Royals Authority

Long Live The Process

According to the Associated Press, one of the last major issues to be resolved in the discussions regarding a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in major league baseball is that of a hard slotting system for the amateur draft.  For whatever reason, Commissioner Bud Selig is obsessed with it.

It is Selig and his disdain for teams going against his ‘suggested slot amounts’ that give us the ridiculous wait until the last possible moment to announce signings scenario each summer.   Teams are either afraid to or simply told not to announce above slot signings until near the end of the signing period for fear of incurring the wrath of the Commissioner.

Frankly, that Selig is so much in favor of a hard slot system is more than enough information for me to be against it.

Now, on the surface, one can see the logic behind a hard slot.   Why should the Royals spend $7.5 million on Bubba Starling and not get him signed until August 15th when, with hard slot system, they could sign him for half that and have him in uniform by the end of June?  Except, the issue is not really about the first round.

It is about signing Wil Myers away from a South Carolina scholarship  in the 3rd round or Tim Melville in the fourth round the year before.    How would the 2010 Royals’ draft class look without the overslot signings of Jason Adam in the fifth and Brian Fletcher in the 18th round?   Or what would you think of last summer’s crop if Dayton Moore had not gone big with the over slot bonuses for Jack Lopez, Jake Junis and Mark Binford?   All three werel drafted after the 16th round and all three were top ten round talents. 

There was a time, not long ago, when the big payroll clubs took advantage of teams being cheap in the draft.   My guess is Selig is still focused on the Tigers getting Rick Porcello late in the first round because no one thought he would sign.   Anymore though, teams like the Royals and Pirates have bolstered their farm systems by spending big money in the draft:  it is the real way small market teams can hopefully compete with their larger revenue brethern.

All those draft picks mentioned above have cost the Royals about as much as four months of Jose Guillen.  Tell me, Mr. Selig, why is that a bad thing?

xxx

The Royals moved quickly to replace recently fired pitching coach Bob McClure by hiring Dave Eiland. I can pretend that I’m a baseball guru who is so much smarter than everyone else and suggest that this is somehow a bad or good hire, but I’m going to be honest and say I have no idea. My limited experience tells me that pitching coaches are more important than batting coaches, however figuring out what effects he has on a staff is nearly impossible.

What we do know about Eiland is that he pitched for 10 years in the Major Leagues for the Yankees, Padres and Devil Rays (they were named that then). He worked his way up through the coaching ranks with the Yankees until becoming a full-fledged pitching coach for them. Like the manager of the Yankees, but to a lesser degree, pitching coach has to be simultaneously one of the easiest and hardest jobs in baseball. It’s one of the easiest, because he gets to work with the most talented arms in the sport. It’s one of the most difficult, because you’re dealing with the largest egos and a very vocal media. If there is any misstep withing the staff, the blame comes hard and heavy.

Eiland dealt with that in 2010 when he left the team for a month for personal reasons which coincided with A.J. Burnett going 0-6 during that stretch. Subsequently, the Yankees pitchers struggled with the Rangers in the post season. Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said that it had nothing to do with that, but even I can put together 1 and 1.

Following his sting with the Yankees, Eiland took a job with the Tampa Bay Rays as a special advisor. Now he is Bob McClure’s successor as pitching coach of the Kansas City Royals.

It’s very easy to make simple connections between a pitching coach and the success of his staff. If they pitch well, he gets some credit and if they don’t he gets some blame. He’s in middle management, and that’s just part of the gig. But like any baseball coach, his primary job is to get the most out of the players he’s given. The vast majority of that is getting them mentally prepared and keeping them comfortable. There’s mechanical things to work on and there’s conditioning programs to put in place.

Eiland comes to Kansas City with a very big job in front of him.  He has a ton of young arms in the bullpen and an absolute wild-card of a rotation (I know, I’m supposed to say that it’s terrible and the Royals will never win with this bunch of losers, but that’s not how I feel. There’s some quality in there, seriously). This kind of project has to excite a pitching coach, particularly when he can do it in a light that is not anywhere near as bright as that which shines down on the Bronx.

I think the best analogy for a pitching coach is the head of a race-car crew. He can make suggestions, ask his guys to do this and that and he has to trust their expertise. In race-day, he’s merely a spectator who can provide encouragement and sugestions, but he’s not driving the car. I hope that Dave Eiland can man his crew to victory lane, but he’s going to need to build some new cars himself or hope ownership springs for one.

 

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.

Bruce Chen has started 48 games for the Kansas City Royals over the last two seasons.   In 2010, Chen threw 131 innings as a starter, posting an ERA of 4.26 and an xFIP of 4.73.   He struck out 6.11 batters per 9 innings and walked 3.37.   In 2011, Bruce threw 155 innings with an ERA of 3.77 and an xFIP of 4.68.   Along the way, Chen struck out 5.63 batters per 9 innings and walked 2.9.   It was his best season since 2005.    He will turn 35 next June.

So, do you resign Chen as a free agent?

The Royals, whether they intend to resign Chen or not, will almost certainly offer him arbitration.   Doing so, will net the Royals a sandwich pick as compensation should Bruce, a Type B free agent, sign with another team.   Notable sandwich picks on the Royals’ 40 man roster are Mike Montgomery and Mitch Maier.   Another Royals notable, who happened to be a sandwich pick in the same draft as Montgomery, is Jake Odorizzi.   

Going back to the 2007 draft, here are some notable sandwich picks:   Brett Cecil, Julio Borbon and Travis d’Arnaud.   Obviously, there is value to be had in that range of the draft.   Value, of course, that will likely take four or five years to be realized.

Chen is a likeable guy, by all accounts a good clubhouse presence and certainly one to be admired for getting the most out of his ability.    A lot of guys with a lot better stuff than Bruce would have packed it in several years ago:  having a couple of guys (dare we say ‘gritty’?) on the roster is good for overall team chemistry.    Sure, the very phrase ‘team chemistry’ is open for ridicule and impossible to truly define, but it is a factor (rightly or wrongly) that is considered by every general manager in baseball.

While Chen’s xFIP would suggest that Bruce might be due for some regression, it is also very possible that Chen is simply a perennial outlier.  He may be a pitcher who defies the common logic of advanced statistical metrics.   I have seen games where Chen simply cannot keep the ball in the park, but have also seen many starts where there seemed to be nothing fluky about his ability to stymie the opposing team.

Chen is an enigma wrapped in a riddle.  He is ‘Bruce F’ing Chen’.

The downside of Chen is that he will be 35, has missed time due to injuries in both of the last two seasons and is just as likely to turn into a guy who can’t get anyone out as he is to turn into Jamie Moyer (of course, it is possible he turns into no one and simply stays Chen, which ain’t all bad).   He might well be looking for a two year deal as well.   A year of Chen at $5 million sounds pretty good, two years at $10 million?  Maybe not so much.

The Chen question really plays into the entire ‘are the Royals ready to contend in 2012 or not’ question that is swirling around the team.   Does having Chen on a .500 team in 2012 outweigh having another possible major prospect in 2016?   Keep in mind that not every sandwich pick turns into Mike Montgomery or Jake Odorizzi and that, frankly, what don’t know what Montgomery and Odorizzi are going to turn into yet, either.  

Signing Chen won’t kill the Royals, but letting him go and getting a draft pick won’t kill them, either.   Does signing Bruce help stabilize a shaky rotation on a team that, should everything break just right might contend?   Or does he stand in the way of the development of a younger pitcher who could possibly be a key player in a strong rotation on a realistic playoff contender in 2013/2014?

Let me rephrase that last question:   is it more important for the Royals to get Mike Montgomery through his rookie season (ala Danny Duffy this past season) with an eye toward Montgomery being a front line guy in 2013 than it is for the team to have Chen piling up quality starts for the 2012 team?   Are the two mutually exclusive?

I have yet to form a final opinion on this issue, but right now I would lean towards letting Chen go and taking the compensation pick.  

xxx

I’m conflicted… On one hand, I don’t want baseball to end. But on the other hand, the Royals aren’t playing, so what do I care. And on the other hand, I’m ready for the Hot Stove to fire up and get moving.

(Three hands? What the hell? Which one would I pitch with if I had to face Allen Craig?)

It’s still quiet in the Royals Universe. You know Dayton Moore is itching to pull the trigger on that first post World Series move.

So I think I’m going to steal the title of a link roundup from @DadBoner. It’s beginning to creep into my conversation. The other night I told my wife I was hungry and was looking for some bold flavors. She told me to leave her alone and write about baseball. OK… Consider this a weekend open thread…

In the meantime, for your reading pleasure…

— Aaron at Royal Heritage has a couple of interesting graphs about run scoring and run prevention and how it relates to World Series champions. See if you can spot the weak hitting heroes of 1985.

— Michael at Kings of Kauffman has a profile on Yordano Ventura. I wrote about him recently for a book project that is hitting the shelves next February (tease!) and have really taken a shine to him. Anytime you can get 88 strikeouts in 84 innings, you’ll get my attention.

— David at Pine Tar Press is doing the grade card thing for the Royals and takes a look at the management. I agree with his grade on Ned Yost.

— Jeff at Royally Speaking has a look at how the rotation can take a step forward in 2012.

— The Star came out with their annual prospect rankings. (This is annual? First time I’ve seen them do it.) John Sickles did the same. Not surprising, they have different players at #1.

 

We’re getting closer to firing up the hot stove, so this seems to be a great time to look at the Royals contract obligations for the upcoming season.

Guaranteed Money
Billy Butler – $8 million
Jeff Francoeur – $6.75 million
Aaron Crow – $1.1 million

The Butler contract hits the second year arbitration escalator. And if that number seems hefty for a player with that kind of service time, remember he signed for less that he submitted to the Royals prior to the arbitration process last year. According to FanGraphs, Butler’s production was worth $8.1 million. And that was probably the least productive year of his last three. Still a good piece of business by GMDM, I say. Even if he clogs the bases. That number does not include what is thought to be a pro-rated signing bonus of $500k.

The Frenchy money is an estimate based on his two-year, $13.5 million extension.

The Crow deal is a leftover from his major league deal signed after the 2009 draft.

Options
Joakim Soria – $6 million ($750k buyout)

No-brainer. The option would have escalated to $6.5 million if he had become a starter. But he didn’t.

First Year Arbitration Eligible
Mitch Maier – $459k
Chris Getz – $443k
Aaron Laffey – $432k

Laffey, as I wrote earlier, is insurance. The deadline to offer contracts for the 2012 season is December 12. If GMDM isn’t able to bring in a couple of bullpen arms by then, Laffey will get tendered a contract. Simple as that. He could be gone before then if the Royals are super aggressive and need the room on the 40-man roster.

Maier would probably get around $650k, I imagine. That’s not too much for a fourth outfielder. Do the Royals want to dip into the prospect pool for the fourth guy? I don’t think so. They know what they have in Maier… A guy who shows up, works hard and doesn’t complain. (And when they’re short an arm, he can pitch!) If they’re really looking to save a few bucks, the could bring up David Lough. Clearly, they don’t think of him as anything more than a fourth outfielder at this point. I’d rather they spend a few hundred thousand more and keep Our Mitch around for another season.

And you know my opinion on Getz. There’s no reason for him to be tendered a contract. He’s a utility player without utility. The Royals picked up their 2012 utility guy when they grabbed Yamaico Navarro from the Red Sox. He may play with less GRIT, but he can play more positions.

Second Year Arbitration Eligible
Brayan Pena – $660k
Felipe Paulino – $790k
Luke Hochevar – $1.76 million

Pena is an interesting case. He stands to make around $800k next year, but has confirmed that he can’t play defense and the lone reason for him to be kept around – his OPB ability – has vanished. Manny Pina would be an adequate backup and the Royals have gone on the record saying they don’t think they need to have a veteran catcher on the roster. Besides, with new bench coach Chino Cadahia in the fold, there’s the catching experience right there. I don’t think Pena will be tendered a contract.

Paulino and Hochevar are no-doubters. MLB Trade Rumors has Paulino doubling his salary to around $1.6 million. Given he proved to be a durable and decent starter for the Royals, I can’t argue with that. Hochevar will get a nice raise as well. Somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million.

Third Year Arbitration Eligible
Alex Gordon – $1.4 million

This is where the Royals are going to have to reach for their pocketbooks. Gordon was worth $31 million on the open market based on his 2011 production. Obviously, he’s not going to get that kind of coin, but it just gives you some perspective at how good he was for the Royals last year. Domination.

Gordon lacks a solid track record and that’s kept his salary depressed as he enters his third go around on the arbitration wheel. It will continue to hurt him here, as he stands to get a raise somewhere around $5 million. That’s assuming the Royals don’t do the right thing and extend him.

Fourth Year Arbitration Eligible
Melky Cabrera – $1.25 million

Cast off from the Braves last year, the Melk-Man took a hefty pay cut to play for the Royals. He made $3.1 million in 2010. Look for him to bounce to the $4 million range.

Free Agents
Bruce Chen
Jeff Francis
Jason Kendall

Sigh… Another Kendall sighting. Last one. Promise.

Chen projects to be a Type B free agent which means the Royals could be in line for some compensation if they offer him arbitration. Last winter, Chen shopped for a two-year deal, but returned to the Royals when it was obvious he couldn’t find a taker. He’ll be looking for something similar this time around. And again, I think he will have some problem finding what he’s looking for. He’s proven himself, but as Ozzie Guillen so eloquently put it, it’s “Bruce F’n Chen.”

I think the Royals will offer Chen arbitration. At least, they should. If he accepts, the Royals have a serviceable starter for around $3.5 million. If he declines, they get a supplemental. Win-win.

Assuming Getz and Pena are non-tendered, and assuming Laffey sticks and Chen departs as a free agent, the Royals are somewhere in the range of $38 million for their guaranteed and arbitration contracts. Add another $7 million for the remaining 15 players filling out the roster (assuming each of the remaining players have less than three years of service time), and you have a current projected payroll of close to $45 million. Probably a little more because they will certainly have a couple of guys on the 25 man roster that aren’t currently in the picture.

Of course, this is all extremely preliminary. Trades will be made. It’s possible a free agent may be lured to KC. What this represents is a snapshot in time of where the Royals are with their payroll. I’ll revisit this from time to time this winter. It will be interesting to see how the off season payroll evolves.

My trips to Surprise for Spring Training are one of the highlights of my baseball season. The Surprise baseball complex is fantastic and seeing young talented Minor Leaguers playing in such an intimate and casual atmosphere is amazing. The Arizona Fall League would be a great way to bookend the season, however I haven’t been able to make that trip, yet. So instead, let’s take the trip together via the magic of the intertrons and see what’s going on with the Royals prospects out west.

Nate Adcock – Pitcher

This is familiar face. The Rule V pickup spend the entire season at the Major League level with the Royals and was a pretty solid contributor considering his experience. He has started one game where he pitched 3 innings and struck out 7. He was named pitcher of the week last week as well. Not too shabby.

Jeremy Jeffress – Pitcher

Jeffress was a bit of a disappointment last season. He arrived in the Zack Greinke trade and could light up the radar gun, but couldn’t find the strike zone. He was eventually sent back to the Minors and couldn’t really make it back because of the depth the Royals had in relief. Sending him to Arizona says that the Royals still believe in him and that they think he needs to work on a few things. So far he’s pitched in 3 games and has allowed 10 hits and 3 walks in 3.2 innings while striking out only 2. It might be getting to the point where it will be best to let him just take a breather and come back fresh in 2012.

Brendan Lafferty – Pitcher

Lafferty was taken in the 18th round of the 2009 draft out of UCLA. He hit a speed bump this year in Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas as his ERA jumped from the low 3’s to the mid 4’s. He breezed through his first two games in Surprise, but in the last two he’s given up 5 runs in 4 innings.

Bryan Paukovits – Pitcher

Paukovits had been a starter from the time he was drafted in 2006 until he moved to the bullpen this season. The move dropped his ERA a full point and his ground ball rate increased markedly. He has 3 innings under his belt in Surprise and has struck out 3, walked 2 and given up 6 hits. Things don’t seem to be going well for Royals relievers in the AFL.

Christian Colon – Shortstop

In his second pro season Christian Colon kept his OBP at a respectable but notthing-to-write-home-about .325 while dropping his batting average from .278 to .257 and his SLG from .380 to .342. That’s the wrong direction when he moved into the more hitter-friendly park in Northwest Arkansas. He still seems like a player who will have a role in the Majors, but unless he can improve his bat he won’t be much  more than a Willie Bloomquist type guy. In the AFL he’s 4-for-24 at the moment with a double. Not quite what the Royals were hoping for, but it’s still early.

Anthony Serratelli – SS

Serratelli is one of those guys that you really root for to get a shot at the Majors, if even for a moment. He went to Seton Hall, then to the Independent leagues then to the Royals where he has slowly climbed the ladder to Double-A last season. He out-hit Christian Colon with a .282/.392/.398 line, but since he’s older and not a 1st round draft pick, he will always be put behind Colon. It’s not fair, but that’s just the way it goes in baseball. He has to prove himself over and over to get a shot. The fact that he’s in the AFL is a good sign that he just may get that shot at some point.  So far he’s making the most of his opportunity by going 7 for 22 with a home run and a double in Surprise.

Wil Myers – OF

The big-time prospect had a bit of a let-down season as he struggled with injuries, a new position and a step up to Double-A. He still kept his patience as he posted a .353 OBP, but that’s a far cry from the .429 he posted in 2010. He’s still young so there’s nothing at all to worry about, which is one of the messages I’m sure the Royals are trying to send by putting him on the roster. So far, he seems to have gotten the message loud and clear as he’s 9-for-28 so far with 2 home runs. 2 triples and a double. He’s also the same Wil Myers as he’s walked 10 times to 7 strikeouts.

 

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.

The Detroit Tigers will not play in the World Series this year, but they did win 95 games and the American League Central:  the same total as they did in 2006.   The 2011 Tigers topped the .500 mark for the fifth time in the past six seasons, but the 2006 squad was the first Detroit team to best 81 wins since 1993.    Between the two strike shortened seasons and 2006, the Tigers failed to win SIXTY games three times.

Given that dismal stretch, the 2006 Tigers truly did make a dramatic leap from bad to contenders (and more), just as the Twins and Rays did as detailed in previous columns.   So, how did they do it?

The 2005 Detroit Tigers went 71-91 in Alan Trammell’s third year as manager.   They did so with this lineup:

  • Ivan Rodriguez C
  • Chris Shelton 1B
  • Placido Palanco 2B
  • Carlos Guillen SS
  • Brandon Inge 3B
  • Rondell White LF
  • Nook Logan CF
  • Magglio Ordonez RF
  • Dmitri Young DH

This lineup is a tad misleading in that Craig Monroe played in 157 games that year for the Tigers and basically played left and right as much as White and Ordonez, who was signed as a free agent during the off-season.   Also, Omar Infante played in 121 games split between shortstop and second base.    Palanco was acquired in a June trade for Ramon Martinez and Ugeth Urbina and hit .338/.386/.461 for the Tigers.     Carlos Pena split time with Shelton at first and each slugged 18 home runs.   As an offensive unit, the Tigers were not bad at all:  9 of the 12 players mentioned above posted OPS+ of 100 or better and one of the remaining three was Ivan Rodriguez who was an All-Star in his second season with the Tigers.

The Detroit starting rotation boasted four pitchers who tossed 189 innings or more, but none that managed an ERA under 4.48.   Jason Johnson (31 years old), Mike Maroth (27), Nate Robertson (27) and Jeremy Bonderman (22) posted remarkably similar numbers, with earned run averages betwee 4.48 and 4.74 while throwing between 189 innings and 210 innings.   Sean Douglass and Wil Ledezma split the number five rotation spot and neither pitched particularly well.

In the pen, Fernando Rodney, Kyle Farnsworth, Jamie Walker, Franklyn German and Chris Spurling were the leaders in innings among Tiger relievers and were, by and large, quite effective.   Urbina, Troy Percival and Craig Dingman also spent time in the pen and as closers.   Actually, five relievers notched four or more saves for the Tigers.

Overall, Detroit’s offense was 11th in runs scored that season and in the middle of the pack age-wise.  The pitchers were in the middle of the pack, both in age and runs allowed.   At the end of 2005, Detroit struck this writer (and, I think others) as a team kind of meandering their way to 70-80 wins:  spending money to spend it and not really making real strides.

In the winter of 2005/2006, Detroit fired Trammell and hired Jim Leyland as manager.   They also went into the free agent market to sign 41 year old Kenny Rogers and 38 year old Todd Jones.   While the Tigers were spending money on aging veterans, they also handed the centerfield job to unproven 25 year old Curtis Granderson, inserted 23 year old Justin Verlander into the starting rotation and placed 21 year old Joel Zumaya into a key bullpen role.  All three of those players, like Inge and Rodney, were homegrown talent.

The 2006 lineup consisted of:

  • Ivan Rodriguez C
  • Chris Shelton 1B
  • Placido Palanco 2B
  • Carlos Guillen SS
  • Brandon Inge 3B
  • Craig Monroe LF
  • Curtis Granderson CF
  • Magglio Ordonez RF
  • Marcus Thames DH

Sean Casey was acquired via a trade late in the season to spell Shelton at first, while Omar Infante played a good deal of second, but the remainder of the lineup was basically there day in day out.  

Palanco was the only member of the regular lineup to not hit at least 13 home runs.    The Tigers got a monster year out of Carlos Guillen and 155 games worth of Magglio Ordonez.   With the exception of Palanco, everyone in the lineup was at least average offensively or better and as a group ranked fifth in the AL in runs scored and was league average in age.

On the mound, the $8 million given to Kenny Rogers yielded 204 innings worth of 3.84 ERA.   Both Bonderman and Robertson improved by half a run (ERA wise) while each surpassed 200 innings.   Verlander, as you surely recall, parlayed his 118 innings of minor league experience and threw 186 at the major league level with a solid ERA of 3.63.   Even Zach Miner, who was not great, was an improvement in the number five spot.

In the pen, Jones was an unconventional closer who managed to save 37 games, while Zumaya was simply unhittable.  The reminder of the group, headed by Rodney and Walker, were solid.

The pitching staff  was among the oldest in the league, thanks to Rogers and Jones, but sported the best ERA in the league.   Like our discussion of the Rays last week, the Tigers dramatically improved their pitching as part of their big leap (shocker, I know).

Unlike the Rays and Twins, Detroit did not have a ton of homegrown talent on their team and a fair number of high priced free agents.   Still, this was not simply a matter of throwing money around.   They picked up spare parts from other teams in the form of Guillen, Thames, Monroe and others that blossomed in Detroit.   They traded Jeff Weaver in exchange for Bonderman, Franklyn German and Carlos Pena  and, in the long run, gave up very little to get the serviceable Palanco and the veteran Sean Casey.

While the way the Tigers were built is probably not as good a model as that of the Rays or certainly the 2002 Twins, it is interesting in that Detroit went out and signed two veteran – very veteran – pitchers after winning just 71 games and both played big roles in vaulting the team to a World Series berth.   That is not an argument for Dayton Moore and the Royals to go out and do the same this winter, but simply something worthy of note.

In the end, I find the Twins model (yes, collective groan at that revelation) to seem to run closest to what the Royals are attempting to do.   Remember, they won their first division title without Joe Nathan and with Johan Santana as just a part time starter.   They also had an interim step on their way to a division title:  going from 69 wins in 2000 to 85 and a second place finish in 2001 to a division title and 94 wins in 2002.

Can the Royals make a similar progression?  If so, what should they do this off-season to make the leap?

A few quick notes…

— The Royals made their first move of the off season this week when they claimed reliever Aaron Laffey off waivers from the New York Yankees and designated Jesse Chavez for assignment.

Hey, it’s a waiver claim. What did you expect? Dayton Moore can’t make a trade until after the last out of the World Series.

There are a few things wrong with Laffey. First, he doesn’t miss bats. According to FanGraphs, just over five percent of his strikes were on swings and misses, way below league average. Second, he lacks command. A 4.5 BB/9? Yuck. And third, he doesn’t get enough ground balls to offset his first two deficiencies.

Here’s what’s right with Laffey… He’s better than Jesse Chavez.

Laffey is surplus. A guy to add depth to the challenge of spring training. If he lasts on the 40-man roster that long. The most interesting thing about this signing is, he’s eligible for arbitration for the first time in his career. He’s not going to break the bank or anything, but still… It’s possible they will exchange numbers, but that doesn’t mean he has to make the team.

— It appears Dave Eiland interviewed for the vacant Royals pitching coach position. He was the Yankees pitching coach for three years from 2008 to 2010. Evaluating a pitching coach on past performance is difficult, but when it’s the Yankees and their bloated payroll, it’s even more impossible.

Eiland comes shrouded with a bit of mystery. He left the Yankees for a leave of absence due to personal reasons in June of his final season with the team. The leave was open-ended and lasted 25 days. No reason was given.

Then, at the end of the season, the Yankees announced he wouldn’t return. Of course, thoughts turned to his mid-season leave and whether it impacted the end of his run with the team. The Yankees and Brian Cashman insisted it had nothing to do with performance. This led former sportswriter, now blogger, Murray Chass to unearth this nugget:

The dismissal, as it turns out, stemmed from the 25-day leave of absence Eiland was granted in June. Neither the coach nor the Yankees said why Eiland took the leave other than to say it was to take care of a personal matter.

The matter was serious enough that the Yankees told him he could return to his job as long as he didn’t resume any of the activities that led to his leave of absence. He didn’t adhere to the agreement and was fired. No one has spelled out those activities, and I will refrain from speculating.

Nice! I’ll speculate. I think he had a habit… Of chewing all the free gum in the clubhouse. Or something. Really, I think Chass used to be respected. Now, he’s just a hit and run artist who doesn’t give a crap.

Any of the activities? Plural? Indicating Eiland had more than one issue. And then insinuating that he basically relapsed. If Chass is so connected he can get this info, why can’t he get the rest? Stay classy, Maury!

The one thing I’m surprised about this development is that Eiland himself confirmed to the St. Petersburg Times that he interviewed for the position. Given that the Royals control leaks like the Soviet Kremlin, it probably can’t help Eiland’s chances if he’s confirming he talked with the team.

Eiland worked his way up the Yankee minor league system and the thought at the time was, he won the job because of his relationship with the young pitchers that were coming through the system. Something like that probably works in his favor. However, the leave of absence – if it truly was for something that can cause you to relapse – and the fact he’s confirmed his interview, make him an unlikely fit for this team.

— I’m a little late mentioning this, but Aaron at I70 Baseball had an outstanding recap of the 2011 Royals. Well worth your time.

Bubba Starling is close to returning to Instructional League action after straining his quad.

— Dutton reports Wil Myers is rediscovering his mojo in the Instructional League. Myers will probably open the season repeating Double-A, but could get a mid-season move up the ladder.

Myers had one of those Alex Gordon type of seasons where he had a freak injury, struggled a bit and lost confidence. Fortunately for him, it happened in Northwest Arkansas. Repeating that level can only help. Besides, with Jeff Francoeur under contract for two years, the Royals are going to take their time with Myers.

— Really lookin’ forward to the weekend, you guys.

Nick’s post yesterday about ex-Royals in the postseason and how he picks a team to root for, but does so half-heartedly, got me thinking. In a universe of 30 baseball teams, I have reasons to openly dislike about 28 of them.

For the sake of posterity, I made a list:

Atlanta Braves – If the local fans can’t support their own team, why should I care? I remember watching playoff games while in college in the early ‘90s (damn) when there were plenty of seats available, which just boggled the mind. To paraphrase a former head football coach, “It’s the playoffs!”

Arizona Diamondbacks – I hate that they shorten their name to the D-Backs. Why? So close to D-Bags. Who wants that?

Baltimore Orioles – It’s been over 15 years since that kid caught the home run in the right field bleachers at Yankee Stadium. Let it go.

Boston Red Sox – Pink hats and Nomaaaaah. I thoroughly enjoyed the collapse and hope (do I hope) this is the start of another 80 year curse or jinx or whatever. You were cute when you were the scrappy upstart. Now, you’re just intolerable.

Chicago Cubs – Responsible for more idiots watching baseball than any team outside of Boston. That whole throw the ball back after a home run thing… Ugh. Now it sounds like they’re close to landing Theo Epstein as their GM. That should be fun.

Chicago White Sox – AJ Pierzynski. Shouldn’t he play on the D-Backs?

Cleveland Indians – They have delivered five or so of the most soul crushing defeats of the Royals in the last six years. And they haven’t even been that good! Growing up, the Indians were pathetic. Worst team in baseball that played in the worst stadium in a dreadful city. In the 1990’s, all of that changed and it really shook my world view to the core. Great team, sparkling stadium and a city that suddenly became kind of cool. I hate when my world view gets messed with. Plus, those Indian fans that just sort of popped up out of nowhere really bothered me. I’m sure it will be the same when everyone in Cleveland starts sporting Royals caps.

Colorado Rockies – Anyone who uses a humidor for baseballs and not cigars is flat crazy.

Detroit Tigers – 1984. You beat my team in a playoff series, I hate your team. Forever. Screw you, Gibby.

Florida Marlins – Have you seen their new stadium? Have you seen their new logo? Have you seen their home run “spectacular?” It’s as if the entire South Beach area dropped acid and started vomiting technicolor. And it really annoys me they’ve won two World Series in their existence, both times as a wild card, and immediately dismantled the team the following year.

Houston Astros – I’m not entirely certain they exist anymore. Although I would take Bud Norris, even though he hates Taco Bell. The Killer B’s always annoyed me back in the day. And they never did anything in the post season until the Royals gifted them Carlos Beltran.

Los Angeles Angels – How’s that Vernon Wells for Mike Napoli trade working out? Or the Scott Kazmir deal? The current village idiot of baseball teams.

Los Angeles Dodgers – When you get to my Giants entry, you’ll understand.

Milwaukee Brewers – I’ve adopted them as my team of the four remaining, but the fact the Yunigma may get a ring… And I can’t ignore the fact they used to be owned by a used car salesman. Like Nick, I give them 25 percent of my support.

Minnesota Twins – In the near future the tables are going to be turned and Royals fans will flood the Twin Cities and cheer obnoxiously for their team at Target Field. Soon. I can’t wait.

New York Mets – They remind me of the Royals, only if David Glass made his fortune by a Ponzi scheme. And they spent money like tissue paper. That Oliver Perez contract will never fail to crack me up.

New York Yankees – Duh.

Oakland Athletics – Moved from KC just before they got good. Older readers will appreciate the hate. Also, home of the Bash Brothers. And where LaRussa found his genius.

Philadelphia Phillies – They once employed Pete Rose and Tug McGraw. And 1980 is a painful memory.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Just can’t muster enough venom. Strong history, a gazillion consecutive seasons below .500, and a beautiful home park. Sounds vaguely familiar…

San Diego Padres – Much like the city of San Diego itself, it’s impossible to have an opinion either way on the Padres.

San Francisco Giants – I don’t hate the Giants. Sorry. They’re my NL team and have been since Chili Davis and Jeffery Leonard roamed Candlestick. But Will Clark really made me a fan of this team. His destruction of Greg Maddux and the Cubs in the first game of the 1989 NLCS was a thing of beauty. Like them so much, I made a pilgrimage to Candlestick Park back in 1993, next to the ’77 Royals, probably the best team I ever saw in person. Haven’t been to AT&T Park, but I will soon. I think everyone should have a team in both leagues to cover their bases.

Seattle Mariners – Are they still in the league?

St. Louis Cardinals – Tony LaRussa, Albert Pujols, Willie McGee, Tony LaRussa, Dave Duncan, Mark McGwire, the best fans in baseball, Tony LaRussa and Tony LaRussa. This team cries more than my youngest daughter’s soccer team. If that Pujols cat doesn’t get his act together and stop playing the victim, there will be tears engraved on his HoF plaque.

Tampa Bay Rays – I really used to admire the Rays… Winning on a budget and all that. Except now I’m tired of the lame excuses of why they can’t fill that desolate stadium in St. Petersburg. Now they just whine. From the comfort of their own couches.

Texas Rangers – On May 8, 1979, Ed Farmer hit Frank White with a pitch leading off the game that broke his hand and forced him to miss 33 games. A few innings later, Farmer drilled Al Cowens in the face with a pitch and fractured his jaw. That night, the Royals had Larry Gura on the mound and he retaliated by hitting Buddy Bell with a feather fastball the next inning. Cowens waited a full year before he exacted revenge, charging the mound after he grounded out while playing for the Tigers. That’s hardcore.

One game… That’s all it takes. Although I do enjoy watching them steamroll through the postseason.

Toronto Blue Jays – Blame Canada. I do.

Washington Nationals – Stolen from Montreal. Not that I care. But it’s tacky.

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.

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.
%d bloggers like this: