Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Batter up: Kansas City Royals

It's that mystical, wonderful time of year where you commit to a baseball team who you know fully well won't win. This season, in honour of an popular Internet meme, we'll present 25 things about each team. At bat: The Kansas City Royals.
  1. The Royals actually have a small window to build a contender. They are guaranteed two more seasons of having Gil Meche and Zack Greinke, who hits free agency after the 2010 season, as their top two starting pitchers. Please don't miss the point: The Royals actually have a window to build a contender. This is about 50% due to their division.
  2. More likely than not, the franchise is building slowly.
  3. Slotting Mark Teahen as the second baseman and No. 3 hitter is actually a masterstroke. He can be made the fall guy when (if? Hah!) the Royals fail to improve on their 691 runs scored last season. It's better to do it with him than risking a case of too much, too soon with third baseman Alex Gordon or DH Billy Butler. Either of those two can take over once they're up tot he job.
  4. Gordon is still only 25. The superstar en herbes improved his walk rate, cut down his strikeouts and raked down the stretch. Taking it slowly by batting him sixth or seventh seems prudent.

    Whoever plays third base in Kansas City has a huge legacy to live up to: Joe Randa, Gary Gaetti, Kevin Seitzer. It feels like there was someone else who played third base pretty well for the Royals, too.
  5. Former No. 1 overall pick Luke Hochevar is starting the season in Triple-A Omaha. It's not the end of the world; he just needs the innings and the Royals need to stop his free-agent clock.
  6. The Royals drew the fewest bases on balls in the majors last season. That was before signing Chief Swings At Everything, first baseman Mike Jacobs (.299 OBP) last season.

  7. Greinke (3.47 ERA, 1.28 WHIP last season) is actually getting some Cy Young buzz. Four of the last five AL Cy Young winners played in the Central.
  8. Royals Review figures the ballclub needs to improve its run differential by 140 runs to have a shot at a division title. The 2008 Rays improved its by 266.
  9. One hopes Meche puts together a fabulous season, if not for his sake, than for J.P. Ricciardi's. The Blue Jays pursued Meche after the 2006 season, so Ricciardi will have something to brag about if the right-hander ends up having a big year: I look pretty smart now for trying to sign him.
  10. Bringing in Coco Crisp from Boston as the new leadoff man, to borrow a line from Chuck Klosterman, is like trying to combat teen pregnancy by lowering the drinking age.
  11. David DeJesus is ...
  12. The Padres really regret leaving current K.C. closer Joakim Soria, AKA the Mexicutioner, unprotected in the Rule 5 draft in 2006.
  13. It's been a lousy 12 months for left-hander John Bale. He broke his pitching hand punching a hotel door last season, and then his Hollywood namesake had a much more publicized temper tantrum. Bale was set back during spring training by a thyroid problem.
  14. Like Led Zeppelin asked, Have You Seen The Bridge? K.C.'s middle relief situation, in between the starters and Soria, seems dodgy at best.
  15. Nineteen-year-old Eric Hosmer, the No. 3 overall pick last season, is the genuine article in Keith Law's considered view. Hosmer was a first baseman in high school, which usually doesn't scream success story (if he was athletic enough, he'd be in the outfield).
  16. One hopes Kila Ka'aihue establishes himself as an everyday player. He said "aloha" to the outfield bleachers — it means both hello and goodbye — 37 times last season between Double-A and Triple-A.
  17. This space's 2008 Royals preview mentioned their fortunes were about to start improving. Now there is talk they could actually win their non-AL East division.
  18. The big variable with any TYR (This Year's Rays) team is fielding. The Royals have a questionable right side of the infield with Jacobs and Teahen. Shortstop Mike Aviles (pictured, top) is a superior fielder.
  19. The Royals are the only franchise to never have a player hit 40 homers in a season. Steve "Bye-Bye" Balboni still has the single-season mark with 36.
  20. The scoreboard at Ewing Kauffman Stadium has a new crown, for those who are into easy and obvious symbolism.
  21. Can anyone explain why the Royals are holding 40th anniversary celebrations in 2009, when their 40th season was 2008?
  22. The wisdom of drafting a high school shortstop, Mike Moustakas, instead of a college catcher, Matt Wieters, with the No. 2 overall pick in '07 has been slow to reveal itself. Moose Tacos has made the natural progression to third base. He's starting the season in the Carolina League, Single-A ball.
  23. Current Cubs manager Lou Piniella was part of two of the best and worst trades of the Royals' early seasons. Forty years ago Wednesday, the first-year Royals traded nobodies Steve Whitaker and John Gelnar to the Seattle Pilots for Sweet Lou, who promptly went out and won AL Rookie of the Year honours in 1969.

    Five seasons later, the Royals traded Piniella to the Yankees for a 38-year-old middle reliever, Lindy McDaniel. Piniella helped the Yankees beat the Royals in the playoffs in '76, '77 and '78.
  24. This line Bill James once wrote about the late Royals reliever, Dan Quisenberry, has come to resonate through the years.
    "Unusually approachable, very comfortable, more human than athlete. He loved words, loved to play with oddball ideas, and wrote poetry. He was, in fact, a gentle man, but he had an edge to him, too. Like a lot of bright people, he was aware that he was living in a world inhabited by more than a few morons. A lot of times, when he said the funny things that are collected in all of the quote books, he was actually directing attention away from something that he didn't want to talk about. Privately, he regarded a fairly good percentgae of his ex-managers and a comfortable majority of his ex-coaches as dullards and frauds, and he could take offense at things you might say, not offense like he was going to punch you, but offense like 'don't you realize what you are saying?' He hated being patronized, and didn't particularly like being analyzed or evaluated."
    The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, pg. 892
  25. As a Blue Jays fan born in 1977, a lot of a randomly accessed memories comes from Royals-Jays games in the '80s. Jim Sundberg's wind-blown triple that decided the 1985 ALCS; George Bell's three-home run game on Opening Day in 1988, Kelly Gruber hitting for the cycle in '89.

    The all-time topper, though, came during a game in 1987. George Brett was up to bat and CTV announcer Don Chevrier, apropos of nothing, deadpanned, "They still talk about George's hemorrhoids."


kinger said...

Was #11 intentional? If so, I like it. ;-)

louise said...

KC Royals should be always competitive enough to keep pace with the others. I really like them; they’ve always been my favourite teams in MLB. Just read about them here: