Saturday, April 30, 2005

We Need a Bailout

Nine straight losses...

... and Emil Brown's still dropping the ball. 5 - 18. Running out of words here.

If the Royals get swept this weekend, SOMEONE gets the ax.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Should the Guillotine Fall on AB?

An 0-6 homestand in April tends to bring those sentiments to the surface. The short answer is: of course not. At least not NOW. Firing Baird 1 month into the season would just leave them rudderless for the rest of the year, potentially ruining a very important draft. But I'm ambivalent about AB. He's made good, if not great, strides as a general manager since he began, but he spent three years cutting his teeth as a GM before he turned the corner. Meanwhile, the organization continues to suffer from a lack of top-shelf talent in their minor league system.

I don't have any readily available tool for assessing what constitutes a "great", "good" or "bad" baseball draft. For starters, let's compare the players rated B or above in Minor League Ball's organizational top 20s OR in the major leagues from the 2001 to 2004 drafts.

A's: Bobby Crosby, Jeremy Bonderman, Mike Wood, Neal Cotts, Dan Johnson
Royals: None

A's: Nick Swisher, Joe Blanton, Mark Teahen
Royals: Zack Greinke

A's: Omar Quintanilla
Royals: None

A's: Huston Street, Kurt Suzuki, Richie Robnett, Danny Putnam
Royals: Billy Butler, J.P. Powell, Billy Buckner

Have the A's produced more players and current prospects? Yes. But Bonderman and Greinke are the best talents on that list, and the A's gave up Bonderman (and Carlos Pena, who is at least a regular if not a star) for Ted Lilly, who became Bobby Kielty, who hasn't been very good for the A's. Otherwise, its Crosby and a bunch of maybes. Of course, Beane just parlayed Mark Mulder into two A-grade top prospects in Daric Barton and Dan Meyer. But Baird gave away nothing to land Bautista, Sisco, Huber and Nunez, so that's basically a wash. There are also a few other prospects like Costa and Burgos who didn't make the cut. And Baird DID have a good 2004 draft.

In fact, I think Baird accomplished more in 2004 than he did in 2001-2003 combined. Based largely on his heists and 2004 draft, John Sickels rates the Royals' farm system as "good", in the second tier (behind Oakland). The top picks are the most high profile and Baird is feast or famine: Greinke and Butler vs. Lubanski and Griffin. The A's haven't bombed on any of their top picks.

So I'm back where I began -- ambivalent about Baird. At this juncture, I'm just weary of the Royals' parochialism and willingness to let their leadership learn on the job. They've hired 5 straight managers with no prior MLB managerial experience. Their GMs have always been promoted from within. I shouldn't let an early season superfunk change my thinking, but maybe after 2005 its just time for regime change. This team has been operating in a cocoon for practically their entire existence. It served them well in the 70s and 80s, but its been nothing short of disastrous in the 90s and 00s.

But that's on David Glass. If he wants a high powered GM, he's going to have give him autonomy and resources. That doesn't mean an $85 million payroll. But it might mean running the franchise with a greater sense of urgency and desire to win than has been the case for longer than all of us care to remember.

Guillotine Watch

I'm dumbfounded at the plethora of ways this team can lose. I thought the Royals would be bad, but I guess you can never prepare yourself for THIS level of sucktitude. There may be no greater challenge on God's Green Earth, unless you're a Lost Boy of Sudan, that to blog the Kansas City Royals in 2005. I need STRENGTH.

How much longer can this go on? Baird and Glass have already given Pena the Kiss of Death, er, Vote of Confidence. Doesn't SOMEONE have to be the scapegoat here? If this Self-Mutiliation continues for much longer, someone will Get the Guillotine.

Here are some truths:

1) Neither David nor Dan Glass will fire themselves.

2) Allard Baird will not be fired during the season.

3) Firing the pitching coach isn't an option, since he's been here all of 21 games.

4) That leaves two possibilities: the hitting coach (Jeff Pentland) and the manager.

Pentland is in his 3rd season as hitting coach, so his probationary protective bubble has burst. I'll predict he'll be the first to go. But they may just fire Pena and Pentland at the same time.



Milhouse's facial expression summarizes nicely the emotional state of the typical Royals fan. It is also, not coincidentally, a Grimace, which can only mean one thing:

Ken's back, batting cleanup today. "I am here to help." Shawn Camp, probably the best Royal relief pitcher last season, has followed the Iron Law of Royals Baseball all the way back to Omaha: no player is allowed to have two consecutive productive seasons.

The deck chairs have been re-shuffled.

Don't worry: the Royals have a PLAN for Harvey, much like Nixon had a plan in '68.

In other news, Elvys threw down the gauntlet last night:
“This stops (today),” Hernandez pledged. “(Wednesday) was my birthday, but I'm not celebrating until (today). We're winning (today).”
By that logic, Elvys will likely have to wait at least one more day to celebrate his birthday, after his first inning line today:

2H, 2BB, 1HBP, 3ER

If you have any interest at all in the future of the Royals at this point, be sure to check out this article posted by the Baseball Analysts. It doesn't make me feel any better.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

After the Love Was Gone

Two seasons of blogging the Royals, two seasons of rapidly dwindling interest in late April.

Last year, the expectations before the season were high. This year, the Royals led us on for the first week, seducing all of us into believing that this team MIGHT compete for something more important than "Royals Baseball - We Won't Lose 100!". The Royals were scoring runs (on bloop singles, mind you), the starting pitching, sans Jose Lima, ranged from effective to dominant, the bullpen was horrid (hey, if everything went well...) and the team was - gulp - "found wanting" defensively. Maintain the strengths, improve the weaknesses, and BAM - 80 win season.

The next couple of weeks reminded us - rudely - that we are, indeed, Kansas City Royals fans, and are preordained to live with another lost season.

First 6 games: 3-3
Last 14 games: 2-12

Being a follower of this team sucks the life out of you.

Lately, though, this team has found comical, creative, EXCITING new methods of losing, even while playing fairly well. Last night Jose Lima, of all pitchers, went toe-to-toe with the best starting pitcher in baseball, putting the Royals in a position to win yet again against Johan Santana. This time, 'twas a terrible Joe McEwing throw on a fairly routine double play ball and two bloop singles off of Ambiorix Burgos. The weekend series with the White Sox was a comedy of comedic comicalness, leading to a completely avoidable sweep.

Sure, I don't understand why Pena would start the inning with Sisco in a tie game, watch him record the first out, and then lift him for Burgos. It wasn't the move that hurt the team; Burgos just gave up two walks and two fluke singles. But the growing consensus is that Pena hurts the team with his incessant micromanaging, and taking Sisco out of the game after recording the first out in a tie game just LOOKS odd. And once (not if) the Royals lost, it just opens the door for more criticism of his management style, fair or not.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Moneyball Redux

There's a fantastic (and long) article in the Sunday New York Times penned by Michael Lewis dealing with the ongoing talent analysis problems in major league baseball, and prominently features Mark Teahen. A highly recommended read.

Weekend Revue

Uh boy. A sweep at the hands of the historically hot Chicago White Sox has left the Royals with a historically cold 5-14 record. The Royals are suffering from a near-complete inability to put together a complete game. When the starting pitching does well, the offense and bullpen fails. When the offense provides a rare spark, all pitching fails. The defense has been comically bad all season (and I was underestimated how bad it was a few days ago).

(Dated reference forthcoming...)

What, me worry?

Yes, its disheartening to watch so many bad offensive players day-in, day-out, but at least we all expected this. The Royals are bottoming out offensively this season with a mixture of youth and marginal veterans. It'll get better, and at least we get watch Matt Diaz do his best Mark Quinn impersonation.

Yes, its demoralizing to watch the infield defense make so many mistakes. It seems like the teams isn't prepared to play half the time. And defense IS such a big part of pitching that we have to worry about the effect it will have on our pitching staff.

True, the Royals' starters haven't won a game in ages....

OK, now I'm worrying myself.

Wait! Silver lining(s):

-- Two strong starting performances, after working out 1st inning jitters.

Zack Greinke's Saturday Line
Inning 1: 1H, 1ER, 0BB, 2K, 1 balk, 1 weird catcher's interference
Innings 2 - 7: 4H, 1ER, 2BB, 5K

Denny Bautista's Sunday Line
Inning 1: 1H, 2ER, 3BB, 1K
Innings 2 - 7: 1H, 0R, 1BB, 3K

-- Continued brilliance from Andy Sisco (so he gave up two hits on Sunday; Cerda put 'em on first!)

-- Tony Pena's overmanagement slowly increasing his odds of dismissal.

-- Day off today, zero chance of playing poorly.

Roster Move Outlook

1) Pickering's demotion. When a one-tool player doesn't bring his one tool to work, he has nowhere to go but Nebraska. Can't blame the Royals for this one.

2) Diaz' ascension. Sure, why not. He destroys AAA competition, so either he's a AAAA journeyman or a functional major league rightfielder. Best to find out now.

2) Burgo's ascension. A true head-scratcher. He's very talented, he's very young, he has control issues, he's not ready. What exactly do the Royals hope to accomplish by bringing him up? Even if he performs well, is he going to any kind of difference to the Royals' record this season? Will more fans come out to watch a closer? Just when you think the Royals have an actual blueprint for success, they panic in a situation that calls for a shrug of the shoulders.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Calvin, We Hardly Knew Ye

Down goes Pickles.

Pickering has been sent to AAA and the Royals have promoted Matt Diaz to Kansas City.

I don't see how anyone could be surprised at the move. Pickering has been worse than terrible, and he's so one-dimensional that it really hurts the team when isn't providing any hitting against right-handed pitching. Diaz has been tearing up AAA, and at age 27 he's ready for his shot with the major league club.

I'm hoping this isn't the last we'll see of Pickering this season. Hopefully, he'll find his stroke in AAA and he'll back up in a month or so. I don't think he should be condemned to the minor leagues for the duration of the season, unless he struggles in Omaha.

Latest Royal Wallow at BP

Baseball Prospectus has posted its latest Triple Play on the Royals, musing about the futures of Tony Pena and Allard Baird (haven't I read some brilliant guy writing about this very subject lately?) and the trade value of Mike Sweeney.

Keep it up, Mike. No offense, but getting rid of you and your $11 million, 30% of payroll salary is priority #1 here at the Daily Lancer.

Weekend Bonanza

Chicago heads into town tonight sporting the best record in the American League. Their run differential tells a different story, however. They aren't that great. I'm feeling optimistic!

Number of weekend wins: 2
Quality starts: Greinke, Bautista
Blown saves: 1
Errors: 5

AB, Talent Evaluator

A few days ago, I posted a quasi-hysterical rant about Allard Baird's inability to acquire productive free agents. I've taken zee liberty of doing some research into this matter. I haven't included every acquisition, and there's no question that AB has scored a few coups (Paul Byrd, Raul Ibanez, Darrell May and Brian Anderson before they signed their 2 year contracts). But overall, I think the numbers support my contention and are quite striking:

Comparison of Player Performance, Year Prior to Signing Contract or Acquisition vs. Year After
PlayerVORP Year1VORP Year2Change
Darrell May44.20.6-43.6
Brian Anderson23.9-14.2-38.1
Neifi Perez13.6-21.2-34.8
Juan Gonzalez24.32.9-21.4
Chuck Knoblauch7.5-13.3-20.8
Matt Stairs33.813.4-20.4
Benito Santiago19.84.6-15.2
Tony Graffanino16.34.2-12.1
Roberto Hernandez22.511.6-10.9
Desi Relaford14.19.0-5.1
Scott Sullivan9.08.2-0.8

Not ONE of these players equaled, much less exceeded, their productivity from the prior year in their first season with the Royals. Some due to injury, some due to plain poor performance, but the consequences are the same - the Royals didn't get nearly the production from those players that they expected when they signed/acquired them. Relaford's demise is actually understated, because he was one of the worst position players in baseball during the second year of his contract. And the problem is not simply that the Royals are signing second and third-tier talent. We all know they're hamstrung by a limited budget. Its that these acquisitions didn't even perform to their modest expectations - in EVERY case. Joe Randa probably performed to expectations, but that's about all.

This has to be on the GM. I may have even agreed with some of these signings when they took place, but I'm doing so from the comfort of home, while AB has the responsibility of putting together a major league baseball team. Should there be no consequences for not getting one major league acquisition right?

Mike Sweeney (not shown), of course, has been a disappointment. I don't blame the Royals for signing him, because the fan base may have completely imploded had they not. But the fact is that the Royals signed him to a 5 year contract at the peak of his performance curve and he's been injured and less productive ever since. The fluky winning record of 2003 threw salt on the wound, guaranteeing the final two years of his contract which will weigh on the Royal payroll through 2007.

This year isn't starting any better, as Jose Lima and Eli Marrero are off to putrid starts. Terrence Long hasn't been bad, but I have no reason to expect much out of him.

Had AB not had such a strong year in 2004 acquiring young talent, I think there would be a clear cut case for relieving him of his duties. I'm willing to give him through this year to see what he can do with the draft and the continued movement of players off of this roster. But he simply has to improve his ability to spot good deals in the big league player marketplace. He has nowhere to go but up.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


My fatalism, as usual, is misplaced - mostly.

1 - Mike Wood shut down the Twins for three innings.
2 - The Royals came back against the Twins' middle relief.
3 - Calvin Pickering has drawn two walks after this two strikeouts, one of which preceded Emil "First Swing" Brown's game-tying home run.

But Tony "I Need a Hero!" Pena is doing his best to lose this game. First he needlessly risks a suicide squeeze, which ends poorly after Graffanino fails to bunt. Second, and more infuriating, he sacrifice bunts 1st and 2nd nobody out with Emil Brown. Jesse Crain just walked Calvin Pickering on 4 pitches, and Tony gave a free out to a struggling pitcher by sacrificing a guy who hit a home run in his last at-bat. It didn't work, which is beside the point, as Buck was thrown out at home. Now Rincon is in, effectively killing the Royals' chances.

Can DD salvage the rally....?


On Par

Well, it looks like the Ol' Ball Club is on its way to a mini-sweep at the hands of the Twins. I was pretty impressed with the way the Royals hung in there yesterday, and Mike Sweeney's shot against Johan will be one of the few highlights of this dreadful season. Yet again, of course, the Royals hurt themselves late in the game with unforced errors - Field's wild pitch, McEwing's non-error error, etc., allowing the Twins to escape with a 5-4 victory. Kevin has a more comprehensive wrap from the Royal perspective, while AG sees things behind enemy lines.

Today, we're seeing the signs of a truly bad team. The Royals jumped all over Gassner, scoring 5 runs in less than 2 innings and sending him to the commode. Predictably, Brian Anderson just can't stand prosperity, and a 5-3 lead has quickly melted into a 7-5 deficit. Mike Wood is on to seal our fate. And, two errors thus far by the Royals. If the rest of the game holds to form, the Twins' long reliever will hold the Royals scoreless for the next 5 innings while Minnesota piles on.

Oh, Calvin.

0-2, 2K.

I cannot foresee any plausible scenario in which Pickering stays on the ballclub through the end of May. It just seems like the league has The Book on him and Calvin is simply unable to adjust. I can completely understand how Tony Pena or any other major league manager would HATE to have Pickering on his team. He can't move, he can't field, he can't run the bases - and right now, he can't hit. It has to be very frustrating to tie up a roster spot with a .5 dimensional player who isn't even providing that .5 dimension. As I said before, Pickering is a true test of faith in objective analysis of what contributes to wins and losses in major league baseball. But Pickering is making the looming decision to jettison him very easy.

The Sports Economist posted his thoughts about the unique Royals ownership structure. Amazingly, the topic didn't generate much interest. But I was happy to see that he took my suggestion and acted on it almost immediately. Thanks for that.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Kansas City Royals Civic Organization Update

I've put the Royals philanthropic mission question to the Sports Economist, and hopefully he'll give us some insight. Initial reaction - "That is bizarre!"

Nice win yesterday, strangely effective bullpen performance, amazing clutch HR from the player you'd least expect.

The only question about tonight is how many hits the Royals will manage against Johan. Over/under - 4.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Are the Royals a Philanthropic Entity?

So over on my preferred Royal discussion board, we're debating the prospects of the latest "youth movement" to hit Kansas City (and "youth movement" is a misnomer, in my opinion, because it gives the impression that Royals are able to make a conscious choice between going young and building a team through free agency. They can't build a team through free agency). And someone points out that he heard somewhere that David Glass cannot profit from the sale of the Royals - that is, if he sells the team, any money earned over and above his original purchase price will be donated to charity.

I couldn't believe two things. First, I couldn't believe it was true. Why would any owner agree to such a deal? But then I found a Star article, and there it was in black-and-white: indeed, David Glass cannot make any money from the sale of the Royals. Now I couldn't believe I'd not heard about this until now.
Here's another little-known fact that would discourage the Glass family from dumping the team: Under terms of the succession plan and the Royals' purchase agreement, the Glass family cannot profit from the sale of the team.

“That is correct. If we were to sell the team, whatever profit is made would stay in Kansas City,” Glass said. “In other words, whatever the sale price is above what we purchased the team for, the profit would go directly to the Kansas City charities.”

It's obvious that was Ewing M. Kauffman's desire from the start: to discourage anyone from buying the Royals and selling them for a quick profit to another owner who might just shuttle the team elsewhere.

(By the way, the value of the Royals has increased from $96 million to $187 million since Glass bought the team, which is 99% due to the increased value of MLB as a whole, and has nothing to do with anything the Royals have done on their own.)

While I understand the civic motivation behind this proviso on its face, I find this to be disturbing. What are the unintended consequences of this provision? If David Glass doesn't have a financial incentive to build franchise value through investment in his team, how exactly does it help this franchise? Do any other baseball teams operate under the same or similar conditions? What do economists think about it? Or does it not matter at all?

I need to think about it this one. If anyone has any thoughts on the subject, or can provide some references to articles dealing with the issue, I'd appreciate hearing from you.

Monday, April 18, 2005

At least the weather's been nice...

The Royal blogerati and bulletin board loyalists are having a hard time swallowing this weekend's series loss to the Tigers, which left the Royals with the same record as the Yankees. Its one thing to look listless against Jeremy Bonderman, but Mike Maroth? The Royals just pounded him a few short days ago, and yesterday he's Tom Freakin' Glavine. Heads shall roll.

I guess that's what the team gets for raising hopes with some strong starting pitching performances. Now that the Royals aren't getting 7 innings of 5 hit, 1 run ball every night, and the blooping line drives aren't falling in for hits (that's Ken Harvey's department anyway), the losses are coming much more easily.

Yet again, I am sheltered by my expectations of nothing, so this sudden fall from grace means little to me. I was convinced the Royals were going to lose 95-100 games when they were 3-3 and on a "roll" (yes, the team hasn't been above .500 all season yet, if you'll remember), and nothing has changed. On balance, I'd evaluate the team's overall performance as a net positive compared to my expectations:

Offense - as bad as I (and everyone else) thought they would be. There have been some encouraging (DeJesus, Gotay, Berroa) and discouraging (Buck, Teahen) performances.

Defense - the team seems to be below average, but not the worst defensive team in the league. John Buck is a fine defensive catcher. Mark Teahen is scared to death, and Ruben Gotay, other than one embarrassing play, has handled himself quite nicely.

Starting pitching - how can you not be anything but pleased? Sure, there have been some stinkers, but what team doesn't have stinkers? Better than expected no doubt, but the bumps are coming.

Bullpen - this has been the major disappointment thus far. Aside from Sisco, everyone in the bullpen has been terrible. I thought this would be the strength of this team, and its been just the opposite. But there's depth in AAA, so the current crop can easily be rotated out if necessary.

So, offense and defense as expected, better than expected starting pitching, worse than expected bullpen. I care the most about starting pitching, simply because its been lacking for all of these years, so I'd have to say on balance the Royals have been a mild positive surprise. Their record might now show it, but I'll worry about that in 2007.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

A Second Spitter?

The more I've watched the video replay of the Gary Sheffield-Drunken Nincompoop incident, the more I've become convinced that the fat guy in the Gap sweatshirt, two seats to the left of the Boston Striker, deliberately tossed his beer on Gary Sheffield as Sheffield returned to a standing position after picking up the ball. When I first saw the highlight, I didn't notice it; I thought Sheffield had just knocked the beer out of the woman's hand just to the left of the Fenway Flailer. A Yankee-lovin' colleague at work pointed it out.

I suppose its possible that the guy just lost his grip on his beer because he was startled, but I ain't buyin' it. Watch his beer hand - it moved quickly and authoritatively - DOWN, and to the LEFT. DOWN, and to the LEFT.

He tossed that beer. And he did so BEFORE Sheffield had made his lunge at the Beantown Brawler, which makes it even more egregious.

But I haven't read a thing about it. Hopefully, the Boston Police and MLB will nab this Second Spitter. Proposed penalty: tossed in Boston Harbor in leg chains. Rescued by secretly placed underground divers. Scared Straight. Barred from buying alcohol ever again, under pain of being tossed into Boston Harbor again.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Jose Equivocation?

Not quite. But let's hand out some credit - Lima did bounce back nicely from his 1st inning sojourn to shut down the Tigers for the next 6 innings. Not only did he keep the Royals in game (and a very nice win for the club, in dramatic fashion), he also saved the team from spoiling their bullpen for the entire series.

Maybe Tony should kick dirt more often. No, wait - correlation is not necessarily causation.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Dirt Kickin'

I didn't think it was possible for Lima to suck any worse than he already has, but that's what I get for thinking. After his "fire-up-the-troops" ejection, Tony Pena actually kicked dirt on the umpire. That is so 1982. Besides, if he wants to fire up the team, he should be kicking Jose Lima.


I'm sure I've missed a few, but this is a fairly comprehensive list of the major league veterans AB has signed as a free agent/traded for/resigned to a major league contract since he's been GM and a candid evaluation of their performances:

Jose Lima -- stinks.
Tony Graffanino -- stunk, missed half the season with injury.
Juan Gonzalez -- stunk, missed most of the season with injury.
Scott Sullivan -- stunk/stinks, missed part of season with injury, still out.
Brian Anderson -- terrible.
Matt Stairs -- decent bench player, overused in outfield.
Mike Sweeney -- two injury-filled and declining production seasons, untradable contract.
Desi Relaford - terrible. Production fell precipitously after wrist injury.
Darrell May - terrible (his one good season was on the cheap).
Brent Mayne - terrible, even if that isn't the perception.
Joe Randa - decent, but a low-tier starting third baseman.
Neifi Perez - terrible.
Chuck Knoblauch - terrible.
Paul Byrd - pretty good. But he took a flyer on this guy after serious injury, so it hardly counts as acquiring major league talent.

That is some track record.

Now, the Royals will compete in the future by:

a) Drafting well;
b) Drafting well;
c) Trading their established, quality major league veterans at the height of their value and demand;
d) Finding cheap talent on the minor league free agent market;
e) Filling in production gaps with major league free agents.

AB has proven himself very adept at finding cheap talent, and he's beginning to turn it around in the draft. AB made some awful trades early in his tenure, but had a banner year last year, even if he didn't leverage the Beltran situation as well as he could have.

But AB has been an unbelievably miserable failure at bringing major league players to this team. I acknowledge that he's working with minimal resources, but that doesn't not excuse the fact that 90% of the players he's acquired have COLLAPSED after coming to the Royals.

Question: given that AB seemingly has no ability to acquire established major league talent, can he lead this team into the playoffs?

Friday and Beyond

-- Rob and Rany have posted a new exchange on Calvin Pickering. I think Rob is correct - Calvin Pickering just looks bad on the field. He's glacial, he's a bad baserunner, and he's looked awful in his limited ABs so far this season. He's also out for the weekend series, as his wife is scheduled to deliver their first child in what seems to be have been a difficult preganancy. So there will be pressure to take him off the roster.

Cal HAS knocked two shots to the wall in the last two games that would have been home runs had the wind not been blowing in so strongly from center. He also struck out 3 times yesterday. The bottom line is that having Calvin Pickering in the lineup is the ultimate test of faith in the analytical approach to lineup construction, because your eyes tell you something different. He does look terrible out there -- but his overall production, as measured by his contribution to wins and losses, can still be expected to be superior to that of a player like Ken Harvey, who looks better because he's slapping singles everywhere.

-- Very good analysis of Denny Bautista's problems yesterday in the game report from the Star. Its all gibberish to me, but the essence of the story is one of hope - if Denny had stuck with his four seam fastball more throughout the game (which apparently means less movement), he wouldn't have struggled with his control as much AND Mariners' batters still would have struggled to catch up with it. And he struggled with his two seam fastball because he was generating TOO much movement. That's a nice problem to have, and it certainly makes me feel much better about yesterday's outing.

-- On the other hand, Mike Wood has been plum awful. In fact, the entire bullpen, with the exception of Andy Sisco's mop-up work, has been terrible. I thought the bullpen would be the strength of this team, but so far they've really struggled. The good news is that the Royals have plenty of replacement candidates in AAA.

3 Questions for the Weekend

1) Can Jose Lima throw a decent start?

2) Will the Royals find a way to get to Jeremy Bonderman, who completely dominated the Royals in the season opener (but struggled in his second start)?

3) Will Mike Sweeney take a pitch?

Over/under on number of pitches thrown against the Royals (average for the series): 105

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Wet Blanket Reigns

Wow, this game got out of hand in a hurry. Looks like Denny Bautista's reign as Flavor of the Week lasted, in fact, for only a week:

D. Bautista 3.1 IP, 3H, 6ER, 3BB, 1K, 78 pitches.

Listen closely...and you'll hear the tiny-pitter-patter of fantasy baseball players clicking furiously on the "drop" link next to Denny Bautista's name.

Mike Wood in to try to salvage the inning with just a 2-run deficit...and he promptly serves up a bases-clearing double. Whatever happened to that lovely man who pitched so well in spring training?

I've braced for this: 8 innings of masterful, shutout ball one game, followed by 3 innings of out-of-control recklessness that would make even Lindsay Lohan blush. But it ain't fun to watch.

Its a No-Frills Operation in KC

I found this story quite hilarious:

Outfielder Emil Brown is lodging at Zack Greinke's new condo on the Plaza while he waits for his own place to become available later in the month.

“My place wouldn't be ready until the 22nd,” Brown said, “so Greinke told me I could just crash at his place.”

Nice gesture. But Greinke just closed on the place. Amenities are pending.

“There's no furniture in it or anything like that,” Brown said. “He's got a bed, and I'll buy a futon or something.”

Brown spent Tuesday night sleeping on the floor.

“You know, sleeping on the floor is better for your back,” he said. “He did give me a blow-up mattress, but he didn't give me the connection piece. So I couldn't blow it up. So I just slept on top of it.”

Classic. This story conjures two reactions: empathy, since it demonstrates that even major league baseball players sometimes have to (try to) use air mattresses, and puzzlement that the Royals can't make provisions for their major league players to avoid sleeping on top of unflated air mattresses

I'd never thought about these kinds of things happening to major league baseball players. Hard to picture that a league-minimum player on the Yankees or Red Sox would be sleeping on the floor of another player's apartment. I mean, can't the Royals just put the guy up in a hotel for a few weeks?

Rolling Along

Another impressive outing for a Royal starting pitcher, another journeyman righthander shutting down an impatient and inept Royal offense, and a patented bullpen implosion led to a 2-1 loss yesterday.

Once again, the most important thing to take out of yesterday's loss was Greinke's strong six innings. He wasn't dominating, with just two strikeouts, but as usual his control was impeccable and he kept opposing hitters off balance. Pena set an 85-pitch limit for him yesterday, and Greinke threw 86. Fair enough. Cerda gave up a couple of seeing-eye singles, and MacDougal's shaky mechanics did the Royals in.

We all knew the offense, as a unit, was going to stink. Let us not worry about it. The lineup is a strange mix of youthful inexperience and below average veterans. I'm going to focus on the growth curve of the players who will be the core of the team 3 years from now - DeJesus, Gotay, Teahen, Berroa, Buck - and it will take the entire season to measure their progress. Emil Brown, Terrence Long, Eli Marrero and, yes, even Calvin Pickering are just filling in until something younger and better comes along.

Setting aside Lima's two performances, here are the aggregate statistics for Royal starting pitchers:

36 2/3 29 6 23 2 0.95 5.6 3.8
The team is probably getting a bit lucky on BABIP (batting average on balls in play), and the K rate isn't where you'd like it to be, but overall these are solid numbers to start the season.

We can't judge this team by wins and losses; we need to look ahead to 2006 and 2007. So far, I like what I've seen.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


The Royals have graciously agreed to give Mark Teahen a Restart-the-Clock DL assignment, as in "let's pretend the nightmare first week you just had in the major leagues doesn't exist, and try again in a couple of weeks". Sure, he's having back stiffness, but so is the rest of the world. Anyway, here's hoping he can take 7-to-10 days to clear his head, heal his back and start fresh.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

2003 - A Draft to Forget

Baseball Analysts has posted a fairly thorough review of the top picks in the 2003 draft. Royals fans will cringe when they read it, though:

With the Kansas City Royals and Daniel Glass picking in the five spot, it was obvious that money would be an issue. The three best high school talents on the board (Ryan Harvey, Lastings Milledge, John Danks) all had high bonus demands, taking them off the Royal wish list. So it became obvious days before the draft that Chris Lubanski -- who had stated he wanted to be reporting to the minors by June 15 -- was the Royals best option.

Lubanski ended up signing quickly with the Royals for $2.1M, making $25,000 more than Milledge and the same as Danks. Harvey inked for $2.4M, but considering that all three players are far better prospects than the man with the .662 OPS, the Royals screwed up here. Lastings Milledge turned out to be the best choice, and with proper communication with his agent would have saved the club money. Considering the failure that the five-turned-zero tool Lubanski has been...

So there you have it. Kansas City is really the only team with an obvious screw up, though Detroit and Pittsburgh also opened themselves up for criticism.

Let's hope draft day 2005 will be much more like draft day 2004 than 2003. I'd like to think the Royals have learned a lesson or two about their draft-day decision making since the Lubanski debacle. At least Billy Butler is as good as Lubanski is bad.

It'd be nice to have Lastings Milledge floating around in our system right now, wouldn't it?

Seems to me that the Royals' only hope for Lubanski is that he puts up some big numbers in altitude-inflated High Desert this season, creating a value bubble that the Royals can use to spin him off in a package with an established veteran (like Anderson, Sweeney, or Stairs) and receive an actual high quality minor league prospect in return. (Now THAT'S wishful thinking.)

Anyway, if the guy can't hit in High Desert, though, he's done as a prospect. I think he's a non-prospect anyway.

5 Bullet Points

In the interests of time (of which I have little today), I'll sum up yesterday's meltdown in five succinct points:

1) Excellent starting pitching from Elvys - this is the only thing I care about from yesterday.
2) Pena left Elvys in too long - but I've come to expect this type of stupidity from the man, so I can't get too worked up about it.
3) Offense was extremely impatient. Franklin had thrown 60-0dd pitches through 7 innings.
4) Bullpen implosion - Nate Field is either unhittable or very hittable, nothing in between.
5) Bummer of a home opener.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Oh, One More Thing

Forgot to mention it earlier: maybe it was just a fluke, but Emil Brown's home run yesterday was a display of real power. That was a legitimate opposite field home run to right center - several rows up. He put a very impressive swing on it, and he knew it.

Post-Weekend Bluster

I'm pleased, of course, that the Royals are 3-3 after opening the season with 6 games on the road, 3 of which were against a playoff team from a year ago. I had zero expectation that the Royals could take 2-of-3 from the Angels, but its amazing how easy this game becomes when teams receive pitching performances like they did Friday and Sunday. I'll always cheer a series victory, especially on the road.

Mainstream prognosticators like to argue that the first 15 to 20 games "set the tone" for the season, as if the team's performance in 8% of its games will have a meaningful long-term impact on their performance for the other 92% of the games. The Mets are toast! This is nonsense, of course; the long run is all about players rising or regressing to their mean performance level over the course of a season, so what happens in 6 games is hardly indicative of what we can expect by the end of the year. Indeed, I am so beaten down as a Royals fan that I can't get too excited about any individual event, no matter how promising. To recycle my favorite phrase - the Royals recent history is littered with the carcasses of One Month Wonders. Wet Blanket, indeed. If you keep your expectations low, you won't be disappointed.

Alas, it was a gratifying weekend of baseball. I took full advantage of the free Extra Innings preview and watched most of all 3 games this weekend. (Interlude: In all honesty, I was in the car coming home on Saturday afternoon and I thought to myself "The Royals will be down 7-3 in the 7th inning." I turned on the TV, and that was EXACTLY right. Uncanny, but unfortunately the first thing I had right all weekend. OK, second: I thought BA would pitch well, too.)

I revelled in watching Denny Bautista utterly dominate the Angels on Friday night and enjoyed Ruben Gotay's offensive display yesterday. Bautista was a revelation; it was truly remarkable to watch a Royal starter actually blend power pitching WITH control. Boy howdy, he has great stuff. And Gotay is going to be a good hitter; I think his approach will prevent him from going into protracted slumps.

More Observations

-- Will the offense surprise? The Royals lead the AL in batting average right now, are 2nd in slugging (but 7th in runs). Overall, the offense has been mildly surprising, given that the expectations were for an offense which would rank among the worst in the baseball. I think its a mirage. The team has not put good wood on the ball; yesterday was the first game they actually hit the ball hard as a team. Otherwise, they've dinked and dunked their way to runs, with lots of ground ball singles finding the hole. That's not going to cut it in the long run, of course, but this could be a league average offense IF:

-- Sweeney can play 140-150 games
-- Gotay stays in the lineup for the entire season
-- Berroa achieves 95% of what he achieved his rookie year
-- Pickering isn't just a AAAA masher
-- And the Corner Outfield Consortium (COC) improves on last year's historic suckiness.

DeJesus, Gotay and Sweeney make up a pretty potent 1-2-3 combination.

-- Angel Berroa made an amazing defensive play on Friday on a grounder hit hard up the middle. Just as he was getting in position to field the ball, it hit the bag, changing the trajectory a few degrees. Somehow he was able to keep his concentration, field it AND throw out the runner. I think he's looked much better in the field this year, despite his error yesterday (which was on a ball deep in the hole that Teahen SHOULD have grabbed).

-- To wit, Mark Teahen looks very tentative offensively and defensively. Yesterday I watched him let up twice on ground balls to his left to let Berroa take them; it was such a strange sight. His body language looks mopey and uninspired; I get the impression that he's down on himself. I hope he's having the same jitters DeJesus had last year at the start of the season, but that's wishful thinking. Again, hard to make any proclamations after six games, but he doesn't look mentally prepared to be in the big leagues right now.

-- Yes, Pickering looks fat, slow and uninterested. But he deserves a pass for having a wife in labor limbo. I'm sure its affecting his concentration. The Royals will need him to provide the power if they're going to have any chance of being a league average offense this season.

-- This bullpen brings gas. Control issues may limit their effectiveness, but I think this is best collection of arms we've had in the 'pen in a long time.

-- BA, do that 10 more times, and we'll have a grade B prospect in our system by August.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Denny's Grand Slam

NOTE TO SELF - Stop making short-term predictions. You suck at it.

Kevin is on the money - that was the most dominating performance I've seen from a Royals starting pitcher in a long, long time. I was able to watch the entire game, and he was absolutely spectacular from start-to-finish. His control was superb, his fastball was overpowering and his curve was devastating. There were only 3 or 4 hard hit balls against him all night. Needless to say, I was very, very (pleasantly) surprised.

Of course, as a certified Wet BlanketTM I'm going to withhold judgment until I see Bautista make 10 starts. I still expect he'll be inconsistent from start to start.

But today, we celebrate: we now have a very clear idea of what he is capable of, and it's extremely promising.

Affeldt still stinks.

Friday, April 08, 2005

5 Questions for the Weekend

I'll be looking for some signs.

1) How well will Denny Bautista acquit himself tonight? Despite Bautista's impressive performance in spring training, I've been down on the decision to add him to the rotation. He'll be tested sorely tonight against a veteran and patient lineup.

2) Will Mark Teahen field a ball cleanly? He's been completely lost at the hot corner. As I mentioned yesterday, defense was supposed to be his strength. He looks polished at the plate in comparison. I'm hoping that he's just been suffering from extreme week one nerves, and after a few weeks he'll finally relax and play the position naturally. But the team will have to send him back to Omaha if he can't field his position.

3) Will Brian Anderson, test case #1 for Guy Hansen, show us anything with his new and supposedly improved mechanics? Anderson is a longtime veteran in this league, and he's been a league average pitcher. Amazingly, he was completely open to Hansen's suggestions about changing his mechanics. I don't know if that's refreshing or alarming; all I know is that Anderson is coming off of a terrible season, so it probably doesn't hurt to be humble. I'm counting on Anderson to have a solid first half of the season so he can be flipped for at least a Grade B prospect at the deadline.

4) Will Tony Pena continue to play hunches with his lineup? OK, we were all premature condemning Tony for not playing Stairs (hammy) and Pickering (baby). But he still played Graffanino, sending a not-too-subtle message to Gotay that his playing time is subject to the whims and feelings of his flighty manager. Gotay is not a utility player, he's not strong defensively and he's not an experienced bat off the bench. If he's not going to be starting, then it makes absolutely no sense to keep him with the big club.

5) Will I finally breakdown this season and subscribe to MLB Extra Innings? Hmmmm....I doubt it.

Anybody wanna share a MLB.TV subscription? (just kidding. Sorta. Call me)

Bold Proclamations

Record after the weekend: 2-4
Strong pitching performance: Brian Anderson
Worst pitching performance: Denny Bautista (Did I write that?)
Number of Times Caught Stealing: 4
Ejections: None

Salaries 2005

2005 player payroll data is now available. Of course, the Royals have one of the lowest overall payrolls in baseball - $36.9 million, down 22% from last year's free-agent frenzied $47.6 million. Only the Devil Rays have a lower payroll.

The Royals' median salary this season is practically in line with the major league minimum. Forget the Yankees; the team's payroll standing in their own division is deficient:

Chicago: $2,000,000
Detroit: $962,500
Minnesota: $750,000
Cleveland: $500,000
Kansas City: $352,000

The Royals do lead MLB is one undesirable category - the highest percentage of payroll tied up in one player's salary. Sweeney's $11 million salary represents 30% of the team payroll.


(Blogger has been functioning poorly lately. I intended to publish this post last night...)

Thanks to the magic of DVR, I managed to watch all of the important parts of today's game in 20 minutes. -- I thought Greinke pitched well today, at least up until the point when he was smashed in his right forearm. (I suppose that's like saying "I was driving my car extremely until I ran over Ms. Johnnybottom's Yorkie.") His control was fabulous and he kept the Tigers off balance by changing speeds very well. By his reaction, it didn't seem like Greinke was hurt very seriously. It'll probably be sore tomorrow, but it didn't appear to be anything more. But with this team, I fully expect to awake to the headline "Greinke's right arm amputated following rare blood clot due to internal bruising; left arm amputated by mistake, too." -- The 7th inning nuclear meltdown as preventable - twice. First, Teahen was eaten up by the ground ball hit by IRod. The ball was hit pretty hard, but that was a tailor-made double play ball. If he fields that cleanly, the Royals end that inning down 2-0. Teahen looks completely lost at third base. And this was supposed to be his STRENGTH. So far he appears to have much more poise at the plate than on the corner.

Second, of course, Graffinino's pathetic attempt at a backhanded flip cost the Royals one run and more importantly one out. That would have NEVER happened to Gotay (wink wink).These are the markers of bad baseball teams - a progression of declining play in a short period of time leading to massive breakdown and insurmountable deficits. Its also called the Royal Way. -- There are lots of things to look forward to this season, and I'm certainly looking forward to Bautista's first start tomorrow night. I'm afraid he might get pummeled in Anaheim, but it'll be fun to watch anyway.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

I Hate Blogger

About 50% of the time I try to publish something from Blogger, it doesn't "take". If I try to go back to my working page, all of my work is gone. I've tried to get in the habit of copying my work, but sometimes I forget, and its infuriating to spend time writing only to see it lost because of faulty software.

Ongoing Commentary on Rubber Thursday

It would be amazing if the Royals could capture the first series of the season, even if it is in Detroit. Winning road series is quite an accomplishment for this bunch. The outlook seems quite good, with our ACTUAL ace on the mound today. I'm very much looking forward to watching Greinke's season debut today. The DVR is recording the game as we speak (well, we're not really speaking).

-- True to form, Tony Pena is starting Tony Graffanino. Gotay, starter for all of one game, will surely be buried on the bench for two weeks after Tony G.'s perfect Wednesday. Even worse, why isn't Pickering starting today against the right hander (and Stairs)? I think Pena manages by feel rather than by logic, and since they won yesterday he "feels" like he should ignore his matchup advantages and keep practically the same lineup on the field until proven wrong.

Pena is so predictably ridiculous.

-- I recall that Jason Johnson gave the Royals some trouble last season, so I wouldn't be shocked to see him put together a solid performance today.

-- The Royals discussion board is alive with Johnny Damon condemnations in the wake of the publication of his book. On the surface, he's a very, very easy target - divorces his wife of 11 years (who was his high school sweetheart) after he becomes famous and leaves behindhis young twins to marry a blonde bombshell. Johnny's problem is classlessness - he should not have aired his marital problems publicly in his book. But I'm leery of standing in judgment of the anyone in absentia. People like to think they can understand what's happening with a public figure by cobbling together press clippings and juicy quotes, but I have no idea what drove Damon to leave his wife (well, except that hoards of young, buxom attractive women were beating down his door). Must we ASSUME that Damon is in the wrong here? Maybe being with his ex-wife was hell on earth. The point is no one has any idea.

-- OH S***! GREINKE JUST LEFT THE GAME IN THE THIRD INNING. What happened? I need MLB Audio! All I know is "Injury Delay" and "Nate Field replaces Zack Greinke".

UPDATE: Oh, I see that he took a line drive in the arm. I'm sure that smarts, but at least its not an actual injury. Whew.

-- Without the benefit of audio or video, I'm going to assume that Terrence Long was thrown out on a straight steal so I can rant about it: the Royals could have scored a run on John Buck's double play, rather than it ending the inning, if Long had stayed put. "Staying aggressive" is nothing more than a PR buzzword for a team that can't hit. To hell with that - better to learn the lesson that there ARE consequences to giving away outs by "staying aggressive" and this was a textbook example.

UPDATE: Apparently it was a blown hit and run. Its hard to drive blind!

-- 3:24 pm. Things have come unglued in the 7th, capped by Tony G.'s 2-run error. These are the Royals I've come to hate - they let the game get away from them too often. A managable 3-0 deficit is compounded by an error, leaving an insurmountable 7-0 deficit in its wake.

End transmission.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Today's Lineup

-- Pena has Gotay sitting today in favor of Tony Graffanino. Why? His MLB tendencies against left handers have hardly been established, and he's a switch hitter anyway. Can't he just let the kid play for a few weeks before sitting him out? (Of course, Graffanino is 2 for 2 as I write...but my point still stands!)

-- It wasn't just talk: Eli Marrero is indeed at 1B. Emil Brown, who earned the starting right field position, is starting in...left field. Matt Stairs is doomed to an 0-for-4, 2K day facing even a mediocre left hander like Maroth. Man, it's always frustrating to see the Royals struggle against even the most uninspiring left handed pitchers. An early 2-0 lead is refreshing, though.

-- Hernandez pitched a strong first two innings... and is unraveling in the third.

1) The dreaded leadoff walk
2) Followed by a single
3) Compounded by a wild pitch. Composure!

But he managed to wiggle out of it giving up only one run, leaving the bases loaded by punching out I-Rod and Magglio. Nicely done.

-- Of course, I have no idea NOW it happened, because I rely on the gamecasts to follow the action. I need to get my IT fellas at work to fix my Gameday Audio problem so I don't have to rely on this. Consider the contrast:

Audio: "(Dull buzz of crowd) Sharply hit towards the hole between 1st and 2nd (crowd noise rising)...base hit going into right field! (roar of approval)"

Gamecast: Pitch 7 - In play, no out(s) recorded (Constant hum of monitor)

Can you FEEL the drama?

UPDATE: I've been pretty much wrong about everything today. FOUR demerits:

1) My "Royals never hit lefties" rant has been rendered silly, as the Royals have chased Maroth in the 4th with 5 runs and 11 hits.

2) Matt Stairs hit a solid double against Maroth.

3) Graffanino is 3 for 3.

4) Hernandez steeled himself in the 3rd and DID NOT unravel. In the 4th, he fell behind 3-0 to Da Meat Tree and came back to strike him out. That's not the kind of mental toughness I've come to expect out of a Royal pitcher.

I'm wearing the Toilet Seat of Shame around my neck right now. Really.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


Disclaimer: I don't watch college basketball.

I thought last night's NCAA championship game had an odd feel to it. It was like a 5-12 first round matchup rather than a #1 vs. #2 dream matchup. That's not to say that Illinois wasn't a good team, but they just seemed physically overwhelmed by North Carolina, who boasted demonstrably more talented players at nearly every position. I can't recall an overall #1 seed having practically zero inside offensive AND defensive presence; Illinois generated all of their offensive from the perimeter or from garbage baskets. They weren't even a slashing team. And they had no way of stopping North Carolina from 15 feet in.

I'm shocked that such a perimeter-oriented squad could only lose one game all season playing in the Big 10. Their incredible defensive teamwork and intensity makes up for the difference, I suppose, and Bruce Weber must be one fantastic coach. He squeezed every ounce of productivity out of that team to get them as far as they did, which was a tie game without about 2 minutes to go. But I don't think I saw one future NBA player on the floor for Illinois.

On the other hand, Sean May, as dominant as he was in this tournament, looks like an NBA journeyman to me. He's just too short for center and not athletic enough to be a top-tier power forward. He'll be a useful scoring sixth man, though.

I was really impressed with Felton.

Now Can We Move On?

Opening day is a compelling event. The outcome of the game generates a lot of irrationality and emotion among loyalists, either squarely positive or negative. In New York, the buzz of talk radio is "same ol' Mets" after they blew a lead in the ninth inning. Royals fans, expecting nothing, feel even worse than they could have possibly imagined. The raw emotion of the day was underscored by the fact that Joe Po felt the need to issue a quasi-press release reminding fans that this is a youth movement (albeit the latest in a series of youth movement failures).

Jeremy Bonderman, barring injury, will make a habit of rendering opposing batters helpless for a long time to come. He's that good. But let's not forget that he's three years in the making, and his first season and a half was entirely forgettable. That Gotay andTeahen looked every bit the nervous rookies they are is a testament to how unenlightening spring training is and how hard it is to be a good major league baseball player. CLICHE ALERT: Time will tell.

There are many things that are pleasing about this franchise. They had their best draft in a long time last year. They have the second pick in the draft next year, which they WILL use on the best available talent (!). The team acquired three good talents last season (Bautista, Huber and Nunez) for practically nothing. Calvin Pickering is getting his shot, while Ken Harvey is being put in his place, which at least demonstrates the Royals are approaching roster building in the right way, even if Cal doesn't amount to much. Ruben Gotay is starting and Graffanino is a utility player, which makes the Royals better. And the team has an abundance of second-grade pitching talent, so let's hope that one or two of them in addition to Greinke will pan out.

The Royals still make mistakes. They're not good at acquiring major league talent. Recent history is littered with players whose decline has been accelerated at Kauffman Stadium. Jose Lima was a ridiculous free agent signing, even setting aside yesterday's stinker. Eli Marrero is an overpaid $2.5 million platoon player. Terrence Long is really, really bad (though Darrell May was bad, too, I was more confident May would return to being decent). Mark Teahen and especially Denny Bautista are being rushed to the majors for no appreciable reason. The outfield situation is a joke.

On balance, the direction is positive. But the June draft is of critical importance. This team has no future if it can't draft well, no matter how many Denny Bautistas AB can pull out of his (hat).

Monday, April 04, 2005

A Rousing Start

Returning from a long weekend in D.C. (I give 2.5 stars to the JW Marriott; nicely appointed rooms, great location, terribly uncomfortable beds, horrible entryway (no place for people to walk), I caught up with the Star catching up with the last period of Royals glory and this gem from today's opening day starter, Jose Lima:
“I get the chance to show them I've still got it,” he said, lips steeling into a
smile. “And it means I'm the ace here. I'm going opening day.”
Ah, the power of self delusion. The aftermath:

J. Lima (0-1): 3IP, 6H, 5ER, 0BB, 2K, 3HR

The Royals would have lost this game anyway considering how well Jeremy Bonderman pitched (man, he's going to be REALLY good). Greinke should have started the game, simply because he's the Royals' best pitcher and the team's best pitcher should start opening day. I won't lose any sleep over it, mind you (and I feel nothing but sadness for anyone who loses any sleep over anything the Royals do or do not do).

And I'm not going to get carried away with one start, but...ok, I'll get carried away. I now have one piece of evidence that help solidify my prediction that Lima would be a terrible signing. No need to expand upon that prediction. In the same vein, I finally ordered and received my copy of Baseball Prospectus 2005, and the writers noted that the Royals needed to, in so many words, improve their free agent signings. Lima is Exhibit J, behind a long list of recent free agent busts. I understand that the Royals can't expect anything meaty when they're dangling 1 year, $3 million contracts in front of potential signees, but is it unreasonble to expect ONE signing that performs at least to expectations? Where is our Jose Guillen? Allard Baird might be the King of the NRI, but he's shown little talent for finding diamonds in the major league rough.

Andy Sisco, the guy whom Allard Baird would have us believe would have made the team even if he hadn't been a Rule Fiver, notwithstanding the fact that he hadn't pitched an inning above A ball, walked 2 in less than 2 innings - and he was the Royals' best pitcher today. Welcome, friend. Sisco is in an incredibly tough position having to face major league hitting all season coming straight from a down season in high A, and I worry a bit that it could hurt his development. In the end, I think he's going to be a good-to-very good pitcher someday.

Calvin Pickering hit a meaningful/meaningless home run late in the game. Its meaningful because it means Ken Harvey is assured of staying in Omaha for at least 5 more games.

Other notes of interest from BP, in case you haven't read it:

-- Keeping Denny Bautista on the major league roster is a mistake.
-- PECOTA has bad things in store for Mark Teahen.
-- Justin Huber should be playing left field for the Royals. He'd be a work in progress in the outfield, but his offensive production would be superior to anything else the team could put out there.
-- Zack Greinke has a 0% change of collapsing this year, which is unheard of for a 21 year old.