Wednesday, May 31, 2006

BREAKING NEWS: Baird Fired....Moore to be Next GM!

The Kansas City Star and 810WHB report that Allard Baird has been fired and that Dayton Moore will be the next GM of the Royals. All accounts suggest Moore will be extremely well paid and will have full control over the baseball operations.

Couldn't have imagined a happier scenario. I'm not all that pleased with how Glass left Baird dangling for so long, but the end result is about the best Royals fans could have possibly hoped for.

Mr. Moore - you have brought hope where there was none.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Off Again

I'm off to the Continental Europe again for a final trip. I'll be back in 2 1/2 weeks, perhaps postly sporadically if I have a spare moment. Hopefully, I'll come back and find that Andrew Miller has been selected by the Royals and some of these "changes" that Mr. Glass has spoken about are taking place. I'll be looking forward to baseball in June, especially with the return of Greinke, Madritsch, and MacDougal.

In other news, Dessens was appointed the team's closer. He's been the Royals' most consistent reliever and he'll probably do a decent job. Hopefully, Burgos can work out his problems and get his job back quickly (two good innings last night).

Hernandez continues to be ineffective after his one great start against Minnesota. Last night's performance of 7 hits, 5 runs, and 3 walks in 3 1/3 innings is a terrible line, although it's an improvement over Joe Mays. Jimmy Gobble pitched well in mop-up duty, striking out 4 in 2 2/3 innings. Gobble deserves another chance to start and with Hernandez pitching poorly, he should get that chance. Mark Redman, who the Pirates happily parted with, hasn't been much better. Hopefully, the return of Greinke and Madritsch gets some quality competition for these spots so we don't have to put up with terrible starting pitching for the rest of the season. But, I wouldn't count on it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

More Frustration: Royals' Road Problems Continue

The Royals' road futility continues, as they drop their 6th straight road game to the Indians. The Royals got an early 3-0 lead for Elarton, who pitched fairly well and got the game into the 6th with a 4-3 lead. Dessens held the lead and got the game into the ninth inning. In the ninth, Sizemore destroyed a 96-mph Burgos' fastball into the Indians' bullpen, tying the game at 4-4. Burgos has really struggled in May, blowing his last 3 saves and watching his ERA rise from 2.19 to 6.23. Last night's game was probably the last opportunity Burgos will have to close for a while, as Bell is pretty frustrated with the bullpen:

"We've got to make some changes," Bell said adamantly.

So, who will be the new closer? The two most likely candidates: Elmer Dessens and Joel Peralta. Both have pitched well in middle relief for the Royals and both are over age 30 (Bell likes older players). Sisco continues to struggle, so he isn't likely to be an option. I suppose the Royals could try Jimmy Gobble, but he hasn't been great either. MacDougal can't get back fast enough, although he isn't too consistent either.

Now on to Buddy Bell. I've been willing to give Buddy Bell a chance, but I think he has to go with Allard. The Royals need to completely redo the organization and the new general manager needs to be able to hire a manager that fits their system (if Bell fits, then that's fine). But, in almost a year, I haven't seen anything from Buddy Bell that makes me believe he's a good manager.

1. Bell's insistence on playing veterans over the future: I just want to start by saying hi to Justin Huber, who might be getting lonely on the bench. In over two weeks, Huber has had a total of 7 ABs and hasn't played first base at all. I'm all for protecting young players, but not to the extent that it hinders their development. Huber is ready to face big league pitching. His bat is more ready than Mark Teahen's and Teahen has over 500 career ABs. What is Buddy Bell hiding Justin Huber for? Matt Stairs has pretty well so far, but Huber can match his production (good plate discipline and modest power). Hubie can easily outproduce Mientkiewicz's .645 OPS, which is absolutely pathetic for a first basemen. Neither of those players factor into the Royals' future. Huber needs to see some big league pitching. If he wants to watch big league games, he can just buy a ticket and watch from the stands (I doubt Mr. Glass would give away a free ticket).

Another example is Tony Graffanino playing over Esteban German. Graffanino has played reasonably well, but German has played better and might be able to contribute in the future at least in a utility role. German has a .828 OPS and has shown good plate discipline. He should be leading off, where his on-base skills and speed can help the team. Which leads to the next point...

Why is Kerry Robinson leading off? He has a .288 OBP and no track record of being able to get on-base. Hopefully Robinson is sent down when Costa is healthy, as Guiel has more to offer with at least some power.

I suppose none of these things really matter considering that the team isn't going anywhere this season. But, I think it just verifies that Buddy Bell isn't a good manager. It seems he's already lost this team, so I think it would be in the Royals' best interest if he and Allard go as quickly as possible.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The End of the Allard Era: Organizational Changes

The Royals lack of progress over the past 10 years is largely due to the team's poor management from top to bottom. The first place the Royals must make changes is at the top of the organization, starting with the team's ownership.

The Glass Family:

The Glass family must realize that they ultimately determine the team's fate. And for the best interest of the team, both for baseball and financial success, it is best that they sit back and watch it. I appreciate the Glass family buying the team when it seemed that no one wanted it and keeping the Royals in Kansas City. However, the team has pretty much been non-existant for the past 5 years. The Royals are going to spend $50 million each season and the general manager is going to make several move throughout the season to improve the baseball team. Any interference from the ownership is completely unnecessary, especially considering that the team could not have been more poorly run over the past 5 seasons.

To improve the state of the franchise, the Glass family needs to make some important concessions. In the end, they will benefit from them financially and from being able to watch a competitive baseball team. The Royals need a stronger financial commitment from the Glass family. The Royals received $55 million in revenue sharing last year and those numbers should continue to increase. The value of the team has roughly doubled since Mr. Glass bought the time, in spite of its horrible performance. The Royals can be competitive on a payroll of $50-60 million as long as there is more funding for the amateur draft, scouting operations, and the farm system.

The Glass family must also step back from managing baseball operations. It's pretty well-known that Allard has been restricted in some of the moves he's made. The Glass family demanded that he get major-league talent for Jermaine Dye. There are also rumors that they have also prevented several other trades (Beltran for Wright, Sweeney for some of the Angels' top prospects), but those can't be confirmed. Nonetheless, it certainly appears that the Glass family have micromanaged the baseball operations to an extent that it makes the job very difficult. If they micromanage the ballclub this much with a GM they trust, I'd hate to see what happens with the new general manager. The Royals will be limited in their choice of general manager if they don't give the new general manager the final authority in baseball decisions.

New Baseball Operations Staff

The new general manager will inherit a decent core of young talent he/she can build the team around. The most important criteria for hiring the new GM is a strong track record of building farm systems and developing young players. The Royals' inability to do to develop their own talent has been the main reason for the past 5 years of futility. This problem must be addressed especially for the young pitching. The Royals simply cannot develop their own pitching. The talent has been there, but the proper instruction and conditioning hasn't. Getting an executive who has had tremendous success with developing pitching and can put together a player development scheme that will develop pitching must be a top priority. So, in other words, anyone associated with player development, it's time to clean out your office and pick up an application at Walmart.

The Royals' recent drafts have been fairly successful, so retaining Deric Ladnier or Allard Baird in the scouting department wouldn't bother me. Both seem to be a pretty good judge of young talent, especially for position players. As long as the Royals address the pitching side of the equation, Ladnier and Baird are welcome to stay.

The direction of the franchise ultimately depends on the changes that the ownership makes to the baseball operations staff and the Glass family's willingness to relinquish control of baseball operations. If these changes don't occur, it's going to be another frustrating 5 years for Royals' fans. The decisions the Glass family make in the next few months are going to tell us exactly where this franchise is going.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The End of the Allard Era: Pitching Talent

After looking through the hitting talent, the new GM feels better about the team's future. The Royals have enough hitting talent to build a pretty good offense. The big question is do the Royals have enough pitching talent? No, but they are off to a pretty decent start.

The Veterans:

The Royals went out and signed a group of veteran arms that has yielded mixed results. Scott Elarton has been pretty average so far, and his success likely won't continue with the homeruns and walks piling up. Mark Redman hasn't been very good so far. The Royals' best pitching acquistion has turned out to be middle reliever Elmer Dessens. Dessens signed a two-year deal, so he should give the Royals two solid years of middle relief. Fortunately for the Royals the best signings were the long-term deals, so the Royals can keep the good pitching or use it as trade bait.

The 2003 Group:

The Royals still have 4 talented arms from the 2003 group that are at a critical stage of their careers with the club. Affeldt, Hernandez, MacDougal, and Gobble have shown the Royals flashes of their potential, but haven't been able to consistently pitch well. Hopefully they can give the Royals a couple of solid years before they become free agents, but it's not something to count on. If they do figure out how to become good, consistent pitchers, they will probably be too expensive for the Royals after becoming free agents.

The Current Youth:

The Royals' next group of arms offers more hope, mainly because the organization hasn't had as much time to screw them up. The Royals have some talented young starters, beginning with Zack Greinke. There's no question he has the talent to be a very good pitcher and he probably won't need much coaching help to do it. Hopefully he'll be able to overcome the issues he's been dealing with over the past two seasons.

The Royals' second-best bet to become a solid starter is JP Howell. Howell has below-average velocity, but has good command and excellent secondary stuff. He was doing very well at Omaha, but has missed two starts because of shoulder stiffness. Howell is a good candidate to become a mid-rotation starter if big league hitters don't feast on his fastball.

Denny Bautista arguably has the best stuff of any pitcher on the team. But, his injury problems and inconsistency make it tough to believe he'll put it together. If he does, he could be the Royals' ace.

Mike Wood has pitched very well for the Royals so far. He's picked up a staff-high 3 wins long relief. Wood has kept the Royals in some games that figured to be blowouts because the Royals' starter wasn't effective. Wood deserves a shot to start and it might turn out to be one of the team's most-effective starters.

So, for the foreseeable future, the Royals' rotation looks like this:

1. Free Agent Pretending to be an Ace
2. Hernandez
3. Greinke
4. Affeldt
5. Howell/Bautista

After 2007, hopefully Greinke becomes the ace of the staff. The Royals have Affeldt through 2007 and Hernandez through 2008.

Prospects: The Royals' starting pitching depth in the minors is improving gradually. Billy Buckner and Danny Christensen both have good fastballs and great curves and could enter the picture in late 2007 or 2008. Chris Nicoll has a combination of solid stuff and excellent command and might enter the picture by 2008. These prospects may give the Royals some options to replace Hernandez and Affeldt once they become free agents. Luis Cota is probably the only other starter in the organization besides Greinke and Bautista with the talent to fill the ace role, but that will be at least another few years.

Overall, the Royals' pitching situation is slowly improving. The Royals have actually had some decent performances out of their pitching so far. The Royals still need to acquire some top pitching talent to really solidify the staff. The 2006 1st overall pick should be a very good starting point.

In the next post, I'll discuss what changes the organization needs to make to become competitive again.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The End of the Allard Era: Hitting Talent

As the new General Manager, you look at Buddy Bell's lineups and ask yourself why you accepted this job in the first place. The Royals have scored 3 runs or less in 18 of their first 28 games (64%). As you look through the big league roster, there isn't much hope for young hitting talent. David DeJesus and Shane Costa offer some hope for the offense, but both have been injured. DeJesus has established himself as the team's leadoff hitter, but he must stay healthy. The first core of younger players: Buck, Teahen, and Berroa are struggling. There's a few serviceable veterans like Reggie Sanders, Mark Grudzielanek, and Mike Sweeney (when healthy). But, they probably won't be on the team after 2007.

While the big league club offers little hope for improving the offense, the Royals have an impressive duo of bats at AA who should be the focus of the offense after 2007. Alex Gordon and 20-year-old Billy Butler figure to be the organization's No. 3 and 4 hitters of the future. Gordon has had no problem adjusting to professional pitching, producing a .903 OPS so far at AA. Gordon appears to be major-league ready right now and will continue to mash in the minors until he's called up. Butler has demolished every level of the minors he's been through so far, and AA is no exception. The sky is the limit for Butler offensively. There is a consensus among scouts that these are two of the best bats in the minors.

If Butler and Gordon live up to expectations, the Royals should have a strong middle of the lineup. If one should fail to live up to expectations, the most likely replacement would be Justin Huber, who is mostly likely the No. 5 hitter of the future. Huber hit 23 HRs between AA and AAA last year and possesses very good plate discipline. The main question is whether or not he'll hit enough to be a first basemen. However, if his minor league stats are any indication, that shouldn't be an issue.

Two other good bats nearing the majors are Chris Lubanski and Mitch Maier. Lubanski had a huge year at High Desert last season, hitting 38 doubles, 28 homeruns and driving in 116 runs. His High Desert performance was questioned because of the hitter-friendly nature of the league. However, he's answered those questions at AA by posting a higher OPS than Billy Butler. Depending on how well Butler, Gordon, and Huber develop, Lubanski probably could be a No. 2, 5, or 6 hitter. Mitch Maier is also nearing the majors and is one of the most well-rounded outfielders in the organization. Maier would probably profile as a No. 2 or 6 hitter with gap power and speed. Maier is one of the few Royal outfielders with enough arm strength and speed to play RF, so he may be the only candidate to take Sanders' spot in 2008.

After looking through the top two levels of the minors, the new GM would feel a lot better. The Royals appear to have enough talent to fill out the 1 through 6 spots in the lineup with good, young talent. Depending on the progress of Buck, Berroa, and middle infield prospects (Murphy, Gotay, Sanchez, etc.), the Royals may need to find outside help to fill out the bottom of the order.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The End of the Allard Era?

In the coming week, I will breakdown why Allard should be fired or retained and discuss what the next GM should do with the talent in the organization. Mr. Glass will be pondering the same thing over the next few months. The four basic areas where his job will be assessed are:

1. The overall status of the organization
2. The farm system, drafts, and player development
3. Free agent signings and trades
4. Hiring coaches and staff.

Why Baird Should Be Retained?

1. The Royals are currently in a full rebuilding mode. Allard has implemented a pretty good plan for the organization, as the team must rely on its youth to eventually become a contender. While the organization's win-loss record has gotten steadily worse over the past 4 seasons, it does appear the organization is making some progress. The Royals do have some young pitching talent on the big-league team and have some good bats not too far away.

2. The Royals' farm system has made good strides recently. Last year's draft gave the Royals an easy superstar pick in Alex Gordon, an excellent young 2nd basemen in Jeff Bianchi, and a good college pitcher in Chris Nicoll. The Royals' 2004 draft was also a success, bringing the Royals' another potential superstar in Billy Butler. The 2004 draft also added a couple of nice college starters with JP Howell and Billy Buckner. In addition to improving the players the Royals have drafted, the Royals continually improved their draft position during the past few years, locking up the first-overall pick for 2006 and putting up a good fight for the 2007 first-overall pick. Overall, Baird and his scouting department have improved their drafts considerably over the past 6 years and those results are starting to show in the farm system.

3. Allard's 2006 free agent signings have been decent. Reggie Sanders, Mark Grudzielanek, and Doug Mientkiewicz have improved the Royals' defense on the right side of the field. Their offensive production has dropped off from their 2005 seasons, but those three have still been the Royals' most consistent bats. Elarton and Dessens have also pitched well for the Royals so far. The trades for Huber, Bautista, and Nunez cost the Royals virtually nothing and may pay dividends in the future.

4. Baird has hired some interesting characters who have contributed to the Royals' entertainment level.

Why Baird Should Be Fired?

1. The Royals have gone into a full rebuilding mode, during which the Royals have lost 100+ games in the past 2 seasons. The Royals haven't just been bad, they've been historically bad. The Royals are currently on pace to lose more than 106 games, which would make them the first team in major league history to lose 100 games for three seasons in a row and get worse each season. During the Baird's tenure, the Royals have tied or broken the franchise record for losses four times already and this season could be number five. That has to be a record as well. While Baird has implemented a good plan, the execution of the plan has been poor.

2. The Royals' farm system is making strides, but it still has major deficiencies. The Royals' pitching depth and quality still needs significant improvement. The Royals also don't have any quality replacements for Buck or Berroa in the near future. The biggest problem the organization faces is the inability to develop its own talent into good, consistent major leaguers. The Royals have not done this during the Baird Era and show no significant signs of making progress in this area.

3. Baird has made some laughable free agent signings, including Juan Gonzalez, Benito Santiago, Albie Lopez, Darrell May, Scott Sullivan, Brian Anderson, Jose Lima, and many others that David Glass surely regrets spending his hard-earned revenue sharing money on. The Royals have fared badly in the three main trades Baird has made. The Damon, Dye, and Beltran trades have lost a good second basemen (Mark Ellis) and gained very little in return. Mike Wood will likely turn out to be the cornerstone of the Beltran deal (he is a quality middle reliever, but not what you want for a superstar CF). However, Buck and Teahen are struggling badly at the big league level and may end up as backups. The Dye deal gave the Royals a shortstop who was as bad as Angel Berroa. The Damon deal gave the Royals Angel Berroa, which has probably done more harm than good.

4. Baird has done a terrible job of hiring organizational personnel. He let Tony Muser remain manager far too long and then hired Pena clown. Buddy Bell hasn't been anything special either, not that any manager could drastically improve the state of the organization. The Royals annually fire the pitching and hitting coaches with no noticeable improvements.

The Decision

I'm sure Mr. Glass is already pondering this, but I think he probably knows it's Baird's time to go. Mr. Glass sent out an ultimatum last season stating the Royals must improve to .500 this season or Baird would be finished. The Royals have tried changing managers and coaches many times, but that hasn't improved the ballclub. The one constant through the past 6 years of futility has been Allard Baird. The fans have grown impatient of an organization that has thrown away three seasons in a row now only to watch Teahen, Buck, and Berroa strikeout a lot and Huber sit on the bench. Some youth movement isn't it?

Allard deserves better. There probably aren't many GMs who work harder than him and he's fully dedicated himself to this franchise and I respect that. However, like Allard has said, it's a results-based business and he isn't getting the job done. Hopefully the next general manager will. In the next few posts, I will discuss what talent the next GM has to work with and what organizational changes must be made.

On a closing note, here's a quote from an article just after the Muser firing:

"If you want to feel sorry for somebody, feel sorry for the baseball fans in Kansas City. They've not only had to put up with 431 losses since July 9, 1997, but now there's a very real danger that their team won't even exist a year or three from now."

The organization still exists, albeit on the life-support of David Glass and major league baseball. There are still plenty of die-hard Royals' fans who will support this team once it becomes competitive again. Let's hope we can find a GM who can rebuild this franchise and get the Royals back to 1985, or at least .500.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Our young arms in the minors

Last year, the Royals' farm system seemed completely bereft of any pitching talent. Things seem to have improved considerably, as most of the Royals' pitching prospects have done well at the next level and had success. The Royals have had good performances from starting pitching prospects JP Howell, Billy Buckner, Danny Christensen, and Chris Nicoll. The Royals' efforts in the Dominican may be starting to pay off as well with a new group of arms now in A ball. A combination of good recent drafts (especially for not focusing on pitching as much) and prospects not regressing has improved the Royals' farm system.


1. JP Howell: Howell really struggled in his last two starts, surrendering 12 runs and 20 hits (8 for extra bases) in 10 innings. Ouch! Howell is doing a good job of throwing strikes over his last two starts (just 1 walk), but those strikes are getting hit pretty well. Howell finished the month with an excellent K/BB ratio of 4. Howell’s secondary pitches, especially his curve, are very good and his fastball does a good job of getting grounders. However, Howell’s fastball does concerns me, as its velocity is well-below average. He must develop great command of it to be successful in the majors. If he leaves it up and over the plate, hitters are going to demolish it. If Howell overcomes the challenge, he can probably be a good No. 3 or 4 starter in the majors. If not, he better get used to his Omaha jersey.

First 3 Starts: 3-0 2.65 ERA 15 IP 13 Hits 0 HRs 5 BBs 13 SOs
Last 2 Starts: 0-2 10.80 ERA 12 IP 20 Hits 2 HRs 1 BB 11 SOs

Totals: 3-2 5.67 ERA 27 IP 33 Hits 2 HRs 6 BBs 24 SOs Ground Outs 39 Fly Outs 18

Others: Brian Bass finished the month with a respectable 4.50 ERA, but he needs to strike out more batters. Danny Tamayo might be worth a look in long relief after putting up a 1.69 ERA and striking out 15 in 16 innings.


1. Juan Cedeno: The lefty Cedeno has good stuff, possessing a mid-90s fastball, potential plus curve, and change. But, he’s been hit pretty hard throughout his minor league career and this season is no exception. Cedeno is walking far too many hitters and has allowed over a hit per inning, a combination that has led to his early struggles. He’s still very young for AA, so he has plenty of time. The Royals skipped him past High Desert last year.

Totals: 0-2 5.91 ERA 22 2/3 IP 27 Hits 3 HRs 13 BBs 19 SOs 1.76 WHIP

2. Leo Nunez: Nunez has also struggled with command, walking almost 1 hitter per inning. He’s also allowed 3 homeruns in just 9 innings. Like Cedeno, Nunez possesses electric stuff and is very young for AA.

Others: Ryan Braun is a bit of a sleeper. He possesses a good fastball and is off to a good start, striking out 13 in 10 innings.

High Desert

1. Billy Buckner: Buckner has pitched well at High Desert, possessing a 3-0 record and a 3.25 ERA. Buckner has struck out almost a hitter per inning (and so has just about every pitcher on the High Desert roster) and has yet to allow a homerun in a very hitter-friendly park. He needs to cut down on the walks, as he’s averaging 4.6 BBs/9 IP.

3-0 3.25 ERA 27 2/3 IP 27 Hits 0 HRs 14 BBs 24 SOs 1.48 WHIP

2. Danny Christensen: Christensen has also pitched well. His K/BB ratio is very good (6.6!). The 23-year-old lefty also has an outstanding 1.07 WHIP as well. Both Christensen and Buckner have had impressive success considering the difficulties higher elevations impose on pitchers who rely heavily on curveballs.

0-1 4.03 ERA 29 IP 26 Hits 2 HRs 5 BBs 33 SOs 1.07 WHIP

3. Luis Cota: Cota has had a disappointing season so far, but that’s not entirely unexpected given his youth and command issues. The combination of hits and walks has created problems for the young righty.

1-3 6.92 ERA 26 IP 30 Hits 2 HRs 11 BBs 19 SOs 1.58 WHIP


1. Chris Nicoll: Nicoll has done nothing but impress since joining the Royals’ organization. Nicoll has dominated low A hitters so far, allowing just 4 hits and 2 earned runs in 10 innings. Nicoll’s 15 strikeouts in 10 innings is impressive as well.

1-1 1.80 ERA 10 IP 4 Hits 0 HRs 4 BBs 15 SOs 0.80 WHIP

2. Matthew Kinginyzky: The Canadian right-hander has enjoyed success after becoming a starter again. His control has been very impressive, with just 4 walks in 30 innings. Here’s a good article about Kinginyzky: Kinginyzky article

Although his recent success as a starter is promising, the article mentions a cause for concern:
Kinginyzky said, “It's easier for me to come in for two or three innings. Guess I wear out as a starter.”

2-1 2.90 ERA 31 IP 27 Hits 1 HRs 4 BBs 25 SOs 1.00 WHIP

The Bees also have a group of arms from the Dominican that might be worth watching. Eliszer Garcia, Carlos Rosa, Rayner Oliveros, and Gilbert De la Vara have all pitched well for Burlington.