My guess is the your recollection of Emil Brown’s time with the Kansas City Royals is not full of warm and fuzzy feelings. During his tenure, the Royals lost 299 games and fielded some genuinely bad baseball teams. Warranted or not, Emil had the reputation of being moody, grumpy and even a little foreboding. In his final year in Kansas City, Brown did not take well to not having an everyday job and let people know about it. In short, I doubt there are a lot of Emil Brown jerseys hanging in Kansas City closets.
This column is not about praising Emil Brown or lamenting his departure or digging up the ghosts of bad teams of the past. Let me be very clear before I go on: I did not particularly care for Emil Brown. He was an indifferent fielder and absent minded base runner. A guy who went from non-roster invitee to the Opening Day lineup in the span of one spring training making him an ever present reminder of the state of the Royals back then. That said, Emil Brown did this offensively in his two years as an everyday player for Kansas City:
That 2005 team, by the way, had the rather curious composition of four regulars having OPS+ of 113 or better, while the other five had OPS+ of 87 or lower. No one, was ‘average’ offensively that year.
If I told you that Jeff Francouer was going to hit .286/.349/.455 this season, would you take it? How about Alex Gordon? Certainly, those are not ‘set the world on fire’ numbers, but I imagine most Royals’ fans would think that it would be a good year if any of the outfielders who are likely to spend time in the lineup ended up posting such a line.
In 2006, courtesy of at least a statistical improvement in defense, Brown accounted for 3.3 WAR (courtesy Fangraphs). He was good for 1.5 WAR in 2005. I would consider the Jeff Francouer contract a success if he provided the Royals with a total of 4.8 WAR over two seasons (assuming he comes back in 2012). At this point, I would be happy with that much out of Alex Gordon…or Lorenzo Cain…or Melky Cabrera.
After parting ways with Brown (a good move, by the way, as Emil never produced a lick of anything after leaving), the Royals never have had a full-time outfielder not named DeJesus post an OPS over .800 or an OPS+ over 100. Although, had he not been traded, the beloved and revered Scotty Pods was on pace to do so in 2010 (107 OPS+). That is three years and a ton of money spent trying to replace a guy who made your Opening Day lineup by as 30 year old minor league free agent who had not sniffed the majors in four years.
Right there is an indictment of how low the Royals’ farm system has been. Mark Teahen never produced at the plate with any resounding abilities once moved to the outfield. Jose Guillen was perpetually injured. Joey Gathright could jump over a car, but couldn’t figure out how to get on base. We saw Ross Gload, Willie Bloomquist, Josh Anderson and an uninspired Rick Ankiel patrol the outfield at various times. Through it all, the Royals have never quite been able to replace Emil Brown.
Here’s a fun fact: other than the 70 games Jeff Francouer played as a rookie, he has never posted an OPS+ over a full season better than those posted by Brown in 2005 and 2006. Neither has Melky Cabrera and Alex Gordon managed to match Emil’s 2006 once in four seasons.
Let’s be honest, I will take all three of the guys mentioned in the paragraph above over Emil Brown, if for no other reason than they are all three to four years younger than Emil was in 2005. I will take them all, but it would sure be nice if a couple of them would hit like Emil Brown used to.