Saturday, May 14, 2005

My, How the Meek Have Fallen

I just re-read BP's synopsis of the Royals in their 2004 edition. I didn't recall the piece being quite so optimisitic, which of course explains why the experts at BP were so WRONG about so many things. The sunny feeling surrounding this team entering 2004, even if it was based on a mirage 2003, was real.

Most of the synopsis was focused on the development of Allard Baird as a general manager, whom they claimed joined the SABR revolution. AB has been covered ad naseum here, especially as a free agent talent evaluator, but the conventional wisdom is that AB is at a crossroads.

Overall Outlook
"In the long term, baseball in Kansas City look rosier than it has since the Royals put away the Cardinals in 1985."

I don't think this quite captures the sentiment these days.

Free Agents 2004
"Happily, the market for mid-tier free agents has cratered, and the Royals were one the few to take advantage of it."

Just change that sentence from "to take advantage" to "to be taken advantage of" and that assessment was on the money. They were correct that none of those deals locked them into long-term commitments, a point I echoed not long into the 2004 season.

The (Former) Manager
"...Pena himself admitted to Baird...that his inability to control the strike zone was his biggest weakness as a player. He fully supported an organizational approach to better plate discipline...Two years later, Pena is reigning manager of the year, while Showalter can't get along with the best player in the league."

I guess Tony was just living a lie in 2003.

Player Evaluations. This is where it gets plain sad.

1) Angel Berroa: "Berroa is is the AL Rookie of the Year. It's hard to say that Baird got taken by Billy Beane when he ended up with the best player in the deal...If he can simply maintain his rookie performance from now until free agency, he'll be the best shortstop in franchise history."

2) Jeremy Affeldt: "His propensity for blisters is the only reason Affeldt is not yet a household name...[I]f his procedure is successful, he's a great candidate to grab the staff ace mantle and 15-18 wins this season."

I guess that procedure didn't remove the blisters from his head.

3) Miguel Ascencio: "While Affeldt [gets] a lot of the hype, a breakout candidate of his own."

4) Jimmy Gobble: "Gobble, who had followed the Chris George career track since he was drafted, smartly diverged from the path last season. He throws harder and has a much better curveball, and he showed flahses of greatness after being abruptly thrown into a pennant race straight out of AA last August."

5) Mike MacDougal: "His breaking ball - somewhere between a curve and a slider - may just be the best pitch in baseball. [I]t's a...good sign that, from July 27 on, MacDougal walked only five batters in 20 innings. If MacDougal can maintain similarly impressive control in the future, he's going to be a stud."

These don't require much commentary. Berroa, Affeldt and Gobble have been the biggest disapppointments, since each have regressed continuously since the start of the 2004 season. Affeldt may still have some trade value, but Berroa (with his backloaded contract) and Gobble (who has fallen from top pitching prospect to has-been faster than any Royal in recent memory, which is saying a lot) are pretty useless right now.

Ascencio, of course, was lost to injury, which is just another piece of bad luck. Maybe he'll figure it out in San Diego (I think he's there).

I don't think many of us bought into the hype about MacDougal, even if he did freeze Bonds and Pujols with his awesome breaking ball. It's just painful to see his incredible pitching talent go to waste because he can't throw the ball where he'd like to throw it.


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