3B/RF ∙ 2005—09
Mark Teahen was picked by the A’s in the 2002 Moneyball draft based mostly on his strong hitting numbers in college, and was still in the A’s minor league system in mid-2004 when he was shipped to the Royals in the three-team deal that sent Carlos Beltran to Houston (and also brought John Buck to KC). The Royals sent him to Omaha to finish the 2004 season, but Teahen was in the show as the starting third baseman on 2005 Opening Day. He remained a fixture in the team’s lineup for five full seasons. 2005 was an adjustment year for Teahen, during which he showed flashes of promise but did not put together a good overall year. He finished strong though, earning the team’s player of the month honor for September.
Things really clicked in 2006, though not right away. After struggling during the season’s first month, he spent most of the second month in Omaha. He worked on his swing some, but said the time in Omaha helped mentally more than physically.[i] After his recall to the bigs, Teahen played like an All-Star, hammering the ball and taking his walks to the tune of a .941 OPS. The good times came to an end early for a season-ending shoulder surgery. Despite missing two months of the season, he was rightfully recognized as the team’s player of the year. After the season he said, “I don’t feel it was a complete year, but I was happy with what I contributed.”[ii]
Despite that success, Teahen found himself at a new position at camp in 2007. To make way for über-prospect Alex Gordon, Teahen spent the spring learning right field despite never having played outside the infield at any level. He admitted later that he wasn’t thrilled about the move at first, but eventually was glad to gain positional flexibility and learned to enjoy the outfield.[iii] (Regarding Gordon, Teahen was prescient in saying, “…it’s important that people not put too much pressure on Alex to make an immediate impact. He needs time to develop just like anyone, rather than putting the weight of the entire organization on his shoulders.”[iv]) Teahen handled the huge Kauffman outfield well for a newbie, though his hitting took a step backward to close to league average in 2007. His average and OBP remained good, but the tantalizing power he flashed in 2006 never returned. 2008 and 2009 were struggles on the field as he battled back issues, the Royals mercilessly jerked him from position to position, and both his offense and defense declined. He spent some time at every position except for pitcher, catcher, and shortstop. He was traded to the White Sox in the ’09—’10 off-season in exchange for Josh Fields and Chris Getz.
Even when he was struggling, it was impossible not to like and root for Teahen, whose dedication could never be questioned. He was generous with charitable causes, particularly the Little League/YMCA Challenger program that brings sports to special needs children. The Mark Teahen Challenger Baseball Field remains in KC as a testament to his good deeds. His sheepishly goofy sense of humor (still on display on Twitter) helped make him a fan favorite as well. The admiration seems to go both ways. Teahen said in 2013, “My heart will always be in Kansas City…It’s a great city to play in. The town really got behind the team when we would play well, and if they win I will be excited to see what kind of baseball town it can be.”[v] True to his word, he traveled to Kauffman Stadium to catch the 2014 World Series in person.
[i] Jeff Moeller, “Q&A With Royals’ Mark Teahen,” http://m.royals.mlb.com/news/article/1514391/
[ii] Dick Kaegel, “Teahen named Player of the Year,” http://m.royals.mlb.com/news/article/1734874/
[iii] David Laurila, “Prospectus Q&A,” http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=12068, September 24, 2010.
[iv] “Teahen chats mechanics, confidence,” http://m.royals.mlb.com/news/article/1578400/
[v] Jeremy Deckard, “Hoping to play like it is 2005: ‘Horsehide Q&A’ with former Kansas City Royal Mark Teahen,” http://cjonline.com/blog-post/jeremy-deckard/2013-03-11/hoping-play-it-2005-%E2%80%9Chorsehide-qa%E2%80%9D-former-kansas-city-royal-mark, March 11, 2013.