Thursday, March 31, 2005

Waiver Work

-- Abraham Nunez was claimed by Seattle. Kinda hard to believe that anyone would want the guy. Anyway, please enjoy his tools.

-- Dennis Tankersley cleared waivers and will be sent to AAA. I thought it would be the opposite, with Nunez clearing waivers and Tankersley being claimed. Tank was awful in spring training, and his odds of major league success are about as close to zero as they can be, but I'm still glad he's in back with Omaha. Isn't it great to hang your hat on 4 time major league washouts?

-- Speaking of washouts, Chris George cleared waivers and the Royals sent him back to Omaha - again. Oh, the humanity. Why do the Royals keep this guy on the hook? Catch and release. He's never going to amount to anything with this organization.

-- Michael Restovich was placed on waivers by the Twins and was claimed by Tampa Bay. My understanding of the waiver wire is about as strong as my understanding of quantum mechanics, but I believe the Royals, who had a worse record last season than Tampa Bay, must have passed on him in order for Tampa to get him. Question - WHY? He may not be a top prospect anymore, but he's still better than most of the "prospects" the Royals have in their system and is at least the equal of Matt Diaz, who has little plate discipline but is probably the best close-to-the-majors OF prospect in the system right now. The Royals will still have an open spot on the 40 man roster after adding the 3 non-roster invitees to the 25 man roster. Who's else is going to fill that spot?

-- Another shock - Juan Gonzalez hit the DL before the season even started. I guess he just needed to demonstrate enough competence to achieve his $600,000 roster bonus before he could tank it for the season. Memories.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

And We're Off

Unbelievably, this year's opening day roster has a lot of exciting storylines for the Royals fan.

-- I don't understand why Mark Teahen is starting the season with the Big Club when the plan all along was to bring up him midseason. Seems to me the Royals decided they didn't have any other good options after Truby went down, and they (rightfully) wouldn't entrust McEwing or Hocking with the job, even for a week. I still wish they'd have found a stopgap for a few months to give him some additional AAA exposure and limit his service time, but I'll have to admit, its a hell of a lot more exciting than the prospect of watching Chris Truby or (insert replacement-level veteran) play.

-- On the other hand, the Royals made no better decision this spring than to start Ruben Gotay at 2nd base. The guy seems to be ready - his mental approach to hitting is strong and his willingness to work on his defense (or so the official line goes) show the makings of a major leaguer. I think he's going to be everything we all thought Carlos Febles was going to be, without the pressure of being a top prospect.

-- Calvin Pickering - we're all looking forward to seeing what you can do. I don't know if you'll amount to much, but the team would have been crazy to not give you the nod after your incredible 2004. But you'd better hit, and hit quickly, because I'm sure Tony Pena, despite his words to the contrary, would prefer to have Ken Harvey on his team.

-- Jimmy Gobble - if you can't strikeout at least 5/6 per 9 in AAA, you're done as a major league pitching prospect. Please do it.

Congratulations to...Emil Brown.

I know virtually nothing about the guy, and I don't have high hopes for him. But I can just imagine how it must feel for someone who has toiled away in the minor leagues for the 11 years to make the major league roster out of spring training, even if it is with the Royals.

In fact, I would love to see a reality TV show that traced the lives of several minor league baseball players. I think its a compelling story that is largely misunderstood by the majority of Americans, who think of all professional athletes as wealthy, spoiled miscreants. The vast majority of professional athletes (in all sports) don't make it very far and struggle from paycheck to paycheck like everyone else.

Sourpussness from....who else, Ken Harvey.

“It's a business decision,” he said. “I'll just have to do what I can do.”

Ken, its a baseball decision. The facts couldn't be any clearer.


So, what's the over/under on the number of games played before a major roster shakeup? I'll say 45.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Roster Update - Honest

As I listen to 810 WHB, they're reporting the final 25-man roster:

Pitchers (12)
Starters: Hernandez, Greinke, Lima, Anderson and Bautista
Bullpen: Camp, Field, Affeldt, Wood, MacDougal, Cerda and Sisco

Batters (13)
1B/DH: Sweeney and Pickering
2B: Gotay
SS: Berroa
3B: Teahen
Util: Graffanino
C: Buck, Castillo
OF: Stairs, Marrero, Long, DeJesus and Brown

-- Snyder sent to AAA to work as a reliever
-- Guiel sent to AAA; Royals retain rights through June 1
-- Abraham Nunez will stay in camp and the team will try clear him through waivers
-- Harvey optioned to AAA
-- Don't know about Tankersley; probably the same situation as Nunez

Rotation Set -- At Least for April

Even when the Royals make up their mind, they cannot make up their mind.

The Royals "named" Denny Bautista the 5th starter yesterday (though he's probably better than Lima and Anderson right now). No one in the organization flatly stated "Denny Bautista will be in the starting rotation in 2005", but simply said that no other pitcher was as qualified as Bautista for the spot. Bautista himself said no one has told him if he's made the rotation.

Frankly, I'm not sure if Bautista is ready, and I don't see the rush. As Rob and Rany point out, the measure of importance for a pitcher in spring training is K/BB. His 18-10 K/BB ratio does not demonstrate effective command, even if that ratio is tempered somewhat by a high K rate. He might be able to serve up 3 BBs on 5 innings in a spring training game and get away with it, but that won't do against actual major league competition. He also hasn't pitched an inning in AAA, continuing the Royals' disturbing tradition of skipping their major league prospects to the Big Club straight from AA.

Frankly, I'd rather see Mike Wood get the nod as 5th starter and give Bautista a half season to improve his command against AAA competition. For this team, some combination of Jaime Cerda, Shawn Camp, Andy Sisco, Nate Field and Mike MacDougal handling long relief duties and innings 6 through 8 would do. Jeremy Affeldt will then work his magic in ninth, blowing the save 1 in 3 chances (sour!).

Anyway, I don't expect Bautista to fall flat on his face, simply because he has such great stuff and misses bats. And if he does, Jimmy Gobble, Kyle Snyder and Mike Wood will be waiting to offer their unique versions of mediocrity.

Other Matters

-- I'm going to reverse myself on Tank. Yea, I said it. Tankersley has been so awful this spring that I think he'll clear waivers and the Royals will give him one last shot to rid himself of the performance anxiety that cripples him when the spotlight is on him. But I wouldn't blame the Royals for cutting ties to him altogether. Its pretty amazing how even the trade with the Padres was - two incredibly overpaid below replacement level major league veterans and two past prospect status, fireballing pitchers with absolutely no clue how to handle themselves on the mound.

Tankersley might have been the most talented player in that deal, but its pretty apparent the guy is not a major league caliber pitcher. It would take an absolute miracle.

-- Kevin Appier will retire. I don't feel sentimental about it, since its been ages since the guy did anything of consequence for this team. In the age of free agency, its very easy to lose affection for a player, even if he has been the only good starting pitcher the Royals have developed in the past 15 years. Now THAT'S pathetic.

Monday, March 28, 2005

A Rumor Leading to Nowhere

The Ken Harvey Rumor Mill is in full swing.

By way of 810 WHB radio, the fine fellers over on the Royals board are saying that AB was on the radio today and apparently he said Ken Harvey will be sent down to AAA. Bruce over at the Royal Fan Zone must have read or heard the same thing. Bruce also said that Nunez would not make the team (though I suspect he wouldn't have any trouble clearing waivers should the Royals want to send him to AAA.)

I've been listening to the WHB stream, but I haven't heard a thing about the report, nor have they archived the interview on their website. If this were news on WFAN, it would've been archived immediately and they'd be reporting it every 20 minutes (and the host would be screaming about it), but I s'pose things just move slower back there in Missouri.

Anyway, a poster on the Royals board claims to have listened to the interview, and AB didn't apparently didn't say either way if Harvey or Pick has made the team.

We're right back where we started. You've gained zero knowledge from reading this post. My sincerest apologies.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Roster Notes

The Star reported this morning that the 25-man roster is nearly set, though an article on the Royals website suggested that things weren't quite as settled.

Its looking like a 99% certainty that Ruben Gotay will open the season as the starting second baseman, with Tony G. filling the utility role. I concur; I like Tony as a utility player much more than I like him as a starting second baseman, and Gotay is an underrated prospect with some serious upside offensively (but with question marks defensively). Tony is none too happy about it, though - he thinks he deserves the starting second baseman slot. Hard to make that case when you're, well, Tony Graffanino - a 32 year old journeyman utility/2b with a career .718 OPS who missed half of last season and much of spring training with injuries. He's much more likely to collapse rather than breakout, and has none of the upside of Gotay. Frankly, I'm not sure why this wasn't the approach all along - open competition between Gotay and Graffanino. Why do the Royals say things like "Tony G. will be our opening day second baseman if he's healthy", when they don't need to placate players of his caliber?

He might make good trade bait at midseason if he can stay healthy.

Is Mark Teahen going to the third baseman? Bob Dutton certainly thinks so, but I get the impression from the article that Baird would still like to find someone else to play third base for the first half of this season, but he' s not going to use a utility player like Hocking or McEwing. Baird has been complimentary of Teahen but essentially non-committal. I still think Baird would prefer that Teahen spend part of this season in AAA, and he'll wait until the absolute last moment to see if a third baseman comes along to fill the Chris Truby role. I'd prefer that as well.

Dutton has close access to the Royals, and he certainly knows things I do not, but I don't agree with some of his premises:

-- He suggests that Andy Sisco would make the team even if he weren't a Rule 5 draft pick. Bob, the kid is 22 and hasn't pitched above A ball yet. No way he's would sniff this roster if he didn't have to be there. If the Royals can work out some kind of compensation deal with the Cubs, he'll be sent to AA posthaste.

-- Bob calls Tankersley a "no chancer". Maybe he's privy to some off-the-record information. And he's pitched poorly this spring. But he was the "linchpin" (I use that phrase loosely) to the May-Long deal and he's out of options. As Bob says, he can be outrighted to AAA if he passes through waivers, but that doesn't seem very likely. He's a head case, but a very talented head case, so the Royals should give him 1/2 season to test his mettle. I think they're more likely to ship out a pitcher with options (like Snyder, Cerda or Wood) to AAA than drop Tankersley. Chances are Tank isn't going to amount to much, but Royals don't have much to lose by giving him a shot.

-- Why am I addressing these comments to Bob when there's no chance in hell that he's reading them?

-- Hard to believe that Emil Brown's the "heavy favorite" in the right field, but I'm going to have to concede the point. Nunez stinks, Guiel is blind (not really) and Diaz is in AAA. But I wouldn't be surprised to see Brown released sometime during the season and Diaz brought up.

-- Is Brian Anderson still trade bait? I don't know why he would be. The guy has been a flake his entire career, and coming off season's historically putridity, I dunno how he has any goodwill left in his reservoir.

B. Anderson, 2000-2004
2000 48.1
2001 -6.4
2002 9.1
2003 23.8
2004 -8.0
If you were a contending team, would you trust his guy to take the ball every 5 days? He's capable of putting together strong performances, but, like Sweeney, he's going to have to Show-Me in April, May and June for any team to take him seriously.

I suppose the Mets don't want him now that they've acquired Ishii. Strangely, Ishii may just be the only pitcher who I wouldn't take over Anderson. He was pretty effective in 2002-3 despite his horrendous control, because he could get strikeouts and didn't give up an inordinate number of home runs. But his strikeout rate collapsed last year; without it, he's plum naked out there now.

I'll always have sympathy for the guy, though, after watching him get smashed in the face with a line drive ).

Friday, March 25, 2005

Double Feature

BP has a free AL Central preview today posted by Joe Sheehan AND and their latest Triple Play featuring the Royals.

Its stirring.

You know who else is happy....

Oh, Desi, please come home.

Not Again

I'm loathe to write yet another commentary on the first base situation. But how can I let David Boyce's slobbering article on Grimace today pass? Boyce has nothing but sympathy for Harvey; his characterization of Royal reporters' constant questions about his roster spot (questions that he's not asking, fer sure) is fawning:

"It's easy to understand why Harvey is bothered by the question", with Harvey a Default All-Star, y'know, with a respectable .276 lifetime batting average.

He actually claimed that Harvey was getting hot on Wednesday - because he went 1 for 4 - on an RBI single. Man dat hot.

No need to rehash Harvey's plentiful shortcomings here. Instead of lamenting about poor Ken Harvey's unfair fate, why not use your time constructively? Take a lede from the cogent analysis that Rob and Rany provided the other day. The problem is that Harvey and Pickering, by themselves, aren't good. The solution to this problem? Use 'em both. Don't carry 12 pitchers. A platoon situation projects (albeit with a small sample size) to:

Platoon 574 159 48 5 35 85 161 277/366/561

Carlos Delgado 'tis not, but its better than the .270/.330/.430 line Harvey would post in 120 games. So why waste column space defending a player who doesn't merit that strong a defense? Its all academic by 2007 (or maybe 2006), when Justin Huber rolls into town to claim the first base job. But let's make the best of it for now - Harvey might have a role on this team, but he should cherish that All-Star appearance forever, because he's never going to have one again.

I have sympathy for David Boyce. Its difficult to write anything positive about the Royals right now that focuses on the current crop of players, besides Greinke. Even if the Royals are starting to build teams the proper way, their new approach won't pay any dividends on the major league levels for a few years.

Interlude: Their major league roster acquisitions still puzzle me. One of the hardest things to see when player acquisitions occur is the roster ripple effect over the long term. Take the case of Jose Lima. You could make the argument that Lima didn't deserve to be signed anyway, and that's he's going to be a bust. But its more than that: Jose Lima is occupying a roster spot when the Royals have a surplus of young pitchers that need a chance to test their skills on the major league level, AND, even worse, pitchers like Tankersley could be lost on waivers simply because Lima has a guaranteed roster spot @ $2 million. Tankersley may not ever amount to much, but it seems insane for the Royals to never get the chance to find out because they have keep Lima. Same goes for Marrero, who will be a fine platoon player but might prevent the Royals from picking up a decent outfield prospect like Michael Restovich.

So please, David, pump up Ken Harvey if you'd like. The more I've read on the subject, the more I've come to believe Harvey could have a legitimate place on this team. But save your slobber for players that actually deserve it.

Note (singular):

All of my fears about MATT DIAZ have been realized. MATT DIAZ will be reassigned to minor league camp today. It doesn't seem like the Royals ever took MATT DIAZ seriously as an outfield prospect. The conventional wisdom these days has them going with Emil Brown, but I wouldn't bet against them keeping the worst of the lot, Abraham Nunez. The team fetishizes this guy for some reason.

Thursday, March 24, 2005


The storylines aren't changing very much in Surprise.

Right Field: The Star is featuring Emil Brown today. I suppose I have more empathy for the guy after reading the story, and I should probably come to grips with the fact that he might make this team. I don't see any downside to keeping him over Nunez and Guiel, but if he makes the team at the expense of Matt Diaz...

I can't believe I can allow myself to get annoyed at the prospect of the Royals not keeping MATT DIAZ. He's MATT DIAZ. What has become of my expectations of this franchise?

Maybe Brown is the next Raul Ibanez. If AB has a specialty, its finding players no one else wants, giving them a chance to play and watching them grow into mediocre -- but legitimate -- major leaguers. I just think Brown is too old to make the transition to successful major leaguer.

(Update: I just noticed that Kevin wrote practically the same story today, although in much greater detail. Its slim pickin's these days.)

Second Base: Ruben Gotay blasted another home run yesterday. Getting to be pretty unthinkable that he shouldn't be playing every day with Graffanino playing the utility role. McEwing should be shuttled to another team.

Closer: No position battle here, just continued worries about Affeldt's health and consistency. He returned from his groin injury with a flourish, giving up 7 hits and 4 earned runs in 2/3 of an inning. Let's kick the man while he's down: I don't trust this guy very much. He's already a bust, having wasted three seasons. Maybe he'll settle into the closer role nicely this season, and I'm fine with handing him the role to start the season. But if he falters, the team won't have any excuses for his poor performance except that he's just not a good pitcher.

Obesity Bowl, er, 1st Base-- The most anticipated and least interesting spring training matchup finally swung every so slightly in one direction yesterday, as CP smacked two doubles against the Mariners. Justin Huber, please have a monster year in AAA and be our everyday first baseman next season. I said please.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Tony's Feelin' Better

Tony Pena, still smarting from the loss of his beloved....


...must be soaking in it today. The Royals made Tony a very happy man by signing Super Joe McEwing, Folk Hero, today to a minor league contract. He's not Desi, but dammit, he's Super.

Attention all 30-something, sub .700 career OPS utility men: the Royals are building a collection.

28 year-old power hitting statues need not apply.


-- Chris Clapinski has taken his ball and is going home. He left camp and took his stuff with him. Seems like he has a strong grip on reality - major league teams don't save seats for journeyman minor league utility players who have unspecified elbow injuries. Hope you bounce back, Chris, but it doesn't look like you're going to break camp with the Royals.

-- Emil Brown had a huge day yesterday, going 3-for-3 with 5 RBI. He's making it extremely difficult for the Royals not to keep him, though I still think it would be a mistake. A fellow poster on the Royals Discussion Board made an apt comparison with Patrick Lennon (remember him?) - spring flash, summer fizzle.

The bottom line is that the Royals have no good options in RF. Nunez doesn't belong on the roster, and Guiel isn't in a much different player than Brown. Diaz probably has the most potential, but he doesn't seem to be on the Royals' radar right now.

-- Allard Baird said that Ruben Gotay is likely the Royals' opening day 2nd baseman. If he's ready, and Graffanino can play utility (as he should), the Royals will be better for it. With Clapinski out of the mix, and Ugueto MIA, I don't see what choice the team has.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Steroid "Controversy"

I highly recommend reading John Perricone's ongoing commentary about the steroid hearings and their aftermath. His perspective, grounded in unorthodox principles like, er, command of the facts, an appreciation for history and a critical perspective on the real issues at hand, is quite inspiring.

I haven't been paying much attention to this issue, mostly because I think steroids are essentially a non-issue and the coverage and commentary of most reporters, columnists and lawmakers is nauseating. I tend to avoid reading about issues and "controversies" that stink of media manufactured scandal and witchhunt, since the quality of reporting and commentary ranges from worthless to dangerous. There are far, far too many people tossing around false accusations and grossly uninformed claims about steroids that have the potential to taint people forever.

One outrageous example - a former Rockies broadcaster, Wayne Hagin accused Todd Helton of using steroids, first in a radio interview and then confirming it with the Denver Post:
""Don Baylor told me he suspected Todd Helton of experimenting with steroids."
Turns out Baylor was talking about creatine, a perfectly legal supplement. Hagin issued a retraction and apology the next day, but Helton was forced to deny he was a Communist, er, steroid user -- and will have to live down several days or weeks of scrutiny because of one man's ignorant claims since there are enough idiots out there who wouldn't know the difference between creatine and Ovaltine - to them, its all "steroids". Helton recognizes this. In response to Hagin's apology, he said "I don't care if it was an accident or not. I am forever linked to it."

Be wary of what you read and hear about steroids.

Missed It Last Week

The Chiefs, still smarting from the failure of Bistate II last November, have regrouped by expressing formal interest in hosting a Super Bowl between 2012 and 2022. The rationale? The team will have a new retractable roof stadium built by then.

I wonder if Kansas City residents will be more inclined to vote for a new stadium (or radically transformed Arrowhead) if they think they'll get a Super Bowl out of it. Lamar Hunt thinks so.

Who will pay? No problem. The city can always just tax car rentals.

3rd Base Discussion

With Chris Truby on the shelf for the immediate future, the Royals have a dilemma at third base. Up until Truby's injury, the team had been steadfast in its commitment to start Mark Teahen in Omaha and bring him up to the big clubsometime in June or July. Since Truby's injury, though, the Royals have been non-committal about their plans.

Seems to me the Royals have three options:

1) Start the season with Teahen at third base
2) Use a utility player in camp (Hocking, Clapinski) at third base for a few months before bringing Teahen up
3) Trade for another Chris Truby-like fill-in

I don't like option #2, because neither Clapinski or Hocking are everyday players. Hocking isn't even a part-time player; he doesn't really belong in the major leagues at this point. The whole point of bringing in Clapinski was to serve the utility role, so it defeats the purpose of having him on the roster if he's not a utility player.

So, in my mind, it comes down to either #1 or #3. I'd rather the Royals stick with their original plan and start Teahen in Omaha. So who's on third? Bryan Smith of Baseball Analysts suggests the Royals have good candidate in Justin Leone of Seattle (check the player notes under A's-Mariners). Leone, who just turned 28, is stuck behind Beltre for the foreseeable future, so his future is almost certainly elsewhere. He seems like a good candidate for the 3rd base job; but what will it cost the Royals?

Question: should the Royals start the season with Teahen or trade for another player to fill that role?


So D.J. Carrasco has been demoted to AAA and Appier is staying in camp for no particular reason. Now what? I still don't have a clear picture of who's in and out, since the Royals haven't made any of the tough decisions yet.

The bullpen competition seems straightforward enough, but as I've followed spring training thus far, I've become more and more perplexed by the Royals' approach to putting together a rotation this season.

Some things are certain - Lima and Anderson are in merely because of their salaries, and Greinke is on the staff because he deserves it. If Lima and/or Anderson can pitch well through June, they'll make good trade fodder for a contending team. But can someone explain why Runelvys Hernandez is being handed the 4th slot in the rotation without competition? Has he earned it through sustained success in the majors or recent dominance in the minors? No. Is he having a fantastic spring? Not at all. Bautista, Gobble and Wood have all outpitched Hernandez. Is he not coming off major surgery? He certainly is, and I'm surprised the Royals aren't strapping a protective leash on Elvys, especially given his past tendency to to hide injury.

(Sidebar: How old IS Elvys? Yahoo! Sports has his birthdate in 1978, but Baseball Cube has him born in 1980. Anyone know the truth?)

The bottom line is that Hernandez hasn't really earned a spot this spring, and there's nothing in history to argue for a guaranteed spot. Apologists point to his "hot" start in 2003, and suggest that his success would have continued had he not been injured. But not only was that just a one month flash, it was grossly overblown at that. His peripherals were thoroughly medicore during his Cy Young April and he'd have been discovered as a fraud sooner or later if he'd not been injured. In terms of his reputation, Hernandez seems to have actually benefited from his injury - it prevented the league from catching up to him.

The 5th starter competition (is there anything more depressing than to be the 5th starter on the Kansas City Royals?) has proven quite heated, as several candidates have stepped up to claim the job.

-- Bautista? Sure, he's been great against spring training competition, but why rush him?
-- Gobble? He's also pitched very well this spring, but after last year's atrocities, I'm not so sure he doesn't need to prove himself against AAA competition first.
-- Mike Wood? He's been the Royals' the most impressive pitcher this spring, but he's being slotted as a long reliever at this point (which is not a bad idea).
-- Snyder has also pitched very well, but he's not a candidate for the rotation right now.

Of course, nothing is permanent, as the Royals are free to shuttle their pitching prospects back and forth from Omaha at will, and I'm sure they will do so. Although I'd probably prefer to see Gobble spend some quality time in Nebraska this spring and early summer, I'd give him a spot in my preferred rotation along with Anderson, Lima, Greinke and Wood. There's simply no purpose in starting Bautista in the majors right now, and Hernandez hasn't earned it.

Back in reality, the rotation is actually shaping up to be the Four Untouchables and Bautista.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Saturday Mourning

Question: Is it worse to have an out-and-out poor season (as did my alma mater, Missouri) or, like Kansas, to have a very good season come crashing down with a first round loss of EPIC proportions?

The latter, no doubt, because all of the pain and heartbreak is firmly encapsulated into one searing moment. A bad season is like a dull headache; it never goes away, but it never cause too much pain, either.


Disclosure: I didn't actually watch the Kansas-Bucknell game. I simply enjoyed the aftermath. I did, however, watch the Vermont-Syracuse game. I've never seen Vermont play in my life and I have no affiliation with the university, but I was as animated as I could be cheering them to victory. There is nothing as sweet as watching a REAL underdog win - unless you're a Kansas fan today, of course. That's a shame. ;-)

Jayhawks Jolted!

I haven't watched college basketball all season, and I didn't watch the game last night between Kansas and Bucknell (but I did watch the 2nd half of the Vermont-Syracuse game. What an incredible game.)

But I hear Kansas lost. That's a shame.

Now I'm wondering - is it worse to have a bad season overall (like my alma mater, Missouri) or have a very good season only to lose in the 1st round of the NCAAs (um, Kansas)? I think its worse to lose the tournament game, if only because all of the pain and suffering is encapsulated into one depressing moment. In a poor season, there is little pain, just the dull annoyance of watching your team lose time-and-time again.


Friday, March 18, 2005

Friday Blather

The Royals are playing third fiddle to the NCAA tourney and the MLB steroids brew-ha-ha today.

-- Rob and Rany have finally posted on update on the Royals. The platoon argument is rather convincing, though it flies in the face of current conventional wisdom on roster composition. But is there a better season to experiement with things like roster organization, the four-man rotation, multiple platoons than this one? Um, no.

-- Jose Lima will get the ball in the season opener. Thankfully the Royals have spared Zack Greinke, far and away the team's best pitcher, the "pressure" of starting on opening day against Detroit in front of 20,000 people. Degenerate gambler tip: the Royals are highly likely to lose that game.

-- Elvys pitched very strong three scoreless innings today, before being touched up for 3 runs in the 4th. If starters only had to pitch 3 innings...

-- I'm cautiously optimistic about Angel Berroa. He's been getting on base with frequency this spring and has been running well. He hasn't shown much power yet, though he did finally hit a home run yesterday. I soured on Angel after last year's putrid performance, and I'm not convinced he's anything more than a flash in the pan. But he's done little wrong this spring.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

'Roids in Congress!

The Congressional hearings today are pretty good theater - not because we're learning anything revelatory or enlightening, but simply for the spectacle of pro athletes being subjected to questions they can't or won't answer. Mostly, though, I thought the questions were softballs; most of the time the players weren't in any position to answer or could easily claim ignorance.

McGwire's opening speech was fascinating; he was so shaken and emotional, and clearly disgusted at the prospect of being dragged before Congress because of a book written by a malcontent looking to cash in on a vagabond career. In fact, that was everyone's sentiment with the exception of Sosa, who simply didn't have much to say. Not surprisingly, the panelists are dodging the questions with the exception of Canseco, who didn't miss many opportunities to plug his book.

Some things we've learned:

1) Curt Schilling is trying to goad Canseco into a fight in the Capitol Hill parking lot.

2) Sammy Sosa is a fountain ofnothingness. "To my knowledge, I don't know, I'm not sure." I think perhaps he's using his language barrier as a crutch a bit too liberally.

3) Rafael Palmeiro - Wow, what a handsome and articulate man. I have no idea what he's doing here.

4) Jose Canseco - Understands his market. He's been blunt and inflammatory where it suits him. Strangely, every response begins with "In my book....".

Bernie Sanders, in true old-style liberal form, is using his opportunity to speak to launch into a diatribe. "I see dozens of cameras covering this hearing, but where the cameras when we're TALKING ABOUT CHILD POVERTY?" Bernie, child poverty is an important problem, but Congressional hearings on it are not must-see TV. I consider myself a liberal in many ways, but shrill, caustic maniacs like Bernie Sanders do the cause no service.

Hard Stuff

The Star featured Nate Field this morning. His MO: a "bulldog" mentality with a "mid-90s fastball". Time and time again, emasculated baseball writers fetishize the 95 mph fastball. Mike MacDougal's smokin' at 97. Jeremy Affeldt sizzles at 96 (when he's a reliever). Bryon Embry's a VOLCANO at 94. Colt Griffin is freakalicious at 100!

Yeah, I know its a puff piece, and these types of articles are common in spring training - accentuate the positive, assume away the negative. And I can appreciate the fastball envy. I loved throwing a baseball, but the fact was that I couldn't get the ball much past 60 mph. Other kids who were much smaller than me could bring it to 85 mph without much effort. Its just something you have or don't have, and its ok to be a little in awe of someone who has it.

But on the major league level, its all pointless. It goes without saying that EVERY major league pitching prospect throws hard. The ability to generate sufficient torque to propel the ball between 88 and 95 mph is merely the price of a seat at an extremely large table. OK, Jose Lima can't get it much past 82 anymore. But the fact that he, Jamie Moyer and other soft tossers out there can remain relatively effective simply underscores the point that the ability to throw the ball super fast is secondary to other factors.

So why can't baseball writers actually write articles about what makes a pitcher effective, instead of relying on tired, lazy and ultimately worthless standards of "heat"? Its just not interesting or illuminating to know that Nate Field can throw 95. It doesn't tell us anything about his potential to be an effective major league pitcher. I've watched a few games in my day, and its pretty clear to me that most major league hitters can and will HIT 95 mph fastballs will regularity and impressive force unless the fast-throwing pitcher also features the more important elements of pitch movement, control, deception, concentration and moxie.

These elements are considerably rarer than the ability to bring heat, and are notably lacking in many Royal pitching hopefuls. Perhaps baseball writers just don't know how to write about these things, and they aren't as glamorous as the ability to throw hard. Perhaps, but articles that rely on notions of pitch speed as a proxy for pitching potential are a waste of column space.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

An Excellent Day with an Insane Finish

An interesting game today. Jimmy Gobble pitched a strong first three innings before giving up 2 runs in the 4th. Sweeney returned to lineup after missing a few days and declared himself fit. The best news of all was Zack Greinke, who pitched 3 2/3 innings strong innings, giving up only a single while striking out three. A pretty good day all around, I'd say. But...

Mike MacDougal picked up a save with 2 strikeouts in the 9th, though he did walk a batter. Not big deal, right? Walked a batter. With a 3 run lead. Walked a batter. Bullet in the head.

The thing that has driven me absolutely crazy about the Royals over the past few years is the ridiculous number of walks their pitchers yield in late game situations, especially when they have a sizable lead and should be doing nothing but throwing strikes. There is absolutely NO excuse for a pitcher of major league caliber to hand out a walk with a 3-run lead in the 9th inning. None. Zero. Drives me completely insane.

Trust your ability - throw strikes. I don't care if you give up home runs; I'd rather see the Royals lose with 4 straight solo home runs than endure the pain of watching nibbling pitchers allow teams back into the game without earning it. Just throw strikes. How can any pitcher at this level, even if it is with the Royals, not do that consistently? If they can't, they aren't major league pitchers.

This has been Mike MacDougal's problem in perpetuity. He has knee-bucklin' great stuff, but if he can't put the ball over the plate when he needs to, he's useless.

Again, with Emphasis

OK, must the Royals continue the humiliation of Chris George? Can't they SPARE THIS MAN'S HONOR? Ok, OK, we get it. Chris George is not a major league baseball pitcher. We did not need to witness his public flogging yesterday to add anything useful to the Collective Wisdom of Chris George:

.1 IP, 6H, 6R, 6ER, 2BB, 0K (allowed nine consecutive runners to reach base)

Please, Allard, don't you have a conscience? Let the man drift away in peace.

Chris George's Final Career MLB Line

237.1 IP, 300H, 179R, 95BB, 99K, 1.66 WHIP

Not the stuff of dreams. Chris, I hope you can use your major league network to find yourself a good second career. Hell, you're only 25! (Can you believe Chris George is 25?) You can finish your MBA in 2 years and start earning six figures with a consultancy in Lower Manhattan. Welcome to the real world, Chris. Its very, very cold.

George's putridity (!) came on the heels of a fantastic performance by the underrated and under-the-radar Mike Wood, who pitched 3 dominant innings and finished with a flourish by striking out the last 4 batters he faced. For some reason, Mike Wood is kinda forgettable; he just never registers on my radar. Mike Wood is the kind of guy who gets wasted at a huge party, vomits all over himself in front of 200 people, slurs 27 unmentionable expletives to complete strangers and stumbles out of the room - unnoticed. 10 minutes later someone says "Was Mike Wood here?" But those days are over, Mike - I see you now.

Anyway, Wood and Snyder seem to be the last men standing for the position of Long Man, since its becoming increasingly apparent you can't spell Tankersley without "Tank". I predicted Snyder would take the Long Man job a few days ago, but Wood has me rethinking that. Plus, Snyder is still rehabbing, and AAA may be a better fit for now.

Mike Wood - welcome to Long Man. Jeremy Affeldt, you're flirting with another stint on the DL.

Projected Opening Day Pitching Roster, as of March 16:

Brian Anderson, SP
Denny Bautista, SP
Zack Greinke, SP
Runelvys Hernandez, SP
Jose Lima, SP
Jeremy Affeldt, RP
Jaime Cerda, RP
Andy Sisco, RP
Nate Field, RP
Shawn Camp, RP
Mike Wood, RP

Scott Sullivan, RP

Pitching His Way Into a Job
Denny Bautista
Mike Wood

Pitching His Way Out of a Job
Dennis Tankersley
Chris George (ok, he never had a job. Accenture is hiring, Chris!)
Jose Lima (if contracts weren't guaranteed, I guarantee I wouldn't keep him on my opening day roster)

Numbers Game
Mike MacDougal
Kyle Snyder

If the Royals For Some Nonsense Reason Keep 12 Pitchers
Mike MacDougal

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Latest Spring Training Roster Moves

The Royals made another round of roster moves yesterday, reassigning 10 players throughout their minor league system. As has been noted elsewhere, the most surprising cut in this round is Byron Embry, who was making a strong case to go north with the team. But as the Star points out, he'll probably be on the team sometime this season.

New slogan: "Royals 2005 - full season tryouts."

Emil Brown Update

The Star is counting Emil Brown as a candidate to make the club given his impressive spring training performance. I could not disagree more. The terms "small sample size" and "youth movement" should be enough to convince Royals' brass of the right thing to do. Brown, at age 31 and having sniffed zero success at the major league level, doesn't have any business making this ballclub.

That being said, I hope that his strong performance contrasted with Abraham Nunez's putrid performance convinces the team that Nunez should be given his walking papers to make room for Matt Diaz. Aaron Guiel would still be preferable to Nunez, but I think he's too old (at 32) to be on this club. Diaz (like Pickering) has a chance to be a good player, even if he's not a solid gold given, and at least he's not on the wrong side of 30. AB, make it so.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Greinke Lucky?

Studes from the Hardball Times has put together an analysis of lucky and unlucky players from last year's season, and Zack Greinke features prominently in the analysis.

Ignoring the line drive vs. batting average of balls in play (BABIP) analysis for pitchers, which he essentially debunks after presenting it (?), the main analysis relies on an established method of analysis for pitching - fielding independent pitching (FIP), which attempts to measure a pitcher's true performance by separating fielding from pitching by accounting for the three things pitchers control - strikeouts, walks and home runs. Greinke's FIP (4.94) was nearly a full run higher than his ERA (3.97) in 2004, suggesting that he was lucky to achieve that ERA and that he's due for a decline this year (and if his spring training outings are any indication...)

The question is why. The formula is revealing insofar that it highlights Greinke's one problem from what was otherwise a very impressive performance for a 20 year old pitcher - a very high HR rate. His walks rates were fantastic, and his strikeout rates were respectable and improved throughout the year, so those don't concern me too much.

The big question is whether he will continue to give up such a high number of home runs this year and beyond, because its an important indicator for future success. His 2004 HR rate projects to 36 per 200 innings, which is extremely high. As with everything Greinke, I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt, given that he had one of the most successful campaigns for a 20-year old in the history of major league baseball. Plus, he was just 20. (Did I mention he's 20?) Some have suggested that his HR totals were inflated by the fact that he was under no pressure to win, so he was just testing himself on the mound at times and left himself prone to giving up solo home runs. That's hard to prove, but we'll see how it goes this season.

Anyway, there's nothing in his minor league history that would suggest Greinke is a perennial 30-35 HR pitcher. He's no Darrell May. I look for Greinke to yield between 22 to 27 HRs this season (assuming 200 IP), and settle into a 20-25 HR pitcher in his prime. He may have been somewhat lucky to achieve the ERA he did last year, but I think he'll demonstrate this season that all of the optimism surrounding the kid is warranted.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

First Base Battle

Things aren't looking very good on first base these days.

Sweeney is already injured, and despite his and every other Royal mouthpiece's protestations to the contrary, this is something to worry about. He simply does not deserve the benefit of the doubt, and his decision to hide the injury for a few days to avoid looking injury-prone (you've missed that bus already, Mike) makes it all the worse.

Pickering vs. Harvey, the epic battle of low-end first basemen, is shaping up to be a stinker. Harvey missed a few games with an injury, and has displayed no power in his at-bats. Pickering has done rapidly downhill since his 3-run HR/single early in camp, culminating in yesterday's Golden Sombrero.

Justin Huber is not being given serious consideration for the job, as he only has seven ABs. That's the best thing to happen thus far - don't rush Huber, our best first base prospect close to the majors.

As it stands right now, Pickering would end up in AAA to start the season. I think he needed to distinguish himself to Pena and Baird, and he has not done so. Harvey hasn't done anything to merit making the team, either, but there are advantages of incumbency, even if they are nonsense.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Mike Sweeney Injury Watch

Mike Sweeney was scratched from the lineup today with a sore oblique muscle. In the article, Dick Kaegel and Nick Swartz, Athletic Trainer, try extremely hard to convince us that this is nothing to worry about.

"All is well!"

Somehow, I'm not comforted.

Pitching Projections

Its fairly hard to tell what's happening in spring training with the dearth of analysis available from the Star and the Royals website, but from a complete outsider's perspective, it looks like some things are starting to take shape. Bob Dutton has a pretty good review of the state of the competition in Surprise today, and Dick Kaegel checks in with the semi-official line on the Royals website.

Bautista has been the story of spring training thus far, displaying wicked stuff and good command with every performance. He'd probably be better off spending a half season in AAA for a bit more seasoning, but it'll be extremely difficult to break camp without him on the roster if he keeps pitching this way. Kevin provides more detail on Bautista in his Friday blog entry.

Bautista's performance is pushing Jimmy Gobble out of a job, which I don't think is necessarily a bad thing. I'd love to see Gobble demonstrate he can handle AAA hitters for a season and reestablish his strikeout credentials, and look for him to return later this year or next year after Lima and Anderson are long gone. He's still a young guy with options.

Kyle Snyder has put together a string of very effective outings and is making a strong case to be the long man out of the 'pen, but with his injury history, he'll probably be on the DL within six weeks. His main competition, Dennis Tankersley and Mike Wood, haven't distinguished themselves thus far. If Tankersley pitches reasonably well, though, he may find himself on the roster simply because he's out of options. Wood will almost certainly start the season in AAA.

Shawn Camp and Nate Field earned the right to count themselves as "soft" incumbents after pretty effective performances last season, and both have pitched well enough to merit a spot in the bullpen to start the season.

Mike MacDougal has also pitched quite well, but he could find himself caught in a number's game. Jaime Cerda has had control problems this spring (though he did strikeout the side in the 9th yesterday), but as the incumbent LOOGY and following a pretty strong 2004 he may still have the edge. If Sullivan starts the season on the DL, that will open up an additional spot. I think Cerda or MacDougal's place on the roster may be determined by the Royals' decision of whether to carry 11 or 12 pitchers.

Of course, none of this matters all that much, as the team will use all of 2005 as a tryout for all of these pitchers. Beyond the higher dollar players, plus Greinke and perhaps Affeldt, no one is assured of a season-long spot on the staff. If Gobble, MacDougal and Wood aren't on the opening day roster, chances are they'll find themselves on the roster in the next month or two anyway. Some of these guys are going to fail in April and May, so they'll get their turn to play soon enough.

Projected Opening Day Pitching Roster, as of March 11:

Brian Anderson, SP
Denny Bautista, SP
Zack Greinke, SP
Runelvys Hernandez, SP
Jose Lima, SP
Jeremy Affeldt, RP
Jaime Cerda, RP
Andy Sisco, RP
Nate Field, RP
Shawn Camp, RP
Kyle Snyder, RP

Scott Sullivan, RP

Pitching His Way Into a Job
Denny Bautista
Kyle Snyder

Pitching His Way Out of a Job
Jaime Cerda
Dennis Tankersley

Numbers Game
Mike MacDougal

If the Royals Keep 12 Pitchers
Mike MacDougal

Thursday, March 10, 2005

What Must David Glass Do?


What are the responsibilities of a baseball owner? On the Royals discussion board, there is a minority but persistent view that David Glass, being super wealthy, is a "cheap" owner who owes it to the City to invest more money in the baseball team. While I think Glass spends far too much time pretending that he could play with the big boys if he wanted to, and there are some sensible, creative investments he could make that could pay dividends down the line, the bottom line is that he is under no obligation to do so - and a spending frenzy on major league payroll doesn't make any sense anyway.

This isn't a benevolent enterprise. If David Glass wants to give his money to charity, there are far more important causes than professional baseball in Kansas City. I've never understood why anyone expects an owner to lose tens of millions of dollars a year to placate a few thousand hardcore baseball fans.

In fact, David Glass is just playing the hand he was dealt. The CBA is structured to give low revenue teams like the Royals a DISINCENTIVE to invest in their teams. It requires all teams to share 34% of all their local revenue from the first dollar. The Royals end up receiving a large chunk of revenue sharing dollars (about $20 million), but the CBA doesn't give the team an incentive to invest it in the team. Doug Pappas puts it best (and I stole all of this stuff from him, to give proper credit):

In fact, [34%] revenue sharing has a greater deterrent effect on bad teams like the Royals and Devil Rays than on the Yankees or Red Sox. Any club would be reluctant to increase its payroll by $1 million unless it thought the move could increase local revenues by $2 million. This would be relatively easy for contenders, for whom a better team means higher attendance and a better chance of making the playoffs --but for bad teams, spending an additional $5 million to improve from 67 to 75 wins is a terrible investment. Thus while sharing money with low-revenue teams may be a good idea, taxing them isn't.
A smart system would give the Royals revenue sharing money and then let them spend it without penalty. But right now there is a penalty, to the tune of 34% of any increased revenue resulting from those investments. That's crazy.

In any case, with the amount of money the Royals could conceivably spend on free agents ($15 million more? $20 million more?), there isn't a chance in hell that those acquisitions are going to move the Royals from 58 to 94 wins, which is what it would take for the investment to payoff in higher local revenues (attendance, TV ratings, merchandise sales, etc.). Glass may as well just give out the pin to his PayPal account.

No, until the CBA becomes much more low-revenue team friendly, the Royals' strategy has to be to try to develop their own core talent so they can generate cheap win shares, and fill in with bargain free agents where necessary. There's a natural limit to how much the Royals can spend in free agency, and its not going to matter one bit if the team doesn't develop core players from their own player development system.

But that's primarily Allard Baird's responsibility. David Glass' should be focused on improving competitive balance in the CBA, not burning his money unnecessarily for a charity case.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Who IS the real Calvin Pickering?

I'm firmly on the anti-Ken Harvey bandwagon, which has been covered ad naseum by most religious followers of the Royals. The Royals have ample evidence that Harvey is a bottom-of-the-barrel major league first baseman, both offensively and defensively. No debate here.

But what about Calvin Pickering? I've gone back and forth on this issue, but I've now realized that most of the optimism I've had for Pickering is really misplaced disdain for Harvey. I'm not convinced that Calvin Pickering is going to amount to much of a major league baseball player. A lot of Royals fans are counting on Pickering to step into the starting 1B role and smash 35 HRs. Why should we believe that is going to happen? The plain fact is that the guy is 28 and he's barely sniffed the major leagues. There's a reason for that. Let's trace his career path:

-- He put up excellent numbers from rookie ball through AA in the Orioles system from the ages 19 to 22, and demonstrated improving plate discipline as he moved up the ranks. He was a serious prospect.

-- His AAA season at age 23 was decent, but his slugging percentage took a fairly significant dip. After a couple of failed brief stints in the major leagues, he struggled mightily in AAA at age 24 and left the Orioles franchise.

-- After leaving the Orioles system, he scuffled for nearly four years, landing a few brief stints with the Reds and Red Sox organizations, and I think he spent 2002 playing in Mexico.

-- He finally landed with the O-Royals in 2004 at age 28, where he put up his minor league career season.

His 42-game end-of-lost-season tryout for the Royals last year has many Royals fans salivating at the possibilities for 2005. I take very little stock in what he did last year; Royals history is littered with players who have looked great for 1/4 season before the league adjusted to them. Ken Harvey and Abraham Nunez are excellent examples of this, and should be a warning to Royals fans to temper their expectations.

Frankly, I don't believe the ridiculously optimistic MLB projections that Bill James, PECOTA and other forecasting systems are making for Pickering this season. Those projections are based largely on a 2004 season that is an aberration in Pickering's recent history; he hasn't hit like that since 1998 in AA. It has career year written all over it, and it was done in the minor leagues at an age when most major leaguers are reaching their peak.

In the final analysis, Pickering should make the club as the Royals' first baseman at the start of 2005. Given what he accomplished at the minor and major league level in 2004, he's earned the right to fail on his own merits. Harvey has tried and failed repeatedly with the big club, and there simply isn't much more we can expect out of him. The only case the Royals could make for keeping Harvey is that he might start hot and maximize his trade value, and the Royals will be able to cash in on any lingering positive sentiment floating around the league about his abilities. But I think most teams are wise to the hoax by this point.

Otherwise, Pickering deserves the shot. But I don't expect Pickering's reign to last long, in any case. The considerably younger and more talented Justin Huber is close to the majors, and Billy Butler is being groomed as the first baseman of the long-term future. Pickering won't have a place on the team beyond 2 years, max.

If Pickering has a place in the major leagues, its probably as a left-handed power bat off the bench. He might make useful trade bait at the deadline for a contending team that needs that kind of player. But he'll have to play in the majors for the first half of 2005 to make that to happen.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Its Radio Silence

I decided to subscribe to MLB Gameday Audio today, and was all set to listen to the Royals' spring training game against the Cubs...when I figured out that my company firewall messes up the feed. So, I'm stuck without games on radio during working hours. Bummer. I was really hoping to be able to listen to the games to get a better feel for what's happening with the team in spring training, since the daily reports aren't very illuminating.

I'm back to box scores and recaps.

UPDATE: The Chiefs signed Kendrell Bell. First step in a long journey.

Matchup: Last Outfield Spot

Assuming that Marrero, Long, DeJesus and Stairs are shoo-ins to make the team (barring injury), the Royals are down to one available outfield spot to begin the season in 2005. Abraham Nunez is considered the incumbent and favorite, with Aaron Guiel, Matt Diaz and the super long shot Brown brothers, Adrian and Emil (no relation).

Although I'd like to believe the the Royals are holding an open competition, I'm fairly certain that Nunez will begin the season as the Royals' starting right fielder, unless he completely collapses or another candidate plays too well to be ignored in Surprise. I can't understand for the life of me why this is the case, since Nunez is an unqualified failure as a major league baseball player. He doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt, in any case, and should have to earn his way onto the roster.

I don't have any information for the Browns, but the ZIPS projections for 2005 suggest pretty clearly who is in line for the more productive 2005:
       AVG  OBP  SLG  RC*
Diaz .300 .346 .487 80
Guiel .261 .338 .430 61
Nunez .233 .311 .363 36
* Runs created
Diaz, even with his poor plate discipline, is still projected to be a much, much more productive player than Nunez. Even Guiel would be a serious upgrade over Nunez, assuming he's all the way back from his eye problems. Nunez probably has the edge defensively, which is important in the K these days, and I know nothing of Diaz's abilities in the outfield. But Nunez's glove does not come close to justifying taking the bat out of Diaz hands.

The bottom line is that Nunez is not a major league baseball player, despite his past "potential" and prospect status. I'm not sure what the Royals are thinking.

Chiefs A Passing Team?

The Chiefs have been treading lightly in the free agency market thus far, passing on at least two players they've given serious consideration - Samari Rolle and Jeremiah Trotter. Jason Whitlock, whom I enjoy reading when he's not writing about himself, has posted the latest in a good series of critical articles about the Chiefs' timid posture in free agency.

The Chiefs were apparently on the verge of signing Rolle, but supposedly backed off because of a "spinal condition". Kendrell Bell has made it clear that his preference is to sign with the Chiefs, but only if the team ponies up the dollars he feels he's worth.

I think the only spinal condition of concern here is the team's lack of one, which they demonstrate by hiding behind "health concerns" as a reason to avoid shelling out the money it takes to secure top flight defensive talent. Rolle, Bell and Ty Law are all injury risks, no question. But when they're right, they're all excellent football players that can improve a defense instantly. If the Chiefs don't take a chance on these guys, some other team will.

Monday, March 07, 2005

I'll Take the Bus

I'm flying into KC in May, which will makr my first trip into KC since the implementation of the new downtown arena fee.

My quote for a 1 week, full size car rental:

Car: $130
Taxes and fee: $72

Effective tax rate: 55.4%


I wrote a letter to the editor of the KC Star on the matter, and I thought it was going to be published (they called me about it), but for some reason it wasn't. So I'm posting it here:

My rental car for an upcoming trip to Kansas City will cost me $202: $130 for the rental and $72 in taxes. Its an absolute outrage that visitors to Kansas City must pay a 55% tax rate on rental cars because Kansas City’s political leaders lack the courage to make tough tax decisions affecting their constituencies. Not all visitors to Kansas City are corporate executives with fat expense accounts; many are former residents like myself who are being gouged when they come home to visit their families.

If Kansas City residents want to build downtown arenas and demand new government programs and services, then they should be made to pay for them. It is the height of political cowardice to pin the costs on the backs of people who don’t even live there.

Sunday in Surprise

Greinke's shelling has sent the alarmists a'hollerin'. Yawn.

I'm more anxious to know about Gobble's velocity. He was down 4-5 mph last year, which I think contributed greatly to this anemic strikeout totals. If he can get his fastball to 91-92, I think he can increase his strikeout totals back to 5/6 per 9, and with his control and plus curve, make him an effective pitcher. His outings have been mixed thus far. I'm looking forward to an on-the-ground assessment of his current stuff.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Today in Surprise

The Royals finished up a home-and-home-and-home with the Rangers by losing the finale 5-3.

The good:

-- Cal Pickering's strange grand slam in the 6th - he was called out for passing Justin Huber at 1st. Can't remember ever seeing that happen.

-- Ruben Gotay had 3 more hits.

-- Denny Bautista struck out 4 in 2 innings of work.

The bad:

-- Snakebitten Appier was smashed in the shoulder with a line drive in the 1st inning. The baseball gods are dropping hints left and right - time to call it a career, Ape. It was a good one.

-- J.P. Howell struggled in his inning of work.

The beautiful:

-- Ken Harvey takes the collar! (Just kidding. Sorta.)

Next up: Zack Greinke makes his first spring training start against Milwaukee.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Today in Surprise...

it was an ugly affair, with the Rangers banging out 21 hits in a 17-13 win. A late field goal sealed the Royals' fate on this day. (zing!)

The very, very good: Ruben Gotay displayed impressive power, homering twice. If Tony G. doesn't get well soon, Gotay may just play himself into a starting role on this club, pushing Tony back to utility and leaving Clapinski off the roster.

The really, really bad: Jose Lima - 2IP, 8H, 7R, 6ER. Yeesh.

Up next: Can Kevin Appier find his way back to the big leagues? He'll give it his first spring training shot tomorrow. Outlook not so good.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Reclamation Projects

Royals 2005 ("We Promise Nothing!") features 3 highly touted pitching prospects who have fallen on their collective arses in the major leagues. They all share a similar history - excellent to dominant performance at practically all levels of the minor leagues, but practically zero sustained success in The Show.

The shine is off these stars, and we can't give ourselves any illusions that these pitchers are going to suddenly figure it out and become then next Carlos Zambrano. But perhaps one of them will surprise us by developing into something not seen in Kansas City in 2 score: an actual major league pitcher.

1) Jeremy Affeldt. For many Royals followers, Affeldt has lost none of his shine. He's the prototypical 12-and-6 left handed master and they make excuses for his poor performance to this point - blisters, injuries, shuffling roles, poor coaching. All of these have played a role in his disappointing display to date, but its impossible, I say, IMPOSSIBLE to ignore the facts on the ground:


2002 1.57 7.8 4.3 1.8
2003 1.30 7.0 2.7 2.6
2004 1.61 5.8 3.8 1.5
Affeldt took a huge step back last year. He was the linchpin to last season, in my mind, and he withered under expectations.

But I think after three years of shuffling back-and-forth from the rotation to the 'pen that we did learn one important thing - Affeldt is not a starter, notwithstanding Guy Hansen's protestations that he's a Cy Young starter in the making. Its pretty clear that he's been more effective as a reliever, but his problem has always been consistency, which is crucial for a closer.

If he can restore his K levels to around 8 per 9 innings and drop those walks between 2 and 3, he'll be a top 15 closer. I'm cautiously pessimistic. Peter Gammons likes him for a breakout season, but then again, he said the same thing last year. If not, he'll be a journeyman LOOGY for a spell, since there will undoubtedly be other teams willing to take a chance on that golden-but-rusting left arm.

2) Jimmy Gobble. In my estimation, Gobble has been mishandled by the Royals. He was famously rushed to the big leagues straight from AA in 2003 when the Royals desperately needed someone to shore up a crumbling rotation for a fading contention bid, and they again counted on him to make a huge leap in 2004 when they expected to contend. He didn't embarrass himself in 2003, but he sure did in 2004, with an unbelievably anemic 3.0K/9, which was good for dead last in the major leagues. The Royals compounded his problems by keeping him on the KC squad for much too long, bruising his confidence and apparently his back, which was an injury undetected until the offseason (I don't think there's anything in the Trainer's Handbook that says teams CANNOT prevent injuries. Am I wrong about this? Someone fax that page to the Royals, posthaste.)

Gobble should have spent all of 2003 in AA and most of 2004 in AAA, but what's done is done. My problem is that the Royals seem to have cooled on Gobble and might not give him a fair shake in spring training, even though their bumbling has probably contributed to his poor performancesas much as anything. And to think players aren't loyal to the Royals. For shame!

I have hope that his horrible strikeout rates were a consequence of lost velocity due to his back injury, and once restored he will become what we all hoped he could be - a left handed Zack Greinke-lite with excellent control and decent strikeout stuff.
Check out his minor league stats -his strikeout rates were solid if not spectacular, his HR rates were tolerable, and his control was well above average. I just can't believe he's truly this bad. Plus, he's only 23 - tha'ts good for something, right? RIGHT?

But if that strikeout rate of last season is any indication of his true abilities, he's not the pitcher we all thought he was.

3) Dennis Tankersley. Poor Dennis is commonly referred to as the "throw-in" in the May-Long trade. Quite the contrary, he was the key to that trade, with May and Long simply exchanging addresses to play out the string on their unfortunate contracts. DT has dominated the minor leagues at all levels, but has done nothing on the major league level. His problem has been control (none, that is), but he
swears that Guy Hansen has straightened him out (I think Guy Hansen may have found the cure for the Bird Flu in his spare time at Surprise as well. The man is a miracle worker!).

I haven't seen Tankersley pitch enough to have a good feel for his strengths and weaknesses, so I'm least confident in his ability to straighten things out. But looking at this major league/minor league splits, I get the impression that he's just been pitching scared in the bigs. Maybe he doesn't have the make-up to succeed here, but with his talent and minor league track record he's clearly more than a throw-in (especially for Ryan Bukvich, who lasted about 5 days with the Padres organization), and if he can somehow maintain his composure on the mound, the Royals may have found themselves a solid 5th starter or middle reliever.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Royals Preview...

Not by me, mind you. That will come later in spring training.

Baseball Think Factory has issued the first (that I've seen, anyway) of what will undoubtedly be a long line of depressing, hopeless previews of the Royals 2005. Since this is exactly the opposite of what many baseball pundits were predicting for the past two seasons, perhaps the "buck the expectations" trend will continue and the Royals will surprise the hell out of us all.

The Royals will improve by default, simply because its very difficult for a major league baseball team to lose 104 games two season in a row. No matter how bad a team is, it takes lots of unfortunate happenstance to lose that many games, and I can't imagine for the life of me that it could happen again. That doesn't mean that the Royals still won't lose 95 games, and for all intents and purposes 95 and 104 losses are the same thing - they both mean the team never contended. But I think its a fairly safe bet that we won't the same historic levels of suckiness reached in 2004.