So I’ve been trying to come up with a post I could write without repeating the same negativity that I feel every day, and that you can read on virtually any Royals blog. And, well, I screwed up. See, I came up with this idea of picking the “Royals All-Futility Era Team.” The point was to remind myself, and my readers, that even during the last 15 years, we’ve had some really good ballplayers to watch.
My own rules – the era starts in 1995. Why? Because 1994 was the last year we actually looked like a contender, save the 2003 outlying season. I only pick the best player at each position, and the pick depends only on a player’s performance AS A ROYAL. And, I evaluate the player’s complete body of work as a Royal, rather than just picking the best season. But, as you’ll see, an unpleasant message came through after I got done picking my team. You’ll see what it is.
1b – Jeff King. King was a solid hitter with pop, good for 20-25 jacks a year. I thought about cheating my own rules and including Raul Ibanez here, since he did get some time at first – but let’s be honest, Raul was an outfielder. Sweeney played a lot of first, but played it so badly I put him at his “natural” position – DH.
2b- Jose Offerman. Hardly a glove wizard, but Offerman was a solid member of a Royals’ lineup that scored a lot of runs. And he was better than Callaspo with the glove…
3b – Joe Randa. The Royals have really had an excellent tradition of third basemen,ffrom Paul Schaal to George Brett to Kevin Seitzer to Gary Gaetti to Dean Palmer to Randa. Joe was a worthy successor to that tradition, ranging from solid to star quality over several seasons. The Royals still haven’t replaced him.
ss – Jay Bell. Bell only played one season in KC, but what a season! .291/.368/.461 with 21 homers and 92 RBI. Yes, I did consider Mike Aviles here, but Aviles’ body of work is badly blemished by his early and injury plagued start to this year.
c – Brent Mayne. No, Mayne couldn’t hit – but neither could any other Royal catcher since Mike MacFarlane. And yes, Mac played one season during the Futility Era, but he’s clearly more identified with the pre-94 Royals. Mayne was a darn fine defensive catcher who was at least consistent with the stick.
cf – Carlos Beltran. Questions?
lf – Johnny Damon. Yes, I know Damon mostly played center until he was traded away. But if you had the choice of Beltran, or Damon’s chicken arm in center, wouldn’t YOU play him in left?
rf – Jermaine Dye. Again, no surprise. Damon/Dye/Beltran might have been the best Royals outfield ever. Certainly it stands well against Wilson/Otis/Cowens of the glory years.
dh- Mike Sweeney. Sweendog was a $55 million disaster for the Baird regime, but pre-big contract, few batters were as intimidating at the plate as Captain Backache. He gets his due here.
sp – Zack Grienke. Zack is probably the best starter of the Futility Era, even considering his early and instable years.
sp – Gil Meche. Again, Meche is probably second-best to Zack.
sp – Paul Byrd. Byrd’s 17 wins in 2002 are the most by any Futility Era Royal pitcher. Grienke might top him this year, but with the team behind him, it’ll be close.
sp – Tim Belcher. Belch won 15 and 13 with some rough teams. A good Royal.
sp – Jose Rosado. Jose won double-digits, and the Royals absolutely ruined him. In terms of talent, easily one of the five best starters of the era.
closer – Jeff Montgomery. Monty pitched some good bullpen innings for some pretty mediocre teams.
OK, does everyone see what’s depressing here? Only two current Royals made the team – Grienke and Meche. No offensive player made it, and to be honest, it wasn’t even really close. Only Billy Butler gets so much as a look. Another couple of years, and he might supplant Jeff King at first – but who knows?
The fact is that, looking at Royals stat tables year to year from 1995, you watch a continuous and consistent decline in player quality. We don’t have a single position player that could have started on the 1999 team, and damn little hope of refilling the talent pipeline anytime soon.
So you’ll excuse me, but in having a good time, I found yet another reason to be negative. We got here because nearly all the players above (along with others) were squandered for virtually nothing on the trade market, or given away freely by nontendering them in the free agent market. That’s a recipe for a team in decline. As of today, we’re 48-78, and need to go 15-21 the rest of the way to avoid yet another triple-digit loss season. More realistically, considering that wins now only serve to interrupt losing streaks, this team has a real shot at losing 107 to set the all time Royals record for futility.
So much for optimism…trust the Process.