hardly alone there. I think the strongest case you COULD have made against the Tigers is giving a player coming off two knee surgeries a 5 year contract, but they protected themselves quite well with the clause that voids the remainder of the deal is Ordonez spends 25 days on the DL next season.

Ordonez was one of the premier FA on the market. His production has been consistently high until last season, and he has no history of injury other than his knee problems last season. At his age (31), and assuming he bounces back from injury - which is a question mark - I think he'll continue to provide excellent outfield production for the next 3 years. Years 4 and especially 5 will be expensive and annoying, but unfortunately that's the going rate for high quality free agents. Congrats to the Tigers for taking an acceptable risk.

Lots of angry degenerate gamblers. Stupid Greg Lewis. They were gonnna lose ANYWAY. (Not me, of course)

Patriots 24, Eagles 21.

From the 1st quarter, I was worried about whether the Eagles could win this game. Their linebackers came out with loads of intensity, but the Patriots were establishing their control of the line of scrimmage. On the other side of the ball, the Eagles O-line was having all kinds of trouble handling the front 3 of the Pats and were not picking up blitzes very wella. McNabb was under constant pressure and their line couldn't generate any kind of running game. The Eagles defense played with a lot of heart, and their linebackers and DBs were ferocious, but I saw them wearing down during the last drive of the 1st half. Sure enough, the Pats took control in the 2nd half and began moving the ball much more easily.

Lots of Eagles fans are going to blame McNabb for this loss, but its unfair criticism. I think just the opposite; his athletic ability and game smarts kept them in the game when he was getting no help from his offensive line or running game. His ability to move around in the pocket and escape pressure is really amazing. A quarterback like Tom Brady, as great as he is, wouldn't fare nearly as well under constant pressure and with no running game.

McNabb's problem is that he's just not a consistently accurate passer and it hurts him against a talented, disciplined defense. He throws way too many passes high and behind his receivers. The interception that was called back was a poor decision, but the two interceptions that counted were basically poorly thrown balls (the final interception was a desparation heave, so I don't count that one). The Eagles' receivers also covered for him by making several fantastic catches on poorly thrown balls.

McNabb's TD passes were amazing, though, and there aren't many quarterbacks who could have made those throws. If he can ever learn to be more consistent with accuracy and stop missing his receivers in places that lead to interceptions, he'll be unstoppable.

As it stands, though, he's not quite good enough, and the Pats were in control of this game the entire 2nd half.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Joe Posnanski is making his annual case that the Royals can win the division. Hoo-ah. If I may opine, seems to me that the Royals will need practially every break imaginable to win the division in 2005, but their Karma TrendTM is decidedly neutral this season:

2003 - Super Fantastic Awesome Karma
2004 - Unbelievably Horrible Vomit Karma
2005 - Push

Friday, February 04, 2005

Quote from Tony Pena, asked about his opening day starter:

“I honestly don't have any idea now,” Peña insists. “I can tell you who it won't be. Greinke. It won't be Zack.”

And why not?

I don't want to put that kind of pressure on him,” Peña said. “I wouldn't do that to him.”

Wow, that's a statement from someone who clearly does not grasp the essence of pressure. I can't imagine a less pressure-packed situation than the Royals-Tigers opener in front of 25,000 fans. Does he truly believe that this could cause Greinke to crack? Will it send Zack into an unrecoverable flat spin? Geesh.

I'm having serious doubts about Tony Pena. I feel were drunk and married in Las Vegas, and I'm just waking up from the daze of the last few months wondering "How in the hell did I end up with THIS guy?" Let the dalliance begin.

Since everyone else seems to be doing it, here are my rotation projections:

1. (Empty) There are no #1 starters on the Royals right now.
2. (Empty) There are no #2 starters on the Royals right now. Greinke is the closest, but he's too young, gives up too many HRs and doesn't have the K rate yet. He'll be there in 2006.
3. Greinke. He's going to be very, very good. The team's best pitcher at age 20. How pathetic is that? Its like playing kickball as a kid and your little brother is picked BEFORE you. That didn't happen to me, of course, because I didn't have a little brother.
4. Anderson. He'll bounce back to the 12-10, 4.50 ERA pitcher we all love to hate. Traded midseason for a C prospect and a case of medium grade sardines.
5. Everyone else. I have no high hopes for Lima, who I think will fall to injury before contributing to much of anything for this team. Every other rotation candidate has a lot prove. Gobble has been all but assured of a spot, so I'll stick him in here. I guess I'll put Hernandez in here as well, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him start the season in AAA. If he doesn't make it, I'd go with Mike Wood. PECOTA sure likes him for some reason.

Dark horse: Dennis Tankersley. 4 years removed from top prospectdom, he rediscovers the magic, er, strike zone.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Its quiet on the Royals' front these days. Check out Kevin for some updated musings. I hope to check out the PECOTA forecasts from Baseball Prospectus in the next few days, which I will post and provide commentary. Prediction: it won't be pretty.