Home for the Holidays
I've taken a bit of a hiatus from the Daily Lancer lately, but I thought I'd stop by to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. I'm not religious myself, but I always appreciate the warm feeling of family, community and reflection that I get on days like today. Merry merry.
Speaking of reflecting, I've been reflecting on the actions of the Royals over the past several weeks, and while they haven't acquired any individual difference makers at any position, I can at least see the sense behind the acquisitions. Barring disaster (which is admittedly difficult to bar given the Royals' recent history), the Royals have improved their defense immensely and I'm very happy to see that they're focused on this. The Royals have finished last in defensive efficiency 3 of the last 4 years, and I don't think there's any question it affects the way their young pitchers approach the game (and leads to their finesse pitchers getting pummelled). Its difficult to quantify, but my hope is that Greinke, Hernandez, Affeldt and the like can finally pitch without the pressure of having offensive defenders behind them.
I'm less enamored with the starting pitcher acquisitions, but Mark Redman and Scott Elarton are ostensibly actual major league starting pitchers in contrast to the Kyle Snyders of the baseball universe. The Royals' recent track record with pitchers of this ilk (Lima, Anderson, May) is, er, spotty, so how I can I NOT expect that one or both of these guys will finish in the bottom 10 in VORP for pitchers? The notion that this team will finally have a collection of players who can actualy catch the ball is the only thing that sustains my belief that these acquisitions will work out.
I do not like Joe Mays. $1 to 2 million for a replacement level 5th starter is a foolish investment, and I don't buy the "depth" argument (warm bodies are not depth). Mike Wood, Jimmy Gobble and Jeremy Affeldt are better in-house candidates than Mays, all with upside and lower cost. Baird seems to believe that Mays is still recovering from Tommy John surgery and that he'll finally be all the way back next year. I'd argue that All-The-Way-Back Joe Mays is below league average anyway, but I suppose if Baird is right then he'll be worth the investment. I'm not betting on it (and I have a poor recent record with gambling anyway...)
In any case, I give Baird credit for staying with the program rather than drifting in an attempt to salvage his job. All of his acquisitions are short-term, low-to-moderate cost and allow the Royals to keep their not-ready-for-prime-time prospects in the minors for at least one more season (I believe I wrote the same thing before the 2004 season, however, so that could be damning praise). I can't say with any confidence that this plan will bear any fruit, but at least it is a plan.
Baird will be fired after next season but it won't be because he's not a good soldier for the organization.