Is Anybody Excited for the Royals?April 3rd, 2010 by Lee Eldridge
I was never that much of a baseball fan growing up. Our summers were spent working on the farm, not watching or playing baseball. It wasn’t till I hit about 30 that I really started following the Royals. Which means instead of following them through their glory years in the ’70s and early ’80s, I’ve followed them through their awful years. Nobody better accuse me of being a fair-weather fan. I’ve witnessed very little good-weather let alone fair-weather with the Royals.
But this is maybe the least excited I’ve been about the Royals in the last fifteen years.
I’m a glass-is-half-full kinda guy. Typically you can find SOME reason to get excited. That there’s a GLIMMER of hope somewhere. An off-season acquisition, or an up-and-coming rookie who MIGHT become a star. You can dream that if THIS guy improves a little, and THAT guy gets a little better, that they have a chance. This year? I just don’t see any reason to hope.
I read an interesting article a couple years ago. It had nothing to do with baseball, but it discussed choices people make in their lives. Let’s say you buy concert tickets, but then realize that there’s something else you would prefer to do the night of the concert. Often people choose to still go to the concert because they don’t want to feel like they wasted their money. But in reality, the money’s already spent. Why not make the choice to go to the other event if it’s really what you would prefer to do? You’re out the money either way.
This is what I watch happen in baseball all the time. A team signs a player (Jose Guillen) for a lot of money. The player under-performs (Jose Guillen). In baseball, contracts are guaranteed. The team (the Royals) continues to play the player (Jose Guillen) who is under-performing because they can’t trade the player and his huge contract.
If you have better alternatives, and the player doesn’t deserve to be on the 25-man roster, why not just cut him? You’ve spent the money either way. Why not make the best choice for the team instead of playing the player just because you have to pay him whether he plays or not? There’s absolutely no reason that Guillen deserves to be on this roster over either Mitch Maier or Kila Ka aihue. And for that matter, there’s no reason to pick either Scott Podsednik or Rick Ankiel over Maier either. Maier earned a spot on the team this spring.
The Royals are faced with interesting decisions with their infield. Because Billy Butler has limited range and is a liability defensively at first base, it appears the Royals are going to choose a defensive second baseman (Chris Getz) over an offensive second baseman (Alberto Callaspo). It appears the Royals are going to stick with Yuniesky Betancourt at short stop, despite the fact that he appears to be a liability both offensively and defensively. I guess they feel like they need to prove that it was a good trade, when it wasn’t. And they’ll obviously stick with Alex Gordon at third, despite the fact that he hasn’t lived up to his potential.
What infield what I like to see? I would have kept Mark Teahan over Jose Guillen. (See A Royal Mistake) Kept Teahan at third. Put Mike Aviles back at short. Kept Callaspo at second. Moved Gordon to first. And allowed Butler to backup at first and DH.
OK. Teahan’s gone. So what would I do now? I would probably give up a little defense to keep Callaspo and Aviles in the lineup every day. I’d end up with Gordon at third (Bloomquist or Getz can fill in till he’s ready to return), Aviles at short, Callaspo at second, and Butler / Ka aihue sharing time at first and DH. It’s not perfect, but this group can hit some doubles and get on base.
One of the challenges the Royals face with their outfield is that David DeJesus, Ankiel, Podsednik and Maier all hit from the left side of the plate. Personally I wouldn’t have signed either Ankiel or Podsednik. I would have tried to sign a starting pitcher to come in and compete with the guys at the back of the rotation with that money. And now they compound that mistake by moving Maier off the 25-man roster.
The Royals really only have two pitchers you can count on — Zack Greinke and Joakim Soria. Unfortunately the Royals have no alternatives for the back of their rotation. Luke Hochevar and Kyle Davies will start because there’s nobody else. The Royals have to hope that Gil Meche can stay healthy and pitch like he did before 2009. And that Bannister is a consistent and legitimate middle-of-the-order pitcher. There are lots of questions about the middle relievers and the setup men.
The Royals are among the worst offensive and defensive teams in baseball. It’s hard to see them improving much over last year, though a number of injuries with Coco Crisp and Mike Aviles in particular really hampered what the Royals had tried to accomplish. If you want to look for a glimmer of hope, watch to see if the Royals really buy in to Kevin Seitzer’s hitting approach this year. Seitzer preaches patience and working your way into a hitter’s count. Last year the Royals featured free swingers with Miguel Olivo and Mike Jacobs. Showing some patience at the plate this year and limiting strikeouts could help this team considerably. And Aviles was really a bright spot in the lineup this spring. He looks to be in the best shape of his life. He’s playing fast. And he certainly knows how to hit the ball.
I don’t expect them to lose 100 games, but I don’t expect them to sniff .500 either. I’ll predict 73 wins and 89 losses. By mid-season fans will be calling for the Royals to fire manager Trey Hillman. And though Hillman hasn’t shown to be much of a manager, this really isn’t his fault. Nobody could manage this team to a .500 record.