Saturday, March 31, 2007

Around the Horn, weekend preview edition, and Royals Authority's preview

Around the Royals blogosphere:

  • Clark Fosler of Royals Authority provides today's preview, a very straightforward piece with a bunch of projections and stuff that'll make you nod but not much else. Unlike, say, this message board, with its comments from numbnuts like MattG21 of Marlboro, VT. Hey Matt, we here at IDWT just wanted to let you know that we appreciate your pithy opinions about our dear Kansas City Royals, even though you're probably just another dissatisfied Frost Heaves fan who's bummed that they're kinda awesome and might define your existence. Really though, before you hurt yourself, we recommend you resume picking your nose and nibbling cheese... you know, stuff you can do without others having to acknowledge that you exist. Okay? Okay, great.
  • Royals Authority projections, continued. All leading to a guess of 72 wins. Just 72? Meh.
  • Then again, at least it wasn't 68. That's the over/under the guys at Baseball Think Factory's Royal Ingenuity have set for the number of wins KC will achieve this year. Hmm, I think I'll take the over, Alex.
  • If you're in town tomorrow, be sure to head over to the K for a "sneak preview" of the stadium. And be sure to say hi to Megan, who may or may not have a sister named Erin who I went to college with...
  • Some message board reactions to yesterday's Baseball Prospectus "Hope and Faith" story about our Royals. I hate message boards.
  • If you've ever wondered who Ryan Braun was, wonder no more: Royal Reflections explains.
  • Royals Review interviews Royals Review about the upcoming season, in which Royals Review says he predicts 62 wins and 100 losses. Christ, people, where's the faith? Someone point me to the faith!
  • Not here, but if you must see a chihuahua wearing Royals paraphernalia, give it a shot.
  • a royals fan in atlanta solicits your opinion, and, uhh, says he wants to chat with you on Google Talk. Which is kind of weird. I think he's officially in the "embarrassing as a muumuu-clad grandmother stretching on the curb in front of her high-rise apartment building" territory. (But here's a pledge: if "Joe Schulman" lasts the entire season, we'll take back everything we've said on (and off) this site, and even make it up to him with a post in his honor.)
  • Thanks to "Anonymous," who said he/she really liked this blog a few days back.

Royals Opening Day, folks, is TWO DAYS AWAY. I'll be back tomorrow for a look at the baseball season at hand.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Rany's faith on a faithless site

This podcast just made me really, really happy. So much so that I'm going to clock out of IDWT for the day and just sit back and listen to that on loop.

(To imply in my heading that Baseball Prospectus is to baseball as Pyrrho is to our diversiform world in all its splintered splendor, idiosyncratic yet oddly syncretic, is a bit unfair on my part. To revolutionize is no fault, even if the revolutionary agent -- numbers, statistics, in this case -- is cold and blunt with all the dour rigidity of a masked executioner. In short, I mean no disparagement to BP, for after all they are running a series of season previews titled "Hope and Faith," and they did allow Rany Jazayerli to explain, in a manner of speaking, how the Kansas City Royals can win the World Series.)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Introducing: Braves Vision

I have a confession: before I was a Royals fan, I was a Braves fan. Crazy about them. I watched all their games, worshipped at the altar of Greg Maddux, drew pictures of Andruw Jones (the morning after he hit two home runs in Game 1 of the 1996 World Series, the KC Star sports page ran a photo of him, taken from the third-base side, that captured the precise moment when he unfurled the energy of his stride and connected with a ball that was, as evidenced by his uplifted eyes, disappearing deep into the night). The cause for my confused loyalty is simple: back then, my Overland Park cable company carried TBS, while the Royals Sports Television Network had yet to exist. So, Braves games it was (and a bit of the Cubs, too, before TBS passed the "SuperStation" moniker to WGN).

After the 1998 season, however, TBS got dropped from our basic cable lineup, and soon my enthusiasm for the Braves waned. The channel's back now, but with Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren gone (though Don Sutton and Joe Simpson are darn good, and while we're mentioning announcers, let's pay high commendation to our own Denny Matthews) and the growing apathy of Atlanta fans, I just don't have reason to follow them any more.

Still, I recommend this, a new blog from a friend and former colleague at Sports Illustrated (we were interns). It's called Braves Vision, and while as of today it only has one entry, I think we can reasonably expect it to be a better Atlanta blog than "a royals fan in atlanta" (what's with the lowercase? the low-res mug shot? The KC Star sponsorship???).

Royals preview link tomorrow.

Pitching roster good as set

From Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star:
  • Rotation:
    • Gil Meche
    • Odalis Perez
    • Zach Greinke
    • Jorge De La Rosa
    • Brandon Duckworth (first start: April 8 vs. Tigers)
  • Bullpen:
    • Octavio Dotel
    • David Riske
    • Todd Wellemeyer
    • Joakim Soria
    • Jimmy Gobble
    • Joel Peralta
    • Ryan Braun
This coming a day after he reported the Royals were trying to trade Reggie Sanders and his $5 million contract to the Orioles, supposedly for a relief pitcher. In the same story (really, it's three in one, if you add the Emil Brown-wants-to-start subplot), there's a quote from manager Buddy Bell about Alex Gordon, who's going to bat fifth:

“I just think he’s our best fifth hitter. I really don’t think it’s going to affect him where he hits. He could hit fourth. The more I’m around him, the more I like him. He’s just a tough kid. Early on, I thought we might want to protect him a little more. Not now."

Geezus, it just gets better. When does he get his crown, now or after he defeats six warring states and builds a world wonder?

POSTSCRIPT: Time restrictions prevent me from going into more detail about our pitchers, but why would I anyway when the the folks at Royals Authority can do it better? Also, if you're wondering how our AA and AAA pitching rotations are shaping up, Royals Review will fill you in.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The playoff bandwagon: Now boarding all rows

Perhaps it was the trade of catcher/World Baseball Classic bench-warmer Maxim St. Pierre for Milwaukee's Ben Hendrickson -- a ground-ball pitcher and one-time top prospect who's had a taste of the big leagues but will start this season in AAA Omaha -- that ignited this burst of spring optimism out of Gil Meche, Emil Brown, Ryan Shealy and the rest... but study what they have to say and you just may find logic upholding their hopefulness.

Meche: "I think we will be [a surprise]. From what I've seen in Spring Training, we've got a good offense. We've got some experience in the bullpen that I don't think they've had here for a while. That is going to help tremendously, late in the ballgames."

This is incredibly accurate. As writer Alan Eskew points out in the next paragraph, the Royals blew 31 saves last year (31!), worst in the Majors. Allow Brown to elaborate on how having a reliable closer like Octavio Dotel will change the team's mindset:

Brown: "If you get a nine-run lead or a four-run lead in the ninth, you've got to be able to win the game. I don't care how you do it. You've got the run support to get you over the top. Those games, we've got to find a way to finish."

Kid's got a point. And about starters Meche and Zach Greinke, allow catcher Jason LaRue to offer his insight:

LaRue: "You are looking at two guys in this rotation, on any given day when they're on, hitters don't have much chance. They're un-hittable."

So, to review: dominant pitching at the top, able relievers at the end and a "good offense" to buttress it all. No wonder Shealy came to this conclusion:

Sully: "I think we're definitely going to be the surprise team. At least that's the way we are approaching it. I don't feel like it is going to be a surprise to us. I think everyone in this clubhouse expects to win. I hope teams overlook us the whole season."

The fourth paragraph in that story, by the way, reads: "There will likely be a surprise team or two in the 2007 playoffs, and the Royals believe they could be it."

Whoa. Even I hadn't gone that far. But if there's a playoff bandwagon, consider me aboard. You nonbelievers out there scoff all you want, but just remember this: when the Royals do make the playoffs, I'm going to find you, wherever you are, and slam a big fat pie in your face.

POSTSCRIPT: If you're not a regular Deadspin reader, you probably don't have an office job -- or are an 80-year-old man reading this blog over your grandson's shoulder -- but here's a Deadspin post that I link to here because its comedic value is simply incalculable. Read the comments, too.

Odds and Sods's Royals preview

Today's preview du jour, even though it was published three weeks ago, comes from Odds and Sods, a Boston blog that, unlike Dewey's House, wasn't so kind to our boys: "This season, [the Royals] are the least talented team in their division and devoid of young promising talent. There is hope for the future, but not this season. They will stink!"

To that, as you will see if you click on the link, I couldn't help but thrust a riposte. Hopefully another bet will come of this.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Tigers fan's empathetic Royals preview

Years ago, I wrote for a site called Knuckleballers (proof), now inactive, run by a guy named Matt Wallace. It was a good time while it lasted, just old boys turning in a day's honest work before meeting at Toots Shor's to kibitz till last call (metaphorically). But then tediums caught up with me, leaves changed colors, the Knuckleballers lost touch with one another and lone and level sands stretched far away. So it goes.

But then, in the vast desert of the World Wide Web, I stumbled upon an oasis of a thing called Talking Tigers. I dug about and brushed away the dirt and was ready to proceed onward with other business before it hit me: the name. The thing was, indeed, owned by none other than the doyen of our previous enterprise. And wouldn't you know, the top entry was his Royals preview:

The easy thing to do would be to make a lot of jokes about team ERA and poor decisions. But I think any Tiger fan reading this probably remembers going to websites or picking up issues of magazines doing their baseball preview and taking a deep breath before reading what they had to say about the Tigers.... A Tiger fan making fun of another team’s struggles would be like Bill Buckner throwing a beer on Zumaya for throwing that ball away in last year’s series. It would take either a stunning lack of empathy or a remarkable ignorance of recent history. If any Royals fans are reading, I hope you enjoy perhaps the only preview done by a fan of an opposing team that will treat your boys in blue with dignity and respect…mostly.

Royals fans could learn something from the Tiger faithful, who still aren't done thanking their boys for last season. A lesson in faith, you might say. Hopefully Matt will elaborate.

POSTSCRIPT: I've got more Royals previews for you later this week as we commemorate the approach of Opening Day.

POSTSCRIPT 2: It's not too late to hop over to Fire Joe Morgan to join the Schilling vs. Shaughnessy skirmish, already in progress. A synopsis: Schilling recently started a blog, 38 Pitches, which offended Shaughnessy, who speaks for Old Media. Feeling threatened, he wrote a "satirical" column that Schilling basically destroyed with a flick of his wrist. The whole thing is highly entertaining, especially when we learn about the pitcher's intimate knowledge of Everquest.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Greinke, not Bannister

As readers will find out when ESPN The Magazine hits newsstands in a couple of days, they were wrong to have Brian Bannister slotted in the starting rotation. Alan Eskew's reporting that Zach Greinke is getting the nod, and not as the fifth starter but the third, which means he'll pitch the opening series against the Red Sox, and probably Daisuke Matsuzaka (who threw 104 pitches and five innings of unimpressive no-hit ball today -- if "unimpressive" and "no-hit" can ever be used together -- walking five and striking out six). Since Eskew works for MLB.com, I'm going to assume his information is accurate. From the story:

Kansas City manager Buddy Bell said Greinke would start the third game of the season, April 5 against the Red Sox, after Greinke's third straight exceptional outing on Sunday.

Greinke struck out seven in five innings against the Brewers while allowing four hits and walking one. Greinke was charged with three runs in the Royals' 7-6 loss, but he easily could have not given up a run. Two runs scored on a Tony Pena Jr. throwing error in the fifth, while the other run that inning scored when Mark Teahen lost Damian Miller's routine fly ball in the sun and it was ruled a double.


At one point, Greinke struck out four in a row. This is his third consecutive exceptional start. His ERA actually rose to 3.32, but, as noted above, it probably shouldn't have.

Jorge De La Rosa remains the No. 4 pitcher, and there's no reason to assume Luke Hudson, the previous No. 3, will be bumped out of the rotation.* However you slice it though, it's nice to see Greinke back in 2004 form.

Which reminds me... there's never a bad time to recall that Baseball Prospectus loves this kid. I hope I'm not abusing any fair-use privileges with this lengthy excerpt, but here's what they wrote in 2005:

With apologies to Jon Landau, we have seen the future of pitching, and his name is Zack Greinke. There are two sets of opinions on Greinke. There's the camp that thinks all the talk about him being the most unique young pitcher of our generation is overblown hype. Then there's the camp of people who have seen him pitch.

Start with his statistical record. He debuted in the majors less than two years after he was drafted out of high school. His 3.97 ERA would have ranked him in the
AL's top ten if he'd qualified. Most impressively, he walked just 26 batters, or 1.67 walks per 9 innings. In the last 70 years, only three other pitchers as young as Greinke walked fewer than 2.1 men per 9 innings. Two of them were Bert Blyleven and Bret Saberhagen.

But Greinke's stats are less unique than his style, which may be unprecedented for a pitcher his age. A scouting report will say that he throws his fastball 93-94, but he only throws maximum velocity on maybe a quarter of his fastballs, preferring to throw 88 with precision than sacrifice some command for increased velocity. He changes speeds on all of his pitches, actually; in any given start he'll throw at least one pitch at 62, another at 94, and hit most every number in between. And that doesn't count the 50 mph floater he learned from Dave LaRoche, his Triple-A pitching coach and famed a generation ago for that pitch.

The article goes on to insinuate that he might win the Cy Young in 2006. Seeing as how he had to essentially start over after last year, when he was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, maybe we can restart the clock on his Cy Young watch. Say, 2008, after Meche wins it this year.

UPDATE: This should have read, "No reason to assume he'll be bumped out of the rotation when he returns from his injury." Totally stupid on my part to neglect to mention that Luke Hudson is on the DL.

My faith in Meche vs. Baseball Prospectus's logic

A few days back, I wrote, "Don't listen to people like Will Carroll" when it comes to picking Royals in fantasy, specifically one Gil Meche (Baseball Prospectus wrote in 2006: "The allure of a young arm slinging 97 mph fastballs drives teams to do some loopy things, and in today's market, $4 million for a pitcher coming off of a 26-start season isn't all that loopy. But the M's are chasing a dream that's not coming true").

Apparently Will Carroll disagrees with the "don't listen to" part.

"I'll take that bet," he commented. "You take Meche, I'll take someone making LESS money and having less experience than him. Someone like Zach Duke, David Bush, or even Jason Marquis and bet his VORP is higher than Meche's at the end of the season."

My first thought was: Wow, that's Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus and Under the Knife, publisher, editor-in-chief, owner and sole proprietor of the defunct All-Baseball blog, etc. etc.

My second thought: JASON MARQUIS???

He's a team player, often taking his 12-, 13-run, 14-hit batterings with nary a whimper of protest, but not much else. Take away those abominable performances from this year's expected output and you still get a pitcher who doesn't get many strikeouts and gives up a lot of home runs (35 last year). And his hitting does not factor into the VORP equation.

Here's Marquis's projected stats for this year: VORP of 6.7, or the same as Eric Milton; 8-10, 85 strikeouts, 5.26 ERA. Meche's projections aren't great, but I'm happy to say they're a little better than that. He had labrum surgery six years ago, and Carroll once penned a column for Slate sub-titled, "Why the torn labrum is baseball's most fearsome injury," so maybe this bet is really my faith in Meche vs. Will's skepticism in shoulder surgeons. But I mean... Jason Marquis?!?

The bet's on. At stake: a link in his Under the Knife column vs. a dramatized fantasy sequence in this one. Stay tuned for more.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Bye-bye Berroa

It's official: Angel Berroa has lost his starting spot. Now he'll get paid $8.5 million to try to rediscover his 2003 form in Omaha -- not that it'll much matter if he does, since he's in the final year of a contract that almost definitely will not get renewed, no matter how much Buddy Bell likes him.

Said Bell in the above-linked story:
I just hope he does great. If he's doing great, we're going to see him with us or with somebody else. If he is doing well, I'd have no problem at all putting him in the lineup again.
If you really believe that, though, well... welcome to IDWT, Mrs. Berroa. I hate to do this, but here's just a small sample of what people think of your son:
  • The Unnamed Scout from Joe Posnanski's blog: "He’s awful. Horrible. I wouldn’t have him as a backup. … He still can’t recognize a slider, and he’s so spooked by that he will just watch fastballs go right down the middle of the plate. He has lost about three steps too. … Royals are stuck with a bad contract, so they will keep playing him even though he’s absolutely killing them."
  • Buster Olney: "It would not be surprising if he didn't have a regular job in the big leagues again. Spoke with executives of two teams in recent days and they said the reports they were getting on Berroa were off-the-charts bad."
Off-the-charts bad. I mean, you can't really get any worse, can you?

And while there's been speculation about Berroa's replacement, it seems like the Royals' fascination (fixation?) with shortstops whose names begin with "AN" (Andres Blanco, Angel Sanchez) is about to end. According to the same Royals spokesperson who said "That might change in a week" regarding the Berroa-as-starter situation in my previous post, it now appears that newly acquired Tony Pena Jr. has been penciled in. He'll take over for Berroa in the ninth spot in the batting order. We can only assume that might change in a week, but for now it looks like Royals' Opening Day lineup will be:

CF: David DeJesus
2B: Esteban German (until Mark Grudzielanek returns from injury)
RF: Mark Teahen
DH: Mike Sweeney
LF: Emil Brown
1B: Ryan Shealy
3B: Alex Gordon
C: John Buck/Jason LaRue
SS: Tony Pena Jr.

Rotation: Gil Meche, Odalis Perez, Luke Hudson, Jorge de la Rosa, Zach Greinke (barely ahead of Brian Bannister)

Top relievers: Jimmy Gobble (until Joe Nelson returns), Joakim Soria, David Riske, Octavio Dotel (closer)

UPDATE 3/26: Just found out Garth over at Pine Tar Charts posted an entry on the same day I did titled, purely coincidentally, "Bye, bye, Berroa." It's worth checking out for its contents.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The return of NOSOTROS CREEMOS!

Well, not exactly, but close. Shortstop Tony Pena Jr., son of the man who managed the Royals to an 83-79 record in 2003 for their only winning season since 1992, has been acquired from the Braves for currently injured RHP Erik Cordier.

Megan Stock over at the Royals' official blog (she does a good job with this) reports that in 81 games last year at AAA Richmond, Pena batted a respectable .282 with 17 extra-base hits and 23 RBI, showing a little speed, too, with 12 steals in 15 attempts.

Cordier, a 2004 second round pick, put up some good numbers in limited time last year, but his injury history -- knee surgery in '05 followed by Tommy John surgery a year later -- made him expendable. Dayton Moore striking deals with former mentor John Schuerholz is a bit unnerving, but one would think Moore's knowledge of the Braves organization serves him well. On Pena, Moore's had an insider's look. From a 2004 article:

Known more for his solid glove, the younger Pena has been displaying a hot bat in the Arizona Fall League. Through Wednesday, the 23-year-old middle infielder was hitting .344 (21-for-61) with three doubles and a triple.

"[Tony] has a lot of natural ability," Braves director of player personnel Dayton Moore said. "He's represented our organization very well, just like all the guys we have out there [in Arizona]."


Pena's also been having an excellent spring, batting .342/.342/.500 (13 for 38 with a home run and 6 RBI).

But let's put all this aside for just a moment. On this, the occasion of Pena's return to Kansas City, I can't help but recall a summer not too distant though, somehow, not so recent, either. 2003: warm, invigorating, evocative. Magical all over, almost mystical now that I think about it, come out of nowhere and gone too soon. To this day we Royals fans carry those memories to sustain the faith, because to have that back ... now that would be good.

There was plenty to treasure that season, from Carlos Beltran, in his final full season in Kansas City, almost gallivanting as if possessed by a higher baseball spirit or in search of it; to Joe Randa, seemingly grinning every second like a kid perplexed by joie de vivre; to Mike Sweeney, who we knew, with every win, moved that much closer towards a longterm contract, for he agreed to it if the Royals could just cobble together one .500 season.... But the guy who best epitomized that remarkable summer was the manager, a spunky, zestful man who'd come from nothing to find himself entrusted with the keys to an empire. The Show, just imagine. He embraced a team of young nobodies and guided them to first place, to the lead of Baseball Tonight and doorstep of baseball heaven. He kept them on that summit for 93 days by some combination of charm and stupidity. He called straight steals of third in the bottom of the ninth of tied games hoping for a wild pitch... which he got much too often. He loved hit-and-runs like his children, loved bunts, loved the spotlight, the game, the life. Loved to sign autographs and scream Nosotros creemos! Loved to say "I told you so." And for that, we loved him back.

It was, of course, over too fast. It's almost cruel that, in the annals, 2003 sticks out like an elephant in tights: that 83-79 an obvious aberration, surrounded by 65-97, 62-100... 58-104, 56-106, 62-100. But Pena's work was done. He left indelible impressions.

For me, the summer of 2003 will always be remembered for this: the most perfect baseball game I've ever attended.

Courtney, Paul, Aaron and Majid, with me behind the camera
Monday, August 11, 2003. Warm night at the K, light breeze, floppy hat night, Yankees in town for the first of three. The occasion heightened by our anticipation and apprehension: the Royals are 62-54 and coming off a two-game winning streak, but just the week before they'd lost four straight, and the Twins are coming on fast and people have augured a collapse for months now, and these are after all the dog days and these are the Yankees and this -- this first place thing -- isn't supposed to happen, not in real life. Too often the miraculous had graced this team: late-inning comebacks, nerve-frying saves, walk-off hits, unsung heroes. And something all 40,406 of us squeezed into the K this night knew was that these phantasmagorias stitched together form a dream, sure, but not a season, and that it was a dream to be treaded on, not savored. But something strange happens as the seats fill and the sun drops: we look at our programs and around at each other and this scene -- Kauffman swelling in the faint shadows of twilight like it did in the days of Brett and Wilson and Saberhagen and Q and Jackson -- and suddenly we believe. There's no good reason why, but the buzz becomes a palpable roar and all of a sudden it's true, always has been and can be forever -- we are a first-place team all over again, playing our rivals, bitter once more, competing for a championship...

I remember only bits and pieces of the game itself: that the two teams set a record for most doubles; that everything proceeded at a brisk pace despite the poor pitching; that Paul Abbott fell behind early, but the Royals, down 5-1 and without Beltran in the lineup, rallied for four runs in the bottom of the third to chase David Wells; that there was a thunderous "We want donuts" chant in the bottom of the eighth, with the Royals up 8 (or 9) to 7, for 12 hits meant a dozen free Krispy Kreme donuts for everyone in attendance.... But the details don't matter. It was the thrill of a meaningful game in August, the feeling of tension tightening -- not relaxing -- over the course of an exhausting season, the thought that autumn and the shortening of days and the eventual winter may yet be delayed by a heated pennant race. In short, baseball at its best.

The "We want donuts" chant, in full throat
Eric Neel filed an excellent, almost sublime report of that night for ESPN's Page 2 -- this during the height of his writing prowess, and when Page 2 was still black-on-yellow, gritty, unabashed and legitimately different from the conventional. His report began: "Like beauty pageant contestants and kindergarten kids, I wish first and foremost for world peace, of course. But my second most fervent wish for the world is that every kid from one to 92 at least once gets the chance to experience the kind of ballgame I experienced Monday night at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City."

When people ask why I root for the Royals, I tell them about the virtues of patience and the heralds of glory and I quote Roger Angell, who in The Summer Game wrote about the 1962 Mets, "This was a new recognition that perfection is admirable but a trifle inhuman, and that a stumbling kind of semi-success can be much more warming.... These exultant yells for the Mets were also yells for ourselves." But really, I could just tell them about that game on August 11.

But back to the present. The arrival of Pena all but ends the week-long speculation about the future of Angel Berroa. A Royals spokesperson just told a colleague of mine, "As of right now, it's still Berroa (as the starter). It's still his job. That might change in a week." Nothing is official yet, of course, so I'll keep the "Best of Angel Berroa" farewell list of highlights on ice. But something tells me we won't have to wait a week.

Berroa, of course, was AL Rookie of the Year in 2003. Somehow that makes his impending release that much sadder.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

More Royals blogs and other loose ends

Quick hits:
  • In the spirit of the Internet, I have five more Royals blogs to pass along (you'll see these changes reflected in the panel to the right). The Royal Tower, 1 Royal Way and Diary of a Madfan -- though a little pessimistic -- have all recently come to my attention. Also, somehow I stumbled upon State of the Sceptre, which led me to Kevin's Royals Blog. Thus the World Wide Web gets a little smaller in my book.
  • The picture of Kauffman Stadium that will now reside permanently under IDWT's mission statement was taken on June 25, 2006, during an interleague game against the Milwaukee Brewers. It was Negro Leagues Day at the park, so the teams wore throwback unis and the first 20,000 or so got nifty red Monarchs hats (which were awesome). The Monarchs won 6-0 behind a six-hit performance by All-Star Mark Redman. As you can see in the picture, the day was, in a word, perfect.

Royals in fantasy baseball

My first fantasy baseball draft is tonight, and while I fully intend on owning Alex Gordon, Mark Teahen, Ryan Shealy, David DeJesus, Gil Meche, Zach Grinke and probably Octavio Dotel, I understand I may need to make a few concessions and take, perhaps, Albert Pujols over Shealy or Chris Carpenter over Meche. But the question remains: Which Royal should go first, and how soon?

First, let's take a rundown of where the "experts" have certain Royals players slotted:

Yahoo Big Board:
Mark Teahen ("on the bubble," just outside the top 100)
Alex Gordon (No. 26 among 3b)
Ryan Shealy (No. 27 among 1b)
David DeJesus (No. 71 among OF)
Octavio Dotel (No. 24 among RP)
Gil Meche, Luke Hudson, Odalis Perez, Jorge de la Rosa, Zach Greinke, Brian Bannister (NR among top 90)

ESPN The Magazine:
Mark Teahen (97)

Sports Illustrated - David Sabino's Player Value Rankings, hitters:
Alex Gordon, 3b (62) (No. 10 among 3b)
Mark Teahen, 3b/OF (147)
Ryan Shealy, 1b (149)
Emil Brown, OF (154)
Mike Sweeney, dh (160)
David DeJesus, OF (167)
Jason LaRue, c (238)
Reggie Sanders, OF (257)
Angel Berroa, ss (272)
Mark Grudzielanek, 2b (276)
Esteban German, 2b (287)
Joey Gathright, OF (353)
Shane Costa, OF (370)

Pitchers:
Gil Meche (124)
Luke Hudson (143)
Zach Greinke (148)
Odalis Perez (155)
Brian Bannister (164)
Jorge de la Rosa (173)
Scott Elarton (183)

MLB.com (no Royal made it in the top 100, so the following list is the player's position ranking):
Mark Teahen (No. 20, 3b)
Alex Gordon (No. 22, 3b)
Ryan Shealy (No. 28, 1b)
David DeJesus (No. 79, OF)
Joey Gathright (No. 80, OF)
Emil Brown (No. 86, OF)
Gil Meche (No. 90, SP)
Zach Greinke (No. 102, SP)
Mark Grudzielanek (No. 33, 2b)
Mike Sweeney (No. 5, dh)
Esteban German (No. 44, 2b)
David Riske (No. 85, RP)
Angel Berroa (NR*)

The disrespect is staggering, isn't it? The consensus seems to be -- besides don't draft Royals -- that Mark Teahen should be the first Royal to take. But Teahen plays two positions that are crowded with production players -- outfield and third base -- so he'll probably remain available very late in drafts. His Holiness the Savior, on the other hand, is more likely to be the first Royal snatched off most boards, both because of his hype (Baseball Prospectus's No. 1 prospect) and, more importantly, his projected stats. The following four lines are BP's forecast for Gordon, Teahen, and fantasy dark horses David DeJesus and Ryan Shealy:

AG: .282/.364/.511, 26 HR, 89 RBI, 94 R, 14 SB, 64 BB
MT: .283/.357/.475, 17 HR, 69 RBI, 77 R, 9 SB, 52 BB
DD: .291/.358/.425, 10 HR, 59 RBI, 83 R, 7 SB, 49 BB
RS: .271/.334/.475, 20 HR, 72 RBI, 61 R, 2 SB, 39 BB

While not eye-popping (though Gordon's line is quite impressive for a rookie), those numbers are respectable, proving these are not your 2005 KC representatives, Ken Harvey and Mike MacDougal. And, yes, we know BP's forecasts aren't guaranteed -- however scientific they may be -- but would you really take a chance on Delmon Young (projected .297/.334/.473, 18 HR, 75 RBI, 84 R, 22 SB, 22 BB), ranked No. 70 on Yahoo's Big Board, before Gordon or Teahen?

In other words, don't listen to people like Will Carroll, who made this snide remark in the fantasy baseball preview section in the March 12 edition of ESPN The Mag: "Gil Meche, SP, KC: Got huge bucks despite a long history of injuries, including the dreaded labrum. As if the Royals weren't enough reason not to draft him."

Fixating on players from one team is usually a bad strategy, but if you had to choose a team, you could do worse than the Royals. Either way, I plan on winning my league, after which I'll have "IN DAYTON I TRUSTED" etched onto my championship ring.

* I hope the significance of this fact isn't lost on you. The site listed 67 shortshops, including Neifi Perez at No. 53 and Mark Reynolds, Yunel Escobar, Sean Rodriguez, Reid Brignac and Chin-Lung Hu at 63-67, BUT NOT THE STARTING SHORTSTOP OF THE KANSAS CITY ROYALS. This would be astounding if not for the fact that they may be onto something, since Berroa is, by all indications, set to lose his job.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Sports Illustrated on the Royals

Our Joe Posnanski may be the finest sports columnist in the land, but the best baseball writer is Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci, whose recent article about why the Yankees are unlikely to win this year's World Series is a more-than-worthwhile read. He doesn't share our optimism about the Royals, however, as he lists them as one of six teams that have no chance of making the playoffs. Then again, seems like not many out there much like our boys' chances this year.

SI, for the second straight year, have the Royals ranked as the 29th best team in its season preview. But as Chris Ballard notes,

...at this time of the year, even in Kansas City there is a sense of promise. Under Moore, the franchise has added two teams to the farm system and 13 new employees in baseball administration, and it has shown it's willing to be a player in free agency. He believes the team can eventually draw two million fans and support a payroll of perhaps $80 million.

Yup, that sounds like The Man and namesake of this blog.

In the same issue -- by the way, ever notice how the spring training and baseball preview issues are consistently among the best from SI every year? -- there's an outstanding feature on Alex Gordon that pretty much nails all the points I listed a few days back. Here are the first two paragraphs:

To understand the significance of the moment, two years ago, when Alex Gordon first met George Brett, consider where Gordon had come from. He grew up in Lincoln, Neb., and often made the three-hour trip to Kansas City for Royals games. He spent nights taking batting practice in the family basement, smacking balls into a rug hung from the ceiling, not far from posters of Brett. Through high school and college, Gordon played third base (just like Brett), batted lefthanded (just like Brett) and accumulated hits at a prodigious pace (just like Brett). Gordon was the second overall pick of the 2005 draft, taken by the Royals, the same team that had drafted Brett in 1971. Gordon even has a brother named Brett, and it is not a coincidence.

So one can imagine Gordon's reaction when he walked into a conference room at Kaufmann Stadium in the summer of 2005 and there, awaiting his arrival, was Brett himself. At the time, Gordon and Royals management were negotiating his signing bonus -- it would end up at $4 million, the highest ever for a Kansas City draftee -- and they were haggling over the final $200,000. Brett, a team vice president, made an offer to Gordon and his agent. "I said, 'Here's what I'll do,'" recalls Brett. "I'll write you a check for the difference, out of my own pocket. But instead of up front, I'll give you 10 grand for 20 years. I'll do that for you, just because I want to watch you play. I've heard so much s--- about you, I'll do it.' And I would have."


Just another mortal? I think not.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

New Royals blogs

Garth of Royal Ingenuity, hosted by the Baseball Think Factory network, has somehow come up with another enlightening blog of interest for Royals fans: Pine Tar Charts, hosted by the good people at Fangraphs. How the man can post even semi-regularly in not one but two blogs is beyond me, but anyone who refers to the Royals as "the kingly Kansas City Royals" is okay by me. Also, KC's Royal Fan Zone looks worthwhile. All told, there are more than a dozen active Royals blogs out in the great wide open, which, if you think about it, is kinda amazing.

UPDATE, 3/22: Ken over at The Pipeline does a fair bit of Royals blogging as well. And I've reordered my list of Royals blogs off to the right by my preference, though the first seven or so on that list may as well be 1a, 1b, ... 1g.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Another Royal you can feel right rooting for

In this age of free agency and cheating, it can be precarious to affix yourself to a particular player. Just think of all the baseball heroes recently revealed as turncoats, bunkos or kooks. Alex Rodriguez said he loved soggy Seattle before bolting for arid Arlington. Jason Giambi was perfect for the Oakland A's before deciding he needed the big city and the big money. Johnny Damon grew a caveman beard and carved his face into the heart of Red Sox Nation before shearing his magical coiffure and in the process shearing their hearts. Mark McGwire probably did steroids. Sammy Sosa is kinda delusional. So on and so forth.

But once in a while, a player comes along who you just know has all the right stuff. Has his head in the right place. Has the support system necessary to thrive. Has the integrity to stay away from banned substances and poor influences and the confidence to rebuff dangerous temptations. These guys you want to latch yourself to because you live vicariously through them -- the decent person who battles immense obstacles to realize a dream.

Adam Greenberg is that player.

His story can be read here in the Kansas City Star, but it's a story that has caught the national eye, too. ESPN hasn't yet posted Bob Holtzman's feature about him online, which ran during tonight's SportsCenter, but I found a roughly accurate transcript of the piece on a Royals message board.

If you don't already know the story, I'll shoot through it quickly: Greenberg, in his only major league at-bat two years ago with the Cubs, was beaned in the head by a fastball. The pitch sent his career spiraling. He returned to the minors, where he suffered from headaches as a result of "positional vertigo" and, more saliently, a terribly shaken confidence. His journey back to The Show began with a homecoming and eventually led him here, with the Royals, where he'll likely begin the season as an outfielder in AA Wichita.

Greenberg, after a year of hard work, is playing baseball at nearly the level he was before the horrific HBP. But more importantly, his confidence has been restored. When asked, "What if you don't make it back?" the 26-year-old replied: "There is no 'don't.' No 'what if',' none of that. I'm going to get back, I'm going to get back with Kansas City and I'm going to help Kansas City win ball games."

There's no way the Royals could do wrong with him in the organization. We're rooting for you, Adam.

UPDATE, 3/22: The ESPN story here.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The corner infield of the future, Pt. 2

Jamie Squire, Getty

I'll just cut to the chase and not point out how KU and March Madness have cut into my blogging time, because when the subject is His Holiness the Savior -- part two of the Royals' two-part corner infield of the future (part one here) -- there's no room for superfluity.

Here's how good Alex Gordon is:

-- Minor League Player of the Year good.

-- MVP of gold-medal-winning USA in World University Games good.

-- Makes the crack of the bat sound like a collision of deuterium and tritium in a nuclear reaction -- even to outsiders filming from the side of a batting cage -- good.

-- After a 3-for-4 day in a 7-6 win over the Giants, now batting .429/.543/.643 (!) in 12 games/28 at-bats good.

Jeremy Troutman
-- Already has a rookie card despite not having played a Major League game good. Oh, and it sold for $7,500... that good.

-- George Brett good (Minor League comparisons):

George Brett
Category Alex Gordon
6 feet, 190Height/weight 6-1, 220
Left-rightBats/throws Left-right
318Games 130
.281Avg. .325
25HR 29
190RBI 101
9SB 22

-- Can and will, if necessary, walk on water good.
Nebraska Media Relations
-- Seriously, that aureole on his forehead may be a sign from God good. --->

-- Over... over... over... over... over... over... over... over... over... over... under... over.... To the folks at Royal Ingenuity who created this survey: Are you for real? Way to set the bar way low.

-- Impresses Baseball Prospectus kind of good: "The Royals' highest pick ever, Gordon was universally considered a better prospect than the guy taken two picks later, Ryan Zimmerman, who hit .397 with Gold Glove defense for the Nationals two months after signing. Doing the math, that means Gordon is very, very good. He signed in September and made his pro debut in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .260/.403/.460. He's already the most disciplined hitter in the organization--no Royal has drawn 90 walks in a season since 1989."

-- And finally, just might get signed longterm by the Royals good (Lee Warren of Royal Reflections explains).

Not to put any pressure on Mr. God, of course. Then again, His Holiness the Savior feels neither pressure nor remorse (for opposing pitchers... he does for elderly ladies, house pets, and just causes). He will make Royals fans feel blessed. That's how good.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

We love you too, Octavio

"It's like being in a marriage. You and your wife kind of start everything from this point on. What happened before doesn't matter."

Octavio Dotel, talking about his marriage to the Kansas City Royals in Jeffrey Flanagan's column in the KC Star. So Dotel and the Royals are like two wonderfully NOT bitter middle-aged adults NOT desperate to find someone who will ensure they (NOT?) don't NOT die alone. Just one question, as our being in Kansas (or Missouri) eliminates a certain contingency: Who's the divorcee here and who's the man?

(The link Flanagan should have included in his story is here.)
Photo courtesy of Houston Astros

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Gil Meche Cy Young watch

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images


Seven innings in two starts does not a season make, but Gil Meche's recent four-inning, four-strikeout performance against the Angels not only vaulted him up my fantasy player prerankings but convinced me he's an early favorite for the American League Cy Young Award. Don't worry about the two runs he gave up, which came off a Jeff Mathis home run. Point is, Meche has looked good so far -- no disastrous outings like Daisake Matsuzaka's on Saturday (apparently the guy draws attention?) -- and if he perfects the new technique he's been working on -- not landing on his heel after delivering the ball -- we can expect him to continue to keep his pitches down to set up his overpowering fastball.

From what we've seen, we know Meche will eat up innings and, at the bare minimal least, be more effective than 2006 Opening Day starter Scott Elarton. Of course, we at IDWT eat "bare minimal leasts" for breakfast. The Cy Young watch is officially ON.

Oh, and for anyone still unconvinced by the Gil Meche signing -- including my roommate and approximately 100 percent of everyone who was kind enough to send me their oh-so-funny cheeky e-mails about the deal -- I encourage you to read this from Joe Posnanski, in which he defends Meche without commenting on his abilities as a player (he does that here). The middle section starts slowly, laying out the Royals' situation, but then surges ahead with such momentum that you almost find yourself exclaiming "Yes, yes, YES!" by the end. I don't want to ruin the reading experience for you, but here's an excerpt:

Then finally it was crunch time. We know that a couple of teams offered Meche four years, $40 million. But as the final meeting approached, the Royals heard solid rumors that one team actually offered Meche four years at $48 million. They are still adamant that a $12 million per year deal was on the table and it was very real. So the Royals knew it would take a very special offer to get Meche to come to Kansas City. And they did something the Royals absolutely have to do in these circumstances. They went for it. They saw a guy, they studied him, they liked him, they went after him. The Royals offered Meche an extra year. They figured, hey, the guy’s only 28 ... giving him the extra year is a risk they were willing to take.

Dayton Moore says when it comes to trades, drafts, signings of all sizes, there is only one key:

GET … THE … PLAYER.

Yes! Shout it to the disbelieving world!

Perhaps it's cheaper hiring out-of-town freelance bloggers

I enjoy reading all commentary about the Royals, but this I'm a bit confused about. Can someone tell me why "a royals fan in atlanta" is the Kansas City Star's official Royals blogger? I mean, it's not that he's a bad writer or uninformed, but he's boring and shamelessly solicits comments. Seriously dude... what? And, uh, I think he lives in Atlanta.

Nice going, KC Star. Way to perpetuate the stereotype of the clueless mainstream media. Bring back Bradford Doolittle!

UPDATE: I typed the above before scanning my RSS feed, in which I found that Royals Review shares my opinion. Or, since I guess he beat me to the punch, I share his. Either way, Royals minds think alike.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Dewey's House's Royals preview

The established and generally knowledgeable folks over at The House That Dewey Built predict a three-game improvement for our Royals in their season preview. For a bunch of Red Sox fans, I'm pleasantly surprised in their analysis, in which they say the Royals have "possibly the AL's most talented group of young players that will be opening day starters" and that Luke Hudson may have a breakout year (an opinion shared by "slayer" of Royals Review). I can only imagine how hard it was for them to refrain from cracking fun at we humble Midwesterners. Although I don't really understand why they say, "Take solace in the fact that you aren't the worst team in the league, yet," as if at some point during the season the Royals might be. If anything, that last sentence should read, "Take solace in the fact that you will soon take the Central for a personal fiefdom and watch your enemies cower before the specter of Alex Gordon." Yeah, that sounds better.

UPDATE TO PREVIOUS POST: Hours after we wrote about Jeff Bianchi, Royals Corner published an interview with him (registration required). That, folks, is what we in the business call staying ahead of the curve.

Jeff Bianchi, more Neifi bashing, and in what state is the Royals' farm system?

According to MinorLeagueBaseball.com's Kevin Czerwinski, it's not bad at all:

Kansas City has been able to amass some pretty talented position players in recent years.... While Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Chris Lubanski and Luke Hochevar headline this category, one name that shouldn't be left out is shortstop Jeff Bianchi.

Who's Jeff Bianchi, you ask? (Photo courtesy of Royals Corner.) He's a 2005 second-round pick (behind Alex Gordon) who's battled injuries but has otherwise been productive, batting over .400 as a pro. In 12 rookie ball games last summer, he hit .429 and won multiple honors, including the Topps Short-Season/Rookie All-Star award. An injury ended his year and got him booted from Baseball America's Top 10 Royals Prospects list -- which he was on in 2005 -- but his upside remains tremendous. Royals director of player development J.J. Picollo is on the record as saying, "He's an offensive guy, but he has defensive skills and he's got good instincts. He's also an above-average runner. He's really a Michael Young (!) type of player. That's the kind of guy we project him to be." Italics and parenthesized exclamation mark mine.

In other words, he's a guy who could hit the crap out of Mark Prior, as apparently every Royal did on Saturday. (The bleeding heart in me wants to see Prior do well for the well-intentioned though ultimately incompetent Cubs, but there's really not much hope when you throw 40 pitches and only twice does the opposing batter miss. Oh, and the fastball that barely registers in the "upper" 80s -- that's a bad sign. It's enough to make poor Chicago souls wistful.) Most importantly about Bianchi: he's the shortstop of the Royals' future, assuming Angel Berroa doesn't resuscitate his Neifi Perez-like career.

(My apologies if that comparison seems unnecessarily mean. I fully understand no one should ever be compared with Neifi unless he single-handedly ruins, to varying degrees, four franchises, draws the ire of all their fans, gets an index named after him that calculates how much he helps his team by not playing, and evokes the image of a Necromonger.)

Also of note in that MiLB story linked high above, Billy Butler says Alex Gordon is "going to be one of the best players in the game."

"He's probably the most talented guy I've played with or against," says Butler, who played with the likes of Brandon Wood (No. 8, right behind Evan Longoria) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (No. 36) on Team USA. "He has five tools. Now it's just a question of whether he uses them his whole career."

What, is Gordon predisposed to multiple sclerosis? Of course he's going to use those tools his whole career. Also, let's dispense with the modesty and call him by his rightful name -- Mr. God -- okay? His Holiness the Savior is acceptable as well.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Around the Horn, spring edition

Welcome to Around the Horn, where we take a look around the blogosphere to see what others are saying about our beloved Royals.

-- The H.G. Miller Sports Blog provides a nice week-in-review post. Of particular note is Bob Dutton's explanation of player options.

-- The man our hero Dayton succeeded may have tried his best, but when you think about it, his stint as GM can only be classified as an unequivocal failure, from his draft picks to his horrific trades. This past week, Joe Posnanski and the guys over at Royals Retrospective revisit possibly the worst of the bad trades of the Allard Baird era, Jermaine Dye for Neifi Perez. And it was caused by ... Rey Sanchez?

Retro, I too hate Neifi. As do Cubs fans. And, uh, Tigers fans. And this guy.

-- The only thing I regret about the Burgos for Bannister trade is that I'll no longer be able to say "Ambiorix." In this New York Post story, Burgos calls KC a Triple-A team. (More on this from Poz.)

-- If Deadspin's Royals preview got you down, be glad you're not a Pirates fan. Mondesi's House explains.

-- Even though I often can't tell the difference between the three on my RSS, Royals Review, Royal Ingenuity and Royals Authority are fast becoming my favorite Royals blogs, in that order. The traffic race:

RI (BBTF): 13,806/day
RR (SB Nation blog): 608/day
RA (MVN): unavailable

Friday, March 9, 2007

Gold in sand

I had a Russian lit professor in college who, through the sheer intensity of his passion and love for his study, passed onto me (and a whole lotta others) a deep, lasting appreciation for Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Just now I'm reminded of a passage from Anna Karenina when considering the Royals' four-game winning streak:

...The children themselves were even now repaying her in small joys for her sufferings. Those joys were so small that they passed unnoticed, like gold in sand, and at bad moments she could see nothing but the pain, nothing but sand; but there were good moments too when she saw nothing but the joy, nothing but gold.

From Part III, Chapter 7, when Darya Alexandrovna realizes that small joys are what sustain life. Yes, spring training really doesn't matter -- after all, our Royals won the Cactus League last year on their way to a less-than-stellar season -- but a four-game win streak is as good as a four-game win streak.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Deadspin's Royals preview

Bradford Doolittle of DoolittleBrothers.com-fame is a Royals fan. Not as optimistic as some, but a fan nonetheless, which is among the reasons Deadspin asked him to write a Royals season "preview." Apologies for the delay, but I bring it to you now.

The whole thing reminds me of a scene from Two for the Money...

George Brett: "I don't know how to say this without sounding rude, but you're a lemon, B.D. -- can I call you B.D.? Like a bad car, there is something inherently defective in you."

Doolittle wrinkles his brows as Brett continues:

"And you. And you. And me. And all of us in this room. We're all lemons. We look like everybody else, but what makes us different is our defect."

Roomful of Royals commentators look at each other, confused.

Brett: "You see, most baseball fans, when they go watch baseball, they expect their team to win. When we go, we expect to lose, subconsciously. Me, I never feel better or more alive than when the opponent's on the field in their handshake/butt-slap line, and everybody here knows what I'm talking about."

Some nod in agreement while others lean back in their chairs in defiant slouches.

"Hell, even when we win, it's just a matter of time before we give it all back. But when we lose, now there's another story. Now when we lose -- and I'm talking about the kind of loss that makes your asshole pucker up to the size of a decimal point -- you know what I mean? You've just recreated the worst possible nightmare this side of malignant cancer for the 20th goddamn time, and you're standing there and you suddenly realize: 'Hey, I'm still here. I'm still breathing. I'm still alive.' Us lemons, we fuck shit up all the time on purpose, because we constantly need to remind ourselves we're alive."

The room isn't sure what to think. A particularly cynical man squints his eyes as he begins to recognize the man speaking.

Brett: "Bradford, the Royals aren't your problem. It's this fucked up need to feel something. To convince yourself that you exist. That's your problem."

Finally, the man realizes who's been talking. "Hey, you're George Brett. You used to play for the Royals!"

Murmurs are passed around the room as people stir in their seats and lean forward. Brett doesn't seem to acknowledge the man as he goes around passing out baseball cards and ticket stubs from the 1985 World Series.

"Royals tickets on sale now," he says, and before anyone can make a coherent rebuttal, he's grabbed his understudy, Alex Gordon, and the two are hightailing it out the door, leaving a roomful of journalists with stunned looks on their faces.

Doolittle looks on with a sort of awe, then glances down at the card in his hand. It's a 1975 Topps George Brett rookie card, signed. He turns it around and finds a neat, hand-scrawled message: "When we are strong to take trouble, we prove that we believe. When we prove that we believe, we have hope. We will not be disappointed by this hope." Bradford raises his eyes and smiles.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

What these Royals could accomplish if they weren't so virtuous

When you're a 32-year-old outfielder who had one good year -- not even great like Beltre in 2004... merely good -- and got rewarded with a five-year, $50 million contract, well, good sense says you better not get embroiled in any off-field controversy or do anything to embarrass your front office. Like, say, get implicated in a steroids sting... that could get you suspended 80 games... when you're making $10 million/yr. That would be B-A-D.

Ahem, Gary Matthews Jr. In an article titled "Dark Angel" -- which is, frankly, all the reason we need to post a picture of Jessica Alba -- Sports Illustrated's underrated scoop-meister Jon Heyman writes, "Team officials are also said to have been examining the language in Matthews' contract to gauge their chances for recourse should the allegations prove correct." As you can imagine, Arty Moreno and company aren't pleased. (That report, by the way, was part of a larger ongoing investigation brought to you by the company that felt posting sophomoric pictures of college cheerleaders would help its national profile, proving that, despite its efforts, SI is finding it tougher than it expected to sully its image and render itself entirely irrelevant in the shadow of ESPN.)

The whole thing got me thinking... what might the Royals, if their players were immoral enough to actually do such a thing (which they NEVER would), accomplish if they went on 'roids? Three case studies...

Mike Sweeney
Why it would help: HGH's undeniable healing power is just what a nice guy like Mike -- who missed nearly 100 games last year due to a bulging disc in his back -- could use. Mike, forget the yoga and embrace the quick-fix splendor of steroids!
Expected output on 'roids (obtained by adding 10 percent to previous career highs): .374/.459/.619, 32 HR, 51 doubles, 158 RBI

Reggie Sanders
Why it would help: Reggie is 39 years old. Here's what 'roids did for Bonds when he was 39: 362/.609/.812, 45 HR, 101 RBI. This was, incidentally, Bonds's last transcendent season. While the long-term effects of steroids are mostly detrimental, most don't expect Sanders to be with the Royals past August, so if we could only get him to juice hard for three months to catch the eye of some unsuspecting GM... I hear the Angels may be in need of an outfielder sometime in the near future. With a little help, I'm sure Sanders can be an above-average centerfielder.
Expected output on 'roids: .337/.437/.637, 36 HR, 109 RBI, 40 SB

Zach Greinke
Why it would help: Zach is young, just 23, which means his body is in prime steroid-receiving state. He already has the ability to throw a 94-mph fastball, so just imagine what a little juice can do -- especially since he still has a wicked 68-mph curve and a serviceable change-up that's only getting better. Steroids also cause "accelerated puberty changes," which, I think, means they'll toughen up the kid, who's battled emotional issues in the past (see: departure from team, last spring). Also, word has it Greinke hasn't had his first pimple yet, and the back is as good a place as any body part for those things, so why not?
Expected output on 'roids: 0.15 ERA, 0.33 WHIP, 285 K's

This is all speculation, of course. Our Royals, immersed in Midwestern virtue and surrounded by some of the classiest people in sports, would never stoop to the level of Shawne Merriman or David Bell. We win the right way in Kansas City.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The corner infield of the future, Pt. 1

Spring training games are a pleasant diversion from bitter Old Man Winter, who around this time of the year rages with particular petulance because it feels its power waning as tree buds wriggle and perennials dethaw (where I live, the temperature dipped to about 14 degrees last night from 40 that morning, a bad enough gradient made worse when you consider it was 50 over the weekend). Spring training truly embodies the best of spring hope: we glimpse upon rookies and new acquisitions and veteran stars alike with the same freshness and through the same rose-colored lenses, eager to forgive shortcomings (they're just warming up) and celebrate small achievements (Angel Berroa is batting .429! The fact that he's only 3-for-7 with three singles isn't likely to impress Royal Ingenuity, but we at IDWT believe 3-for-7 is better than 0-for-9, so... way to go, Angel!). They have all recently awaken from a four-month hibernation, and we with them.

This is all just a longwinded way for me to turn your attention to Ryan Shealy, who hit his second home run yesterday as the Royals defeated the Peoria Padres of San Diego 9-4. If Shealy were an unaccomplished rookie, we might look at this and utter bromides about how he "looks good out there" and has "potential" to "make an impact" in the big leagues "someday." But alas, Shealy is no mere rookie -- he is, along with George Brett-extraordinaire Alex Gordon, the Royals' Corner Infield of the Future. That is to say, one half of the team's corner infield now.

Is there any young first base-third base combo in the league as promising as Shealy (2006 as a Royal: .280/.338/.451) and Gordon (AA Wichita: .325/.427/.588, 29 home runs, 101 RBI, 72 walks, and a POY award)? I'll focus on the latter in a later post, but Shealy's my concern here. His career has been on an upward trajectory since his 2004 debut, in which he hit .318/.411/.584 with AA Tulsa of the Rockies organization. When he got called up the next year, all he did was bat .330 with seven doubles and two home runs in 104 plate appearances. That big league stint, however, was nothing more than a tryout for other teams, as the Rockies had (and have) someone named Todd Helton ensconced on first. So the best thing the Rockies did for Shealy -- besides manager Clint Hurdle giving him the nickname "Sully" (top right... you see the resemblance, right?) -- was trade him to Kansas City, where he was immediately inserted into the starting lineup.

In his first 23 games, Sully hovered around .300 by keeping plate discipline and a controlled swing no matter the count. An illness caused a setback, but at 27 and about to enter his first season as the likely starter, the future is warm, bright, and fully ahead of him. The spring optimism surging through me says Shealy will bat .335 with 30 home runs and 135 RBIs from the middle of the order, though realistically, we're probably looking at .305 with 25 homers and 108 RBIs. Either way, my cold, cold heart is warmed just thinking about what lies ahead.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Royals' October hero likely to start on Opening Day

We would never wish -- even secretly -- for an injury to any Kansas City Royal, but given that injuries are inevitable, when one happens, it's always infinitely more fruitful looking for silver linings than dwelling on the incident (something Cubs fans have yet to learn). That's why Mark Grudzielanek's impending knee surgery, which will cause him to miss the rest of spring training and at least the first couple of weeks in April, should only be construed as a roster move that frees up one of the Royals' best hitters from last season -- Esteban German -- to play regularly at second base.

Your last on-field impression of Esteban -- unless you're one of the lucky ones who's following the team in Surprise, Arizona -- probably comes from last October, when he was singling off soon-to-be postseason hero Kenny Rogers in the top of the 12th to break an 8-8 tie. The Royals would add another run before winning pitcher Jimmy Gobble shut the door in the bottom half of the inning to complete a season-ending three-game sweep (!) of the eventual pennant-winning Tigers. Well, prepare to see much more of this young utility man -- a prudent man's Chone Figgins, if you will -- who Dayton Moore said was the "logical choice" to fill in for The Grud.

Duh. Granted, German doesn't have Grudzielanek's sure hands (then again, who among AL second basemen do?), but where he'll contribute -- nay, be an upgrade -- is at the plate, where he batted an outstanding .326/.422/.458 with 40 walks (to only 49 K's), 18 doubles, 44 runs and 34 RBIs in just 279 at-bats last year, his first full season in the Majors.

Compare that batting line with Grudzielanek's .279/.331/.409 or 136-million-dollar-man Alfonso Soriano's .277/.351/.560, and you get a sense of Esteban's potential in an already potent Royals lineup (more on this later). In fact, if he slaps base hits at last year's pace, one could make a case for him batting leadoff and, a little further down the road, like in September, challenging Ichiro or Jose Reyes for the title of "best leadoff hitter in baseball" (or at least joining the discussion).

Of course, once Mark's knee gets better and he returns, it'll be like the Royals added a Gold Glove second baseman through a trade four months before the deadline. That should energize them through any late-spring doldrums.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

The start of an unapologetically good thing

There are three reasons for this blog:

1. I believe in this man:

I believe in his work and all he stands for (which includes his hometown of Wichita). I believe in his wisdom and his confidence to apply it. I believe in his baseball decisions: that it is good to dump ineffective pitchers for speed in the outfield and power on the corners; that Joey Gathright, his first acquisition, is, if nothing else, exciting to watch; that Gil Meche, his much-maligned signing, will be the next Chris Carpenter; that the Rockies will one day curse his name for the Ryan Shealy heist, much as the Giants curse Twins GM Terry Ryan and will for years to come; that he has yet to do wrong and therefore, on his current pace, will never do wrong; that, in short, he's baseball's version of god incarnate. I believe -- in this day and age when front office fiscal responsibility separates the good teams from the truly clueless ones -- he will save baseball in Kansas City. (I really believe in Gil Meche.)

Look at it this way: Remember all the good will that surrounded Allard Baird's promotion to the GM seat in 2000? Well, he took a bad team and made it worse. Moore, on the other hand, didn't have the benefit of a warm introductory press conference -- the Meche signing only embittered the cawing cynics -- and that only means the karma police should be coming around real soon to set things right. Because we all know a universe in the which the regal Royals share a space with the paltry Pirates just isn't normal.

2. A little of a good thing is a good thing -- note the Royals blogs off to the side panel -- but in a world flush with Time Persons of the Year, more of a good thing makes it more good. Joe Posnanski -- the finest sports columnist in the country (sorry Mitch) -- may have the market on optimism cornered, but another Royals blog can't possibly hurt. The Heartland's Team deserves all the positive attention it can get, especially in light of stuff like this and, however funny, this.

3. And finally, if we could pick the teams we root for instead of having them assigned to us by that thing called fate (or parents or geography), I just might pick the Royals. Come back periodically and you'll see why.