Saturday, July 31, 2004

Run Harvey run

From a story in the KC Star yesterday…
Royals manager Tony Peña just snapped. It came in the fourth inning of Thursday night's 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays when Ken Harvey jogged toward first on a pop-up.
Finally! Pena’s smile is gone and he actually noticed one of our guys not hustling. He benched Harvey for a game. Although, benching a guy for one game isn’t enough, at least it says something to the rest of the guys.
“Either we're going to play the game right or people are going to be on the bench,” said Peña, his usual smile nowhere to be seen. “I ask my players to run the ball out. Whoever doesn't run the ball out, I'm going to take them out of the game.”
Halleluiah. Why it took 100 games before he started doing this is anybody’s guess, but at least Pena is finally unafraid start doing something about lackluster effort.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Wright watch

I told you that I was going to be interested in seeing how Jamey Wright pitched for Colorado since we outright released him without giving him a chance this season at the major league level.

Wright got the start in Arizona last Saturday and while the D-Backs are hardly a threat offensively, Wright did his part and gave up 1 earned run in 5 innings and picked up the win.

Then today he got the start at Coors Field against the Dodgers. Wright gave up 2 runs in 5 1/3 innings and got a no decision. So, after 2 games, he is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA.

Berroa's disappointing season

If you believe in sophomore slumps, I guess that would explain Angel Berroa's season. I might buy it if we were just talking about his poor offensive output. Maybe pitchers studied him in the off season and figured out how to get him out. But he has made 18 errors this season and has a .954 fielding percentage. That's a tough one to figure out.

He got of to a rough start defensively last season, but settled in nicely and played error free ball for a couple month stretch at one point. Maybe his struggle at the plate this year has led to a lack of confidence in his defense. I don't know, but he has been a disappointment this season.

At the plate, he has his average up to .251. Nobody expects him to hit for a high average, so .251 isn't a real concern. The problem has been his failure to do the small things. Last night, the Royals had a runner at third with one out, early in a scoreless game. The second baseman and shortstop were playing back conceding the run and Berroa struck out.

Berroa looks like Soriano during the World Series last year. He's such a free swinger that it's hard to imagine him ever delivering a guy from third in a situation like last night. He's drawn just 13 BB's this season and he has over 300 AB's.

Tonight, DeJesus got hit by a pitch to lead off the game and Berroa tried to bunt him over. He popped the ball up to the pitcher. Berroa certainly has talent and a gun for an arm, but his game is desperately in need of work.

Gonzalez out for the season

Guys get hurt. It is part of the game. But who didn't expect Juan Gonzalez to get hurt and miss a ridiculous amount of games? He has played just 33 games for the Royals this season. RSTN is reporting tonight that Juan Gonzalez is now out for the season.

Juan Gonzalez is a detriment to the club. But at least a healthy Gonzalez meant we could trade him. Baird said tonight on RSTN that a couple of teams were interested in Gonzalez, but obviously that's not going to happen now.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Go Brian

What a welcome sight it was to see Brian Anderson pitch 6 scoreless innings, giving up only two hits. His ERA is still over 6.00, but at least it is moving down rather than steadily climbing like it seemed to every time he took the mound in the first half of the season.

I'm out of town, so I didn't get a chance to see the game, but I can't help but wonder why Pena didn't leave Anderson in longer? He only threw 75 pitches.

And the hits just keep on coming

How could Jamey Wright have been worse than Chris George last night? 10 earned runs and 11 hits on 84 pitches in 3 innings? Wow.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Sweeney apparently still available

According to a report on, Baird is talking to other clubs about moving Sweeney. Here's part of the report:
The Royals have let teams on Sweeney's "tradeable list" (Angels, A's, Mariners, Dodgers, Giants, Padres and D-Backs) know they're willing to talk, as Baird tries to find him a home with a contender.
Has Mike asked to be traded to a contender? I'm guessing that if he has a tradable list, then he must at least be open to the possibility. Trading Sweeney would suck the life out of this team and out of our fan base.

People like Matt Stairs, who I've grown to really appreciate in Royal Blue, continue to want to stay in KC. He's been rumored to be on the trading block, but Baird now says he wants to keep a veteran in the lineup and Stairs wants to resign with the Royals next year.

Let's just hope that we can get past this year's trade deadline with the team still intact. Last year was fun picking up a few players for the stretch run, but it's back to hoping that we don't dismantle our team this year.

Holding our breath?

The Royals are 6-6 after being shutout three times in a row shortly before the All-Star Break. Sweeney is back swinging a hot stick. Randa is due back today for the second game of the doubleheader. Juan Gonzalez is due back shortly (not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing). At the very least, this team resembles a major league team again. Something we couldn't say before the break. Now, do we need to hold our breath as the trade deadline approaches?

Friday, July 23, 2004

The Royals release Jamey Wright

Everybody who follows the Royals can see that we need pitching. We do not have a number one starter, nor do we have a number two. We have three, four and five guys and to be honest I would question whether a couple of them even have number five stuff.

So why in the world would Baird release Jamey Wright—the guy who was 8-6 with a 4.21 ERA in 18 starts at Omaha? Those aren't great numbers, but they qualify for a spot at the bottom of our rotation in KC, don't you think? At least a shot at the rotation?

By not giving him a shot, it sounds like the organization saved $150,000 since he would have received a jump in salary for his promotion to the big leagues according to his contract, but when the league minimum is $300,000, that hardly seems like a huge risk.

He wouldn't have saved our season. It's way too late for that. But he may have established himself as a decent pitcher for the future—kind of the way we keep hoping that Chris George will. There comes a time to say that a guy just isn't going to work out, but when he has put up decent numbers in the minors, don't you at least give him a shot at the big leagues before you make that determination?

Colorado has decided to give him a shot. They picked him up and he's scheduled to start tomorrow against Arizona. I'll be interested to see what happens.

Happy birthday Mike

What a difference a healthy Mike Sweeney makes. Mike turned 31 yesterday and had a career day knocking two balls out of the park and driving in seven as the Royals beat the Tigers 13-7.

Sweeney has his average up to .284 now. That's a far cry from the .340 he hit in 2002 or the .333 he hit in 2000, but with his aggressive swing back to form, I'm guessing that he won't end the season at .284.

Now if he can just stay healthy, perhaps we can salvage one of the worst Royals seasons in recent memory.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Lopez no longer a Royal

This is taken from tonight:
Infielder Mendy Lopez's contract has been sold to the Samsung Lions, a Korean team. He was outrighted to Triple-A Omaha on May 28 after being designated for assignment. With the Royals in 2004, Lopez was 4-for-38 (.105) with a homer and four RBIs. Lopez had played in 30 games with Omaha this year, hitting .293 (32-for-126) with 13 homers and 26 RBIs.
Mendy Lopez was never going to be a starter for us, but I'm still sorry to see him go. What he lacked in talent, he made up for in attitude. He showed up at the park every night willing to play anywhere Pena asked him to. He knew his place on the team and he knew that the only way he was going to play was to step in for starters for an occasional day off. Obviously, top notch talent is necessary to win, but having a guy in the organization like Lopez is an asset that I don't think can be easily measured.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Cashing out in April?

Remember the Eduardo Villacis debacle? Listen to what Joe Posnanski said in his column in the Star this morning:
I'm convinced that the day Villacis pitched, the Royals packed it in. I'm not saying they quit — teams don't quit (As Kansas State coach Bill Snyder has pointed out “They don't let you quit.”). Deep down, though, they had to know it was over. The players had never heard of Villacis, they could tell he wasn't a major-league pitcher, they knew he had absolutely zero chance of beating New York at Yankee Stadium. Management had cashed out. It's hard for players to believe after that.
I had never heard of Villacis until that day in Yankee stadium, but to find out that our players had never even heard of him speaks volumes. How could fans conclude anything except what Posnanski did here—that management cashed out the season while we were still in April (the Royals were 7-14 at the time)? What a sickening thought.

May stops the Orioles

I don't know if we can consider Darrell May a stopper, but he stopped one of the most frustrating streaks I've witnessed as a Royals fan—three straight shutouts—with a shutout of his own last night as the Royals beat the Orioles 7-0. He kept the ball down and his ball had good movement on it. He had guys chasing pitches way outside and down in the dirt.

This game reminded me of the May who fought Mulder a couple of months ago in Kauffman Stadium to the bitter end. Mulder was a little better that day and the A's won 3-1, but both guys went the distance and you got the sense that May was ready to establish himself as an above average pitcher.

Then everything changed. He started getting hit hard and even he seemed to have no idea why. At one point, a reporter walked into the clubhouse after one of those bad outings and said that May was sitting by his locker with his head down in his hands. This might sound crazy, but I was glad to hear that report. It told me that May isn't a guy who just wants to pick up a big paycheck ever other week.

It appears that he has things turned around. He has won four of his last five decisions to bring his record to 6-9. I wouldn't mind a 12-14 record with an ERA below 5.00 by the end of the year. Given our offensive problems this year, that would be quite a season. I know, I know. I sound desperate for mediocrity. But when you are as far down as we are—both in spirit and the standings—mediocrity doesn't look all that bad.

Pena's boast

This is taken from an article on
Pena, who before the game boasted that he likes to go against conventional baseball theory, kept his team aggressive on the bases -- so much so that the Royals ran themselves out of two innings before breaking through against Orioles starter Erik Bedard (3-3).
Why would Pena boast about going against conventional baseball theory when his team is off to the worst start in franchise history?

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Tales from the Royals dugout

I'm just about through the new book, Tales from the Royals Dugout, by Denny Matthews with Matt Fulks. The book jumps around a lot and at times seems a little unorganized, but for the most part, it lives up to it's advertising—great stories told by someone who has been with the organization since day one. I've included a link to the book on on the left hand side of this site under the "Royal Reads" section if you are interested in purchasing a copy.

My favorite chapter was chapter six: The Men in Royal Blue. Denny wrote blurbs about 78 players by my count in this chapter. It is so current that it includes a blurb about Jose Lima and it has stories that you may not have heard before. Chapter five is about the players who are in the Royals Hall of Fame. Good, good stuff.

I have been listening to Denny Matthews since I was a child. And to think that he started calling Royals games when I was three years old seems almost unbelievable. I had the pleasure of meeting him earlier this year when I was in the press club working on a couple of profile articles for publications. Of course, he was a nice guy—until he blamed the loss that day on my presence. It was one of those gut-wrenching, early season losses that we got used to after a while. We weren't used to it at that point though. I plead innocent.

Monday, July 05, 2004

I'll take Muser any day

Tony Pena is 161-206 (.439 winning percentage) since taking over this team. Tony Muser was 317-431 (.424 winning percentage) with far worse lineups than Pena has had the past two seasons. I hope Baird doesn't give Tony Pena 748 games as the Royals manager before he fires him.

What would a good manager be doing right now that Tony Pena is not? Especially with the line up we
currently have on the field (no Beltran, Sweeney, Gonzalez, Santiago, or Randa)? Good question. He would be stuck with the lineup we currently have and this lineup doesn't scare anybody. But we would still be better off without Tony Pena because if we had a better manager:

1. Our guys would be more concerned about the fundamentals. Forget "fun" Spring Trainings. This team looks lost--missed cut-off men, failure of pitchers to cover first base, horrible fundamentals behind the plate, guys with their backs to the play, balls misplayed in the outfield, a fear of pitching inside, and on and on and on. A "rah-rah" manager can only take a team so far—third place in our case.

2. We would not have people in the line up who refuse to hustle. If guys who make tons of money to play a game cannot run hard for ninety feet to first base or go after balls hard on defense, then they should be removed from the game immediately and released from the team the following day. Physical errors are going to happen in the field. As long as a guy is in the right position and gives one hundred percent, no problem. But a failure to make a play simply because a player doesn't care is unacceptable.

3. We would have a manager who manages closer to standard baseball protocol. Tony Pena's managerial style reminds me of Hal McRae's. Just as McRae played hunches and went against normal baseball wisdom, Pena does the same thing. I remember one game during Pena's first season when he chose to pitch to Ellis Burks rather than Lee Stevens (who was hitting a buck ninety at the time) with the game on the line and Burks smashed a ball into the waterfall in left center. I remember another game this year when the game was on the line against Oakland. Pena chose to allow Adrian Brown to hit rather than pinch hitting…anybody!
Would we have a better record right now if Tony Pena was not the manager? I believe so. We've lost so many games because of poor fundamentals and incorrect personnel. A good manager would have had the team better prepared and would have made better decisions on the field. Both of which would have led to a better record.

A good manager can only take a team so far. But what would have happened if this team would have been fundamentally sound the day they broke camp? What would have happened if Pena played less of his hunches and just managed the way most good managers do? What would have happened if we had started off hot and the town caught fire like last season? Injuries still would have happened and we still wouldn't be in first place. My guess is though, we wouldn't be in last place either.

Harvey going to Houston

Another Royal is on his way to Houston. At least this one is coming back. Ken Harvey was chosen as the Royals representative to the All Star game next week in Houston.

With 10 HR, 34 RBI, and a .328 average, he probably even belongs there. Quite a few other first basemen have better power numbers, but none of them are close to his average. You could probably make a case that Scott Hatteberg (10 HR, 49 RBI, .304) is having at least an equivalent year with Harvey, but someone from the Royals has to go, so Harvey it is.

After the play in San Diego the other night, it just seems odd that he would be considered All Star material. I’m still not sure what he was thinking when he turned his back to the outfield and Matt Stairs fired an attempted sacrifice fly home in a tie game. Granted, he ducked, but that doesn’t help a lot of if the ball still drills you in the middle of the back. He admitted it was a mistake on his part and I’m not picking on him. I guess it was just indicative of this entire year.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Appier shuts it down for the season

I was bummed to hear that Kevin Appier decided to shut it down for the season. He’s been on the DL since April 24th with a strained right forearm. He was about to be sent to Omaha for a couple of rehab starts before the possibility of him coming up to KC. And it sounds like his velocity was back up to 88 mph.

"I had all the assessors out there today,” Appier said. “And I threw a good bullpen. They said it looks real healthy. It's just the process of rehabbing a post-surgery elbow and it seems real tired. The combination of rehab and tired would make coming back this year impractical."

Appier knows his body and if he said his arm is tired, then we have to accept that. If his body can hold out, he wants to try it again next year.

For now, we have the memories. I can still remember the 1990 season–Ape’s first full season in the majors. He was 12-8 with a 2.76 ERA. He never looked back. It’s been so much fun watching him throw his slider that looks and reacts more like a curve ball. And when he didn’t get the call–to see him kick at the dirt. Or to see him get mad at himself for leaving a pitch up in the zone. It’s nice to see a guy looks like he cares. And who can forget his masterful performance against the evil Yankees last season?

Royal Reflections wishes you well Apes...and we hope to see you back in Royal Blue for one more season.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

A Justin Huisman interview

Earlier this season, I had a chance to interview Justin Huisman in the Royals clubhouse. It was his first stint with the big league club. The Royals were off to a bad start at the time, but there was still a sense in the clubhouse that they could get things turned around.

Obviously things have changed since then. That, coupled with a few changes in personnel make this interview a little dated, but I thought you might enjoy reading what he had to say. I only had a few minutes with him.

Here’s the result:

Are you aware of the websites that baseball fans maintain that are based upon their favorite teams or players? And if so, do you ever go out and look at the sites?

I’m sure there are. I don’t actually view them that much.

You just came up from Omaha, right?

I came up Saturday. I was with the Rockies and got traded. Then I was with Omaha for a few weeks. Now I’m here.

You didn’t have a chance to pitch in Coors Field, did you?

I was never in the big leagues with them (Rockies), so I didn’t even see Coors Field.

Maybe that was a good thing.

Well, everybody knows it’s a tough place to pitch. But, when you are in the big leagues you don’t complain.

Has Tony Pena given you any idea about how he plans to use you?

No not really. He just said to be ready at any time. Pitching is like that. Things change every day. You just never know what you are going to do. Sometimes guys get hot. Sometimes they don’t. You could be doing different things, so he (Pena) just said to be ready.

Tell me about the Royals clubhouse. Some of these guys really know how to have fun in here don’t they? (I asked this question after seeing Jason Grimsley ride around the clubhouse on a motorized scooter the day before.)

Everybody just has a good time. Lesky (Curtis Leskanic) has a good time. We like to joke around a little bit. Everybody’s real nice and likes to have fun. You gotta have fun playing this game.
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