Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Talking pennant

Beyond the Box Score: "It’s not altogether unreasonable that the Royals could contend for the division in 2009."

Link via Royals Review.

Of course, anything's possible, especially in December. The odds say it's about time the Royals had a great season, had players hitting the 90th percentile in all the projections, watched as other teams faltered for one reason (old: White Sox) or another (they're due for a bad year: Twins).

Think of it this way: ask anyone before 2003 whether they thought the team could contend for .500, and what would they have said?

Anyway... yes, it's possible. Throw up some pixie dust and let's see what happens.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Do Americans really not care about the World Baseball Classic?

Some schmo from Fox Sports writes, "[American ballplayers] don't want to interrupt their spring training. And what makes it easy for them is that the American fans don't care."

Oh really? You have evidence for that? American baseball fans don't care, or American fans of bowling? I'll give you the latter, but surely you've researched this issue, right? Conducted a couple interviews at least? Asked a son, spouse, neighbor... someone?

Oh... it appears not.

In fact, it appears you attempted to support your claim by doing absolutely nothing except reiterating your claim, thus making it completely groundless and, because you wrote about 600 words around the claim, a complete and utter waste of time.

Also, you wrote, "Face it, the American failure in the initial WBC didn't cause any angst among fans." But why should it have caused angst? So many MLB players are spread over so many countries that it's easy to root for, say, Venezuela. What, are you expecting an international rivalry? Okay. But you think Dice-K Matsuzaka would ever brush back Kevin Youkilis?

Also, if it's a rivalry you want, I suggest you petition MLB to invite the teams from China and Chinese Taipei to the tournament. Trust me.

Also, the WBC is a very nice event, and while one can't quite laud it as "awesome" just yet, the idea's certainly in the right place, and let's remember that it's only been played once. And that one time, it was slapped together sort of last-minute. Are you really so ready to bury the idea so soon?

Also: What if Americans care less, on average, than Latin American baseball fans? Isn't that sort of true about American attitudes towards just about anything international? Americans care less about the Olympics. They care less about World Summit meetings. They care less about soccer (well, duh). This is not a new phenomenon, and this isn't necessarily a bad thing. This country's affluence enables the entertainment and sports industry to offer the public many choices as far as how to whittle away the day's long hours, and we should be grateful for that.

ALSO, "caring less" about an event doesn't mean appreciating it less. One could be indifferent about Team USA's win-loss record but still watch a few games and enjoy the heck out of them. And any sports fan should be able to appreciate the beauty of competition and a good game. In addition, there's a certain appeal to watching a tournament without a real strong rooting interest. It makes life easier, breezier, and if you think not, pop another beer, my friend, because baseball in March is supposed to be fun. Personally, I'll be saving my angst for college basketball teams ruining my bracket.

POSTSCRIPT: It's not like Team U.S.A.'s looking bad: Chipper Jones and David Wright, Derek Jeter, Dustin Pedroia, Youkilis, Grady Sizemore, ace John Lackey -- they're all in. Instead of listing a bunch of guys who "turned down" the chance to play, as the Fox Sports columnist does, why not look at them as guys who failed to make the cut. As we know, baseball players need daily reps, and if you know you'll be spending two weeks in a platoon situation, maybe it is better to just stick with your spring training routine, save everyone the fuss. The U.S. has a competitive roster though, and it's going to be a fun tournament.

Friday, December 26, 2008

In the spirit of the holidays

Link-a-day through the weekend, starting with Joe Posnanski: Buying an umbrella in New York.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

It's Christmas!

Your non-baseball entertainment for the day:


Click for enlargement.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Yankees sign Mark Teixeira

The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
--W.B. Yeats, "The Second Coming"

Despite inking Teixeira to an eight-year, $180 million deal, the Yanks actually slashed payroll for next year. How crazy/shrewd is that?

But we're not worried. Like the ultimate destiny of mankind in Yates's poem, we think the Yankees' demise is written in the sands of time. Though their pitching staff is formidable...

C.C. Sabathia
Chien-Ming Wang
A.J. Burnett
Phil Hughes
Ian Kennedy/Joba Chamberlain
Andy Pettitte?

The rest... eh. Bring it on.

OF Liability
OF Old liability
OF Swisher
3b Over-the-humper
SS Geezer
2b Who cares
1b Teixeira
C AARP card holder

Let's go Rays!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Nothing is going on

Except for a few players getting signed to minor-league deals, so now's a good time to link to Joe Posnanski, who always has something to say. This time in Sports Illustrated, a scene piece about the Winter Meetings. Excerpt:

And it has all grown so complicated, so distant, so jittery. Most executives seem afraid to make a bad trade, afraid to face the instant wrath of the newspapers and talk-radio hosts and bloggers. There are no pigeons left in baseball. It's safer to stay indoors.

"You know what Pat Gillick told me?" said Allard Baird, the onetime Royals G.M. and now an assistant to Theo Epstein in Boston. "I asked him why he got out [in November], after he won the championship in Philadelphia. He said, 'Allard, nobody trades anymore. And that was the whole fun of it.'"


SI hardly runs these sort of features anymore -- old-fashioned first-person literary journalism -- so it's a breath of fresh air to read something like this. From a Kansas City guy, too.

Dayton Moore makes an appearance in the story:

What's amazing about Art is how excited he is, even late at night, even after all these years. He pulls out his legal pad and scribbles names and numbers and gossip and lies. He talks the way baseball people talked in the old days; there's urgency in his voice. For everyone else, every sentence is conditional, every offer a trial balloon, every overture merely a conversation starter. Just as Veeck and Thrift were, Art Stewart is a man of action.

"Hello, Dayton," Indians G.M. Mark Shapiro says the next morning when he phones his Royals counterpart, Dayton Moore. "I hear you need to talk to me."

"Well, I'm always happy to talk to you, Mark," says Moore, who wasn't expecting the call.

"No, I thought it was urgent," Shapiro says. "I was told you needed to talk with me immediately."

Moore smiles and shakes his head. "Let me guess," he says. "You were talking to Art."


Be sure to read till the end.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Jairo Cuevas, will you never stop toying with us

Four Royals were non-tendered as of last night, meaning they can sign with any team. They are:

Joey Gathright
Jason Smith
John Bale
and
Jairo Cuevas

Cuevas, who in the span of a month has gone from the Braves to the Royals back to the Braves and again the Royals, may soon be gone again... to the Braves?

Your move, Frank Wren.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Hunting of the Snark

"Just the place for a Snark!" the Bellman cried,
As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
By a finger entwined in his hair.
--Lewis Carroll, "The Hunting of the Snark"

After crossing the sea guided by the Bellman's map of the Ocean — a blank sheet of paper — the hunting party arrive in a strange land. The Baker recalls that his uncle once warned him that, though catching Snarks was all well and good, you must be careful; for, if your Snark is a Boojum, then "you will softly and suddenly vanish away, and never be met with again."

The snark of the poem is an imaginary creature not to be confused with the word snarky, an adjective meaning "sharply critical, cutting, snide." There is a lot of snarkiness (which is not a word) when it comes to reacting to news out of baseball's Winter Meetings, and not just as it relates to the Royals. This is nationwide, as passionate fans everyone who find they're overcome -- overcome, we say! -- with shock and horror at their favorite team's dealings resort to, well, snark.

Of course, this being a Royals blog, we'd like to report some of the snarkier things that were said about Kyle Farnsworth and Dayton Moore:

  • Royals Review commenter:

    Admit it: Our savior DM is Allard Baird with more money to spend

    I always thought that if Allard was given a $75 million payroll, he’d put a Michael Tucker at every position and a Scott Elarton at every spot in the rotation.

  • Royals Authority commenter:
    Kyle "There she goes" Farnsworth isn't any more use to us than Hubert J. Farnsworth.

  • Kansas City Star commenter:
    Yes, package a bunch of middling tards for someone else's starting middle infielder! I've got it! Why don't we just send Teahen, Gobble, Pena Jr, Gload, Jason Smith, Gathright, and Peralta to the Rangers for Ian Kinsler? C'mon people...you can't package a whole gaggle of AAAA ballplayers for a stud it doesn't work like that...There isn't ONE GUY amongst that group that most teams would want. The only one close is Teahen and Dayton hasn't been able to unload him and that is WITHOUT the pieces of crapola attached.

Sigh.

People -- it's December! Let's try not to get so worked up...

It's too late for me, though... I'm gonna rant.

I find it amazing that a decade and a half of following the Royals has ingrained in some fans the conditioned response of, "This can't be good" whenever the team does something. Whatever happened to finding joy in the small acts of doing -- that is the secret of happiness, you know -- of preparing to make a decision (and we know this Royals front office puts in the necessary prep work) and then carrying it out to the best of reality's conditions? There are those who harped for years, "The Royals don't spend money, they can't win!" who now, as the Royals are spending money, have changed their line to, "The Royals don't spend money the way I want them to, they can't win!" as if baseball were a farmers' market where you get all the fresh pickings to yourself, without 29 other shoppers -- some wearing more expensive suits -- elbowing you towards the outskirts and some hundred-thousand other solicitors, observers ("Oh, I'm just looking") and mendicants who beg, curse, rant and rave, and tirelessly throw out petitions for "Adam Dunn! Aaaaaaaadam Dunnnnnnnn!"

Here's what it comes down to: you have no idea. You don't know that Kyle Farnsworth will be less productive than Ramon Ramirez, and in fact you just may get shouted down by a commenter, "I appreciate all the insight as to why this is a bad deal but why must we always be so negative about GMDM moves. HE KNOWS WHAT HE IS DOING." You can critique the hell out of the front office and sound more-than-reasonable doing so, but in the end you just might get told off by Anonymous: "The question really is what would you have done instead?"

Not "would"... what could you have done, do you think?

We've been apprising Dayton Moore for a long time now, searching for reasons he's not the perfect GM, but instead of -- with your blank piece of paper as a map -- trying to find the mythical perfect general manager, why not try to examine Moore's body of work in context? He inherited a farm system in shambles and a clubhouse culture defined by losing -- horrific, outlandish, rage-inducing losing. Now? Tell me you're not excited to see this team take the field on Opening Day. In fact, tell me you're not excited to hear news from the next day, to see what else GMDM may have pulled.

Look, I'm not a big fan of Farnsworth, if truth must be told, but I'm willing to see how this plays out. I'm willing to give it a chance, to find the positive, hope for the best. You know -- wait to see what happens in April and May. Not shoot this down in December.

Oh, and whatever happened to those snark hunters? Disappeared, that's what. (One of them, anyway.) Take a lesson from that.

In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
In the midst of his laughter and glee,

He had softly and suddenly vanished away --

For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.

POSTSCRIPT: the Royals have acquired promising outfielder Jordan Parraz, a two-time Class-A Most Valuable Player, from the Astros. He was that "player to be named later" in the Nov. 24 deal for Tyler Lumsden.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

J.J. Putz, on the other hand, will descend upon your soul

And save it, save it good.



Congratulations to the Mets for acquiring J.J. Putz and suddenly shoring up that bullpen we said yesterday "hardly inspires confidence." It damn sure does now.

As for the Royals, they've been active, signing LHP Horacio Ramirez, whose last stint in KC went rather well before he imploded on another team, and claiming another pitcher from the Braves, RHP Jairo Cuevas. If you're wondering, yes, that is the same Jairo Cuevas who was claimed last month off the same team, then claimed back. The arms race is escalating.

But this is all small beer when it comes to the news out of Vegas this morning: no, not C.C. Sabathia; the Royals and Kyle Farnsworth have agreed to a two-year, $9.25 million deal, pending a physical. Farnsworth is a very hard-throwing righty who'll fit perfectly into the primary setup role. The price tag sort of jumps out at you though, leaving you wondering what's left in the coffers to sign Juan Cruz or Rafael Furcal. Last we checked, Dayton Moore was asking the man upstairs for more cash. We too will pray.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Francisco Rodriguez will not save you

By all means, Francisco Rodriguez probably earned his three-year, $37 million contract, both on the merit of his body of work and the numbers he posted last season -- despite the fact that, if you ignore the record-breaking 62 saves, 2008 was statistically one of the worst seasons in his career. But he won't be the Mets' savior. In fact, he won't be anything if his maximum-effort style finally reaches its breaking point -- his velocity dropped measurably last season, forcing him to rely more heavily on a curveball that we can't help but think puts incredible stress on his elbow. That aside, the Mets' bullpen still hardly inspires confidence, and the team may need to fill two rotation spots if Pedro Martinez and Oliver Perez leave. It's also highly advisable that they don't start next year with Luis Castillo as their starting second baseman.

Meanwhile, in Kansas City, here's what Dayton Moore has to say about the bullpen:

"Not counting anybody out, but I like the possibility of us replacing Nunez and Ramirez with the guys we have -- a better [Yasuhiko] Yabuta in his second year, an improved Robinson Tejeda to add on to what he did, the re-emergence of a [Joel] Peralta, the help of a [Brandon] Duckworth. I like some of what we got."

In other words: what, me worry?

There's an age-old truism about responsibility -- and all that stress -- accompanying power. "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown," wrote Shakespeare. (Limp Bizkit later sang, "Heavy is the head that wears the crown" in a song that looks, judging by the lyrics, stroke-inducingly awful, which makes me shake my head and marvel: The Bard and the guy who took his stage name from his dog Biscuit are of the same species?) What we're getting at is this: if and when the Royals do take that next step and begin knocking at postseason's doors, are we ready to assume a leaner, more critical attitude toward everything? News about Rafael Furcal including the Royals in his final four would resonate like the bells of heaven. Just thinking of names like Brandon Lyon and Kyle Fransworth might make us miss meals. Jeff Francoeur? Forgettaboutit. The world and everything in it might positively look different, colored by expectation. What will become of our rosy suburb then, the quiet swingsets vandalized, the roads agape with potholes and logging the complaints of blaring horns, the schools hijacked by destitution and decay? It would be a haven for Rob Blagojevich, a thoroughfare for human mules, a paved killing field awaiting Earth's last grand battle. And all this with no guarantee that a playoff berth is in the offing.

Baseball: sometimes, it makes you shake your head.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Joe Gordon, Grudzielanek, Bill James and Zack Greinke's wife

As Winter Meetings commence...

  • MLB.com: "Second baseman Mark Grudzielanek, as promised, officially declined the Royals' offer of salary arbitration on Sunday night."

    As promised indeed. Nice work, Dayton (and Mark).

  • Same site: "Joe Gordon, the first member of the Baseball Hall of Fame's 2009 class, was the first manager in Royals franchise history."

    Congrats.

  • Mrs. Zach (sic) Greinke. (Scroll down.)

    This while reports indicate Dayton Moore's asking for five players for Greinke -- three starters and two prospects, according to Jayson Stark.

    And, oh-by-the-way, there's not even any indication they want to deal David DeJesus or Mark Teahen, either. So who's the most available Royal by far? Jose Guillen.

  • Via Royals Authority, Most Valuable Network's Red Sox blog interviews Bill James:

    You've said that Bret Saberhagen is the closest you've come to seeing a pitcher achieve perfection. Which active pitcher would you say comes the closest?

    Another Royal. . .Zack Greinke. At the end of the season he had that same look that Saberhagen did in the 1980s and Catfish Hunter did in the 1970s--that he was doing effortlessly the things that everybody else struggles to do.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A brief tribute to Greg Maddux

One of my favorite players of all time will announce his retirement Monday at baseball's winter meetings in Las Vegas. Greg Maddux, 42, will ride off into the sunet with his four Cy Youngs and as the winningest pitcher alive, and knowing him, it'll be an understated press conference followed by a modest and quiet retirement. He never was one to make much noise, though he had a game that could inspire a million words (and has -- an example worth reading would be Tom Verducci's story, which was anthologized in SI's Great Baseball Writing).

ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski wrote, "You can list the number of great Maddux on-the-record quotes on the back of a Sweet'N Low packet," but that's not exactly true. As Verducci relates in his recent online column, "I dislike absolutes, but of this I am sure: Greg Maddux is the most fascinating interview, the smartest baseball player and the most highly formed baseball player I have encountered in 27 years covering major league baseball." And to prove it, there follows a list of quotes and anecdotes that make you sit back and wonder what sort of artist we've just lost the pleasure of seeing.

Verducci concludes:

This appreciation, not by accident, made no mention of any career statistic of Maddux, no more than you would cite records sold to describe the voice of Sinatra. Maddux is synonymous with the art of pitching. He was that good. Never again will we see, or hear, anyone quite like him.

And for the record, our favorite Maddux quote has to be, "I guess it's funnier when he tells the joke without wearing any clothes." [San Diego Union-Tribune].

Friday, December 5, 2008

Odds and ends before the weekend

We haven't done a links post since a long, long time ago.... It used to make me smile.

  • We kick things off with a quote from the man upstairs, owner David Glass, via Bob Dutton of the KC Star:

    “We’ve got a lot going for us next year. The stadium is going to be sensational. I was up there a couple of weeks ago and toured through the construction, and I can visualize now much better what it exactly is going to look like. Fans are going to love it. I’m a fan, and I’m going to love it. And we need a good product on the field to complement what’s happening with the stadium.”

    Thus an increase of payroll to about $70 million.

    "You just put money in," he said with a chuckle. "It's simple."

    In this day and age, we imagine it was a dark, hoarse, ironic chuckle.

    (On a related note: I was at Walmart last night and noticed that the prices on the display signs have excised decimal points and are only displaying single-digit numbers, like $7 and $5, which I understand is not all that different from $6.99 and $4.99 in real terms, and that after tax it's more like $7.07 and $5.06, but I couldn't help thinking, after seeing the prices listed as skinny integers, HOLY CRAP THIS IS CHEAP!)

  • As Rickey Henderson prepares to enter baseball's Hall of Fame (we can not wait for his speech), FanIQ compiles the 25 best stories of "Rickey being Rickey."

    Some of these might be apocryphal, but who cares? Trust us when we say there is no one story that deserves to be excerpted over the rest. They're all good, especially the first 10, and if you read to No. 23 and think you want to stop... don't.

  • More Rickey, via Baseball Think Factory: Golden Baseball League Makes Rickey Henderson $1M Hall of Fame Offer.

  • And while we're talking BBTF: their readers are tough. Check out the comments.

  • With a homicide rate of 48 per 100,000, Venezuela is the most dangerous country in Latin America and one of the most dangerous in the world. Now they can put a rather well-known face on the worsening crime rate: Henry Blanco, former reserve catcher for the Cubs, whose brother was kidnapped and murdered earlier this week. Not much more really to say about this except the obvious: just awful.

  • Join Alex Gordon and Sluggerrrrrrrrrrrr (is that enough R's?) later today (3 p.m. at 1225 E. Santa Fe, next to the Salvation Army Thrift Store) as they distribute winter clothing and gifts to those in need.

  • And finally, local blogger Nick Sloan asks, "How big of a surprise would it really be for the Royals to win the American League Central?"

    To which we say: shhhhh. Don't jinx it in December. Also, don't steal our thunder: we were going to make that prediction come March.

    (But really: it would be a fairly sizable surprise.)

TGIF, everyone. The weekend approaches. Commencing countdown, engines on...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

USA Today: "Royals 19th in power rankings... and hey, Bob, has the Internet officially killed us yet?"

I don't want to be a dick here, so I'll say off the bat that I give USA Today mad props for keeping baseball alive in the national conscience by writing about it in December. But this is one of the most pointless articles I've ever read. When you promise an "in-depth look at each team" ("Over the offseason, Sports Weekly will take an in-depth look at each team, bottom to top, in the order of our final 2008 Power Rankings"), you should deliver something better than this...

The Royals, who have had five winning seasons in the last two decades, believe they have a strong bullpen and a stabilized rotation and that they can bump up their run production.

This can be rewritten, "The Royals, who have won 204 games in the millennium's first three years -- but possibly fewer, depending on whether you're one of those millennium-begins-in-Year-2000 or No,-it-begins-in-2001,-you-idiot types -- believe they have a strong bullpen and a stabilized rotation and that they can bump up their run production," and still be no more or less informative.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Royals were 39-63 when teams started a right-handed pitcher against them in 2008. And the opponents' righties were 51-29 with a 3.72 ERA in 102 starts against the Royals.

Uh... okay.

DH Billy Butler hit .330 and .274 in each of the season's final two months. Outfielder Mark Teahen hit .313 with three home runs and 10 multihit games in his final 24.

Awesome!

The rest of this post will be written in USA Today style.

There is a man in Kansas City who is sometimes referred to as "The Man." Capital letters. Your Honor. D.C. The Ruaiyat of Omar Khayyam. PTA. It is not generally done for civil rights activists or lawyers or even presidents. It is only done with a few gods.

Respect.

And "The Man" in these parts is Dayton Moore. He is the general manager of the Kansas City Royals, a club used to losing. But he has a plan to turn it all around.

The Man speaks. We will end with him speaking, because when he speaks, people listen.

Meche and Greinke were among the AL's leaders in strikeouts, each with 183. Davies showed signs of the success he had with the Atlanta Braves a few years ago "because he's staying on the attack," Moore says.

So are the Royals.

"We showed improvement last season," Moore says. "And we think we are on the right track to be better next year."


POSTSCRIPT 1: We're sorry. Here's our make-up gift to you (left-click to change colors).

POSTSCRIPT 2: Royals Review has a cool survey worth checking out, Royals Confidence Index. Our answers: 10, 10, 10, 10, 20, 10, 10, 10.

POSTSCRIPT 3: And speaking of surveys, check out Ray W's award nominations on Royals on Radio Etc. Exercise your indubitable right to vote and together we'll raise our fists to tyranny!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Dayton Moore live chat

Very dull questions, very predictable, though nothing less than heroic and majestic answers from our silver-tongued deliverer. Excerpts:

INTERLUDE: Congratulations, MLB.com, on the success of your live chat with a Major League general manager. Twenty-three of your interns asked a question of Dayton Moore, with some of them getting to ask multiple times! Thirty-two questions in all. I bet this wasn't in their job description, but which of your legion of snappy, energetic young folk wouldn't have killed to be a part of this, hmm?

Most topical question:

dharsh11: How will the economy effect the Royals and the moves you might make during this offseason?

Moore: We all recognize the downturn in our economy, but our focus is putting the best team we can on the field, and we are fortunate to have ownership that is willing to improve our Major League payroll 20-25 percent from last year.

Most random:

bdk5735: As a U.S. Navy veteran, and with all the military bases in the Royals footprint, why don't they have a camouflage uniform for special occasions such as the Fourth of July?

Moore: The Glass family is very mindful and supportive of the commitment that our men and women in uniform make for our country. Each season we have special ticket offers and a Military Appreciation Day celebration. We will continue to honor those serving our country in 2009 as well.

Longest answer:

holidaymvp: What is going to be the greatest strength of the 2009 Royals lineup?

Moore: I anticipate we will have much better balance offensively, with speed and on-base [potential] at the top of the lineup and power on the left and the right sides in the middle of the lineup. I also look forward to continued improvement from our young starting pitching. We were very pleased with the way Gil [Meche] and Zack [Greinke] threw the ball and improved. We were very encouraged by the way Kyle Davies and Luke Hochevar pitched and the way Brian Bannister finished and, of course, the dominance of Joakim Soria saving 43 of 45 games.

Shortest:

cpittier: What are your priorities as you enter the Winter Meetings?

Moore: With trading Leo Nunez and Ramon Ramirez, our obvious need is right-handed relief pitchers.

The man, we imagine, never blinked.

If we had to choose one hands-to-the-hair, jaws-to-the-ground, I-can't-believe-my-eyes-or-ears answer in terms of the enlightenment and shock it brought us -- and it's hard to pick just one, really -- it would have to be this:

dharsh11: Do you watch other sports, and if you do, how close do you follow them? Who is your favorite non-baseball team?

Moore: I enjoy watching other sports and I pull for all of our local teams. I love the energy and excitement that those teams bring to our community.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Saying goodbye (most likely) to Mark Grudzielanek

A consummate pro like Mark Grudzielanek deserves a classy send-off, but, frankly, we're a bit weary of goodbyes. Recently there was Tyler Lumsden, and before that was Ramon Ramirez and Leo Nunez. We've said goodbye to middle infielders (then reacquired) and starting pitchers alike, not to mention a Royals legend and the best show on television. These sort of things grate on one's mind, so this will have to be quick.

First the news story and money quote: Grudzielanek was recently offered arbitration by the Royals, but the second baseman said yesterday from his San Diego home he's "95 percent, 98 percent sure" he's going to decline it and become a free agent. The reason:

"Not that I wouldn't want to come back there. It's not that I had a problem with anybody there. It just comes down to my situation and my career where it's at right now. I'm going to be a little spoiled here and try to go to somebody who has a little bit more opportunity to push to the [World] Series."

Grudzielanek came to the Royals in 2006 at the age of 36 and proceeded to have three highly average seasons (OPS+ of 90, 100 and 100). That may sound like a disparaging assessment, but we don't mean it to be. In those three years -- especially 2006, the last of the dark pre-Dayton Moore years -- very few Royals were average, and for Grudz, a vetaran, to have so quietly and unassumingly accepted his lot and performed his work to the best of his ability, day in and day out, tells you a lot about his character. He has, by all means, earned the right to explore his options and find a club that, as he so delicately put it, "has a little bit more opportunity to push to the Series."

He had some very gracious things to say about the Royals and Moore in parting:

"I hope people do understand. I enjoyed my time there and really had a lot of fun. Tell the fans I really enjoyed it and the experience there for three years was a blast, and hopefully I helped out in moving the team forward -- whether it was between the lines or in the clubhouse."

"One of the best in the business is Dayton running the show and trying to get the players that will help get that team where they want to be. I'm just not so sure how quick it will be, and I'd rather not take that kind of a chance."

All in all, this may actually be a blessing in disguise for the Royals, who'll get a sandwich draft pick (between first and second rounds) next summer as compensation for losing a Type-B free agent. But now's not the time to discuss that. Grudzielanek is moving on, and so it is we bid him adieu. We part, and probably not to meet again.

Of course, we're not going to let him off easy -- not until he's subjected to this picture once more:



Best of luck, Grudz. We hear the Cubs need a second baseman after they trade Mike Fontenot over here for Mark Teahen.

UPDATE, 12/3: From Rany:

I think – and this is only an educated guess, not predicated on any kind of insider knowledge – that Moore and Grudzielanek have reached some sort of gentlemen’s agreement, in which Moore has offered Grudzielanek arbitration with the understanding that it won’t be accepted.

Why? Well, it’s a win-win situation, or at the very least, it’s a win-no lose situation. The Royals get themselves a supplemental first round draft pick, which is a very valuable commodity. The Royals got one of those last year when David Riske left, and used it to select Mike Montgomery, a high school left-hander who was named the #1 prospect in the Arizona League and the Royals #4 prospect overall by Baseball America.

"The most perfect double-tapered shit I've ever had in my life. True story"

"Who's the pitchers in this game?"

This is from Big Donkeys, and I'm well aware it's also from Deadspin circa mid-September and The Pitch blog, but I've decided it deserves a post of its own anyway:


This is George Brett in the video:

When was the last time you shit your pants? Been a while? I was in Vegas a couple years ago -- this is an honest-to-God true story -- staying at the Bellagio, I went over to the Mirage for dinner and met some friends of mine over there...

And so it goes. I wonder what Mike Huckabee would say about this.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A beat reporter takes your questions

Dick Kaegel of MLB.com:

I'm curious about Jeff King and Jay Bell, who came over from Pittsburgh in the late 1990s. Where have they ended up?
-- Heath K., Houston

Shortstop Bell and first baseman King were obtained in a deal on Dec. 13, 1996, that sent third baseman Joe Randa and pitchers Jeff Granger, Jeff Martin and Jeff Wallace to the Pirates. Bell was with the Royals for one season, hit .291, became a free agent and signed with Arizona. King banged a total of 52 homers in 1997-98 for the Royals and, on May 21, 1999, abruptly retired.

Bell played through 2003 and later served as bench coach for the Diamondbacks. He stepped down after 2006 to spend more time with his family, but remains a special assistant to manager Bob Melvin.

The last we heard of the reclusive King, he was living happily with his family on his ranch in Montana.

We bring this up for three reasons:

  1. We had absolutely no interest in Jeff King or Jay Bell, in fact haven't thought about them for years.

  2. If not for the patently bland response and the 50-50 split on pre-retirement and post-retirement information, as if just to take up space -- especially considering the questioner was asking exclusively about post-retirement -- we could've sworn Kaegel made up the question himself.

  3. We just realized how incredibly desperate Mr. Kaegel is for fan questions.

In light of that, here's the link again for the query form. You should really ask away. Where'd Bip Roberts end up? Why does Sal Fasano get to appear in Time magazine? Is Rowdy Hardy named after the pro wrestler best known for choking out Hulk Hogan at StarrCade '06, giving the Hulkster his first clean loss in six-and-a-half years? Et cetera. Go help out a hard-working journalist and you can consider your good deed of the month done.

UPDATE: The subhead on the article: "Beat reporter Dick Kaegel answers fans' burning questions." Goddamnit, if I don't find out about the whereabouts of Jeff King and Jay Bell, I'm going to shoot myself!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

From IDWT with love

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.


Thanks to Theresa K for the picture.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The latest on Teahen trade rumors

PRELUDE: This post is borderline NSFW.

When the hot stove cools, leave it to MLB Trade Rumors to turn up the heat. The latest from Tim Dierkes:

Earlier today I spoke with a source familiar with the Cubs' thinking, and dug up enough info for a fresh post.

  • While Mark Teahen is a player of interest for the Cubs, they certainly won't be trading Mike Fontenot and Sean Marshall for him. The Cubs don't consider Teahen the middle of the order bat they require.
  • Royals outfielder David DeJesus also interests the Cubs, but the source has the impression Dayton Moore would have to be overwhelmed to trade him. There seems a good chance DeJesus stays put this winter.

The reaction from Cubs fans to potentially acquiring Teahen, as far as we can tell, ranges from "I would rather have [Jim] Edmonds" to "I don't think wasting money (or talent) on Teahan [sic] is a very good idea at all." We thought foisting Teahen on the Cubs for Fontenot and Marshall was a stretch to begin with -- heck, we'd take Fontenot straight up -- but then we heard, just tonight, that someone or other said the deal may involve Jose Guillen and Kosuke Fukudome. In which case -- if this were even remotely true -- fuk yes! But the chances of Guillen/Teahen for Fukudome are fairly close to nil, and once again we feel it necessary to remind everyone that rumors are fun to indulge in but ultimately meaningless.

This post will self-erase in five minutes.

And yes, we did this to lower the bar of expectation so we'll have something to be pleasantly surprised about when the Teahen deal finally goes through.

POSTSCRIPT: Here's my bit of fun for tonight, thanks to Royals Review (HT to Royals on Radio Etc.): a couple days ago the guys over at RR linked to a site called GenderAnalyzer and listed the "manliest" Royals sites on the 'Net. Obviously something's wrong with their top 5, because No. 1 comes in at 92% (Rany on the Royals), while this site checks in at 94%. So, what's up with that?

Anyway, we know why our score's so high: more than one picture of women. Another one's below, which -- I'm not making this up -- is one of the hits of a Google search for "Fukudome." Again, I
can't make this stuff up.

And don't worry, she's wearing underwear.


UPDATE, 2:38 a.m. ET: As we've already opened this can of worms, there's no reason not to take it to its logical conclusion -- other women who've appeared in pictures on this blog, arranged from latest to earliest: Anne V, Miss Atomic Bomb, Alyssa Milano, Tina Cervasio, Erin Andrews, Jessica Alba.

And, of course, Red Sox girl:

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Goodbye to Lumsden, inroads to India and a new Royals blog

Three items at this late hour:

1. Tyler Lumsden, the prospect we were all excited about in the Mike MacDougal trade (now we're all excited about that other guy in the deal, Daniel Cortes), was packed and shipped to Houston yesterday for "a player to be named later or cash." The "or" is strange. It can't be both? And how much cash? We're guessing a pittance for baseball standards, a few hundred-thousand perhaps. Maybe it'd be better to take the player, but... who? Such mystery. PTBNL is a scourge.

2. This is a rather amazing story out of Pittsburgh/India: a U.S. marketer decided to organize a baseball-throwing contest in India called Million Dollar Arm in which the contestant to throw a series of pitches that hit at least 85 m.p.h. on the radar, and all for strikes, would win $100,000 (which, in India, is a lot) and baseball training in the United States. That's quite a contest, if we may say. The winner, 19-year-old lefty Rinku Singh, threw in the low-90s. But Pittsburgh scouts at this event were so impressed with another guy, 20-year-old righty Dinesh Patel, who was a little wild but threw harder, that they decided to sign them both. And with one stroke of the pen -- or handshake or phone call or whatever -- Singh and Patel became the first-ever Indian athletes to sign professional sports contracts outside their country.

That bears repeating: the two are the first athletes from India to sign professional sports contracts outside of India, a country of more than 1.1 billion people. (According to AP -- we don't want to get the wording wrong -- "They are believed to be the first athletes from India to sign professional sports contracts outside their country" (italics ours).)

An incredible story, really. We said earlier this summer and last year (in a post titled "Imports," coincidentally enough) we'd keep our eyes on Pirates GM Neal Huntington; it's nice of him to justify that attention so soon. The Pirates: a team you can feel right rooting for.

3. New blog to report: Royalscentricity, a clean-looking site which has eight posts up as of this writing.

We're finding out about these things every week, especially as it's the offseason and more and more fans are jumping on the bandwagon -- who knew the Royals had such a large blogger bandwagon, right? -- so do let us know if our blogroll is missing anything.

And we're officially soliciting advice as to whether "blog roll" should be one word or two. We've oscillated from the very beginning.

Monday, November 24, 2008

It's on the young people

Nineteen-, 20-, 21-year-olds dictate the direction of baseball franchises, and so it is that Baseball America fulfills a need, giving fans glimpses of the future, sometimes long before it's arrived (or ever arrives at all). Here's its list of the Royals' 10 best prospects:

  1. Mike Moustakas
  2. Eric Hosmer
  3. Daniel Cortes
  4. Mike Montgomery
  5. Tim Melville
  6. Danny Duffy
  7. Danny Gutierrez
  8. Carlos Rosa
  9. Kila Ka'aihue
  10. Blake Wood

Most of these guys have name recognition, and many of them, judging by their early-career success, give us reason for optimism.

Here was 2007's list:

  1. Mike Moustakas, ss
  2. Daniel Cortes, rhp
  3. Luke Hochevar, rhp
  4. Blake Wood, rhp
  5. Danny Duffy, lhp
  6. Carlos Rosa, rhp
  7. Julio Pimentel, rhp
  8. Matt Mitchell, rhp
  9. Yasuhiko Yabuta, rhp
  10. Derrick Robinson, of

Notice that Hosmer, Montgomery and Melville were all new draftees in the class of '08. It has to be a good sign they all jumped immediately into the top 5, and that one of the players in last year's top 5 is now on the big-league roster.

Here's where nos. 6-10 are now:

Pimentel, age 22, acquired via trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers (along with Blake Johnson and Odalis Perez) for Elmer Dessens. Double-A Arkansas. Regressed last season with a 5.38 ERA, 115 strikeouts and 52 walks in 157.1 innings, but he's still very young.

Mitchell, 19, drafted in 14th round in 2007. Last year at Class-A Burlington: 8-8, 3.47 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 77 K and 25 BB in 116.2 innings. Not bad for a 19-year-old.

Yabuta, 35. Optioned to Triple-A Omaha but, unlike Luke Hudson, opted not to file for free agency.

Robinson, 21, drafted in 4th round in 2006. Showed no power in Class-A Wilmington but did steal 62 bases last season. Career line: .243/.314/.314. More grooming necessary.

An oblique but earnest thought: is anything in the world tougher than parenting?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

On relievers and Dick Vitale

Yes, Dick Vitale weighs in on the Ramon Ramirez-Coco Crisp trade. This is completely ripped out of a Joe Posnanski blog post, by the way:

“Oh and hey, by the way, out there in Kansas City, I think they got a great deal with Coco Crisp. They traded that reliever, Ramirez, and he’s pretty good, but I think Coco Crisp really helps that Kansas City. And then, you know, getting Mike Jacobs earlier from Florida, he gives the Royals some power, I think that was a big addition too, I think the Royals could be knocking on the door up there, I saw it with Tampa, I can see it in Kansas City, with Jacobs hitting some home runs, and Crisp running down fly balls in centerfield …”

While we're on the subject, Posnanski's column in the KC Star today points out that Dayton Moore has a propensity for trading away relievers. Poz lists: Jeremy Affeldt, J.P. Howell, Ambiorix Burgos, Andy Sisco, Octavio Dotel and Leo Nuñez. And what the Royals got in return:

  • Howell for Joey Gathright: Dayton Moore's first trade intoxicated us all -- maybe just a buzz, at least -- and no matter how you assessed this, you have to admit you had fun with it. This video (scroll to the bottom), remember?

  • Affeldt for Ryan Shealy (basically): Affeldt's been alright in Colorado and Shealy, let's face it, hasn't lived up to his potential, but there's time yet. We all know the September Big Sully had last season, giving us hope there may be more of where that came from.

  • Burgos for Brian Bannister: Burgos blew out his arm and may never be the same again -- a wild, unreliable reliever. Bannister had a good year followed by a bad year, but tell me you don't love him. Seriously. For about a month last off-season, he more or less single-handedly made Kansas City the cynosure of sabermetricians everywhere.

  • Sisco for Ross Gload: naysay to your heart's content, but Sisco has done nothing and Gload has been a consummate professional. Sure, not the ideal starting first baseman, but he's done what's been asked of him and, let's face it, the Royals would have about three fewer wins against the Yankees if not for Gload's bat (career 1.083 OPS against the Yanks, with three homers, tied for most against any opponent).

  • Dotel for Kyle Davies: very young pitcher who went 4-1 in September with 2.27 ERA and 24 strikeouts and only seven walks in 31.2 innings.

  • Nunez for Mike Jacobs. Nothing more needs to be said here for a while.

Not on the list: Elmer Dessens, Horacio Ramirez, Denny Bautista... do miss any of them?

One more: Royal Tower, which just ascended some 20 spots on our blogroll (really my fault for not pushing 'em up earlier), has come out with another fine analysis of a Royals prospect, RHP Daniel Cortes. Writes Keith: "He went from short and skinny (short by scout's standards) to tall and well built, and it's helped him throw harder and put more spin on his breaking pitches. Luckily, a lot of that filling out came with the Royals and not the White Sox..." Another steal by Dayton Moore, yessiree. Remember, all he surrendered was Mike MacDougal... a reliever.

Oh, and there's this: the Royals added Henry Barrera to the 40-man roster today. Who's Henry Barrera? Just someone who struck out 78 in 57.2 innings in Class A Wilmington last year with a 2.81 ERA. Lock and load, baby. The bullpen's getting restocked as we speak.

Two new Royals blogs/sites

Found out about these two recently, mostly thanks to Royals Authority:


There seems to be a few new Royals blogs each offseason, which is only natural and good. The blog roll to the right, ever expanding, reflects a nation's growing interest in our hometown team.

Of course, we lose a few blogs every offseason as well. So it goes, the cycle of life and death. What is life in the face of death? More life, just life.

UPDATE: And another one: Royals Home Plate.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Royals trade another middle reliever for Coco Crisp

Guess Dayton Moore wasn't done after all. Coco Crisp adds much-coveted speed to the Royals lineup and defensive prowess to the outfield. He'll be the Opening Day center fielder, meaning David DeJesus will move to his more natural positition in left. Although Bob Dutton's article for the KC Star doesn't mention Crisp's on-base percentage (admit it, you were skimming the page or scrolling down to find it), it was a healthy .344 last season, which was around league average. It would've ranked fifth among Royals regulars in '08.

Dick Kaegel of MLB.com has a longer story about the trade, in which Moore is quoted:

"He's somebody with a lot of experience, been a part of championship teams, has the ability to play center field and has had success at the top of the lineup. That was very appealing for us."

Another hard-throwing middle reliever jettisoned for offense: we've seen Moore do this before, and we're on the record as saying it's almost always a good value deal. Of course, Crisp stands to make five million more dollars than Ramirez next season, pushing the Royals' payroll close to $70 million. Not sure how owner David Glass is taking this -- perhaps apprehensively, with a large cup of black coffee -- but if it'll get the Royals to .500 on the road to contention in 2010, we're all for it. And let's be realistic: Crisp is a bridge, not a solution. He has an $8 million option on his contract for after this season, and by that point -- unless Jose Guillen gets dumped -- he really may be too expensive to keep.

The flip-side: as Red Sox fans get to know Ramon Ramirez, we have a feeling they'll come to appreciate his contributions. Here's Boston GM Theo Epstein on the record about the guy who was Joakim Soria's primary setup man:

"He has a plus fastball, 92 to 95 miles per hour, and an outstanding power changeup. A lot of people think it's a split, it's actually a changeup, 87 to 88. That's a swing-and-miss pitch for him against lefthanded and righthanded hitters, and a pretty good slider. He's very quietly had a tremendous amount of success in the major leagues over the last two seasons. We were looking for that type of upgrade to add to our bullpen."

Then again, there's been a lot of talk of the Red Sox flipping Ramirez to another team (Texas, for instance) for a catcher, but who knows. The Ramirez boat has sailed, and what happens from here depends on the will of the gods. Not that we didn't appreciate his services, but as this commenter on the Red Sox blog The Joy of Sox points out, "Why does this make me sad? Because when any player leaves the team, unless you absolutely hated him (and maybe not even then), you feel sad." This was just before someone said, "I feel sorry for Coco going to a bad team. He deserves better," followed by, "And to Kansas City. Poor guy," then this kick to the gonads: "As a fan of Coco I hope the Royals flip him to another team. I don't see that happening but for a veteran, proven player like Coco who could be any team's starting CF, it's a kick to the nuts to be traded to KC at this point in that franchise's history." With Boston Dirt Dogs jesting, "Midwest Not Best: Coco Can Kiss the Postseason Goodbye," you'll have to excuse this French: fucking New Englanders!

One more word on Coco: he's been on this site before. Entertaining the ladies.

POSTSCRIPT: We'll keep our eyes on the Mark Teahen/Cubs trade rumors.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What they're saying about the Royals: UmpBump

From that site's offseason "What they need now" series:

The 2008 Royals were twelth [sic] out of 14 AL teams in OBP. So what did the Royals do to address the problem? They kicked off the trade season by dealing for Marlins 1B Mike Jacobs, that’s what.

Or put another way:

The 2008 Royals were thirteenth out of 14 AL teams in HR. So what did the Royals do to address the problem? They kicked off the trade season by dealing for Marlins 1B Mike Jacobs, that’s what.

There. See what a little positive spin can do? The sun is out, and it's a gonna be a fine day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fourth? FOURTH???

Actually, that's not bad. Congratulations to Mike Aviles for finishing fourth in AL Rookie of the Year voting. Or, maybe not congratulations, but something close to that that you'd say to an unlikely shortstop who practically no one knew before the season but managed to secure a place on the roster by hitting and hitting and hitting some more, even hitting better than the guys who finished second (Alexei Ramirez) and third (Jacoby Ellsbury) in voting.

We'll give you one guess as to who won.

UPDATE, 11/11: Not all's lost: Aviles was named the team's player of the year, and Joakim Soria -- Senor Smoke, the Mexicutioner -- won pitcher of the year. Zack Greinke also got a prize.

Monday, November 10, 2008

BP's Christina Kahrl talks about the Jacobs-Nunez trade

Eric Sanlnocencio of Blog Talk Radio recently interviewed Baseball Prospectus's Christina Kahrl about, among other things, the Mike Jacobs-Leo Nunez trade. No, this topic will not die. You can hear the entire show here, or scroll to the 43-minute mark, where Kahrl comes in:

My initial reaction was really kind of just disappointment, because while Mike Jacobs had value and is probably one of the 30 best first baseman in Major League today, and while it would be easy to make a comparison and say, "Yeah, he's an improvement over Ross Gload" -- but there again, then you get into there are probably a dozen people, like in the minor leagues, who would be an improvement over Ross Gload, so that's really kind of a straw man, you can't make that comparison and just say, "Wow, they got Mike Jacobs and they've upgraded at first base." Well of course they had, it would almost be impossible to do worse.

So that's really I think the basis of comparison you have to go on, which is, in the entire universe of potential first baseman, why would you go get Mike Jacobs? It's a combination of factors that are involved, but really just makes you wonder what they were thinking. I mean, between the amount of depth they have at first base in the organization -- I mean, it's one of the only poisitons where the royals have a glut of talent, is first baseman on the way up -- and beyond that, Jacobs is now arbitration eligible...

She goes on for a while to list all the cons of this trade we've already heard. Here's the thing: when you're talking about basis of comparison, shouldn't that be between Mike Jacobs and Leo Nunez? Says Kahrl later on: "What is Mike Jacobs's worth? Well he really probably is worth only about a guy like Leo Nunez, who is just another live-armed right-hander who got a good fastball, but he isn't striking people out with it, and maybe he turns into something and maybe he just becomes a reliable middle reliever."

One more line:

Okay, so you're gunning for someday getting to 77 wins? Is this really the master plan?

Of course not. But baseball GMs seem smarter these days, or if not smarter, at least not as dumb. Sure, ideally we'd have Josh Hamilton, but there aren't too many Hamilton-types who can be plucked for cheap. And the Royals have problems: years of mismanagement have depleted their farm system and there just aren't that many tradeable parts. So, again, allow us to say: giving up a middle reliever for a power-hitting lefty is not a bad trade.

But I don't want to sound cantankerous. Kahrl does a great job over at BP, and her article (subscription only) on the transaction was actually quite fair and balanced, weighing pros with cons and analyzing the trade from the Marlins' perspective as well. And as we're all about optimism over here, we'll excerpt Kahrl's concluding paragraph:

Finally, to touch base on the waiver claim as Moore raids his former employers in Atlanta, Cuevas might represent an easy one-for-one replacement for Nunez. He may be a reliever in the making—he's a beefy guy with a violent delivery that perhaps exacerbated the labrum issues that shelved him much of the season. His fastball sits in the 91-93 mph range and touches the mid-90s, but his curve and changeup aren't great. If the Dominican's lack of a solid secondary pitch, the health woes, and the fact that he'll be 25 all add up to a change in roles, it wouldn't be entirely surprising, and if it pans out, it would rate as a nice little free-talent find. If it doesn't, consider it a case of nothing ventured, nothing gained.

That's Jairo Cuevas, claimed from the Braves last month. Raid away, Dayton.

POSTSCRIPT: The Royal Tower's analysis of Dayton Moore's trades from the past two seasons.

UPDATE, 11/26: Damn!
Cuevas was claimed off waivers from Atlanta on Oct. 24 but, on Wednesday, the Braves claimed him back off waivers from the Royals.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dayton Moore speaks on potential winter signings

Today's Kansas City Star tells us that as for winter signings, there basically may not be any more. Bob Dutton reporting:

Payroll is the primary problem.

The Royals’ projected $60 million budget already has $41.4 million committed to nine players. Club officials now expect Jacobs to cost $3 million or more after briefings this week from MLB officials on the anticipated state of the market.

Moore was also good enough to state the obvious on the Mike Jacobs trade:

“Don’t get confused when we bring a player in, and he doesn’t fit the mold. We can only take advantage of those players who are available.

“Should we do nothing because (Jacobs’) on-base percentage is not what we want? Should we do nothing even though our coaches think they can help this guy improve and when we know this guy is a hard worker?

“Mike Jacobs has the kind of raw power you can’t develop, and that we can’t afford in the free-agent market. So when you get a chance to acquire someone like that, you do it. I think it makes our team better.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

On trade rumors

The latest out of MLB Trade Rumors (HT to reader Lukas J.):

The Braves are mentioning Jeff Francoeur "in trade talks with anyone who will listen." Royals GM Dayton Moore is known to be a fan. Looking at 2008's bottom ten in OBP...Moore signed Jose Guillen (.300), acquired Mike Jacobs (.299), and has been linked in trade talks to Francoeur (.294) and Yuniesky Betancourt (.300). And don't forget Willy Taveras (.308).

Across Royals Nation (or municipality, maybe), folks are rising with pitchforks. Jeff Francoeur? .294 OBP! .294 OBP! .294 OBP!

But let's slow down a bit. Where did this rumor originate? Why is Dayton Moore "known to be a fan"? Let's see, shall we?

Aug. 15, KC Star's Mike Flanagan writes a post on his blog titled "Braves' Francoeur to the Royals?" The first line of that post reads: "OK, OK, that's pure speculation."

Sept. 20, Sarah Green of MLB Trade Rumors writes a post titled "Francoeur to the Royals?" The first line reads, "Pure speculation here, but the Jeff Francoeur-to-the-Royals rumors continue."

(Don't bother with that "rumors" link. It takes you to a July 24 Trade Rumors post that says, without disclaimer, "The Royals are said to be interested in Francoeur.")

Nov. 3, Braves blog Talking Chop writes a post titled "Does Anyone Want Jeff Francoeur?" In it contains this line: "It occurred to me that the Royals might have some interest. After all, they did just acquire Mike Jacobs....

"I'm not seriously advocating this, but in the world of rumors, if the Royals think Jacobs can help them, then they probably think Francoeur can too. Add to that the obvious connection to the Braves that Royals GM Dayton Moore has, and it's not too much of a leap."

So, as far as we can tell, the sources of "known to be a fan" comes from 1) speculation and 2) self-censured speculation.

Dayton Moore has said he would consider all possibilities for making the team better, and if that means trading another middle reliever for Jeff Francoeur, it would be brilliant. Of course, we don't think the Braves would part with the former SI cover boy for so little, but that's beyond the point. From here on, let's take rumors for what they are: salty, unappetizing, teeth-crunching grist. You can try to have fun with them, but don't throw them at others or go crazy with the extrapolations.

As for Betancourt, it's been reported that the Royals tried to get him for Billy Butler before the 2007 season. That was, of course, when Betancourt was still a prospect bursting with potential. As Bob Dutton reports for the KC Star:

The Mariners have a new general manager in Jack Zduriencik. They lost 101 games last season. Betancourt’s development plateaued over the last two years. And Seattle can use some punch after scoring fewer runs last season than all but one American League team.

It’s a long shot that also produced claims by both clubs that no talks have taken place.


The Francoeur talks we can deal with: grist for the rumor mill, why not. Betancourt? Let's put a stop to that now.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A voice of reason speaks on *that* trade

Clark Fosler of the redesigned Royals Authority asks simply, "Why all the angst over Mike Jacobs?"


Picture via Wax Heaven, the guy who in this video ("Florida Marlins trade Mike Jacobs for NOTHING") calls the Royals "baseball purgatory." A Marlins fan calls Kansas City purgatory... now there's the day.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A celebration of baseball, the Cubs and Wrigley Field

"Don't worry about it! Enjoy it! Enjoy it! Don't worry about it! There are no holes in this team! This is the ball club!"
--Ron Santo, talking about the Cubs, in August

As it's now the offseason, and this is Gary Smith writing in Sports Illustrated after all, we feel it acceptable to do this without needing to apologize to Cubs fans...

These are excerpts from the story "Are you ready for a howling, pagan, YouTube Oktoberfiesta?", from the Sept. 29 issue, on a subject so good (and pure (as to transcend winning and losing)?) that it forced the writer to deploy the word "walkingest":

Excerpt 1:

On this team's worst days, the bleachers at Wrigley were the best place in sports; I was itching to see what they'd be like on the Cubs' best days. What sort of winners were the Lovable Losers, I wondered. What happens to a victim when his victimhood, in its 100th year, turns to dominance? Or so it seemed....

The Cubs were entering this series playing at a .721 clip at home, owned baseball's best record and sat six games ahead of the second-place Brewers. Could God be that heartless? Could this all be another cruel joke?

No. It couldn't be...

Excerpt 2:

"...I know I should be expecting doom, because I always have before, and if you don't, you're not a real Cubs fan. But I don't this time. I just don't."

Excerpt 3:

But Lynn was sure Ronnie Santo was right. "We're used to devastation," she said, "but I just don't have that feeling this year."

SI ran the cover story just before the playoffs, and per format, the letters in response to the story were printed three weeks later, some bemoaning the cover curse ("I speak for all Cubs fans when I ask you to please never put us on the cover again. In fact, don't even mention us in the magazine at all. When the 2009 baseball preview comes out, pretend we don't exist") and others having fun at the team's expense ("I have finally figured out what Cubs fans meant by their constant proclamation, It's Gonna Happen. They were obviously referring to being swept out of the postseason in the first round"). The last two were especially good: a reference to the Phillies and "the 1989 movie Back to the Future Part II."

If that isn't enough to get you to click on the story link, understand this: ultimately, Gary Smith's story is a naked, unreserved, unabashed celebration of the Cubs and baseball -- and a part of us which is intrinsically human -- and my point in linking to it isn't to provoke Cubs fans still smarting from last month's loss but to remind them that there is something intrinsically good about being a baseball fan in general and, yes, a Cubs fan in particular, and that if you think about it, there's only a shade over three months' time until pitchers and catchers report, and only a few weeks after that when spring training begins, and a month more when the game we love rises again like a quiet sunrise to reveal the spring bloom in its all-American splendor. Comfort in the tides of time, which roll forth regardless of your wanting its acceleration or delay; peace in the coming of days.

The heat was savage. Today's was an afternoon game. Here was Wrigleyville broiled to its essence, young men and women pouring from the surrounding bars into the bleachers, pausing on the outdoor concourse to purchase a pair of 16-ounce plastic cups of beer, double-fisting them to an unclaimed patch of bench, stripping down to bare chests and bikini tops and settling in for a four-hour house party, the scents of suntan lotion, hops, barley and baked flesh inseparable by the bottom of the second. Marvelous multitaskers, able to eat, drink, text, troll, couple and clamor for the Cubbies all at once.

...

"I've been all over the world," Fred continued, unperturbed. "I've scuba-dived the Great Barrier Reef and motorcycled the Icefields Parkway in the Canadian Rockies, and, yes, they're both
beautiful. But I realized when I first came here 45 years ago that this ballpark on a sunny day was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen, and that it still is today. So the bathrooms smell like piss? So Larry Craig wouldn't like our men's room? Well, I don't watch the ball game from there. This ballpark doesn't need a damn thing. Winning or losing stopped making me happy or sad years ago. I just love to be here."

Saturday, November 1, 2008

"The greatest World Series speech in the history of sports"

So says the blog The Fightins. Judge for yourself:



Philadelphia...

POSTSCRIPT 1: Jason Werth, who stands after Chase Utley delivered those words, was probably drunk. Via Deadspin:

Photo by Meghan Zamborsky

POSTSCRIPT 2: You won't get the full article unless you're a Baseball Prospectus subscriber, but the first few paragraphs from this article by Joe Sheehan is well worth reading:

Baseball is just fine. Rain, cold weather, long games, late games, poor TV ratings, worse umpiring... none of it matters. Nothing that makes this many people this happy is ever going to go away.

More on the Jacobs-Nunez trade

As Mike Jacobs and Leo Nunez are the talk of baseball -- Baseball Think Factory and Boys of Summer are the latest to weigh in on the trade -- we'd like to present, via RoyalsRetro of Royals Review, Jacobs's and Nunez's ZIPS projections:

2009 ZiPS Projection - Mike Jacobs
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AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB BA OBP SLG OPS+ DR
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2009 478 67 125 33 1 24 82 36 100 1 .262 .313 .485 106 -7
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Opt. (15%) 544 84 152 40 2 30 101 44 104 1 .279 .334 .526 122 -5
Pes. (15%) 412 43 98 24 1 17 60 28 94 0 .238 .287 .425 84 -10
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Top Offensive Comps: Rico Brogna, Gordy Coleman
2009 ZiPS Projection - Leo Nunez
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W L G GS IP H ER HR BB SO ERA ERA+
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2009 2 2 43 0 49 49 23 6 19 36 4.22 101
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Opt. (15%) 4 2 47 0 56 50 20 5 18 45 3.21 133
Pes. (15%) 2 2 36 0 39 43 23 6 19 27 5.31 81
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Top Comps: John Verhoeven, Joey McLaughlin

ZIPS is a system developed by Dan Szymborski to project individual performance. You can learn much more about it here (download-able RTF file).

In his post, RoyalsRetro takes a sarcastic tone and tosses out this bit of preemptive mockery: "He failed to factor in grit though. Is Jacobs gritty? He is white. He has played for a contender. He is a former catcher. The signs of grit are there." No one's called Jacobs "gritty" yet, as far as I can tell, but when someone does... joke's on you!

As for us here, we'd like to focus on the positives from the trade, several of which detailed in yesterday's post. Here're more:

  • As Boys of Summer points out, Jacobs's batting average on balls in play was an abnormal .260, which is about as low as Brian Bannister's BABIP was in 2007 (.262). The league average is around .300. When Bannister's BABIP strayed towards that mean this past season -- .310 -- it led to an increase of nearly two full earned runs allowed per nine innings (5.76 from 3.87). Why shouldn't we expect an equivalent jump in batting average -- let's say, oh, 20 points -- and whatever the equivalent of that would be in on-base percentage for Jacobs this year?

  • Jacobs's OPS was .114 lower at Dolphin Stadium than on the road in 2008, which makes sense because Miami is an awful place to play baseball. For his career there's a difference of 10 in OPS+ in his home/away splits, which is significant. (In the interest of fairness, we'd like to point out that Kauffman Stadium was statistically as much a pitcher's park as Dolphin Stadium last season, but about 30 times prettier.)

  • Have we mentioned Leo Nunez is a middle reliever who has a hard time staying healthy? Look, we all loved Nunez. The man has electric stuff, and he always gave maximum effort (though from a guy his size, that's kind of scary). But at the risk of besmirching his good name, this wasn't a big loss.

    Of course, if he turns into a dominant starter... but you didn't hear that here.

That's enough for now. Dayton's not done dealing though, so stay tuned.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The word on the Mike Jacobs-Leo Nunez trade

You've heard? Mike Jacobs, nee Florida first baseman and now Kansas City's DH (we can only assume), was acquired in a deal that sent reliever Leo Nunez to the Marlins.

When we first heard about this we thought it was a fair trade: neither guy is perfect, making both of them expendable, and both are more valuable on their new clubs than their old ones, though for different reasons (the Marlins hate guys who make seven-digit salaries; that they still win around 80 games every year with their anemic payroll is a testament to club's front office, which is more potent, in my opinion, than even Oakland's, and how GM Larry Beinfest doesn't win Executive of the Year every year is beyond me).

A quick stroll through the Royals blogosphere, however, revealed roughly a 65/35 split against the trade, which shocked me. I understand that it's an attractive prospect for some folks, like Rany and Royals Review, to criticize this deal: Jacobs is exactly the sort of player that allows them to snap into analyzing mode and break down all his flaws, point out how he doesn't walk a lot, how he'll be more expensive now than before, etc. etc., and criticism always makes for more interesting writing. Here's the thing: we already know he's not perfect. We can read from the second paragraph of Dick Kaegel's news story (linked above) that Jacobs's OBP was a paltry .299 last season. But that's not the point: the Royals aren't expecting Mike Jacobs to be Mark Teixeira. They expect him to improve from years past -- and he should, considering his age and Major League experience -- and to be an upgrade over the Royals' current crop of corner infields.

Is there risk involved? Sure. But let's not blow things out of proportion here. Suddenly Dayton Moore's incompetent because he dared to trade for a young power hitter?

I like this trade, and like Clark Fosler of Royals Authority, I also would've done it. Consider these three points:

  1. All the Royals gave up was a reliever, and a middle reliever at that, and an inconsistent one, and one prone to injury.

    Here's how reliable relievers are in the Major Leagues: the 2007 Cleveland Indians' bullpen, anchored by Rafael Perez, Rafael Betancourt, Jensen Lewis and Joe Borowski, posted a 3.73 ERA, fourth best in the league. This past year's Cleveland Indians' bullpen of roughly the same guys -- with Betancourt closing to begin the season and Perez as the setup man, minus weak-link Borowski and adding high-profile Japanese free agent Masahide Kobayashi -- posted a 5.11 ERA, which was exceeded only by the Texas Rangers in crapitude.

    Look at the Tigers' bullpen woes. Look at the Mets. Look at the Rays, which came into this season with only two established guys -- Dan Wheeler and Troy Percival, who are supposed to be in their decline phases -- yet ended up having the third best relievers' ERA in the AL. You realize former Royal J.P. Howell, a guy who has consistently sucked over the course of his baseball career, suddenly posted a 200 ERA+ and became one of Tampa's most dependable relievers? Who can project these things?

    Here's the point: relievers are fungible, through and through. It wasn't too long ago that the Royals had the absolute worst bullpen in the league and looked liked they'd never get their act together. How long did it take Dayton Moore to get that turned around? Half a season? One at the most.

  2. Jacobs is young, hasn't peaked, is relatively inexpensive even in his arbitration years (3 to 3.5 million) and instantly becomes the Royals' best home run threat. You understand the Royals haven't had a 30-HR guy since Jermaine Dye's 33 in... you ready for this? ... 2000. The year freakin' 2000! No one wants to admit they play for the three-run home run, but no one wants to live with the prospect that they have no chance of ever hitting a three-run home run. (I understand the Royals hit plenty of three-run home runs last season, but you understand my point.)

    As Craig Brown of Royals Authority pointed out, "[Jacobs] homered once every 14.9 at bats, which ranked 10th in the Majors and among first basemen trailed only Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols."

  3. The Royals would otherwise enter spring training with a glaring weakness at either 1b or DH -- we're assuming Billy Butler will fill one but not both of those roles (I, unlike Rany, do not believe he has played his last game as a Kansas City Royal, and I'm disappointed that someone with as much mainstream journalistic legitimacy as Rany would devote five paragraphs to why Butler is so great and GMDM would essentially be an idiot to unload him, even at the right price, on nothing more than a hunch) -- as anyone who believes Ryan Shealy or Kila Ka'aihue is ready, right now, to play 140 games at the corner infield is kidding themselves. They could be ready by March, and maybe one or both of them will win a roster spot, but as of this instant both are merely Major League replacement-level players. Ka'aihue could use a full season in Omaha, and Shealy... well, who knows? He had one good month and suddenly everyone believes he's part of the corner infield of the future. (Okay, I admit: that's what I wrote in this blog's third-ever entry, but that was so 2007.)

    The other guy, Ross Gload, isn't worth mentioning. We can only assume he will not be the Opening Day starter.

The arguments against the deal are sensible, but, again, let's keep some perspective. I have a hard time understanding why this deal is such "a terrible idea," and, frankly, don't know how anyone can say so with such impunity -- other than, of course, because all bloggers reserve the right to be as big or small of a jackass as we please, and lest we forget, we are all jackasses.

Welcome to Kansas City, Mike. We at IDWT embrace you with open arms.

Although... you could draw a few more walks next year. Just sayin'.