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.