Friday, August 19, 2005

Time to fire Baird?

Allard Baird has been the GM of the Royals for over 5 years now. The Royals have set or tied the club record for losses 3 times and are on pace to shatter it this year. Baird took over as GM in June of 2000, and that team was 44-56 after he took over (although this really wasn't his team). In the 5 seasons during which he has had full control over the team, the results haven't been good.

2001 65-97
2002 62-100
2003 83-79
2004 58-104
2005 38-81 (on pace 52-110)

Total 306-461 .399

The only teams during this period who have been worse are Tampa Bay and Detroit. Both teams have made significant strides this year. Tampa Bay has some great young position players, although their record hasn't improved that much. The Royals' young talent hasn't shown much improvement this year, in spite of a declaration of a developmental year. While it's still too early to tell whether or not Greinke, Teahan, Buck, and others will work it, the early returns aren't good. Here's my rationale for why Baird should be fired at the end of the season:

1. Free Agent Disasters: Baird has done a terrible job of signing free agents. The infamous list of miserable signings: Lima, Anderson, May, Sullivan, Gonzalez, Santiago, Lopez, and Knoublach. This is one area he showed little improvement over his tenure. In 2004, with the team expecting to contend, all of Baird's free agent signings failed, and the team lost 104 games. With a low base payroll next year and plenty of money to spend, Baird could lock the Royals into some bad contracts that ruin a new GMs' ability to improve the ballclub.

2. Trades: Baird hasn't done as well in this area as most Royals' fans give him credit for doing. The Damon trade gave the Royals Berroa and a overpaid closer. Berroa continues to frustrate Royals fans with great tools, but his awful plate discipline and lack of focus in the field make him a below-average shortstop. The trade also sent Mark Ellis to the A's, who could have been a decent stopgap second basemen and allowed Gotay and Murphy to develop in the minors. The Jermaine Dye trade was terrible. The Beltran trade is still an unknown, but the early returns aren't good. Mike Wood looks like a tolerable No. 5 starter or long reliever. Mark Teahan, if he develops power, has the upside of being a Joe Randa-type 3rd basemen (don't count on it though). John Buck has struggled mightily, but has shown some promise. Overall, the Royals didn't acquire any impact players in any of these key deals. Would you trade Damon, Dye, Beltran and Ellis for Hernandez, Berroa, Perez, Teahan, Buck, and Wood? Baird has done well in some small deals: Huber for Bautista, Bautista for Grimsley, Nunez for Santiago, Graffanino for Cedeno and Ambres. Baird has also made some poor small deals, Graeme Lloyd for whoever, Eli Marrero for Jorge Vasquez, come to mind. Overall, I think Baird has done a below-average job in his trades.

3. Farm System: The Royals have one of the weakest farm systems in baseball. Aside from Butler and Huber, the Royals don't have any (short-season excluded) prospects who project as impact players. For a lineup with no pop to begin with, that's a problem. The Royals pitching depth is very poor. The Royals have just one SP prospect who has frontline starter potential, and he's a 19-year-old in low A ball. The Royals don't have good depth at 3rd base or catcher. Considering how much talent the Royals have given up over the past 5 years, the farm system should be pretty well replenished (or at least the big league team).

4. Drafts: Baird's first draft looks alright, obtaining DeJesus and Gotay. The 2001 draft yielded Colt Griffin, who will someday hold the Wichita record for walks. The 2002 draft looks good, assuming Greinke develops into an average starter or better. The 2003 draft looks pretty good with Cota, Lubanski, Costa, Maier, and Aviles coming out of that draft. The 2004 draft was good. Billy Butler looks like a future All-Star and Howell and Buckner could help the back-end of the rotation soon. If Gordon signs, the 2005 draft looks very good. Baird and his scouting department have shown noticeable improvement here.

5. Hiring Organizational Personnel: Baird hasn't done a very good job of this. The organization still ruins every starting pitching prospect they get their hands on. Pena wasn't a good hire and Bell isn't looking much better. The Royals have used numerous pitching coaches with no noticeable improvements.

6. Tunnel-vision: Baird has a serious case of tunnel vision. He constantly obsesses over one specific need instead of getting the best talent available. With good tradebait like Beltran, Baird needed to get premium talent, not average prospects. I'd almost like to see him fired just so I don't have to hear about this corner outfielder that he probably won't every find anyway.

7. Player Development: The Royals haven't done a good job of developing players. Ultimately, this falls on Baird's shoulders. He hires the coaches in the organization that help develop young players. Baird also decides when prospects are promoted. His tendency to rush players to the majors to fill holes on the team has backfired. Skipping AAA doesn't seem to be helping either.

Reasons to Keep Baird or Give Him More Time:

1. Baird has developed a core of young players that will be together for the next 4 or 5 years. Whether they are any good or not, only time will tell. But, the patience of Royals fans is running thin.
2. Firing Baird might alter the direction of the franchise. Hard to see that as a negative thing though.
3. The Royals had their only winning season since 1994 under Baird
4. He's a nice guy and a hard worker

Overall, it seems like Baird is a good scout and a bad general manager. He seems to have a good nose for projectable talent. But, when it comes to finding polished, major-league talent, he's struggled to find it. The Royals have made numerous changes to coaches/managers in the organization, but that hasn't helped. The results over the past 5 years speak for themselves. The 2005 team hasn't shown much improvement and the two guys that everyone was predicting to have very good years have regressed badly (Greinke and Buck). It's Baird's time to go.


At 2:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Baird is going to make baseball history! The Royals CAN'T fire him now! Last year, 104 losses. This year, about 110-115. Next year, the Royals go for the Holy Grail: 120 losses! Look out '62 Mets, here come the Royals!

Could 0-162 be in the Royals' future someday?

At 12:42 PM, Blogger Dave said...

Free agent disasters:

Lima - agreed
Anderson - good signing at the time
May - I'm indifferent on this one
Sullivan - good signing at the time
Gonzalez - good signing at the time
Santiago - good signing at the it Baird's fault he got hurt? And he still turned him into Leo Nunez.
Lopez - Albie? Agreed.
Knoublach - an early low-risk mistake

Conclusion: Baird has been unlucky, but he's been very good at hedging his bets by not signing any of these risks to long-term contracts that get the Royals into trouble.

I also find your reasons #3 and #4 to be very conflicting. On the one hand, you criticize the Royals farm system, but on the other, you admit that Baird's drafts have been pretty good.

I agree with you on the drafts, but I completely disagree with you on the farm system. While I'd definitely like to have more pitching down there, I don't think many organizations can look at their minor leagues and see that in less than two years, 33% of their major league starting lineup will be replaced by three potentially high-impact bats (Butler, Huber, and Gordon).

Our middle infield depth is incredibly solid throughout the organization, and I dispute your contention that KC has no depth at either 3B or C. Besides the fact that both Teahen and Buck would both, under ideal circumstances, still be playing in the minors, Gordon at 3B (once he signs) and Tupman, Thibault, and Howell at C provide all the depth we need (I used to think that Gordon would be likely to start his professional career in RF, but right now I wouldn't be surprised if he opens at 3B.).

As for the tunnel vision thing with the corner outfielder, I question how much that is Baird, and how much that is the media constantly asking him about it.

OK, I have to cut this short because I must get back to work.

At 1:26 PM, Blogger SoonerRoyal said...

Baird has been somewhat unlucky in the free agent market. But, results are what count. He goes after below-average aged veterans who are high-risk. Guys like Anderson, Lima and May are high risk because of how inconsistent they have been throughout their careers.

The main reason #3 and #4 conflict is that I'm looking at a successful draft as producing two major league players. It looks like the 2003-2005 drafts will do so. However, when you compare the Royals' farm system to the others in the division or around baseball, it isn't very good.

As far as depth at 3B and catcher, both Buck and Teahan probably should be in the minors. But, beyond them, there isn't much depth (I'm not willing to count short-season guys yet or unsigned players). Tupman and Phillips could be backup catchers, but that's not exactly a prime commodity. Gordon signing will definitely help and the trio of catchers at Idaho Falls are having a great debut (Howell, Thibault, and Everett). But, until Gordon signs and those catchers produce at A ball, I'm unwilling to say that our 3B or catching depth is good.

At 2:06 PM, Blogger DL said...

The quality and depth of position player in the minor league system has improved over the last few years, though still not up to par with the better systems. But Dave, I think you're grossly glossing over the starting pitching situation. The Royals have so little in the pipeline, and practially no margin for failure (which is inevitable, esp. on this team), that its impossible to see how the Royals are going to be able win when the position players mature. Come 2007-8, this will probably be at least a league average offense, have a slightly above average bullpen and hopefully a decent fielding team. But I cannot envision how this team is going to have enough starting pitching to win. Its the same old bugaboo, and Baird is accountable.

And on free agents, I know you're a big AB fan, but in this case I think you're just being an apologist by calling him unlucky. "Good signing at the time" has a sliver of truth, but does not even come close to compensating for the fact that Lima, Anderson, Sullivan, May, Gonzalez, Santiago and Knoblauch not only produced nothing for this team, but were among the worst performers in the league after they joined the Royals. If it happened once, maybe twice, I'd call it bad luck. But 8 times?

At 3:08 PM, Blogger Dave said...

"I think you're grossly glossing over the starting pitching situation. The Royals have so little in the pipeline, and practially no margin for failure (which is inevitable, esp. on this team), that its impossible to see how the Royals are going to be able win when the position players mature. Come 2007-8, this will probably be at least a league average offense, have a slightly above average bullpen and hopefully a decent fielding team. But I cannot envision how this team is going to have enough starting pitching to win."

Fill out the 2007 roster, and you'll notice something...Almost everyone on the team, except for Sweeney, Berroa (who hopefully will be gone), and a couple pitchers in their arbitration years, will still be earning only slightly above the league minimum. Why is this signficant? Because the Royals will be able to fill their holes, whether it's an outfield hole or a starting rotation hole, or both, with moderately-priced free agents when the time comes.

I also expect a couple of their young starting pitchers to fail -- it's a phenomenon not unique to the Royals. But the beauty of the youth movement, as I see it unfolding, is that the Royals will have the financial flexibility to go get someone -- most likely after the 2006 season, but maybe even in this coming offseason -- who can help to bolster the starting rotation. The way I see it, as long as the Royals develop three quality starters (who I envision being Greinke, Hernandez, and _____), I think they'll be just fine in '07 with their rotation. I'm not expecting them to sign an ace, but they shouldn't have any problem signing one or two decent 200-inning guys if they need to.

Perhaps you don't trust Baird to find the right free agents, but I still do.

Sooner, let me ask you this? Which teams in the division are you referring to that have better farm systems, right now, than the Royals? The Tribe's talent pool is nearly empty -- everyone sans Sowers is already in Cleveland. The Tigers have two stud starting pitchers (Verlander and Zumaya) and little else. The Twins? I don't know a whole lot about them, but I have seen their double-A team, and I'd take Wichita's roster in a heartbeat.

I'm sorry...I just don't see how the Royals have a poor farm system. I view it as being quite well-stocked, especially relative to the rest of our division.

At 3:26 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

I'm with Dave here -- the farm system is not bereft now, and looking at how many young players are on the Royals ML roster lets us know how many potential players the system has put out in the last two seasons. Granted, hardly any have worked, but in the pitching dept. this is due to injury (and possibly because of rushing them), and as for the position players -- I don't think this is the correct environment for them to flourish.

The statment you made about "The Royals have just one SP prospect who has frontline starter potential..." is just plain wrong. To believe that, you have to ignore what most people, scouts, GM's, whomever, are saying about Grienke and Bautista. That just isn't logical to me.

The free agent pickups haven't been good, yes, poor grade for Baird there. But he hasn't overspent, really -- who's making any kind of real money except for Sweeney? Long, perhaps, but everyone knew the deal with picking Long up. It was to get rid of May and to get Tankersley. So one bad contract with Long is easily tolerable, because nobody else is making enough money to hurt the team -- and Long won't be around next year.

I could be with on on the hiring organizational personnel part, but I just don't have enough knowledge of who Baird has hired, when, and why apart from the managers and pitching/hitting coaches. The training staff and minor league coaching system would seem to possibly need some changes, but all that's really over my head.

Baird should be on the hot seat, but not fired. We should all look for some sort of progress next year, whether in their record or in the developmental process with their younger players, and then look very hard at 2007. If nothing has changed by 2007, then by all means, get a new GM.

At 3:50 PM, Blogger SoonerRoyal said...

"I'm sorry...I just don't see how the Royals have a poor farm system. I view it as being quite well-stocked, especially relative to the rest of our division."

Herein lies the problem: the Royals big league team is lightyears away from the rest of the division. So, the Royals have to find a way to improve their team and get to the level of the rest of the division. If the Royals don't have better talent in the farm system than the other teams in the division, that'll be tough to do. The Royals have 2 impact bats in the upper minors (3 if they sign Gordon). That's pretty much it. They have okay position player depth otherwise, but no real All-Star caliber talent. The pitching depth isn't good at all, with most SP prospects profiling as No. 4 or 5 starters. Luis Cota is pretty much the exception and he profiles as a No. 2/3 starter if his command develops. I'll do a post later in the week about the other farm systems in the division because that would take up too much space here.

The 2007 team looks average at best. Figuring that 2 out of the 3 impact prospects (Huber, Butler, and Gordon) become middle of the order hitters, the Royals have an average lineup, assuming the rest fills out. The bullpen may be above-average, but the rest of the division already has 4 of the best bullpens in baseball. The starting rotation looks bleak. Hernandez, Greinke, and ???. Well, Hernandez has shown he's a No. 3/4 starter at best. Greinke, Bautista, and Sisco are wildcards, but I think we'd be lucky if one pans out the way the Royals develop pitching. That looks like a .500 team at best.

At 4:04 PM, Blogger SoonerRoyal said...

"To believe that, you have to ignore what most people, scouts, GM's, whomever, are saying about Grienke and Bautista"

Greinke and Bautista aren't prospects anymore. The discussion involves the farm system.

At 6:16 PM, Blogger DL said...

And we can't just write off Greinke's performance this year, either. He's been somewhat unlucky pitching in front of the worst defensive team in baseball, but there's no doubt he's regressed. He's been extremely hittable. And with Bautista being injured for a good part of the season...the two ace prospects aren't looking as rosy as they did at the beginning of the season.

At 9:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem started with Herk Robinson but it's really come to light since Allard Baird. I once read somewhere (sorry, mind is failing me) that Mr. Moneyball himself "looked for" trades with the Royals, knowing he could take full advantage of Baird.

At 12:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Royals are such screw-ups! Why couldn't they have at least lost three more in a row and had SOMETHING to remember this season by? I mean, if you're going to play a like a bad Double-A team and stink out the league, at least make some history along the way!

At 3:48 PM, Anonymous Will said...

Wonderful work as usual...

The problem with firing Baird, as I see it, is the alternative.

Do you really think that Glass is going to make a good hire? No, of course not. He'll find the cheapest option availible, and while I personally think that a young saber-head could fit that bill and do well, it's more ikley that some lame as hell baseball lifer (a la Bell) will get the nod.

personally, I'll take allard over someone like John Kruk.

At 4:30 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

"Greinke and Bautista aren't prospects anymore. The discussion involves the farm system."

They aren't far enough away from the minors to say that. Bautista has pitched about a month, and Grienke a little over a full season at 21 years old.

Shane Costa was up for a bit -- is he not a prospect anymore? Is Nunez not a prospect anymore since he pitched here for a few months? Donnie Murphy? Ruben Gotay? Chip Ambres?

There are prospects around the minors who have had stints with the big club yet have gone back down, you know. It doesn't change their status immediately upon hitting the bigs.

It just seems that to drop-kick the farm system it behooves you to ignore that a bunch of prospects the farm system just had are playing for the big club. Otherwise you'd have to rate the system as poor, but not "bereft".

At 11:06 PM, Blogger SoonerRoyal said...

Generally, once a player is no longer considered a rookie (had more than 130 ABs or pitched more than 50 innings), they lose their prospect status. Greinke and Bautista both have met those criteria. But, I'll agree with you that we do have some young starting pitching and could have a really nice group of young pitching if Sisco and/or Burgos are converted into starters. The problem here hasn't been talent though, it's been developing starters.


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