Another year of Playoff baseball without the Royals. It’s something that I’m used to. In fact I’m so comfortable with a non-Royals Postseason that I can’t even imagine how I would feel or react if they were a part of it. Instead, I pick a team here or there to root for (Rays, Brewers) and a couple to root against (Yankees, Cardinals), but I only put about a 25% effort into it. Primarily, I root for close games, long series and individual players. In short, I want to see good baseball, and so far I’ve been richly rewarded. When I choose players to root for, I use a complex equation that is subject to change for any individual player at any given time. I will more often than not root for ex-Royals, however I will at the very least keep a closer watch on them and this years Postseason has been filled with them.
I assume that most of you are Royals fans and therefore are very familiar with the trappings of a losing baseball team. Often, we’re told that the Royals are a AAA team filled with players who wouldn’t belong on the Toledo Mudhens, let alone a playoff-caliber baseball team. In order to justify why the team is losing games and to have an outlet for their anger, people will point to specific players and make sweeping comments such as “Player X would be a 4th outfielder, bullpen pitcher, Minor leaguer, etc on a playoff team.”
It’s the comfort food of baseball analysis. There is absolutely not complexity involved and it makes people feel better. Instead of blaming the losing on a complicated combination of changing revenue models, poor management, bad drafting and bad decisions we can just point to someone like Willie Bloomquist and believe that HE is the problem. If only we didn’t have HIM, things would be better.
The point isn’t that the Royals have had rosters filled with great players and still found a way to lose 100 games. But rather, it’s that simply pointing fingers at individual players and making blanket claims about their ability to contribute to a Playoff team is asinine. The problem with the Royals isn’t that they employed guys like Willie Bloomquist and Kyle Farnsworth, but that they haven’t had enough guys like Cliff Lee, Albert Pujols or Ryan Braun.
So let’s take a look at former Royals in the Playoffs and how they’re faring.
Wilson Betemit – Detroit Tigers
How he got there: Traded on 7/20/2010 for Antonio Cruz and Julio Rodriguez
How he’s doing: So far he’s played in 4 games and is 0 for 9.
Yuniesky Betancourt – Milwaukee Brewers
How he got there: Traded on 12/19/2010 with Zack Greinke and cash for Jake Odorizzi, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Jeremy Jeffress
How he’s doing: Well, he’s the starting shortstop for an actual World Series contender. Beyond that, he’s played in 7 games, is 9 for 26 with 2 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run, 1 walk and 3 RBI.
Zack Greinke – Milwaukee Brewers
How he got there: Traded on 12/19/2010 with Yuniesky Betancourt and cash for Jake Odorizzi, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Jeremy Jeffress
How he’s doing: He’s been the ace of the Brewers staff. I know there is some animosity towards Greinke for the way he left the Royals. But you can’t be mad at Greinke for being Greinke. He’s an honest guy who is a bit different but is a phenomenal pitcher. He wanted to go somewhere that he could win and he has. I couldn’t be happier for the kid. On the mound he’s started 2 games and posted an ERA of 8.18 while striking out 13 and walking only 2. Not exactly what you want from a staff ace.
Octavio Dotel – St. Louis Cardinals
How he got there: Traded by the Royals for Kyle Davies in in 2007 and then went Braves->White Sox -> Pirates -> Dodgers -> Rockies ->Blue Jays -> Cardinals
How he’s doing: He’s pitched in 3.2 innings this postseason and has allowed 1 earned run and 1 home run.
Johnny Damon – Tampa Bay Rays
How he got there: A long and winding road that started in a Kansas City hot-tub commercial, detoured through idiot-ville and public humiliation and ending in Florida for a denouement.
How he’s doing: His team has been ejected from the Playoffs, but in the 4 games he played he hit .235/.235/.235 with 1 home run.
Juan Cruz – Tampa Bay Rays
How he got there: Signed as a free agent.
How he’s doing: He pitched 2 relief innings for the rays int he post season and allowed no earned runs.
J.P. Howell – Tampa Bay Rays
How he got there: Traded for Fernando Cortez and Joey Gathright
How he’s doing: He faced one batter in the series with the Rangers and allowed him to get a hit.
Joel Peralta – Tampa Bay Rays
How he got there: Free agency
How he’s doing: I always liked Peralta. He seemed like a solid bullpen guy with experience. He filled that role with Tampa Bay in his first post season experience. He pitched 2.1 innings and allowed no earned runs. He was filling in some tight spots while the Rays stud reliever Kyle Farnsworth (yep) was unavailbable.
Ross Gload – Philadelphia Phillies
How he got there: Traded by the Royals to the Marlins, then granted free agency in 2009. Signed as a free agent with the Phillies.
How he’s doing: Gload is exactly the kind of guy I was talking about above. Nobody (including your humble author) enjoyed the Ross Gload era. He clearly isn’t an every day player, but he has a role on one of the best teams in baseball for two years running. This year he played in 3 post season games and is 1 for 2 at the plate.
Raul Ibanez – Philadelphia Phillies
How he got there: The Royals assumed that a 31 year old wasn’t likely to continue his recent run of solid seasons. I still can’t fault them for letting Ibanez go in 2003 (yes, Ibanez was 31 in 2003).
How he’s doing: The ageless wonder finally had a season with a below 100 OPS+, but he still played in all 4 post season games this eyar and went 3 for 15 with a home run and 4 RBI for the Phillies.
Willie Bloomquist – Arizona Diamondbacks
How he got there: Bloomquist rode the Grit train to the Reds in a trade tand then signed as a free agent with the Diamondbacks in 2011.
How he’s doing: He played in 97 games this year for the NL West Division Champions. I’m no huge Bloomquist fan, but I’ve always said that nearly every playoff team has a guy like Bloomquist on their roster who they give quite a bit of playing time to. You don’t build your team around him, but he wasn’t the problem with the Royals. He played in all 5 postseason games with Arizona and hit .318/.348/.318 with a huge bunt (grit factor 10).
I feel like I’m missing someone, so if you can find a former Royal not on the list who was in the playoffs, drop it into the comments.