A Long Awaited Comeback?

May 5, 2010

No, I’m not talking about Mike Aviles’ great 3-for-5 night last night.  I’m talking about Yours Truly’s comeback to writing from beneath the sack.  It’s been nearly four months since I typed in this space, and I think the reason can be summed up by the title of my last missive, “Rick F-Ing Ankiel.”  To be honest, I became so disgusted with the decision making of the Royals’ upper management that I felt that it was pointless to continue.  I mean, how many times can you write the same article over and over? 

Of course, the bullpen struggles have done little to dissuade me from thinking that I was right in giving up on the Royals.  Watching the Royals’ relief corps blow game after game, and watching Zack Grienke post a 2.27 ERA in his first six starts with nary a win, doesn’t exactly make one excited about the future of the Boys in Blue.  But I have now seen hope.

That hope is embodied in the fact that Alex Gordon is not only in Omaha, but that he is learning left field, according to Dayton Moore.  From the moment that Gordon was drafted, he has been virtually deeded the hot corner in Kauffman Stadium, despite giving every indication that he’s not even the second coming of Joe Randa, much less George Brett.  Now, however, GMDM has finally come to the conclusion that the Royals’ best option is to place Alberto Callaspo at third, and with Mike Moustakas coming up through the system, it’s time for Alex to find a new position.

Don’t believe me?  let me ask you this question – Callaspo has consistently been a .300 hitter since he joined the Royals, and his power continues to improve (60 extra base hits last year and an OPS of .813; this year it’s early but he’s pacing for a 20-HR season).  Let’s assume that Callaspo, at 27, is at the very peak of his abilities.  He’s playing what I think most people would consider to be an acceptable third base.  How much would Gordon have to improve just to match Callaspo’s contributions?  What is the likelihood of him doing so, since his performance peaked in the last half of his rookie season?  Yep, that’s what I thought.  Welcome to third base, Alberto.

Of course, I wrote late last year that Callaspo was probably our best option at third base.  The problem was that I didn’t, at any point, expect either Trey Hillman or Dayton Moore to reach the same conclusion.  The fact that they have – and that they’ve got Alex patrolling left field as a potential replacement for next year – is a good thing, and a real sign of progress in the team’s approach to doing business.  That’s encouraging.

Just as encouraging was the fact that, when Mike Aviles came back up, there was no BS about his arm; they stuck him in the lineup – at shortstop, where he belongs – and Aviles responded by playing the kind of offense and defense that made him the Royals’ Player of the Year in 2008.  Of course, it was only one night, but the point is that Aviles LOOKED like the confident major leaguer he became in ’08, instead of the uncertain injury victim of ’09.  Hopefully, this ends the experiment of Yuni Betancourt at shortstop.  Yes, Yuni has hit acceptably well in the first month of the season – BUT even hitting well, he only has an OBP of .293 with little power.  On Yuni’s best day, he still can’t play up to the standards (offensively or defensively) of 2008 Aviles.  Hopefully, Hillman will simply lock Mike into the lineup, and Yuni will be a bench player or trade bait (or even a release) in the future.  This is of course the Wacky World of Trey, so one never knows.

Finally, the Hawaiian Punch is back up.  He needs to be more than bench ornamentation; as Sam Mellinger points out, Kila needs to get at-bats.  My personal standard would be this – if Kila gets less than 300 AB’s the rest of the year, Trey has screwed up badly.  The Royals need to know by the end of 2010 whether or not Kila can be a real power hitter.

Will the URF keep writing?  Don’t know – but if the Royals keep giving me new material, I’ll keep at it.


Rick F-Ing Ankiel.

January 22, 2010

And people wonder why I don’t keep this blog up more than I do.

Seriously, Rick Ankiel?  Yeah, OK, the guy was a cute story back in 2007, coming back from his pitching woes to play outfield.  He’s probably gritty, a great clubhouse guy, yada yada yada.  There’s only one teensy-weensy problem – he blows.  He posted a .285 OBP last year in the NATIONAL LEAGUE.  That translates to, well, deep depression in the American League.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time dissecting this one.  GMDM squandered over 3M to get a guy who has now washed out in not one, but two major league careers.  This makes the Scotty Pods acquisition look like the Fran Healy-for-Larry Gura trade by comparison.  By season’s end, Ankiel will make us nostalgic for the days of Jose Guillen.

Rule one of being in a hole, Dayton – stop digging.

Unknown Royals Fan, over and out.


Advice to Royals Fans – Start Drinking Early

December 19, 2009

So, I’ve been sitting around thinking about the Jason Kendall acquisition.  You really have to hand it to Dayton Moore.  He shrewdly snagged a 36 year old catcher who slugs like Tony Pena Jr. by making him an offer nobody else would (everyday duty), and then topping it with a $6 million, 2-year contract.  How in the WORLD does he make these acquisitions?

I think it’s fair to say that my faith in GMDM is gone.  He’s obviously the second coming of Allard “The Genius” Baird.  And while we’re at it, I think some apologies are due the Glass family.  Follow my logic here – the urban legend around Kansas City had it that the only reason the Genuis was so awful as a GM was that he continued getting interference from the Glass family – assuming, of course, you can picture David Glass pounding the boardroom table and thundering, “I said I want JOHN BUCK, dammit!”  That said, one thing that all the writers agree on is that the Glass family is leaving Moore alone – and yet we’re getting the same results.  It seems to me that if in fact the Glass family was interfering with the Genius, they were doing so in an effort to provide some level of adult supervision.

OK, enough with that.  Back to the Jake Taylor, er, Jason Kendall acquisition (for those of you who don’t remember, Jake Taylor was Tom Berenguer’s catcher character in Major League).  Joe Posnanski keyed on the utterly moronic comment by Trey Hillman about Kendall “running well for a catcher,” as if this is a primary skill of the position.  I prefer a different quote, in which GMDM commented that Kendall “should be able to help Luke Hochevar and Kyle Davies.” 

Wow.

First of all, I’m not sure anything short of a sorcerer would help those two.  Let’s keep in mind that they were/are two of the worst starting pitchers in the Majors last year.  Hochevar was particularly awful, going 7-13 with a 6.55 ERA.  But here’s what bothers me about this quote – with the constant craptacular performance of Luke and Kyle, this is the point where a rational GM would do one of two things:

1.  Change the parameters; i.e. try these guys in the pen to see if they are saveable as relievers.

2.  Cut your losses, say “we screwed up,” and try again with different pitchers.

GMDM does neither.  Instead, he doubles down on two crappy pitchers by assuring that the Royals will have the worst starting catcher in MLB.  That, folks, is how you consistently lose 90 games per year.

In fact, not even a Hollywood scriptwriter would attempt to construct a scenario like this; that’s why Major League’s Taylor only made the league minimum.

Credit where credit is due – John Buck is gone, as are Mark Teahen, Mike Jacobs, John Bale, and Miguel Olivo (I have a feeling that Olivo will get more popular this year as fans watch Kendall creak around behind the plate and see second base less than a high school senior who plays live – action Dungeons and Dragons).  In are Chris Getz and Josh Fields.  Getz will get the second base assignment, providing marginally better defense with a fraction of the offense of Alberto Callaspo.  Fields – well, who knows?  Butler figures to take most of the reps at first base, and few positions in MLB are more sacrosanct than Alex Gordon’s claim on third base (for God knows what reason).  If Fields gets many at-bats, look for them to be at the DH slot.

And, Royals fans, it can still get worse.  I really get the feeling that GMDM would love to move Alberto Callaspo despite his .300/.356/.457 effort last year.  If Moore wants a taker for Callaspo, he’ll find one – and probably get taken in the process.  Callaspo’s defensive sins at second could, of course, be mitigated by putting him at third base (he has the arm and quickness for the position and played well there in substitute roles), left field, or DH – but all indications are that Moore’s new mantra is “defense,” so I would look for the second-best hitter in the organization to be somewhere else by Spring.

Royals Fantasy Camp has been cancelled for 2010.  If that’s not a symbol of apathy, I don’t know what is.  Perhaps the old guys are just waiting for a regular Spring tryout.

All indications at this point are that the R’s will, if anything, be more pathetic than in 2009.  100 losses, here we come!


Well, It’s Over.

October 4, 2009

The 2009 Royals season ended in a most appropriate way this afternoon, with Luke Hochevar puking up seven runs in three innings to help the Boys in Blue get absolutely pounded, 13-4.  Final record, 65-97, just short of yet another 100-loss season.  The so-called “Monsters of September” eked out one win in their last six games, and had to allow room in the cellar for their friends in Cleveland.  Forty years ago, a collection of expansion draft castoffs managed to win 69 games, so we’re behind where we were in 1969 (but to be fair, exactly even with our record from a year later).

Unlike last year, there is no “wait until next year” vibe around this club.  The Royals are as far from contention in 2010 as I am from going up on the next NASA flight.  To contend in 2010 would require wholesale change, and you can only make that kind of wholesale change by either radically improving the quality of your players, or radically improving the performance of your existing players.  The Royals are likely to do neither.

As Bob Dutton chronicled in the Star a few days ago, the Royals are far too budget-locked to be able to take on additional payroll – and of course, much of our existing payroll is spent on stiffs like Jose Guillen and Yuniesky Betancourt.  Those who would clamor for David Glass to pump an additional $30M or so into the payroll would be well advised to remember how GMDM has spent money when he’s had it.

Radical change in performance from existing players?  I wouldn’t count on it.  Although we have plenty of players with plenty of room for improvement, the likelihood of them actually doing so is unlikely.  In fact, the Royals’ best hope for improvement probably lies in players who have already made big steps forward, like Billy Butler and Alberto Callaspo.  While that improvement is welcome, it won’t turn this team into a winner while we’re running Alex Gordon, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Mitch Maier out there every day.

In the past, Royals fans could always hang onto hope for what might happen when great prospects matured and made it to the major leagues.  Five years ago, we were talking about the team we’d field when Butler, Gordon, Maier, Shane Costa, Chris Lubanski, and others hit their stride.  The bloom is certainly off that rose, isn’t it?  And beyond a few promising types like the fragile Jordan Parraz and Jeff Bianchi, what do we have to look forward to?

On March 25, I created a list of “10 Reasons Why the Royals Will Only Win 69 Games This Year.”  At the time, it was unthinkable to me that the Royals could actually be WORSE than 69 game winners; it was actually a joke list.  Unfortunately, the joke’s on me.  Just for the hell of it, let’s look back at those reasons.

1.  Zacko Goes Wacko.  I felt that a complete collapse by Grienke would be necessary for the Royals to be THIS bad.  Obviously, I was wrong.

2.  Complete Rotational Collapse.  Well, there’s one for URF.  Outside of Grienke, the rotation was awful.  Bannister (7-12, 4.73) was actually the BEST of a group that included Hochevar (7-13, 6.55), Meche (6-10, 5.09), and Davies (8-9, 5.27).  And that’s not counting Ponson, Chen, DiNardo, etc. 

3.  Alex Regresses Again.  Good grief, did he.  You could write this year off to injuries, but the truth is that Alex sucked for every moment he was on the field this year, offensively and defensively.  That’s two for URF.

4.  Aviles Regresses to the Mean.  Dammit.  We’d have been better off if I’d been right on this one; instead, he was injured for the season, and all the questions about him still exist.  That’s three.

5.  Jacobs Lives Down to Expectations.  I’m starting to think I jinxed the team.  Jacobs was awful; 19 homers and a .698 OPS meant that he dragged the team down every moment he was on the field.

6.  Billy is Another Draft Bust.  Here’s what is weird – I couldn’t conceive of the Royals being this bad if Billy Butler finally came of age.  Well, Billy posted a .301/.362/.492 loop with 21 dingers and 51 doubles, and the Royals were worse than my wildest nightmares.

7.  Jose Remains Jose.  Well, I was wrong about this one; Jose wasn’t Jose.  He caused no controversy off the field and no achievement on it.  His .242./.314/.367 season was easily the worst of his career, and like Jacobs and Gordon, he was a liability every moment he took the field.

What’s more incredible was that this was the list.  I couldn’t even think of the Biblically bad bullpen, the incredible ineptness of Trey Hillman, the Royals’ major league worst injury record, defense that made the Bad News Bears look like Gold Glovers, and the rest of the crap that happened this year.

The Royals end this year with more questions than answers and more liabilities than assets.  Worse, most of the liabilities are locked in for 2010.  Over the next few days, I’m going to do that most sophomoric of blogger’s efforts – grading each individual player, and suggesting what might be done with them for 2010.  Not, of course, that the Royals would actually listen, but what the hell – it’s an exercise and in any case, this offseason definitely should be more fun than the season itself.  It can’t help but be.


Time To Uncouple “ButlerandGordon”

September 22, 2009

If there is anything that symbolizes the great hopes of Royals fans over the past few years, it’s ButlerandGordon.  Er, I mean, Billy Butler and Alex Gordon.  Ever since 2006, when Alex was the Minor League Player of the Year and Butler won the Texas League batting title while they were teammates at Wichita, these two players have been inextricably linked in the Royals universe.  And why not?  They were the most promising hitting prospects in a long time for the Royals, they were drafted only one year apart, and at Wichita, they were the best 1-2 hitting duo in the minors.

Things change, however, and with that change, I’m suggesting that it’s high time that “ButlerandGordon” simply become Billy Butler and Alex Gordon.  Butler has emerged this year as a legitimate hitting star who can play a competent first base; Gordon has taken at least one big step backwards both offensively and defensively.

I should preface this by saying that I have never particularly been a big Alex Gordon fan.  He’s never impressed me as a guy who was willing to work and sacrifice to get the most out of his admittedly significant talent.  I’m reminded of a two-game stretch after his return from a hip injury in August when he dropped a popup one night because he was trying to catch it one-handed – then he returned the very next night and did exactly the same thing.  That, to me, shows a guy who prefers to look good rather than play well. 

That said, there’s no denying the separation between their 2009 seasons.  Butler spanked his 49th double last night (his 68th extra base hit of the year) and has posted a season line (to date) of .300/.358/.487.  Not All-Star material yet, but for a player who turned 23 at the start of this season, that’s pretty salty and gives an indication of future potential.  Meanwhile, Gordon’s season has admittedly been hampered by injury – but when on the field, he’s struggled to a .227/.333/.359 line.  Worse, Gordon has looked less like a professional third baseman and more like a gorilla with scoliosis and an inner ear imbalance while in the field. 

The difference?  In my mind, it’s work ethic.  I busted on Butler after Fan Fest for looking distinctly Rosie O’Donnel-esque, but there’s no denying that on Opening Day, he was in great shape and has applied himself not only to realizing his potential with the stick, but in learning how to wear a glove for something besides a handwarmer.  Let’s be honest for a moment – Billy had the easy way laid out in front of him.  Just be a DH, Billy.  We love your bat, we know you can hit, and you can devote all your energies to doing it.  Instead, Butler has fought tooth and nail for the opportunity to be a complete baseball player – one that plays in the field, as well – and through work has turned himself into, at worst, an adequate first baseman.  On his best day, Mike Sweeney never picked throws like Billy has been able to this year.  Billy will, of course, have his moments at first base, but it’s unlikely that he’ll ever be confused with the famous “Doctor Strangeglove,” Dick Stuart.

Butler’s development at first base hasn’t just helped himself; it’s helped the team.  Without Butler’s glove, we’d have been watching Mike Jacobs butcher first base all year.  By making himself adequate in the field, Butler creates an opportunity for the Royals to sign a dedicated DH.

Meanwhile, Gordon stuttered through April before his hip injury, in Joe Posnanski’s words “moped and pouted” his way through an Omaha assignment, and is finally showing some flashes of competence with the bat in September.  His defense, however, makes you wonder if moving Butler away from third base was such a bad idea back in ’04.  In this blog, I suggested in Spring Training that the Royals really needed to set up a competition for the 3B job between Gordon and Mark Teahen; a competition that Gordon might just lose.  Well, the way it worked out, Gordon has posted a lost season while Teahen has comprehensively demonstrated that Gordon should be considered #2 at the 3B depth chart.

In fact, at this point, Gordon might be our third-best option at third base. More than one scout has observed that Alberto Callaspo has both the quickness and the arm to play third base, and in fact when he’s been slotted there, Callaspo has played well.  This wouldn’t be a big deal – except that Alberto has emerged from the pack to establish himself as the second-best bat in Royal blue this year.  At 26, Callaspo is sitting at .298/.351/.450 in 533 AB’s.  The guy who scouts said might NEVER hit a big league homer has gone yard 10 times this year, along with 37 doubles and 7 triples (that’s 54 extra base hits for those keeping score at home).  In addition, he’s the toughest strikeout on the Royals, with only 42 in 533 AB’s for a ratio of one K every 12.7 at bats.  With 45 walks, he’s also the only everyday Royal who walks more than he strikes out.  And as noted, he’s 26, and the breakout season tends to come at 27.  If this isn’t the breakout season, we at least have SOMETHING to look forward to in 2010.

When I look at the differences between Billy and Alex, I can’t help but be reminded of the draft situations with both.  Butler was widely criticized as a “signability” pick by Allard Baird, while the Royals were cheered from all quarters in signing Gordon, the College Player of the Year.  Billy’s signing went through like crap through a goose.  One day he’s drafted, a couple of days later he’s at Kauffman Stadium wearing a Royals jersey and signing a contract, and a few days later he’s an active Idaho Falls Chukar.

Alex, who professed to being a “lifelong Royals fan,” missed the first potential half-season of development while playing contract games with the Royals.  In fact, Butler was the last first-round pick the Royals have had who simply signed and went and played ball, rather than doing the “sit out” game.  Hmmmmm….wonder if there’s something to be said for “signability,” if “signability” means “a kid who would rather play baseball than sit around with his thumb up his ass waiting for an extra $500,000 on his signing bonus?”

The fact is that the Royals’ first round picks since Butler have disappointed at least a little (Gordon) to a lot (Luke Hochevar), and each of them have been willing to miss Rookie league ball in favor of extorting the maximum signing bonus.  Look at the numbers – Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer have each posted disappointing years (even while being promoted), and Hochevar – well, Hochevar has sucked this year, 80 pitches against free swinging Cincinnati notwithstanding.

Perhaps – and I’m just suggesting – perhaps there’s something positive about a ballplayer whose primary ambition is to be a ballplayer as soon as possible.  We simply don’t have a lot of luck with players who don’t. 

In any case, it’s time to think of Billy Butler and Alex Gordon as separate entities, one whose career is on the upswing and one whose career may be hanging in the balance.  If the Royals want to get the most out of Gordon, they need to do something that they never have – make him win his job.  They moved Teahen to the outfield to accommodate him, and according to Sam Mellinger’s blog, they are determined NOT to entertain the option of Callaspo as the third baseman because it might interfere with Gordon’s progression.  At this point, there is nothing – repeat, nothing – to indicate that Gordon might have a better MLB career than Callaspo.  The Royals need to keep that in mind.  And perhaps, committing to playing the best player at a particular spot is a good way to start.


Will Brayan Pena Become the Next Matt Diaz?

September 8, 2009

Well, given free tickets, Mr. and Mrs. URF attended yesterday’s win over the Angels.  The win was nothing short of miraculous, considering that Davies held them to one run for five innings and then the pen had to go three innings before Soria came in the game.  But what struck me was that this is an organization that is in trouble, and seems not to know it.  For instance, both dugout suites were EMPTY.  I don’t ever remember attending a Royals game where they had failed to rent out both dugout suites.  The high-dollar Diamond seats?  Mostly empty.  The crowd itself seemed more interested in walking around the park than paying attention to the games.  Folks, I believe the bill is coming due for organizational neglect, and if you think this is bad, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

The good news – from my perspective – is that the Royals allowed Brayan Pena to dust off his catcher’s mitt.  I’m told that it had become so stiff from disuse that they had to oil it up and tie it around a baseball the night before  just so he could catch yesterday.  For a team that claimed to “want to see what they had” in Pena as a catcher, the Royals have been fairly committed to keeping him riding the bench or DH’ing during these last meaningless weeks of the season.

Which reminded me of another Royal mistake from a few years ago – Matt Diaz.  Remember him?  Allard “The Genius” Baird acquired him for next to nothing from Tampa Bay because he was stalled behind the outstanding Tampa outfield.  In 2004, Diaz had gone .332/.377/.571 at AAA Durham, with 21 homers and 47 doubles.  He was ready to make a move.  However, the Royals also had a powerful outfield in 2005: David DeJesus in center, Emil Brown in right, and Terrence “Magellan” Long in left.  Brown, of course, emerged to hit .286/.349/.455 after a horrendous start, and Long went .279/.321/.378.  Meanwhile, in the first half of the season, Diaz hit .371/.408/.649 at Omaha.  Finally called up in August, Diaz mostly got splinters in his ass on the bench while watching the losingest Royals team ever.

That September stands out to me, remembering Buddy Bell and The Genius stating – seriously – that they just couldn’t find playing time for Diaz in left because Long was a bona fide Gold Glove outfielder.  Yes, I remember it – and so does Joe Posnanski. Check his blog.  Diaz eventually got into 34 games and 89 AB’s, hitting .281/.323/.404.  It got weirder.  Deciding that Diaz was blocked at LF and 1B (his second position), The Genius decided that his ultimate value might be as a backup catcher, and sent him to the Arizona Instructional League to learn the position.  Diaz was freed from the asylum that is the Royals by a trade that netted us the legendary Ricardo Rodriguez and sent him to Atlanta.

Rodriguez called it quits after posting a 5.40 ERA in High Desert in 2006.

Long didn’t win his Gold Glove; in fact, he was non-tendered by the Royals and played a sum total of 12 more games in the major leagues.

Emil Brown had one more good season for the Royals in 2006, a bad one in 2007, a mediocre one for Oakland in 2008, and has played in three games this year for the Mets.

After shaking off the stink of Kansas City, Diaz has been a very reliable pinch hitter and outfielder for the Braves, averaging about 350 AB’s a year.  His career MLB line to this point is .312/.357/.460 in 1,218 AB’s.  He had an injury plagued 2008, only hitting .244/.264/.304 in 135 AB’s, but so far this year (106 games, 309 AB’s), is hitting .320/.392/.495.  His platoon splits have ranged from “negligible” to “still not bad.”  This year is his worst against righties, and he’s hitting .269/.358/.414.  Oh, and he’s making the princely sum of $1.225 million this year, his first in seven figures.

See, the ones that drive me nuts aren’t the Dye/Beltran/Damon types.  We couldn’t afford to keep them.  But a Matt Diaz?  This organization HAD him and were TOO STUPID to keep him.  His MLB performance was completely predictable by his minor league stats, and yet, we let him go for some rag arm that’s back in the Dominican now.  All because we couldn’t see what he had because we had to play Magellan Long.

I’m not suggesting that Matt Diaz is/was an All-Star in the making that could have turned this team around.  Bearing in mind the transition to the National League and the exposure of playing daily, you’d probably have to adjust his numbers down.  Maybe .290/.350/.450 would be realistic.  Still, how would you like to have a cheap guy like that in a corner for 3 of the past 4 years?  The Royals haven’t taken one big fatal wound during this 25-year slide; it’s been a death of a thousand cuts.  Diaz is one such cut.

And perhaps you’re seeing how this little missive is coming full circle.  As the next candidate for “Diazing,” I present Brayan Pena.  Pena has stalled in our organization behind those two powerhouses, Slow John Buck and Miguel Olivo.  Pena’s minor league career numbers are .303/.353/.404.  This year, he’s gotten into 50 games, only 22 of those starting at catcher.  He’s hitting .279/.321/.465.  Like Diaz, he has good offensive skills for his position.  Like Diaz, he’s willing to draw a walk.  Like Diaz, he has good power (5 homers and 9 doubles in limited action).  Like Diaz, he plays his ass off.

And like Diaz, he’s stalled behind two veteran stiffs who are unlikely to ever have another starting role in anyone else’s uniform.  If nothing else pisses you off about this organization, this should. 

The Kansas City Royals are an organization that needs badly to be committed to the development of young players.  Yet when they have the opportunity (when all is lost and the vets are mediocre), they consistently give playing time to the vets who have killed the season, rather than the promising player that might help next season.  Then they trade the promising player because he “hasn’t shown them anything.”

Doesn’t matter whether it’s Trey Hillman or Buddy Bell.  You get the same result.  “Why” is a topic for another day and perhaps another commentator.  But those empty dugout suites bear mute witness to the realities of being a Royals fan:  Not only is there no joy in Mudville, there’s no hope either.  The only question left is – who gets Pena, and what does he do for them?


Dayton Moore Costs the Royals More Season Tickets

September 4, 2009

At least I’m betting that will be the effect.  I can’t imagine season ticket holders renewing very enthusiastically after reading this article from Bob Dutton:  http://www.kansascity.com/sports/royals/story/1423631.html

In it, Moore renews his faith in Trey Hillman while throwing various and sundry players under the bus for 2009’s debacle, all without noting that many of those players were his own acquisitions.  In fact, just for giggles, let’s break down the article and GMDM’s words.

“Yes, Trey will be back,” Moore told The Star in an extended interview. “I think Trey has done an exceptional job under the circumstances. I think it’s important that Trey gets the opportunity to see this thing through.  My own curiosity is what “circumstances” he’s talking about.  If the “circumstances” include being saddled with some terrible players after Moore gutted a cheap, effective bullpen in favor of an expensive and wildly ineffective bullpen, he might have a point.  But it gets better.

“I know things would have been drastically different if we would have stayed healthy, and I don’t think it’s fair to completely judge Trey’s performance based on what’s happened with the lack of wins with our major-league team.”  Oh, bullshit.  The players that have logged DL time were unproductive before the DL time.  Coco Crisp never saw the good side of a .250 BA this year; Alex Gordon regressed badly from a marginal performance in 07/08, and Jose Guillen has been an incredibly expensive Emil Brown since we got him.  As for the injuries to Gil Meche and Joakim Soria, there’s a good argument to be made that Trey’s use of those pitchers caused the injuries.  Blaming injuries is a weak excuse for weak people.

“In our immediate-gratification society,” he said, “everybody wants to point fingers. But from what I’ve seen from everything that goes on in this organization, Trey Hillman’s leadership is one of the strengths of our organization.  Uh, Dayton, there’s nothing “immediate” about this.  You were hired in 2006; that’s three years ago.  Our beloved Royals have sucked dead ass for nearly a quarter-century, and if you’re going to keep babbling to the press, you might consider respecting that fact.

The Royals enter play tonight with the league’s worst record at 51-82 and on pace for a fifth 100-loss season in eight years. They are 33-71 since that heady start.  Always nice to inject facts into the discussion.  33-71 equals a .317 winning percentage.  At that rate, this team would have paced for 111 losses, beating our worst season by five losses.  As it is, if the team continues at that rate (and there’s no reason to believe it won’t), the team projects to go 9-20 for the rest of the season and finish with 102 losses.  And if I were betting and 102 were the line, I’d take the “over.”  This team has no competitiveness whatsoever.  Oh well, next jewel:

“The biggest criticism that I’ve read that people have of Trey is he can’t manage our bullpen,” Moore said. “I’ll tell you, I’m not sure the greatest baseball mind in the history of the game could figure the right matchups on certain nights.  And I’ll clarify that by saying we have very talented relief pitchers in our bullpen who just haven’t performed up to their capabilities. To me, that’s no fault of Trey’s. That’s just a reflection of guys all having down years at the same time.”  Actually, if you look at our relief corps, most of them have performed EXACTLY to their career lines.  If GMDM were willing to condescend to look at a stat page, he’d know that.  And of course, relief pitchers are notoriously unstable in their performance. 

Moore similarly absolves Hillman of any responsibility for pushing starting pitchers into higher pitch counts.

“I hear some of that stuff,” he said. “I should be blamed on that if anybody wants somebody to blame. I sat Trey and (pitching coach Bob McClure) down before the year and said I wanted these guys stretched out.

“Last year, I felt we were too conservative, that we didn’t let guys stay in long enough and work through situations and pitch deep into games. I wanted that mind-set changed.”  Just out of curiosity, did they bother to check with the players?  And in the middle of the season when the pitchers were reporting dead arms, did they think to change?

“Is it Trey Hillman’s fault (on Monday night) that we have a player walking back (to the mound) and doesn’t have his eye on the play?” Moore asked. “Is it Trey’s fault when a pitcher throws the ball into right field on a routine inning-ending double play?  I’m willing to put that blame on Hillman.  Since July, it’s been obvious that our team has been loafing through games with their heads firmly implanted in their asses.  It’s Hillman’s job to keep them involved – or remove them from the games.  For all of Moore’s talk about how Trey will “get in their faces,” I call BS.  I think he was firmly cowed after he lost the clubhouse last year, and it’s staying that way.  But the biggest nugget of all is about to come:

“Is it Trey’s fault that in giving a young Billy Butler the opportunity to play first base, that we’ve had numerous 3-6-3 opportunities for a double play — and can’t execute that?  It was at this point that I developed an overwhelming urge to bitch slap Moore until the snot ran from his nose.  This year, we have had ONE – count ‘em, ONE – player who has stepped up and noticeably improved his game.  That’s Billy Butler, who had projected as a lifetime DH.  He’s turned into an acceptable first baseman.  And Moore picks HIM to throw under the bus in the paper?  What in the HELL is wrong with this guy?  And when, exactly, were all these missed double plays that would have made the difference in the season?  Were they on non-televised games?  Of all the unadulterated crap that Moore has flung this year, this is by far the most arrogant, gutless, chicken-shit thing he has put in the press.  Perhaps Moore isn’t just a bad general manager – maybe he’s a bad guy.  Of course, we must remember that Butler was not a Moore acquisition – which likely explains both his good performance and his scapegoat status.

(Quick side thought – the Royals could raise the money for a $100 million payroll by charging fans $20 a throw to bitch slap Trey and/or Dayton.  No closed fists, full swings.  I’d probably end up paying for a player myself.)

“It’s worked on every day. The bottom line is we’re not good enough yet, and again I emphasize yet. I still believe we have many players on our team who will begin to execute better. We’ve seen signs of that already.”  What signs are those, pray tell?

In short, what concerns me is not the fact that Hillman is returning.  For better or worse, Moore has hitched his horse to the Mustache.  What concerns me is the incredible level of know-it-all arrogance coming from Moore.  His Process appears to be pretty much identical to Allard (the Genius) Baird’s Plan.  And it’s working just as well.


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