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All loses are not created equal.

Believe me, as a Royals fan I know a thing or two about that. There’s the mail-it-in loss that we became all too familiar with in the Tony Muser, Buddy Bell and Trey Hillman death march to 100 losses. There’s the tough loss which we saw when the Royals would run their best starter to the mound and would drop a 2-1 decision. Recently, there’s been the Yosted loss where poor bullpen management or the failure to anticipate match-ups squandered an opportunity for victory.

There’s also the gut-punch loss. We’ve seen a few of those already this year. Those are the games ripe for the taking where the Royals fail to capitalize.

Entering the top of the seventh on Sunday with a 3-0 lead while in the midst of a 2-9 stretch, the Royals were set for a loss seldom seen and often fatal: The Ultimate Gut-Punch.

This one had all the ingredients:

First, a really strong start from an unsuspecting candidate. Jeremy Guthrie has been one of the worst starters if not the worst in the early portion of the season. He owns a 3.3 SO/9 and is coughing up 11 hits per nine. His 1.67 HR/9 is a career high and his 35 percent ground ball rate is a career low. His 6.17 ERA is so bloated, you immediately go to his FIP to see if he’s been on the end of some rotten luck. Then you see he has a 5.95 FIP. Yeah… that ERA is real. And frightening.

Guthrie’s starts aren’t so much rollercoasters, as they’re just the part of the ride where you plunge 100 feet straight down in four seconds. Of his last three starts, he’s turned in two that were decent and one that was so horrible, it may have been the worst start by a Royals pitcher in the last 10 years. That’s saying something.

When he opened the afternoon needing 23 pitches to navigate the first, while allowing just a single baserunner, you would be forgiven if you reached for a seat belt. It looked like another rocky outing was on the horizon.

Then something happpened. After Guthrie walked Joey Gallo to open the second, Elvis Andrus swung at the first pitch and grounded into a double play. From that moment until the the end of the sixth inning, Guthrie allowed just a single, solitary baserunner. It was a Mitch Moreland double with two outs in the fourth. I’m kind of glad we’re not going to be seeing Moreland for the rest of the summer. He’s borderline Brandon Moss status based on how well he’s hit against the Royals this year.

Guthrie threw 82 pitches through six and returned for the seventh. He was pulled after allowing one-out, back to back singles to Moreland (him again) and Gallo. Guthrie handed the ball to the bullpen with a 3-0 lead after he posted a Game Score of 70. It was his finest start of the season at a time the Royals desperately needed to keep the opposition off the board.

Second, it has an offense that showed a pulse. If this were a medical drama, there would still be interns hovering over the body with looks of grave concern. Someone would call out something about a “thready pulse.” But the pulse was there. However faint. Two runs in each of teh first two innings. For the April Royals, not even noticeable. For the late-May, early-June edition? It’s a reason for celebration.

Never mind the first two runs were scored in a 2014 Royals vintage sort of way. Sacrifice flies by Eric Hosmer and Alcides Escobar staked the Royals to their early lead. Who cares how they scored? For a team in an offensive quagmire like the Royals, you take what you can get. Besides, two run leads aren’t happening too often these days.

To make things even more exciting, they tacked on a third run thanks to a Kendrys Morales double. Three runs? For a team that had averaged 2.1 runs in their last 10 games (and that included an eight-run outburst on the North Side of Chicago) three runs is Haley’s Comet amazing.

Third, this was about a team that has found it difficult to win of late. You know they’ve won two of their last 11. You know the offense has been putrid and the starting pitching inconsistent. You know apart from that little barrage in Chicago when the wind was blowing out on a warm day, this offense hasn’t done a damn thing.

It all teetered on the brink in the seventh inning. Guthrie returned to the mound after throwing 82 pitches through six innings of yeoman work. Herrera is normally the seventh inning guy. Sure, we can second guess, but Guthrie had been working through the Rangers lineup. Not necessarily with ease, because that’s not how Guthrie operates. Yost has to know the type of pitcher Guthrie has become at this stage of his career. If you get five or six good innings, it’s time to cut bait and get it to the bullpen. Don’t wait around on Guthrie.

Then Herrera turned in a performance of Guthrie-esque quality. He was brining the heat as usual, topping out at 101 mph, but the Rangers didn’t give a damn. Andrus fouled off five pitches before he singled to load the bases. Leonys Martin fouled off two before he hit the single to bring in both of the runners belonging to Guthrie. (By the way, I enjoy Game Score, but those two runs knocked Guthrie’s Score down eight points. He finished with a 62. Rough.) Then Robinson Chirinos fouled off three more before he grounded out to shortstop, driving in the game-tying run.

At that moment, I found myself thinking that Yost needed to manage this game like it was October. All wins are important and over the course of a 162 game schedule, it seems foolish to point to one particular win as more important than any other. Yet, this felt like it was the most important game of the year thus far for the reasons stated above. To give this away… Ultimate Gut-Punch.

This is the win expectancy graph from Fangraphs. When Fielder grounded out for the first out of the seventh inning, the Royals win expectancy stood at 95 percent. Again… Ultimate Gut-Punch.

Source: FanGraphs

Thankfully, there’s a catcher named Salvador Perez. Two outs. Eighth inning. Boom.

You don’t think Sal wasn’t aware of how huge that home run was?

I tweeted a little after the game that the Perez home run was the biggest hit of the year for the Royals. If you’ve made it this far in the post, I suspect you feel the same.

I’m not a big believer in momentum in baseball, so I’m not going to go there and predict this as some sort of launching point for big things. Instead, I’ll just appreciate it for what it was – a magnificent home run at a crucial spot that may have saved this team from a tailspin they could ill-afford. If the Royals scrape and claw their way back to October, this could be one of the games we point to.

Thanks to Sal The Savior.

Games like the one the Royals played on Tuesday are fantastic. It’s a recipe for a great evening.

— They spotted Vin Mazzaro four runs before he ever took the mound. Wait… The Royals had a “big inning?” An inning where they scored more than one run and didn’t bunt? This is the Royals?

Adding to the confusion was leadoff man Jerrod Dyson clubbing the ball over the head of the right fielder for a leadoff double. What’s up with that? Joey Gathright never hit one off the wall.

Given the opportunity to play everyday, Dyson has exceeded expectations. That’s likely an understatement. On Tuesday, he reached base three times and saw a team high 24 pitches in five plate appearances. That is exactly the kind of stuff you want to see from your leadoff hitter. Oh, and all three times he reached… He scored.

Dyson is now hitting .304/.383/.362 in 81 plate appearances. He’s scored 17 runs in 18 games. And get this… Dyson is scoring 55% of the time he reaches base. No player in baseball with more than 80 plate appearances has scored as frequently as Dyson.

I know we’re still at least a month away from Lorenzo Cain returning from his hip flexor injury, but man… If Dyson can somehow keep this going, there’s no way Cain gets back into the lineup.

— I suppose lost in the “Eric Hosmer batting second” hubbub is that if Jerrod Dyson reaches base in the first inning, we can pretty much forget about Hosmer bunting him over. Although he did execute the swinging bunt in the first on the tapper back to Lewis. I guess what happened is an example of how speed affects the game, as Lewis looked Dyson back to second, then turned to first and lofted a flat footed throw over the head of Moreland.

— Hosmer then executed a boneheaded baserunning play when he broke for third on a ground ball in front of him. You don’t go for third in that situation… You just don’t.

More Royals running into outs.

— After a Jeff Francoeur double and Mike Moustakas was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Brayan Pena saw a meatball from Lewis and laced it into right for a two-run single. Does Pena love hitting in Arlington, or what?

— Finally, a nice job by Chris Getz to line the Lewis curve into center for the Royals final out of the inning. A slow, looping curve that didn’t exactly hang, but it was still in the “happy zone” when Getz drove it to center to bring home the Royals final run of the inning.

It also helps that the Royals were able to keep the pressure on, adding single runs in each of the next two innings. Again it was that leadoff man, Dyson, setting the table with a more Dysonesque base hit than in the first. The error on the pickoff allows him to advance to second, although I was surprised he didn’t go for third. Probably the right call since there weren’t any outs in the inning.

Then a nice piece of hitting from Butler to line the low and away pitch to right to bring Dyson home. That was the sort of inning that wasn’t happening during the first month of the season.

In the third, it was the MooseBomb. All the dude is doing is hitting .310/.371/.540. Nice. It’s weird, but when Hosmer started crushing minor league pitching, he kind of shoved Moustakas to second tier prospect status. But if Moose wasn’t number one on those prospect lists, he was 1A. He’s a damn good ballplayer. Now if we could only get that other guy going…

— Speaking of Hosmer, he did pick up a pair of hits, one of which was an opposite field double. Opposite field hits are always a good sign, but he’s teased us before. Anyway, it was his first multi-hit game since May 3 – the first game of the homestand against the Yankees. And only his sixth multi-hit game of the year. When I say “multi-hit,” I mean two hit games… Because he’s yet to collect more than two hits in a game this season.

— Mazzaro was successful because he threw strikes. According to PITCH f/x, 14 of his 16 four seam fastballs were strikes as were 21 of his 34 two seamers. He doesn’t miss many bats – he only generated four swings and misses of his total 50 fastballs – which against the Rangers feels dangerous. Especially if you’re living in the zone as much as Mazzaro was on Tuesday. But for one night at least, it worked. It also helped that the Rangers seemed a little overzealous, chasing a number of pitches out of the zone.

Whatever… It worked. It also helps that Mazzaro limited any potential damage by walking just a single batter. His final line:

5 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO

If you had offered that line to me ahead of the game, I would have gladly accepted. Baseball is a funny game.

— And then the bullpen… What an effort. Timmay Collins set the tone by striking out five of the six batters he faced. That curve… Just devastating. He’s just been amazing this year. Collins was followed by Aaron Crow, Jose Mijares and a rejuvenated Greg Holland. Here’s the combined bullpen line of the evening:

4 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 SO

That’s how Dayton drew it up, right? Cobble together five half-decent innings from your mediocre starting pitcher and then have the bullpen lock things down for the next four? And hope like hell your lineup strings together enough runs to give your team a fighting chance?

It’s a wonderful thing when a plan comes together.

What a game… Dead for eight plus innings, the Cardiac Royals plate one in the ninth and one in the tenth. Unreal.

They won, despite the reappearance of the the 2009 vintage of the Royals. Not the team I once called, “Fundamentally worse than a junior varsity high school team.”

But, damn if they aren’t back. At least on the bases.

— In the first, Alex Gordon was caught stealing with Eric Hosmer at the plate.

— In the sixth, Melky Cabrera was picked off first when he broke for second too early against the left-handed throwing Holland.

— In that same inning, Jeff Francoeur was thrown out at second trying to stretch a single into a double.

One word about the caught stealings… The Royals no longer use advance scouts. Instead, they rely on video. I recommend they invest in an internet connection. One quick check of Baseball Reference reveals that Derek Holland has had 84 stolen base opportunities against him this season. Meaning, there have been 84 instances where a runner has been on either first or second and the next base has been open. Of those 84 chances to steal, opposing runners have made the attempt only two times. Two out of 84. In other words, nobody is running against Holland this year. And when they do… they’ve been caught. That’s right. There hasn’t been a successful steal against Holland all year.

If the Royals only had internet connection at the K, they could have avoided two outs on the bases. If only…

So of course, three batters into the game, the Go-Go Royals try to run. Of course.

There’s aggressive base running and there’s stupid base running. To paraphrase Nigel Tufnel, there’s a fine line between aggressive and stupid. And guess which side of the line the Royals have been falling over the last week.

Sure, those pickoffs in the ninth on Wednesday’s game were balks. But Aviles should have been aware of what was going on. Then, I just have a real difficult time moving past Coach Treanor getting picked off of second base on a snap throw by the catcher on Tuesday. I can understand it happening at first… But second? Seriously?

While the base running has been fundamentally awful, the defense has been solid with Alcides Escobar taking charge up the middle. That play in the fifth where Betemit knocked down a line drive and Escobar came over from short to pick the ball up and get the force at second was just the kind of heads up play we never used to see. This kid is worth the price of admission to watch him with the glove.

The outs on the bases and lack of scoring overshadowed the best start of the year for Luke Hochevar. The only blemish was a fat second inning pitch to Chris Davis who sent it into the right field bullpen. The thing was, Hochevar seemed to get stronger over the final third of the game. He retired nine in a row before a soft single in the ninth – and then a rocket finally chased him from the game.

He struck out only four – two of them in the top of the ninth – so I wouldn’t call his performance dominant. But he was doing a great job of locating his pitches and setting up hitters all night. His sinker was doing it’s job – he got 11 ground balls compared to nine in the air – and it was enough to get him through 8.2 innings on a season-high 113 pitches.

It was a savvy performance. Good to see.

Then there was the ninth…

Hosmer led off with a single that was scorched up the middle. Hammered. Dustin Pedroia thinks he used to put on Laser Shows? He has nothing compared to Hos. Then, Francoeur reaches on a single. That was practically a given. In 15 ninth inning plate appearances this year, Frenchy has four hits, five walks and two sac flies. A nice piece of hitting where he went with the pitch and lined it to right.

That sets everything up for Billy Butler… I thought he was on track with a seventh inning single. Sadly, it was not to be as he elevated just a bit too much on a late swing (although he was likely trying to send the ball to right) and hit a soft fly out. Then Feliz ran the count to 3-2 on both Betemit and Aviles. Aviles had a 10 pitch at bat where every Feliz offering was between 97 and 100 mph. Straight gas and Aviles hits a perfectly placed dribbler back up the middle to score Hosmer to tie the game. Tons of credit to Aviles there. His last hit was Saturday in Detroit. He battled, fouling off heater after heater before just putting the ball in play. Sometimes, that’s all you have to do.

Back to back blown saves for Feliz. He won’t get a chance for a third… Not after throwing 32 pitches to get two outs.

And the tenth…

The second best thing about the tenth was the fact we got to see another Escobar highlight pick at short. And Hosmer flashing the leather on the short hop was something to see as well. Just a fine defensive play from those two. I can see that happening several times over the next six or seven seasons.

The best thing about the tenth was the fact the Royals had the top of the order… This was there chance. I just can’t say enough about Hosmer. That kid is just ice. And then Frenchy… I don’t want to, but I love the guy.

The team was frustrated for eight plus innings, but Hochevar kept them in the game and they pushed through in the ninth and tenth. Just a great game. Really – aside from the boneheaded base running – an outstanding game to watch.

No balks tonight. Just a win.

In honor of Good Friday, I’m going to take the easy route here and put together some bullet points. I really should think of something Royal or monarchy related instead of “bullets”, maybe you can suggest something. I like to start bullet posts off with a little music. So in honor of the Royals making a come back and also possibly in honor of some people predicting this would be the worst team in history admitting they were wrong here is some sweet smooth 70’s sound.


  • What great game last night that nobody got to see. I’m kind of shocked that a Thursday night game prior to a holiday was not televised. Fox Sports Kansas City is probably kicking themselves for that decision right about now. The ratings likely would have been fantastic. Below is the game graph from Fangraphs for a demonstration of how exciting the game really was.


  • If you add up all of the records of the teams in the Kansas City Royals organization from the MLB down to low A, their combined record is 42-32. That’s pretty darn good. If you’d like to get an almost daily email of the boxscores, and top performers each night from the organization, drop me an email and I’ll put you on the list.
  • If you missed Craig Brown on 810WHB this week, you can check out the podcast here.
  • The Royals are one game out of first place in the American League Central and they have a half game lead in the American League Wild Card. The latter is more impressive, if you ask me. They are trailing the Texas Rangers, who host the Royals for a three game set starting tonight.
  • Am I the only one who feels like the team is walking a tightrope concerning the starting pitching? I feel like at any moment the whole thing is going to come crumbling down to earth on the back of the starters. Luckily, I think there’s plenty of help if needed. It’s one thing that I felt was a real strength even before the season started.
  • One of my favorite things in all of baseball is watching guys make their Major League debut. Last night it was Louis Coleman. I didn’t get to see it live, but I did watch some of the highlights. He looked pretty good and I hope the former LSU Tiger can stick.
  • I’m not above shameless self-promotion, so if you’re interested, I posted an article at the Lawrence Journal-World yesterday on Kila and the difference between organization and team needs.
  • What else is on your mind out there in Royals land? Predictions for the Rangers series? How long this can last? Let it all out in the comments. You know you’re not working today anyway.

Nick Scott hosts the Broken Bat Single Podcast and writes a blog for the Lawrence Journal World. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

Sometimes the bullets come on the weekends, sometimes they come on a Wednesday.  I’m unpredictable like that.  If you are like me, you scour the internet for hours on end looking for interesting articles and tidbits relating to the Kansas City Royals.  If you are unlike me and have a much better way to spend your free-time, then just let me do the work for you.  I’ve scoured the entire interbots for you to bring you these bullets and links.  Enjoy

  • I’ve heard entirely too much about how many double plays Billy Butler has grounded into.  The bottom line is that it really isn’t a big deal.  First, here is the list of players who hit into the most double plays in the MLB in 2010:
  1. Billy Butler
  2. Michael Cuddyer
  3. Pablo Sandoval
  4. Adrian Beltre
  5. Albert Pujols
  6. Derrick Lee
  7. Ty Wiggington
  8. Torii Hunter
  9. Derek Jeter

It’s pretty darn good company.  With runners on 1st and less than 1 out Billy Butler had a .950 OPS, Albert Pujols had a .901.  Butler is slow, puts the ball into play a lot and plays for a team with a bunch of singles hitters.  It’s a perfect recipe for hitting into a ton of double plays.  It’s really not a big deal.

  • Matt Eddy at Baseball America has all of the minor league transactions for the past week.  The Royals re-signed Luis Mendoza, Cody Clark and Jamie Romak.  Nothing really surprising there.  Romak had a fantastic Pan Am Qualifying tournament where he was named tournament MVP.  The Royals have had an odd fascination with Luis Mendoza since obtaining him from the Rangers, I’ve never got it.
  • I-70 Baseball has been doing an epic retrospective on the 1985 World Series in honor of the 25th anniversary.  I contributed an article on Dick Howser’s use rather non-use of Dan Quisenberry in Game 2.  There are a bunch of articles, check them out.
  • I’ve read some things mentioning that Zack Greinke’s no-trade clause includes most of the big market teams.  This is pretty standard and it doesn’t mean he can’t get traded there.  Players usually put the big-market teams on their no-trade list because those teams have money to spend and the player can use his clause to get leverage and force the team to pick up options he has in his contract.  It doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to win or that he is scared of big markets.
  • Rustin Dodd over at the Kansas City Star’s Ball Star blog tells the story of Ian Kinsler who played at Mizzou and now is playing in the World Series.
  • Jeff Zimmerman at Royals Review busts out his slide rule and charts to determine with what I’d call 100% accuracy the reason the Royals didn’t make the playoffs.  Just try and prove him wrong, I dare you.
  • If you want to follow just two teams during the offseason, I’d recommend the Surprise Rafters in the Arizona Fall League and the Senadores de San Juan of the Liga de Beisbol Professional de Puerto Rico.  Both have a bunch of high quality Royals prospects.  You could also just get my Royals Report email and let me send you (almost) daily updates on who is doing what.  Just email me at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.
  • David over at Royals Zone has a list of the top 10 Royals of all time.  I think it might surprise you, however I am in 100% agreement with his #2.  It’s the most underrated Royal in history and if I could get one jersey, it’d be his.  That’s a teaser, check out the site yourself.  But the players name rhymes with Shmamos Shmotis, no more hints.
  • The World Series begins today, you should check out the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers blogs from the Sweet Spot Network, they do excellent work.  Who are you rooting for?  I’m not rooting for a team, I’m rooting for a 7 game series.
  • Would it surprise you if this was the least active off-season in recent Royals history?  It wouldn’t surprise me.  I’m of the belief that it’s a good thing, but it’s weird considering this season was so terrible.
  • Question:  Why don’t the Yankees outspend everyone in the draft?  I really don’t know the answer to this.

Nick Scott writes about the Royals for Royals Authority, podcasts about the Royals at Broken Bat Single and writes about the Chiefs for Chiefs Command. You can follow him on Twitter @brokenbatsingle, on Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

Baseball is a year-round activity.  Throughout the fall and winter, there are the winter leagues, the winter meetings, trades, free agent acquisitions and the Fan Fest.  I know that for many of you, baseball isn’t something that occupies your thoughts over the winter, so I’m going to try and put together some quick n0tes and links concerning the Royals, baseball and even some things unrelated to baseball.  This way you can keep checking in over here and keep up to date with anything you’ve missed and to get that quick much-needed baseball fix.

  • In his latest blog post (ESPN Insider required), Buster Olney says that the Royals “intend to listen to any and all offers” for Zack Greinke.  This really isn’t anything new.  I’d imagine any general manager in baseball would listen to any offer for any player, it’s what a GM does.  What may be different is the fact that this information probably came from high up in the Royals organization, to get the word out to other general managers around baseball.  Until Greinke is either re-signed or traded, this kind of talk will just keep bubbling up.
  • Speaking of the Pan Am Qualifying Tournament, here is a great article about Ned Yost heading down to check out the young Royals prospects in Puerto Rico.  I really liked this gesture by the Royals manager.  I’ve always maintained that at least 60% of a managers job is off the field.  Earning the respect of your players before they even come to the Majors seems like a really good idea to me.
  • The Royals announced that they acquired pitcher Kevin Pucetas from the San Francisco Gians to complete the Jose Guillen trade.  Here is an article with some quotes from Pucetas on the trade.  Pucetas is a 25 year old right-handed pitcher with a 3.73 ERA in 120 Minor League innings.
  • Conor Glassey at Baseball America has a scouting report on 5th round pick Jason Adam from Blue Valley.  The velocity on his fastball (91-94 touching 97) is something to be very excited about.  He still needs work on his off-speed stuff, but so do most 18 year olds.
  • Billy Butler got a new agent, and is now with Greg Genske Legacy Sports.  It’s a pretty big name in the business, and Butler will be going through arbitration for the first time this winter.
  • The guys over at I-70 Baseball are going to be taking a look back at the 1985 World Series in honor of the anniversary.  I’m pretty excited to check it out.

Very few of us probably consider the Texas Rangers a model franchise.    Chances are, as Royals’ fans, we would be more likely to lump Texas in with the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels than to put them in with teams such as the Rays or Twins:  teams that we often look to for a blueprint as to how to make the Royals competitive.

What struck me during the recently completed three game set against the Rangers was how the heart of their very formidable lineup was actually assembled.    Would it surprise you to know that Michael Young is the only key player (I’m ignoring Jeff Franceour and Cristian Guzman because I want to) in that batting lineup that is making more money than David DeJesus?   Or that only Vlad Guerrero is really the only high profile free agent acquisition?  

Let’s start in the infield where the Rangers struck gold with a 17th round pick in the 2003 draft named Ian Kinsler.   He’s been hurt some this year and hence subjected Royals’ fans to seeing Andres Blanco go 6 for 12, but he is an undeniable talent when healthy.   He made his debut with the Rangers just three years after being drafted and has locked down the everyday second base job ever since.

Across the diamond is veteran Michael Young.   He was acquire way back in July of 200 in exchange for Esteban Loaiza.   At the time, Young was hitting .275/.340/.426 in AA, which was the worst line of his then three and one-half year minor league career.   Loaiza was a 6th year pitcher with a then career ERA of 4.72 and WHIP of 1.445.   If you could trade Brian Bannister for a AA middle infielder would you do it?   That is basically what Texas did back in 2000 and while Young may not quite justify his now $16 million salary, this was still a great trade.

Young played second base his first year up in 2001, but eventually moved to shortstop until just two years ago.   I bring that up to point out that despite having Young at short, the Rangers had no problem acquiring Elvis Andrus in July of 2007.

That, of course, was the year that Texas traded Mark Teixeira – their franchise player and former first round draft pick – to Atlanta for Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.    (Ron Mahay also went with Teixeira to Atlanta as part of that deal).    Essentially, trading Teixeira was the Rangers’ equivalent deal to the Royals trading Carlos Beltran.

What is different about that is that Rangers went and got the best talent they could, regardless of what they might have needed on the big league level.   Instead of saying we have to have a catcher and a third baseman (sorry, Allard Baird), the Rangers got talent and sorted the rest out later.    Keep in mind, besides Young in the majors, Texas also had Joaquin Arias playing shortstop in the minors.   At the time, Arias was a highly thought of prospect as well.

Andrus was rated by Baseball America as the #65 prospect in baseball and ended up at #18 by the next season.   He was hitting .244/.330/.335 in High A that July and the Rangers would have to wait until 2009 before reaping the real benefits of this trade.      He alone might have made this deal worthwhile, but the Rangers also got a closer in Feliz and another potential starter in Harrison.

Of course, the first base picture is pretty cloudy for the Rangers right now as they traded Justin Smoak as part of the Cliff Lee deal.   It is an interesting thought to ponder, but if the Royals has somehow been in contention this season, would you have entertained trading Eric Hosmer as the centerpiece of an acquisiton of Lee? 

The outfield presents some even more interesting trades:  first and foremost being Josh Hamilton.

We all know the Hamilton story, former number one overall who was eventually drummed out of baseball, resurrected his personal life and eventually was taken in the Rule 5 draft by the Cubs in 2006.   Hamilton was immediately sold by the Cubs to the Reds for whom he posted a .292/.368/.554 line over 90 games during the 2007 season.  

On December 21, 2007, the Rangers traded Edison Volquez (their #3 rated prospect and #56 overall in baseball) along with AA reliever Danny Herrera to the Reds in exchange for Hamilton.   That was a risky move, given Hamilton’s personal problems and injury issues.   It was especially dicey given that Volquez had struck out 166 hitters in 144 minor league innings spread across three levels the previous summer.   For lack of a better comparison, the Rangers basically gave up their Mike Montgomery and, say, Louis Coleman for Hamilton.

Another trade acquisition in the outfield is Nelson Cruz.   Back in 2006, he came to the Rangers along with Carlos Lee in exchange for Julian Cordero, Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix and Francisco Cordero.    Cordero (Francisco, not Julian) was in the midst of an off-season, but had saved 86 games the two season prior to 2006.    Mench and Nix were, well, Mench and Nix.

For his part, Cruz had posted very good minor league numbers prior to this trade and then huge AAA numbers afterwards.   He struggled in the majors and was, at one point, taken off the Rangers 40 man roster – a missed opportunity that haunts me to this day (I really, really did think the Royals should have made a move back then).   While Lee gave the Rangers a nice half season before leaving via free agency, Texas really didn’t realize the bounty of this trade until Cruz hit 33 home runs last year and has followed up with a .943 OPS so far in 2010.

Now, Joakim Soria is better than Cordero was or is, not to mention younger and farther from free agency than Francisco was at the time, but this is a ‘closer’ trade.   We would all want more than Nelson Cruz and half a season of Lee in return for Soria, but the Rangers’ willingness to entertain offers is valid learning point for the Royals’ organization.

The final piece of the puzzle is either Julio Borbon (1st round draft pick) or David Murphy.   I bring up Murphy because he was acquired by the Rangers in what I would call their ‘Octavio Dotel deal’.  

You might remember that prior to the 2007 season, the Rangers signed Eric Gagne.   After being THE dominant closer in the majors, Gagne had managed to toss a grand total of just 15 innings in 2005 and 2006 combined.   Much as the Royals did with Dotel for half a season, the Rangers babied Gagne through a very effective 33 innings of work (29K, 23 hits, 2.16 ERA) and then traded him at the deadline to Boston for Murphy, Engel Beltre and Kason Gabbard.

At the time, Murphy had a five year minor league line of .273/.343/.407 and was in his second year of AAA ball.   He has since compiled a decent major league line of .278/.338/.456.   Essentially, Murphy is better than Mitch Maier, but not quite as good as David DeJesus (although you could make the case that he is pretty close to David).

Gabbard at one time looked like a guy who might be a decent major league starter and Beltre is still in AA, sporting all sorts of potential and not a whole lot of actual production.   Of course, Gagne imploded for the Red Sox, so the Rangers won that deal solely on a Gagne for Murphy level.

On Tuesday, Nick posted a column on Kyle Davies that sparked some excellent debate and I don’t quite know how to equate Dotel for Davies versus Gagne for Murphy.   They are certainly very similar deals.

Through this entire dissertation, I am not intending to point out how the Royals might have botched deals, but simply how the Rangers built one of the better batting orders in the league.   They did it via the draft, via the trade of their franchise player (who they acquired via the draft), and by trading their own prospects and by acquiring prospects from other teams.

Sure, along the way the Rangers have spent tons of money on free agents, but in the end, they have a powerful lineup that any team in baseball could afford.   Am I advocating trading Mike Montgomery, Eric Hosmer and Joakim Soria?  Not really. 

Instead, I am just pointing out that while we look longingly at the Rays and the Twins, it might not hurt to survey the Texas Rangers as well.   

And yes, I would trade Mike Montgomery for a shot at the next Josh Hamilton.

In this game:

– The Royals fell into a 8-0 hole after three innings.

– Scott Podsednik hit one into the upper deck.

– Jason Kendall drove one to the base of the wall in right-center.

– Yuniesky Betancourt walked.  Twice.

– After a Rangers pitcher walked back to back hitters, Willie Bloomquist took two cuts at pitches out of the zone and then looked at strike three right down the middle. (OK, that wasn’t crazy.)

– Dave Owen almost caused Mike Aviles’ hamstring to explode by doing a funky stop and go kind of thing as he was rounding third. (That wasn’t crazy either.)


– Joakim Soria gave up back to back home runs for the first time since forever.

– Neftali Feliz is disgustingly filthy.

It was like some crazy heavyweight title fight.  I half expected the ghost of Howard Cosell to make an appearance.  It would have been appropriate.

Even though the Royals lost in just a horrific manner, that was the most fun I’ve had watching a game since last May.  (Remember when they came back against the Indians with four runs in the ninth?  Remember how they then lost 16 of their next 20?  Sorry.)

Personally, I think Trey was guilty of a little over management by not letting Good Robinson Tejeda finish the eighth.  It’s not second guessing… I brought it up in the ESPN Baseball Tonight chat the moment he pulled Tejeda.  It’s difficult to argue that bringing in Soria at any point is a bad move, but Tejeda had thrown only 14 pitches.  I’m not going to scream and carry on that Hillman cost the Royals the game – he didn’t – Soria made the pitches.  I’m just saying I don’t understand why he felt a need to bring his closer in at that particular moment.

We’ve been agitating all year that Hillman needs to use Soria more in key (or high leverage) situations.  Two outs in the eighth with a one run lead on the road certainly qualifies.  However, there was no danger at that point and time… No runners on, and you had a pitcher who was dealing.

Hillman gets second guessed in some quarters (which I suppose I’m doing now) but that’s because many of his moves are indefensible.  All managers come with a certain amount of goodwill and trust.  When that gets frittered away (like it has in Hillman’s case) even the right moves come under scrutiny.  It’s a large part of what makes Hillman a lame duck.

He went with his best pitcher and got burned.  It happens to managers all the time.  But when you’ve lost the trust of the fanbase, you’re going to catch heat no matter what.

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