Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

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Pardon my daliance with terrible headline writing, I don’t take the paper any more and so I kind of miss the too easy and groan-inducing, pun-laden headlines. Regardless, today’s topic is Ned Yost, the manager of the Kansas City Royals. It’s a timely topic as the Royals announced that they had picked up the option on his contract for the 2013 season. I for one, say huzzah!

The manager of any baseball team is a lightening rod. He is there to answer questions from dogged journos every single day of the season both before and after games. If things are going wrong, he is there. If things are going well, he is there. He is likely to be there in a slightly different posture and attitude, but there nonetheless. The best managers can draw much more lightening and allow his charges to escape with fewer wounds.

However, that doesn’t mean that he has to allow the players to get away without taking responsibility. He just channels it away from the media and fans and dishes it out himself. In other words, he’s the champion of the players in public and a champion of the fans and media internally, assuming the desire of the fans and media is for a team of hard-playing, talented men who score more runs than their opposition.

So the question we all have and try to answer is whether or not Ned Yost is able to accomplish this and do so in a better way than his counter-part in the opposite dug out. The answer: Hell if I know!

I’ve spent a little time around Ned Yost. I’ve seen him in pre-game and post-game interviews. Personally I think he seems like a pretty good guy. He’s funnier than you’d expect and he doesn’t have tolerance for stupid and inane questions, although his idea of stupid and inane is quite a bit bigger than most. That’s merely a window into his personality and gives little clue to his effectiveness as a manager of young millionaire athletes. Though I do believe an effective manager should have humor and a disregard for stupidity and inanity. He is, after all dealing with young men in an all male locker-room environment. Getting them to be “professional” and being able to speak to them is key. I’m sure humor is helpful in the latter and the anti-stupidity good for the former.

So we’re stuck with an opaque window looking into what I personally believe is 80% of a managers job: The preparation, motivation and inspiration of 25 atheletes. Yet as fans, analysts, bloggers and escapists we need to be able to comment to our dads, brothers, sisters, aunts and co-workers on our opinion of the manager of the team, lest we be outed as know-nothings. So, what then?

Then, we have to look at what we can see in regards to the manager: his in-game decisions. In baseball these decisions are few and far-between, particularly those that have a meaningful impact on a game that is itself meaningful. So we evaluate pitching changes, bullpen management, the rare American League pinch-hit and so on.

We’re more often than not harping on a non-move because of course we would have done something  and it would have certainly worked out better than doing nothing. We would have pulled that pitcher before he gave up the homerun, it was obvious! We would have pinch-hit for the guy that struck out, because everyone knew he was going to strike out.

Not to say that we always manage post-facto, but there is an element which is inherent in all analysis. It’s part of the fun. And often, we would have made the change and it gives us a bit of satisfaction for being “smarter” than the guy being paid the big money to look odd in that uniform that never gets dirty. Professional managers know this, they in general accept it and they know in their hearts that you are not smarter than them, because they have the job.

And thus the cycle continues, managers believing they are making the right moves because they were hired to make that move. We as fans get angry and call for his head. We all agree we could do a better job and then we go do the jobs that we are paid to do, probably with the same assumptions as the manager does. All of this based on my wild-ass guess of about 20% or less of the actual performance of the job at hand of managing a team. Let’s also not forget the importance of managing up, and being a good employee of the General Manager, since he pulls the strings.

So, let the debate rage on regarding Ned Yost’s handling of the pen and his penchant for stealing bases. He’s here for at least two more years, and I for one am happy. I think he’s a great manager because in general I like his moves and because he provides what we all are really pining for: Someone to blame when things go wrong.

 

Nick Scott
Follow @brokenbatsingle

The Royals announced four minor league signings yesterday. Let’s take a look at who these guys are.

From the Royals press release:

“30-year-old left-handed pitcher Francisley Bueno was 7-5 with a 4.15 ERA in 15 starts last season for Monterrey in the Mexican Summer League.  Born in La Habana, Cuba, the 5-foot-11, 200-pounder is currently 3-2 with a 2.15 ERA in 10 contests (six starts) for Tigres del Licey in the Dominican Winter League.  Bueno has made one career appearance in the big leagues, allowing two runs in 2.1 innings for the Braves on August 13, 2008.”

First of all, I love this guy’s name. It sounds like a rich Mexican dandy in the movie Three Amigos. It’s a good start because I like good names, it spices things up. What we know is that he’s a not-so-young Cuban who according to Wikipedia is friends with Brayan Pena. He has 23 strikeouts to 11 walks in 37 innings in the Dominican Winter League. Here is some video

From the Royals – “Right-handed pitcher Juan Gutierrez, 28, posted a 5.40 ERA with no record in 20 relief appearances for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season before undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in September.  The 6-foot-3, 261-pounder is 5-10 with a 4.79 ERA in 150 career Major League outings for the Astros (2007) and Diamondbacks (2009-11).  The Barcelona, Venezuela, resident served as the Arizona closer for portions of 2009 and 2010, going 24-for-28 in save opportunities.  Gutierrez will continue his rehab from surgery to begin 2012.”

It seems that the Royals are trying to corner the market on former closers who had major injuries. This move is also indicative of Dayton Moore’s style of playing the odds, which I like. Instead of just hoping for one of these broken relievers, he’ll pile them up and see which one works. Spread the risk out, it’s a pretty savvy move that you don’t see many teams make.

From the Royals – “27-year-old catcher Max Ramirez spent the entire 2011 campaign at the Triple-A level with the Cubs, Astros and Giants organizations.  The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder from Barquisimeto, Venezuela, batted a combined .278 with 15 doubles, 13 home runs and 48 RBI in 83 games.  Ramirez is a career .217 (25-for-115) hitter in 45 Major League games for the Rangers (2008, 2010).  He is currently batting .224 in 40 games for Bravos de Margarita in the Venezuelan Winter League.”

You will be shocked to know that Max Ramirez was originally signed by the Atlanta Braves and played for the Texas Rangers. The Royals don’t have much depth at catcher and while Ramirez is 27, he’s had ample experience in the minors and has even shown that he can hit the ball. Word on the street is that his defense is his biggest problem, and he has shown some struggles with the bat at the upper minor leagues. I think he can find a place with the Royals, something tells me the Royals don’t want to go with two inexperienced catchers, but if they do one with a good bat to backup the solid defender (Perez) seems like a good idea to me. Here’s a bit of video

From the Royals – “Outfielder Greg Golson, 26, played a majority of last season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the Yankees system, hitting .263 (101-for-384) with nine doubles, seven triples, eight home runs and 15 stolen bases in 20 attempts.  The 6-foot, 190-pounder from Austin, Texas, has seen Major League time in each of the past four seasons with the Phillies (2008), Rangers (2009) and Yankees (2010-11), playing all three outfield spots.”

In 2009, Golson was named the “Best Athelete,” “Best Outfield Arm” and “Fastest Baserunner” in the Texas Rangers system (another former Ranger, noooooo). The Royals love atheletes and in a similar vein as the injured pitchers, they like to pile them up and see what sticks (remember the Pat White experiment?)  The problem  with Golson is that he never developed a bat and some questioned his feel for the game. Last year he hit .263/.330/.385 in AAA. It’s not spectacular and a the age of 26, you don’t project a ton of improvement, but there’s no risk here.

Just some minor signings, but it’s comforting to know that Dayton is still Dayton. He likes injured pitchers, athletes and former Braves.

 

Tender Time

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The Royals had a few decisions to make at last night’s non-tender deadline as several players needed to be tendered contracts or they could leave the team as free agents. For a number of the roster, this is simply procedural. Alex Gordon was never in danger, for example.

The Royals had a couple of players they could have non-tendered. Brayan Pena figures to be a backup to Sal Perez next year… He could have been gone. Except the Royals don’t want to be caught short behind the plate. Mitch Maier was a candidate as well. He couldn’t buy his way into a game last summer, but with the Melk-Man roaming the San Francisco outfield next summer, Ned Yost has been talking about Our Mitch a little more. Chris Getz could have been gone. That’s probably just wishful thinking on my part. I seriously doubt the Royals were ever going to let him hit the open market. Can you imagine the frenzy?

So in the end, the Royals tendered contracts to 31 of the 32 unsigned players for next season. Aaron Laffey was the lone non-tender.

Kind of strange how the Royals have been managing the roster this winter. They pick up Laffey on a waiver claim and he’s immediately a candidate to be cut whenever the Royals need space on the 40-man. Instead, when they signed Jonathan Broxton they chose to DFA Jeff Bianchi (who was picked up by the Cubs.) Then, just ahead of the Rule 5 draft, they dealt Yam Navarro to open a roster spot. They made a pick, but then immediately dealt that player to the Yankees. Now, they non-tender Laffey.

Weird. They could have saved themselves the hassle by DFA’ing Laffey a little earlier in this process.

Still, maybe GMDM has a trick or two up his sleeve. Maybe there’s a trade in the works or a free agent signing upcoming.

Or maybe the Royals still can’t get a handle on how to utilize their roster.

Close call.

Frank White has been fired by the Royals.

Consider that if you will for a moment. One of the greatest living legends in the relatively short and mostly un-legendary history of the Kansas City Royals has been told to walk away from the franchise. It’s clearly the quick and dirty version of what has happened and it doesn’t approach the many and varied nuances involved in the situation, but most people aren’t going to care about the nuances. Even if they were to know all of the small things that went into this very large decision, few minds would be changed. The bottom line is as stated above. The Royals told a local legend to “get bent”.

Only a select few will ever know what went down behind closed doors and at this point only one is talking: Frank. He’s been vocal in saying he was fired because he said some “negative” things while broadcasting games.  I’m sure it likely goes further than that and the Royals have a longer list of things that they would trot out if it didn’t make them look like bigger schmucks than they already do. Hell, some of them are probably even justifiable reasons to fire someone.

Frank White though, isn’t someone. He’s Frank God Damn White! The man literally helped build Kauffman Stadium and subsequently helped win a World Championship. I believe that he is that butterfly that if you squash in the past, the future is radically different. Royals history without him is incomplete, it’s changed, it’s unrecognizable. Frank White’s don’t come along all that often, for most franchises they never have existed. From his accomplishments on the field to his public demeanor to his willingness to do public relations and work with the players. He’s a franchise’s dream come true.

I’ve met Frank White a few times and I’ve met hundreds of people who have known him professionally and personally. I’ve never heard anything negative about him. I’ve never heard anyone with a bad Frank White experience. I’m sure there are some that exist, a few people who rubbed Frank the wrong way or cought him in a foul mood. But the guy was always pleasant when I saw him.

I knew a man who was a normal guy. A very sweet man whose name was Floyd. He wasn’t rich, he wasn’t a public figure. He was just one of those great guys that you know. He’s passed on now, but in the 80’s and 90’s he was a regular fishing buddy with Frank White. I got to hear stories about Frank from this man (those he felt didn’t betray Frank’s confidence) and even got to have some first hand experience with some of those Gold Gloves you hear so much about.They needed to be repaired, and my family does that kind of thing.

However as a young baseball fanatic who grew up in a nearly all-white suburb, it was jarring to hear of a white man like Floyd and a superstar black man like Frank White fishing together. I’m not saying I grew up in the Jim Crow south or was ingrained with some type of racism, but it broke down some stereotypes for me. It helped personalize the man to me. He wasn’t just second-baseman Frank White. He was fisherman Frank White, buddy with Floyd. This is just one of thousands of Frank White stories of this nature that exist.

These little stories, these experiences, they help tie people to the franchise of the Royals. It’s unquantifiable, but it’s real and it’s valuable. The Royals can’t afford to NOT have Frank White. They’re throwing away a gift that so few franchises are given. So whether or not the Royals had any justification for Frank White short of some Isiah Thomas like sexual harassment, you keep the man involved as much as you possibly can. You deal with the idiosyncrasies, the un-asked for comments and all the rest.

The biggest issue here is that I don’t think that Frank White is exaggerating about how or why he was fired. I’ve seen the Royals many, many, many times over-react to criticisms and perceived slights. I know of multiple examples of the Royals front office at the highest levels being upset about things that bloggers write on Twitter. Not just opinions either, but facts and quotes from Royals front office members. They are terrified of all media members in the press box, which is why they are doing their best to keep out anyone they possibly can. There’s some kind of belief that if you can stamp out any negativity about the franchise, that it doesn’t exist.

They are a notoriously tight-lipped organization with an us-against-the-world mentality. There’s something to be said about that as a management technique, but ultimately it breeds paranoia and over-reaction. Two qualities the Royals seem to have in spades. They continually trip over their own feet trying to prevent public relations issues by creating them. Why does Dayton Moore read what a blogger writes on Twitter and then actually care about it? Why do they care that a legend points out a few things that even the least adept fans can criticize. Why would you cancel the best non-game event of the year in FanFest? Why do the Royals have to so often try and defend the indefensible? Why do they think it’s a good idea to kick Frank White out of Kauffman Stadium?

I’m a baseball fan. I’m a Royals fan. I’m a Frank White fan. Criticism is healthy and it’s interesting. The people who read criticisms are the same people that go to the stadium and buy tickets. It’s not the criticism and the negativity that leads to poor ticket sales, it’s the things that we’re criticizing. Frank’s very couched criticisms didn’t drive fans away. It was the poor play, the losing and things like firing Frank White.

This is the most excited I’ve seen this fan base in years and they are completely justified. This front office has turned one of the worst franchises in professional sports into a budding contender. They’ve maintained fan support when they should’ve had empty stadiums. They’ve done a lot of things right. But we all make mistakes, sometimes we make wrong decisions. Sometimes we say or do things that we regret. Trying to white wash them out of existence is only going to magnify them.

So I say to the Royals:

When you’re given a gift, you celebrate it. You don’t say out loud that you wish it were slightly better or different. It’s a gift! When you have a passionate fan base, you celebrate that with a FanFest. You don’t shut it down because you are having the All-Star game later that year. When you have a man who came from Kansas City, helped build the franchise both literally and figuratively, you don’t wish he was more like George Brett. You celebrate him, you help him help you.

You aren’t fighting against the world. Nobody is trying to make you fail or make you look bad. Fans want you to win. Bloggers want you to win. The traditional media wants you to win. Frank White wants you to win. Don’t fight it. Accept it. Enjoy it. Love it. It’s a privilege to have fans, bloggers and Frank White. Just imagine if that butterfly had been stomped and there is no Royals. If the confluence of events didn’t allow for a present that has this franchise. It’s a reality we don’t have to face because there was a Ewing Kauffman, a Frank White and millions of Floyds who buy tickets. Celebrate all of it in every way you possibly can. Sometimes you can be so used to fighting the current, that you know no other way. You don’t stop to realize that riding with the current can take you to your destination easier and faster.

 

 

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

 

This is becoming the winter of the bumbling PR move for the Royals.

The statement:

FOX Sports Kansas City and the Kansas City Royals appreciate Frank White stepping into a larger role as game analyst the last three seasons. He shifted from a planned part-time role to a near full-time role and performed admirably in the booth at a time of need. We also want to thank Kevin Shank for his years of leadership as producer of Royals telecasts. FOX Sports Kansas City has decided to go in a different direction with these positions next year. A search for their replacements will begin immediately.

I’m not sure the Royals understand the relationship people like Frank White have with the fans. Kansas Citian. Royal in the glory years. Minor league manager. Broadcaster. And as a broadcaster, he was the most visible tie between the team and the fans. He wasn’t a particularly good or smooth at television, but Royals fans love the guy. That’s what happens with icons.

And you just don’t kick icons to the curb. Unless you’re the Royals.

Maybe you don’t want Frank to return to the broadcast next year, but you certainly give him another role within the organization. To just let him go… Awful.

Supposedly, the Royals felt Frank was too negative on the broadcasts. Holy crap. You know what I want? The truth. So many of these former Royals are angry and upset about the product that’s been allowed to perform the last couple of years. Just like the fans. I don’t think Frank was negative at all. If anything, I felt he pulled too many punches. He wasn’t hard enough.

Whatever.

And by all accounts, Shank is a solid producer, too. None of this makes a ton of sense.

This is just the latest in the PR missteps the Royals have committed since the end of the season. Chalk this one up right there with canceling FanFest.

The Royals are so close to being respectable on the field again. They obviously still have a ways to go behind the scenes. Brutal.

Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers won the American League Most Valuable Player award for 2011. If you are of the belief that pitchers should be able to win the MVP, then he was the right choice. It seems that most voters did agree with that philosophy so the award was bestowed upon a deserving candidate. However, after picking Verlander, the voters apparently started getting drunk and throwing darts. Here is how the vote went down:

 

Voting Results Batting Stats Pitching Stats
Rank Tm Vote Pts 1st Place WAR HR SB BB BA OBP SLG OPS W ERA WHIP GS SV IP BB SO
1 Justin Verlander DET 280.0 13.0 8.5 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 24 2.40 0.920 34 0 251.0 57 250
2 Jacoby Ellsbury BOS 242.0 4.0 7.2 32 39 52 .321 .376 .552 .928
3 Jose Bautista TOR 231.0 5.0 8.5 43 9 132 .302 .447 .608 1.056
4 Curtis Granderson NYY 215.0 3.0 5.2 41 25 85 .262 .364 .552 .916
5 Miguel Cabrera DET 193.0 2.0 7.1 30 2 108 .344 .448 .586 1.033
6 Robinson Cano NYY 112.0 0.0 4.6 28 8 38 .302 .349 .533 .882
7 Adrian Gonzalez BOS 105.0 0.0 6.9 27 1 74 .338 .410 .548 .957
8 Michael Young TEX 96.0 1.0 2.4 11 6 47 .338 .380 .474 .854
9 Dustin Pedroia BOS 48.0 0.0 6.8 21 26 86 .307 .387 .474 .861
10 Evan Longoria TBR 27.0 0.0 6.3 31 3 80 .244 .355 .495 .850
11 Ian Kinsler TEX 25.0 0.0 5.4 32 30 89 .255 .355 .477 .832
12 Alex Avila DET 13.0 0.0 5.4 19 3 73 .295 .389 .506 .895
13 Paul Konerko CHW 11.0 0.0 3.6 31 1 77 .300 .388 .517 .906
15 Adrian Beltre TEX 9.0 0.0 5.2 32 1 25 .296 .331 .561 .892
16 Victor Martinez DET 7.0 0.0 2.9 12 1 46 .330 .380 .470 .850
16 James Shields TBR 7.0 0.0 6.1 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 16 2.82 1.043 33 0 249.1 65 225
16 Ben Zobrist TBR 7.0 0.0 5.1 20 19 77 .269 .353 .469 .822
19 Mark Teixeira NYY 5.0 0.0 2.4 39 4 76 .248 .341 .494 .835
20 Asdrubal Cabrera CLE 4.0 0.0 3.7 25 17 44 .273 .332 .460 .792
21 Alex Gordon KCR 3.0 0.0 5.9 23 17 67 .303 .376 .502 .879
22 Josh Hamilton TEX 1.0 0.0 3.6 25 8 39 .298 .346 .536 .882
22 David Robertson NYY 1.0 0.0 3.9 0 0 0 4 1.08 1.125 0 1 66.2 35 100
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/22/2011.

You want proof of East Coast bias? Look at that table. Look how much higher undeserving Red Sox and Yankees are than their non-East Coast brethren.

Ellsbury over Bautista? no

Granderson over Cabrera? uh, hell no

Cano over Longoria? Oh, %&@$#*  no.

I bring this up because one of the best players in the American League barely made the list. Alex Gordon was given three 10th place votes by the BBWAA writers. First, I’m shocked that three voters decided him worthy of mention, but 10th place? The guy was one of the best defensive left fielders in the AL and he was easily one of the top hitters in the AL with his 9th place wOBA. I’m not saying that Gordon should have won the award, but he should’ve been above guys like Mark .248/.341/.494 Teixeira. There literally isn’t a single thing that Teixeira did better than Alex Gordon. The ONLY reason that he got more recognition is because he played in New York.

It wasn’t just Alex Gordon who got the shaft. Alex Avila had an offensive output roughly the same as Alex Gordon, but he did it while also being a superior defensive catcher.  He got a little bit more love than Gordon, but nobody picked him above 7th. Meanwhile six different voters had Michael Young on their ballot higher than Avila. One of these voters had Young at the top of his or her list. Michael Young, who ranked 15th in wOBA and played poor defense at an unimportant position. He’s the MOST valuable player?

I know, I know, it’s just a vote for a stupid award. I shouldn’t care so much. But these awards will stand forever and I want guys like Alex Gordon who deserve recognition to get it. If the lesser players in New York get more recognition, then it’s just another reason for players to flee the smaller markets and head to the larger ones. Does anyone think that if Gordon or Avila had been in Boston that they wouldn’t have gotten more than a few first place votes?

If you’re still not convinced, look at the last name on the list. David Robertson. You might be saying right now outloud to your computer “But Nick, the guy is an NBA hall of famer, he has to be like 50 or something and he pitched excellent for the Yankees. The dude deserved it.”

Hold on there a second, that’s not The Admiral from the San Antonio Spurs, it’s some guy named David RobERTson. He pitched 66 innings in relief for the New York Yankees and some insane person put him on the ballot instead of Alex Gordon. Some person who gets paid to watch baseball decided, using his own brain that this Robertson character was a better player than Alex freaking Gordon. The thought that any pitcher could be more valuable than Gordon or damn near any other regular position player in only 66 innings is the height of insanity.

The only way I’d give an MVP vote for 66 innings is if Doc Ellis made a return from the dead, dropped acid and pitched 66 consecutive innings of no-hit baseball, walked off the field and consumed the brains of the bench coach (because he is a zombie after all). Even then, I’d pause before putting him on the ballot because, you know its still only 66 innings in a 162 game season. I’m not too familiar with David Robertson, but I’m pretty darn sure it’s not a pseudonym for zombie-Doc Ellis. Therefore NO VOTE FOR YOU!

 

 

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

Ok, I’m going to be honest here. I didn’t realize it was Thursday today until about 30 minutes ago. That’s important because I was supposed to have a full-fledged insightful post on Royals baseball for you. Instead you’re getting an excuse and them some easy to post information on the Arizona Fall League. That really feels good to get off my chest.

So, about that Fall League thing.  First let’s take a look at the current stats of Royals playing in Arizona.

First, let’s all remember that this is Arizona. The ball flies further and should inflate offensive statistics. That being said, Wil Myers is posting a .481 on base percentage. I’ve seen the kid in action and he is a very picky hitter who must have a deal where he forfeits his soul to the devil if he swings at a bad pitch. I saw him walk four times in Spring Training intra-squad games. I can’t tell you how odd that is. In those games, guys are free-swinging. They’re getting loose for the season and they want to see the ball travel far in that Arizona air. But Myers, he just wouldn’t do it. If it was a ball, he was letting it go.  It’s one of the big reasons I don’t want to let him go in a trade for pitching. That skill translates VERY well to the Major Leagues and could make him a valuable player in the not so distant future.  Seratelli and Colon are both having pretty decent experiences, especially for middle infielders.

 

The pitchers seem to be struggling. I can’t put too much stock in that though. They are probably pretty worn down from the season, are pitching in the Arizona air and they’re doing it against some pretty stiff competition. None of the guys on this list are big must-have prospects anyways. They seem to be guys who need to work on certain things for next season. Adcock is putting up a nice k/bb ratio, but the rest of the numbers are nothing to get excited about.

 

 

 

 

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

It’s been a crazy week at work. So I present to you some random thoughts. Warning: Some may not be especially timely…

On Stadium Sponsorship 

Last week, it was rumored the Royals were close to agreeing a deal for naming rights to Kauffman Stadium. The rumor picked up so much steam, the team was compelled to issue an official statement.

“Amid a variety of reports that the Royals were nearing an announcement today, we felt it necessary to address the situation.  Since the renovations were completed prior to the 2009 season, our organization has been open to listening to proposals with regards to a naming rights partner, but at this time no agreement has come to fruition.  With that said, there is nothing else to comment on regarding naming rights.”

This is one of those issues that cuts to the heart of the sports fan. It’s because we are so invested in our team. Our team. It’s part of us. Even though we don’t physically own a share, or for some of us even a season ticket, we have an emotional or spiritual ownership here. The idea that the stadium (our house, our place of worship, our sanctuary…) could be besmirched with a corporate logo is enough to offend the sensibilities.

It’s a complicated topic for sure. It’s funny because I describe myself as a traditionalist. I’ve ranted against the Wild Card for almost 20 years, I think there should be more day games during the postseason and if they do away with the DH, I’d be fine with that. However, on financial issues, I’m much more progressive. Teams should figure out how they can generate their maximum revenue – and then do it. If that means selling sponsorships, it means selling sponsorships.

I’m not against the team pocketing a few extra bucks by partnering with a corporation for the naming rights on the stadium.

I’m just not sure it matters what the “real” name is of the stadium. That’s because they can put anything they want on the side of the stadium, but to Royals fans, it will always be The K. Why? Because it just works. We’ve travelled there for years in support of our team. “Are you going to The K tonight?” “Hey, let’s head out to The K to catch the Royals.” I don’t see how that will ever change among us fans, no matter what the new name is on the stadium.

Basically, sponsorship is for television. When the game starts, the announcer will welcome viewers to UMB Bank Field at Kauffman Stadium or something and they chyron will say the same thing. And that’s it. Oh, there’s also the impressions from the signage on the outside of the stadium. But we’ll still call it The K.

For some, the argument follows along the lines of, “Mr. Kauffman wouldn’t want (or do) something like this. He would be totally against it.” Sorry, but I disagree. Mr. K was extremely ahead of the curve on financial matters. For example, he (along with Avron Fogelman) awarded “lifetime” contracts to some players, ensuring they would be Royals forever. He was also extremely aggressive on the free agent front. Don’t discount this… When free agency arrived in 1976, several owners were aghast that the old order had been tossed aside and several refused to participate in the early free agent drafts. (Yes, the first years of free agency included a draft.) Mr. Kauffman embraced the new system wooed several of the top free agents.

What does that have to do with naming rights for a stadium? Maybe nothing, but I think it goes to show that Mr. K would use everything within his power to keep the Royals competitive. If that means banking a few million dollars per year with corporate partnership, I think he’d do it.

You can fight the idea all you want, but it’s coming. Maybe not next year, or the year after, but it’s coming.

Actually, if there’s ever a time for a corporation to pony up and slap their name on the stadium, it’s now. The Royals will have a national audience this summer with the All-Star Game, and if The Process rolls along like we hope, there will be some meaningful games played at The K in the very near future. If you’re looking for maximum dollar value, now is the time for a deal.

Now, having said that, it’s important that the Royals find a corporate sponsor that fans can relate to in some fashion. Meaning, a company that in some ways has ties to Kansas City and represents the community with dignity. They have to already be outstanding corporate citizens in our community. The worst thing possible would be to go down the Enron path.

Side note: If you want to be disgusted at something, point your ire to the Pepsi Party Porch in right field. That’s the ugliest piece of real estate in Jackson County. The logos, the colors… It’s visual diarrhea.

On Carlos Zambrano

The other rumor spreading through the Royal Universe dealt with a throwaway comment Dayton Moore made on a local radio interview regarding Carlos Zambrano. It quickly became, “The Royals would be interested in Zambrano if he’s available.”

Sigh.

What GMDM basically said was he would consider looking at Zambrano. Of course. That’s what all GMs do. They look at all players available and make a decision. Moore is simply being a GM with an open mind.

Now having said that, there’s no way Zambrano ever plays on this team. GMDM has taken great care to craft a clubhouse that has great “character” according to him. I just can’t see how he can bring an emotional powder keg like Zambrano into his clubhouse. The dude makes Jose Guillen look thoughtful and rational by comparison.

What made less news (because it’s not as interesting) was the fact GMDM shouldn’t have commented on Zambrano because he’s still under contract in Chicago. He attempted to clarify his comments.

“It’s our job as a baseball operations department to listen and explore every potential opportunity that would improve our team,” Moore said. “We spend countless hours doing so and we invite everybody’s opinion as to how it pertains to how we could improve our team. And if one of our people brought up Carlos Zambrano, I would listen and ask questions about why they believe that. That’s all that was and I responded in that spirit.”

Classic GMDM. I know the guy has a reputation for working the filibuster, but every once in a while he’ll drop a comment worth talking about. Occasionally, he’ll say something he shouldn’t. In this case he wanted to give an honest answer and he did… If Zambrano becomes available, his staff will evaluate. The right answer probably would have been something along the lines of, “He’s with the Cubs and I can’t comment.”

Move along, there’s nothing to see.

On Roy Oswalt

To me, the premise is simple. If you think you can win in 2012, you get Oswalt. If you think you won’t win until 2013 (at the earliest) you pass and hope your pitching prospects develop at a stronger clip than they did last year.

They met Oswalt and his agent this week in Milwaukee, a tip that began on Twitter, raised our hopes, and then let us down when it was revealed the Royals were only kicking the tires. Doing due diligence. (See above.)

Still, there could be something there. At least I hope there’s something there.

The Oswalt thing won’t shake out until the Winter Meetings next month, but the Royals activity on this will be very telling about their expectations in 2012.

On Uniforms

The Royals are introducing a “slightly updated” uniform design next week. I know that many fans care, but I’m not one of those who hang on every alteration to the uniform. As long as they don’t go all Miami, we’re cool. (I also don’t care about player numbers. I know, I know…)

I’m thinking this will be the All-Star Game patch. And maybe something else so slight, it will take an official announcement for me to notice.

Dayton Moore has been a lightning rod for the Kansas City Royals. As the General Manager of the club, that’s just part of the description. In the beginning of his tenure with the Royals, it seemed that he was holding a long metal rod in the air and daring the storm to strike him. Ok, I’ve tortured that metaphor quite enough thank you.

This is the sixth year that Moore has been at the helm of the Royals and in that time, the team has taken no steps forward in the Major League Standings. And this is for a team which seemed to have nowhere to go but up. It seems we all forgot about the potential for sideways movement.

I joined in with the initial love affair with Dayton Moore. I just KNEW he was the guy to turn the franchise around. This was also the same time that I began to really investigate advanced statistical analysis. As my baseball mind began to expand and see new possibilities, I began to see stark differences in my opinions and those of Dayton Moore. He seemed to ignore any measure of statistical analysis that wasn’t on a 1986 Topps card. The team continued to lose and I began to detest Dayton Moore.

I never thought he should be fired, because even if I disagreed with many of the moves he was making, a General Manager should get a chance to build a team and prove himself. While the moves he was making at the Major League level seemed to be head-scratchers, he was quietly building a top notch farm system. Which regardless of your statistical leanings is the one area where most intelligent baseball people agree on.

So as Dayton Moore was drafting Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, he was also signing Jose Guillen and trading for Yuniesky Betancourt. It was as if he was fixing the foundation of a house, but letting the exterior go to crap. Sure maybe he went and bought a nice pink flamingo to make it seem like he cared, but the fact he let the shutters fall off and ignored the cracking paint was clear. In retrospect, if I bought a 100 year old house that was falling to the ground, that’s probably how I would approach it (again with the tortured metaphor, I know).

Still the danger signs were there. What does it mean that Moore actually WANTS guys like Yuniesky Betancourt and Jose Guillen? does it mean that this whole farm system thing is just a small stroke of luck? How can one man be so shrewd at one part of the game and seem so inept at the other? Was ownership pushing for big free agents to help prove to the city that he wasn’t a cheap-ass so they would vote to give him tens of millions for stadium renovations?

But suddenly as some time passed (and the vote passed), the moves which caused me so much anger started to slide away. Then it seemed if Dayton Moore was making some of the more calculated moves in the sport. For a man at the helm of a very fiscally strapped club, he was doing exactly the right things.

For example, here are some of the major moves that Moore has made from the most recent going backwards:

11/7/2011 – Traded Melky Cabrera for Jonahtan Sanches and Ryan Verdugo
10/11/2011 – Claimed Aaron Laffey off waivers
9/27/2011 – Traded Kila Ka’aihue for Ethan Hollingsworth
8/18/2011 – Signed Jeff Francoeur to a two year contract extension
6/30/2011 – Traded Mike Aviles for Yamaico Navarro and Kendal Volz
6/20/2011 – Traded Wilson Betemit for Antonio Cruz and Julio Rodriguez
1/23/2011 – Royals sign Butler to 4 year contract
1/15/2011 – Royals sign Bruce Chen to 1 year contract
1/14/2011 – Royals sign Jeff Francis to one-year contract
12/19/2010 – Traded Zack Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt and cash for Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress
12/10/2010 – Signed Melky Cabrera
12/8/2010 – Signed Jeff Francoeur to a one year contract
11/10/2010 – Traded David Dejesus for Vin Mazzaro and Justin Marks
8/13/2010 – Traded Jose Guillen for cash and PTBNL (Kevin Pucetas)
8/1/2010 – Traded Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth and cash for Tim Collins, Jesse Chavez and Gregor Blanco
7/28/2010 – Traded Scott Podsednik for Lucas May and Elisaul Pimentel
5/13/2010 – Fired Trey Hillman and hired Ned Yost as manager
1/25/2010 – Signed Rick Ankiel to one-year contract
1/8/2010 – Signed Scot Podsednik to one-year contract
1/7/2010 – Signed Noel Arguelles to five-year contract
12/11/2009 – Signed Jason Kendall to a two-year contract
11/6/2009 – Traded Mark Teahen for Josh Fields and Chris Getz
7/11/2009 – Traded Danny Cortes and Derrick Saito for Yuniesky Betancourt\
3/17/2009 – Signed Sidney Ponson to one-year contract
2/28/2009 – Signed Juan Cruz to a two-year contract
1/26/2009 – Signed Zack Greinke to a four-year contract
1/9/2009 – Signed Willie Bloomquist to a two-year contract
12/13/2008 – Signed Kyle Farnsowrth to a two-year contract
10/30/2008 – Traded Leo Nunez for Mike Jacobs

That’s a pretty long list (sorry if I missed anything big). But look down that list and point out the things that are absolutely egregious. The move that people point to now is that last one, trading Nunez for Jacobs. Sure it was a bad trade but it happened almost three years ago and it isn’t exactly a complete screw job. Sure the Royals would’ve been better served to have Kila get more MLB time and to keep Nunez in the bullpen. It wasn’t a move that gets the Royals into the playoffs though.

Looking through the rest of it I can find a few things I disagree with, but again nothing that has a major negative impact on the team. I can’t get upset at one year contracts, even if they are with bad players (I’m looking at you Ankiel). But there are a number of deals that at this point look great: Jeff Francis, Jeff Francoeur, Melky Cabrera and Bruce Chen x2.

Even the Yuniesky trade looks perfectly harmless in retrospect. Do we really miss Cortes and Saito? What else would the Royals had to part with in the Greinke deal? Would not having Yuni have meant that the Royals didn’t get Alcides Shortstop Jesus Escobar?

The point is that Dayton Moore has been on a hot streak and continues betting on that streak as he recently moved Melky for Jonathan Sanchez. It’s a move that I absolutely adore and the one that prompted me to ask Craig and Clark to think of the last bad move that Dayton has made.

So while in the past I’ve been pretty derisive of moves Dayton has made, I’m completely on board with almost every move he has made going back three years. I can’t believe that’s the case, but it is. I still think he has more to do and he can certainly improve on constructing a proper 25 man roster. But I think I can see the master plan developing. So while I’m still hopeful and excited about what the young farm-hands can do to help the Royals win, I’m also excited about what moves Dayton Moore can and will make to help this team get into the post-season again. That’s not a sentiment I had 3 years ago.

 

 

 

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

Ask nearly anyone about the Royals and they will tell you something along the lines of:

“If they can get a couple of starting pitchers they can compete.”

That’s a pretty fair statement, however the issue is WHERE do you get these pitchers. It is obviously a glaring problem but there are only three ways to upgrade any position.

1. Free Agency

2. Trade

3. Development

Today, I’m going to focus on the first item on the list. It’s one of the ways that is most talked about because it SEEMS like a simple solution to an obvious problem. If only the rich so-and-so’s who run the team would spend money on free agents, then this team wouldn’t suck. It’s a statement that is as wrong as it is simple, but it’s easy to see the logic used.

First, lets  take a look at what kind of pitchers have been available in the past via free agency. Here is a list I found of every free agent starting pitcher available last season, the money they were paid and their fWAR:

Player Age yrs Total $ $/yr 2011fwar
Cliff Lee 32 5 $120,000,000 $24,000,000 6.7
Jorge De La Rosa 30 2 $21,500,000 $10,750,000 1.4
Carl Pavano 35 2 $16,500,000 $8,250,000 2.9
Jake Westbrook 33 2 $16,500,000 $8,250,000 1.1
Hiroki Kuroda 36 1 $12,000,000 $12,000,000 2.4
Kevin Correia 30 2 $8,000,000 $4,000,000 0
Javier Vazquez 35 1 $7,000,000 $7,000,000 3.2
Jon Garland 31 1 $5,000,000 $5,000,000 0.1
Aaron Harang 33 1 $4,000,000 $4,000,000 0.6
Brad Penny 33 1 $3,000,000 $3,000,000 0.8
Brandon Webb 32 1 $3,000,000 $3,000,000 0
Bruce Chen 34 1 $2,000,000 $2,000,000 1.7
Jeff Francis 30 1 $2,000,000 $2,000,000 2.6
Chris Capuano 33 1 $1,500,000 $1,500,000 1.6
Chris Young 32 1 $1,100,000 $1,100,000 0.1
Dustin Moseley 29 1 $900,000 $900,000 0.7
Ryan Rowland-Smith 28 1 $725,000 $725,000 0
Justin Duchscherer 33 1 $700,000 $700,000 0
Erik Bedard 32 1 $1,000,000 $1,000,000 2.4
Kris Benson 36
Bartolo Colon 38 $900,000 $900,000 2.9
Freddy Garcia 35 $1,500,000 $1,500,000 2.2
Andrew Miller 26 Minor Lg 0.2
Andy Pettitte 39
Chien-Ming Wang 31 1 $1,200,000 $1,200,000 0.2

You’ll notice that the pitchers in general are old in baseball years. They have to be since typically they need to spend 6 years at the Major League level to become a free agent. The age brings in a very big potential injury risk.

The other thing that you’ll notice is that in general these are not very good pitchers. Sure Cliff Lee is awesome, but guys like him are rarely available in free agency and as it stands now the Royals have no shot at a guy like that. It’s not JUST because of the money, because Cliff Lee is super-rich and so his focus is on winning a championship. He thought the Phillies gave him the best opportunity to do that, the Royals clearly don’t.

Last off-season the Royals signed Bruce Chen and Jeff Francis. Considering the amount of money that the Royals spent and the production they got, they did an EXCELLENT job of acquiring free agent starting pitching last year. There were a few guys who performed better and some that cost less, but compared to the field I’m impressed.

So let’s see what the Royals staff did last year in terms of fWAR

Jeff Francis – 2.6

Felipe Paulino – 2.4

Luke Hochevar – 2.3

Bruce Chen – 1.7

Kyle Davies – 0.7

Danny Duffy – 0.6

So if the Royals were going to get two pitchers to upgrade this rotation they’ll need to beat a 0.7 fWAR to add additional value.  There are a number of guys who surpassed that, but a number who also fell below. The number of guys who would have been the best pitcher on the staff last year amounted to 3:

Cliff Lee – Now way

Carl Pavano – expensive and didn’t even change teams. Plus it certainly was a gamble and he only JUST beat out Francis.

Javier Vazquez – He was 35 and cost $7m. Again, that’s a hell of a risk.

I know that this is just one free agent class and that they can vary, but in general this is about how they turn out. Free agency is not a panacea to a pitching staff and in some cases it can really weigh on your team..cough…Mike Hampton….cough….Barry Zito…..

The Royals should certainly look to continue what they’ve been doing in free agency. Which is to go out, find some guys who have something left but don’t cost a fortune and see if they can contribute. I don’t believe for one second that this team can markedly improve itself by trying to fill holes in the rotation via free agency. Sure, they may get lucky and have a guy like Bartolo Colon do something pretty darn good, but it’s unlikely.

During the hot stove season it’s fun to talk about free agency, but I’m going to be hoping that the Royals are conservative and mostly stick to the sidelines.

 

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