Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Randa Returns to Pittsburgh

According to the Post-Gazette website, Joe Randa signed a one-year deal with the Pirates today—pending a physical. The Pirates are thought to have offered him $4 million.

I still think he ought to be our starting third baseman. Mark Teahen was nowhere near ready to start last year after Chris Truby went down. Although, in fairness, toward the end of the season, Teahen finally looked like he belonged in the big leagues. But don't be surprised if Joe doesn't end up in a Royal blue uniform again someday—as a coach.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Sanders and Mays

The signing of Reggie Sanders was a big one for the Royals. At the age of 38, he can still hit for power (he's hit at least 21 home runs in 6 of the last 7 seasons), he still drives in runs, and he still steals bases. He's not the long term answer in right field, but it'll be nice seeing him there for the next two seasons. I'm already envisioning Sweeney's numbers going up since we now have a legitimate clean up hitter behind him.

My only concern about Sanders is that he strikes out too frequently. The Royals already have too many free swingers in the line up, but to be fair, I'm not nearly as bothered by a clean up hitter taking his hacks. Now, Ruben Gotay and Angel Berroa—that's a different matter.

The signing of Joe Mays was a bit of a surprise since we already signed Redman and Elarton, but Mays is a proven starter and will fit nicely in a rotation that has hardly resembled a major league rotation in recent seasons. Mays is injury prone and has never recaptured the success he had in 2001 when he was 17-13 with a 3.46 ERA and went to the All-Star game. His career numbers aren't all that impressive: 48-65 with a 4.85 ERA, but let's be honest, they look good enough to be in our rotation.

Assuming that Redman, Elarton, Mays, and Hernandez are guaranteed four of the five spots, it looks like Greinke and Affeldt may be in competition for the fifth spot. It would be a blow to his ego (and that would probably be a good thing), but I wouldn't mind seeing Greinke pitch most of the year in Omaha. We clearly rushed him to the major leagues. In his first two seasons, he's a combined 13-28 with a 4.99 ERA and he's already given up 49 HR in 328 innings of work.

Well, the majority of the roster changes are complete. Now comes the anticipation of Spring Training. I'm already looking forward to it. How about you?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Royals Sign Four

I like the addition of Scott Elarton to our starting rotation. Unfortunately, in this market, it really does cost $4 million per year for a career .500 pitcher with an ERA slightly over 5.00. He'll be in Kansas City for the next two seasons and maybe we'll finally have a couple of guys in the rotation who can pitch 200+ innings (Redman being the other). We still don't have a number one or two guy, but we finally have a couple of number threes. Runelvys Hernandez, Jeremy Affeldt, and Zach Greinke appear to be the other three starters. This is the best rotation we've had in many years. Still not good—but at least it won't be embarrassingly bad.

I'm not as high on the signing of Mark Grudzielanek. He's a 35 year-old, good fielding second baseman with an average bat (.294, 8 HR, 59 RBI last season) and a hefty price tag ($4 million). He's not a bad signing, but I think Tony Graffanino could produce at least the same offensive numbers (.309, 7 HR, 38 RBI last season) if not better if he started at second base all season. It's hard to argue with Grudzielanek's gold glove, but is a gold glove worth $4 million? I don't think so.

I really don't understand the Doug Mientkiewicz signing. We just agreed to pay $1.85 million to a light hitting (.240, 11 HR, 29 RBI last season) first baseman with a very good glove when we already have Mike Sweeney, Matt Stairs, Justin Huber, Ken Harvey, and maybe even Alex Gordon lined up to play first base. Harvey is hurt and Sweeney is injury prone, but Stairs is durable (and cheaper), Huber is an up-and-comer, and if Gordon is really worth all the money we paid him, then we ought to be set at first base without adding Mientkiewicz.

And why sign Paul Bako? Experience is the answer I guess, but his career numbers are poor. He has a .239 career batting average with 14 HR and 133 RBI. Why not bring back Paul Phillips? He hit .269 with 1 HR and 9 RBI in 23 games with KC last season. He's only 27 years old and wouldn't cost as much. I know that Bako caught Maddux in Atlanta, but I'm not sure that it matters in Kansas City.

According to Jeff Passan's article in the Star this morning, the Royals are still in the market for a power hitting corner outfielder, including guys like Jacque Jones, Juan Encarnacion, and Preston Wilson. I'm not a big Jacque Jones fan, and both Encarnacion and Wilson are free swingers—which seems to me the last thing we need on this roster, but if I had to pick between the two, I'd take Preston Wilson.

With the payroll already approaching $50 million, Baird knows that this team better win considerably more games in 2006 than we did in 2005 or he won't be around KC for 2007. We've certainly improved our team, while not taking away positions from our younger guys, but that doesn't always equate to more wins. Let's hope in this case though that it does.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Royals Trade for Redman

The Royals traded for Mark Redman this afternoon. He was 5-15 with a 4.90 ERA in 30 starts in Pittsburgh last season. His career record is 53-66 with a 4.47 ERA. The Royals sent Jonah Bayliss and a player to be named later to Pittsburgh in the deal.

Redman is another in a long list of starting pitchers with mediocre career numbers, but mediocre looks pretty nice in our rotation—even though he was 1-11 in his final 12 decision last season. He's scheduled to take D.J. Carrasco's spot in the rotation after D.J. signed with a team in Japan.

Redman's is a big guy (6-foot-5, 245 pounds) and he eats up a lot of innings every year. We desperately need a guy who we can count on to pitch 200 innings and Redman is probably the guy.

Up the Middle

Apparently, Baird is finally willing to admit that we have a problem up the middle. He attempted to sign Rafael Furcal (what must Angel Berroa be thinking right about now?) recently, but the Dodgers paid him $39 million for three years and we can't even touch a contract like that.

And in another attempt to strengthen our middle infield, we're reportedly considering resigning Tony Graffanino, but a couple of weeks ago, we told him that he'd be coming in as a back up player. He can start for the Red Sox, and the Twins almost signed him as a starter, but he can't start for the Royals? Gotay isn't the answer at second base. Neither is Donnie Simpson. And Baird and Bell seem to know that. Baird is reportedly considering a trade with Toronto for Orlando Hudson. I'm guessing that Graffanino could match Hudson's numbers if the Royals actually started him and left him in the line up all season.

Another trade that the Royals are reportedly considering includes Affeldt/MacDougal with Berroa going to Atlanta for either Kelly Johnson or Ryan Langerhans. I'd love to see Berroa shipped off and if he were to go with MacDougal, I wouldn't complain.

Starting Pitchers are a Premium

The situation in Dallas has become so dire that we are now looking to take on salary via trades rather than attempting to overpay for the remaining free agent starters. According to an article in the KC Star this morning, Kris Benson is one such player we are trying to obtain from the Mets. He has two years remaining on his contract and we would be on the hook for $15 million.

We seem to be in a hurry to deal Mike MacDougal and Jeremy Affeldt—not necessarily in a package deal—to improve our rotation. Benson would certainly help. He's 57-61 with a 4.25 ERA in his six season career. But does anybody else scratch their head and wonder how a pitcher with a below .500 record can be paid more than $7 million per season? Has major league pitching become so bad that even guys with mediocre numbers are consider a great addition to a rotation? The obvious answer is—yes.

Baird has all but ruled out Kevin Millwood, Jarrod Washburn, Jeff Weaver, and Matt Morris because they want four-year contracts and he doesn't want to sign pitchers for that long. It's hard to argue with him. We do have some extra money to spend finally, but tying a large chunk of it up with a one player over the long term doesn't make sense right now.

Can you believe that Kenny Rogers (41 years old) is looking for a three-year contract? The guy knows how to win (and get into trouble), but he's old and the idea that he's going to keep putting up such good number into his mid-40's just isn't realistic enough to take a chance.

Most of the rest of the free agent starters don't thrill me all that much. They include: Scott Elarton, Joe Mays, Brett Tomko, Shawn Estes, Ramon Ortiz, Jason Johnson, Brian Moehler, Byung-Hyun Kim, and Tony Armas Jr. Why not just put Affeldt back into the rotation and see what he can do? He appeared to turn things around during the final weeks of the season. His blister problem hasn't reoccurred since having his fingernail partially removed. And he's always seemed more comfortable as a starter.

I'm not opposed to taking on salary via trades, and at this point, it looks like our best opportunity is with Benson. Let's just hope that he's the only we commit that amount of money to.

Byrd Shuns Royals

I like Paul Byrd. I think we offered him too much money (reportedly $22 million for three years), but that's the way the market is going right now. I was a little surprised to see him sign with Cleveland for two years for $14.25 million. But his reasoning was quite clear, "I want to win," Byrd reportedly said. "And that was more important than the larger contract in Kansas City."

Kansas City, we have a problem. If we can't overpay for Paul Byrd—a good pitcher who is injury prone—then who can we overpay for? (Forget paying market value.) After losing in excess of 200 games the past two seasons, we've obviously become known as an organization that has no interest in winning. As much as we've been trying to portray an imagine of an organization that's in the midst of rebuilding via a youth movement, players like Paul Byrd don't seem to believe it.

Matthews: Frick Award Finalist

Congrats to Denny Matthews for being a finalist in the Ford C. Frick Award that is presented annually to a broadcaster for "major contributions" to the game. He's been with the Royals since our inception and he's called more than 6,000 Royals games. Denny Matthews is Royals baseball. I listen to him even during blowouts because he's full of great insight about the game, great stories from the past, and just hearing his voice makes me feel connected to the team.

We won't know if he has won the award until the 2006 Hall of Fame Weekend in Cooperstown in July, but as a person who voted to nominate him for the finals, I'm pulling for him.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

All is Quiet

So far, this off-season has been remarkably quiet on the Royals front. It sounds like the front office panicked as they saw the market for pitchers skyrocketing, so they signed two guys to minor league contracts:

Seth Etherton (age 29) who was 7-7 with a 2.72 ERA with Sacramento last season. And Adam Bernero (age 29) who was 4-3 with a 6.51 ERA while pitching out of Atlanta's bullpen last season. He also started in Richmond and was 5-5 with a 3.40 ERA.

Baird said that both will be invited to camp and both will come in as starters. Our rotation could certainly use a boost, but I'm hoping we do better than this. Paul Byrd would be a nice addition, but he's going to come with a hefty price.

In other news, it sounds like the Royals are considering a position change for Alex Gordon—possibly to first base or to the outfield. I'm still a little irritated over Gordon's contract demands, so he's going to have to produce at a pretty high level before I get too excited about him. And he's going to need to lose the attitude he brought with him to the negotiation process.

Today is the last day to nominate Denny Matthews for the Ford C. Frick Award that is presented annually to a broadcaster for "major contributions" to the game. If Denny doesn't deserve to be nominated, then nobody does. Click here to do so.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Phase II Begins

So the nightmare season concludes with a 56-106 record and just like with our last visit to Toronto, we come back with fewer coaches. Bell axed Bob Schaefer and Guy Hansen also got the boot. Both guys are going to be reassigned within the organization while Baird and Bell look for replacements. Bell wants to bring in his own guy as his bench coach, and who can blame him? And Hansen, while not even getting a full season to turn around a rotation that was awful, was probably the wrong guy for the job. So, we'll have a couple of new coaches going into spring training—one in which Bell and Baird are sure to feel a lot of pressure to produce results on the field.

After resigning Matt Stairs a couple of weeks ago, the Royals made another move yesterday with next year in mind. Terrence Long was informed by Baird that he will be released. It's understandable. He made $4.875 million this season—hardly worth the .279, 6 HR, and 53 RBI he produced while playing solidly in the outfield. Sounds like the Royals might be willing to negotiate with him for a much lesser salary after Long becomes a free agent. I wouldn't mind seeing him back next season.

Now where headed for "Phase II" of Baird's plan and I'm looking forward to actually signing a few guys to fill in our obvious gaps—starting with the rotation. I'd love to see Jeff Suppan back in Royal blue. Paul Byrd would be a nice addition as well, but he's so injury prone that I don't know if he's worth the risk.

Stay tuned to Royal Reflections as the off season progresses. I'll cover the new signings and take some time to reflect about the performances this season of the guys we plan to keep for next season.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Gordon Finally Signs

After four months of negotiations, Alex Gordon is finally a Royal. He signed a contract this morning and is expected to be on a flight for Arizona this afternoon to play on the Royals' Instructional League team in Surprise.

The Instructional League finishes their season on October 15, so Gordon isn't going to get many cuts there. Ideally, he'll play in the Arizona Fall League which begins play next week, but it sounds like MLB can't guarantee him a spot because he waited so long to sign.

I hope Gordon got what he wanted and I hope it turns out to be worth the wait for him. Given his original petty, and ridiculous demand to be placed on the 40-man roster, he's already irritated me. So, he's got a little work to do before he converts me. Not necessarily on the field—although someone who waits this long to sign better perform at a level worthy of the wait—but instead in his work ethic, in his demeanor, in and his desire to fit in with the team.

My tolerance for prima donna, Juan Gonzales-type of players is at an all time low. Let's hope that Gordon isn't one of them.

Number 104

Well, it finally happened. But let's be honest, during the 19 game losing streak, who among us didn't believe that the 104 game franchise loss record was going to fall? And who thought it would fall much sooner than September 29? I sure did. Well, actually it hasn't fallen yet. The 6-3 loss last night in Minnesota tied the record. We have four games left. Think we can win all four? Yeah, me neither, but I'm still hoping.

I was rooting for Jose Lima last night. He looks like he doesn't have anything left in the tank, but he always believes he can go an extra mile on the fumes. He started his 32nd and final game of the season last night and before he left the game, he'd lowered his ERA to 6.99. According to Bob Dutton, it's still the highest ERA "in major-league history for any pitcher who made at least 30 starts."

I don't know how anybody could justify resigning Lima and then giving him the ball 30+ times again next season given his numbers this season, but he brings something to the club that this team needs in the worst way. He's fully engaged in every pitch of every inning of every game—even when he isn't pitching. He's constantly got his arm around a young pitcher or fellow teammate to offer encouragement, or advice, or whatever it is that Lima offers. He's animated—both in the clubhouse and on the field. He cares. And sadly, that's almost a lost art in professional athletics today.

Emil Brown picked up two more hits and an RBI last night, bringing his numbers to .290, 16 HR, 85 RBI. The KC Star is running a story today that makes a pretty strong case for resigning Brown next season in place of the other free agent outfielders who are available. It does appear however that Baird is going to go a different direction and if we have a chance to acquire someone who can put up bigger numbers, I'd be happy, but looking at the list of available free agents, I just don't see it.

The Royals play their final game this season in Minnesota tonight before opening their final series in Toronto tomorrow night. Mike Wood (5-8, 4.14) goes against Joe Mays (6-10, 5.54).

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Indians Continue Winning Ways

For the second time in two nights, Mark Teahen hit a game-tying home run and for the second time in two nights, it wasn't enough. Granted, we are playing the hottest team in baseball right now, while we are the worst. But you still hate to see them commit two defensive mistakes in the last inning like they did last night to lose the game.

Unfortunately, the old adage is true: Good teams find a way to win. Bad teams make up ways to lose. And even more unfortunately, we still have two games against the Indians this weekend. I'll be surprised if they don't pull off the four game sweep.

A couple of things to note:

1. Jose Lima now has a 7.11 ERA after 31 starts. Did you ever think you'd see such a thing? Of course, he fits right in with a rotation that has posted some of the worst, if not the worst, numbers in major league history.

  • Greinke is 5-16 with a 5.81 ERA
  • Hernandez is 8-12 with a 5.40 ERA
  • Carrasco is 5-8 with a 4.84 ERA
  • Howell is 2-5 with a 7.34 ERA
  • Gobble is 1-1 with a 5.82 ERA
  • Wood is 5-7 with a 3.94 ERA
2. Mark Teahen is actually turning on the ball in recent weeks and he's doing so with authority. He hit a monster shot to right field on Thursday night and he's starting to find the gap in right center. It's nice to see one of our young players actually improving rather than crashing and burning and heading back to Wichita.

We have one week left of the regular season and the Royals are bearing down quickly on their worst season in franchise history. Hopefully an attempt to avoid such a thing will provide a little motivation.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

How Sweep it is

A four game sweep of the Tigers. The first four game sweep for the Royals since 1999. I'll take it. Even if it is at the tail end of the worst season in our history.

I was in Kansas City yesterday, so I caught the game. Mediocre pitching performances by both Gobble and Johnson kept the game close, but the Royals were down one run going into the bottom of the ninth. After recently breaking the 100+ game losing streak when trailing after eight innings, the Royals pulled off another come from behind victory when Denny Hocking sent a ground ball up the middle, scoring two runs making the final score: Royals 4, Detroit 3.

One particular thing to note about this game is the continued need for veterans on this club. When the Royals were down by one run in the bottom of the ninth inning with bases loaded, John Buck came to the plate and took some of the biggest rips I've ever seen against Fernando Rodney. One such rip came on a pitch that was 100 mph—literally. We didn't need a home run. We really didn't even need a hit. Just a simple medium depth fly ball would have sufficed. The game would have been tied and we still could have won the game with a two out hit. A veteran would have known to cut down on his swing. Although you'd think a second year guy would know that as well. But Buck struck out and up came Denny Hocking for the light hitting Andres Blanco.

Hocking was down in the count early, 0-2. He didn't panic though and worked it back to 2-2. No huge rips from Hocking. Not even an off balance swing against a guy who can throw the ball by anybody in the league and then follow it up with a biting slider. Instead, Hocking hit a ball up the middle and it found its way into centerfield, scoring two runners and winning the game. I snapped a photo of Hocking being interviewed after the game:

I'm guessing that one of the last things a manager wants to experience late in a close game list this is to look down his bench to see who is available for pinch-hitting duties and realize that his best option is a career .255 hitter without any power. But at least Hocking isn't a career .255 hitter without much experience in similar situations—like most of the rest of the guys on the roster.

Hopefully, Baird will remember situations like this when building the roster for next season.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Limping Toward the Finish Line

Why have the Royals been able to beat the White Sox in recent weeks and not the Indians? Law of averages maybe. But the White Sox have been tanking for a while now and the Indians are putting together an unbelievable run—so that probably has more to do with it than anything. That, and the Indians starting rotation, which shut us down. Yesterday it was C.C. Sabathia's turn, giving up just 5 H, 0 ER, in 8 IP, while Lima got shelled for 8 more runs in 4 IP to see his ERA climb to 6.95. Indians 11, Royals 0.  

We now stand one loss away from the embarrassing 100 mark—for the third time in the last four years, prompting Jeff Passan to say the following in his column today: "They’ve been sad. Embarrassing. Weak. Not only are the Royals about to lose No. 100—the accepted benchmark of baseball misery—they on occasion play like men much older. Much more weary and world-worn."

The Royals are now 51 games below .500. Nobody (almost literally) is showing up to watch them play at home. And, if Passan's comments bear any truth, all of the losses are taking their toll on the team. They know how bad they are and at this point, everybody except the marketing department seems to have given up. Ironically, just this moment, I received an e-mail from them titled, "Great Royals Seats Still Available for the Tigers and Indians series."

Yeah, ya think?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Indians: The New Model for Success

The White Sox must be a little ticked off at themselves. The Royals took two out of three against them this week and the Indians just keep winning. Last night, the Indians continued their winning ways by beating the Royals 3-1. And the White Sox, who not so long ago held a lead in the Central that look insurmountable, finally won a game last night to hold on to their 4 ½ game lead. But can't you just imagine the conversations going on in their locker room about the Royals?

Who knew playing the spoiler could be so much fun, huh? I'm not crazy about the idea, but it's providing a little comedy relief in a season that has been difficult and painful to watch. Conversely, this new and improved version of the Indians has been fun to watch. And now they are being discussed as the new model for small market teams.

"That's the blueprint,” Bell is quoted as saying Bob Dutton's column today. "It's just that everything has to fall into place. They've done it a little quicker than most teams could do it. You've got to get a little lucky, too."

Hard to argue with that. But if you look at the Indians they aren't full of young, unproven players—especially on their pitching staff: C.C. Sabathia, Kevin Millwood, Scott Elarton, Jake Westbrook, and Cliff Lee. That's a whole lot of experience for a team who is rebuilding. And arguably, their worst starter, Scott Elarton (10-7, 4.57) shut us down last night.

If we are going to take anything from the Cleveland Indians model for rebuilding, perhaps it ought to be their dependence upon proven starters who can give them enough quality innings to give their young hitters the chance to win games. I know that Baird has been discussing this very topic in recent weeks, but I'm hoping that the Indians' run solidifies his plans to sign good starting pitchers over the off season.

The small market teams who have competed in recent years have all followed the same model. Oakland, Minnesota, and even Milwaukee to a lesser degree. They are hardly a success in terms of contending, but they are right at .500 and look at their starters: Doug Davis, Chris Capuano, Tomo Ohka, Ben Sheets, and Victor Santos. Not a staff that is going to win a World Series, but these are veteran guys who, with the exception of Santos, are all .500 are better this season.

As for Royals fans, we'll have to settle for the spoiler role during the final two weeks of this season and begin dreaming about a much improved rotation for next season.

Hey, a guy can dream, can't he?

Friday, September 16, 2005

Royals Win the Series

Remember what happened the last time the Royals took two out of three games from the White Sox? Immediately after pulling out a dramatic win in the final game of the series (and appearing to finally be on the way to turning their season around), they began a 19 game losing streak. I guarantee that won't happen again. We only have 18 games left to play, so it's not even possible.

Did you have a chance to catch the game yesterday on WGN? Hawk and D.J. sounded just like every other out of town announcer when calling a Royals game. They butchered one name after another. Note to D.J.: Chip Ambres' last name is not pronounced like the Spanish word for "man" (hombre). And Ambiorix Burgos' last name doesn't contain that weird emphasis on the last syllable that you kept doing.

The Royals look like a completely different club when Mike Sweeney is healthy, don't they? The middle of the line up actually produced yesterday like the middle of the line up should. Sweeney had 2 hits. Brown and Berroa each had 3 hits. And Buck even had 2 hits.

Greinke threw way too many pitches (111) for a 6 inning outing, but he pitched reasonably well and left the game tied at 2-2. And for the first time in a long while, his ERA is below 6.00. He can't possibly save his season with only a few starts left, but he can at least gain a little momentum going into Spring Training. And if we are indeed able to pick up a couple of veteran starters during the off season, Greinke might not look too bad as a number five guy as we break camp.

Andres Blanco continues to impress. In the sixth inning, with the score tied, Jermaine Dye doubled down the right field line. Emil Brown hit Blanco with the cut off and Blanco threw behind Carl Everett who had wandered off third and didn't appear to be in any big hurry to get back. Blanco's throw was perfect and he nailed Everett. Bell considered it the play of the game.

The White Sox lead in the Central is down to 4 ½ games. Wow. The Royals open a series in Cleveland tonight, so they'll still get to play a part in the outcome of the division. Jimmy Gobble (1-0, 5.83) goes against Scott Elarton (9-7, 4.73).

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Streak is Over

One hundred and two straight Royal losses when trailing after eight innings didn't become one hundred and three because Angel Berroa smacked a game ending double down the right field line in the ninth inning to give the Royals a 10-9 win.

Even more fun than breaking the streak though is seeing the White Sox starting to squirm a little after having a 15 game lead in the Central cut to 5 games after last night. All year I've thought that the White Sox were for real, but they might be headed for a colossal collapse and prove me wrong. I doubt it will happen, but I wouldn't mind one bit. I'm not much of an Indians fan, but at least they don't have Hawk Harrelson as an announcer.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

What Three-Point Plan?

Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but I can't recall ever hearing Allard Baird speak about a three-part plan to return the Royals to contention for the division title. But Bob Dutton's column in the KC Star yesterday makes it sound like every Royals fan knew that we've been languishing in "Phase I" all season, but that "Phase II" was just around the corner—next season in fact.

"We are now at the point where we need to add pieces to our young core group," Baird is quoted as saying in Dutton's column. "We spent this whole year evaluating our young players and learning their strengths and weaknesses. That phase is over."

All I've heard Baird say this season is that he wanted to sign a power hitting corner outfielder and in recent weeks, after seeing the writing on the wall with our horrific rotation, he's been talking about signing two free agent starting pitchers who can make an impact. Where is this "three-part plan" talk coming from?

At this point, I don't even care. Just to hear that we aren't going to stick with this pathetic line up warms my heart.

According to Dutton, "Phase II" is: "Current players will be slotted in terms of their ability to contribute to a playoff-level club. Simultaneously, club officials will review reports and evaluations on potential acquisitions through trades and free-agent signings."

Resigning Matt Stairs is part of that. And with only three guys under contract next season (Sweeney, Berroa, and now Stairs), it looks like we have a lot of options on the table. Of course, the current crop of soon-to-be free agents doesn't exactly look to the type to help a team become a "playoff-level" team. But maybe Baird will indeed be able to work a trade or two. In all honesty though, I'd settle for .500.

With more than $17 million becoming free at the end of this season, and the additional $10 million that Glass claims he authorized Baird to spend, we should have upward of $25 million to improve this club before next season starts. Quality starting pitching will eat that up pretty quickly though.

According to Dutton, here are a few of the starters the Royals will consider signing: Paul Byrd, Kevin Millwood, Steve Trachsel, Jeff Suppan, and Kenny Rogers. Any of them would be a good addition, but I don't think any of them have the capability to put us over the top. They are good pitchers who throw a lot of innings, but they are not dominant. And if you consider our far less than average defense, they won't be eating quite as many innings because they'll be behind more often than they are accustomed to.

We need to sign a solid second baseman (I'll put in another plug here for resigning Graffanino) who can both hit and field. Perhaps Blanco can make the transition successfully. I guess we'll see over the next few weeks. If not, it sounds like Todd Walker and Mark Grudzielanek may be options if we can't resign Graf.

I'd love to see us sign a better third baseman. Mark Teahen, while showing improvement at the plate, is still one of the lightest hitting corner infielders in baseball. His defense is sub-par as well.

Baird continues to emphasize finding a corner outfielder with power. Guiel and Brown would be fine with me, but hey, if someone better comes along, I'll all for it.

And what's after Phase II?

"Now, we're ready to add pieces to our young core," Baird said in Dutton's column. "That's part of the plan, too. If we don't add pieces, that's getting away from the plan. Next year is more about results. "Then comes the final phase: Contending in our division."

So Baird is on record. Next year is about results. I can't wait to see what happens.

Monday, September 12, 2005

That Was Ugly

A team like the Tigers who are on a long losing streak are bound to break out of it sooner or later. Of course, the Royals pitching staff would have preferred later…like after we left town. Instead, Royals pitchers gave up 14 runs on 18 hits and they have some nasty ERAs to show for it.

Jose Lima = 6.66
Leo Nunez = 8.46
Jeremy Affeldt = 6.93

If there was one positive out of this game it was Andres Blanco, who picked up 3 hits to push his average over the Mendoza line. If this guy could just hit in the .250s, I think he could be our starting second baseman next season. His glove work and range are unbelievable. I still wouldn't mind seeing Graffanino resigned in the off season, but if he isn't, then Blanco looks like a good alternative.

Today is the final off day of the season for the Royals as they limp toward the finish line. They are on pace to lose 109 games and looking at their remaining schedule, I'd be surprised if they stay on pace. They play the White Sox, Cleveland twice, and the Twinkies—with the Tigers and Blue Jays thrown in.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Stairs, Royals Agree

Matt Stairs is coming back next season. He reached a verbal agreement with the Royals to play for them in 2006 for $1.35 million—a $150,000 raise. The contract is supposed to be signed today.

I'm thrilled that he'll be in Royal Blue next season. I love his work ethic. He's one of the few veterans we are willing to keep. And he can play the outfield or first base (a position we are always going to need a good back up for since Sweeney is so injury prone).

Stairs loves Kansas City and he wanted to continue playing here. Now I just hope we do something in the off season to improve this team so that he and the fans don't have to endure another 100-loss season.

Greinke Finally Wins #4

You knew it was going to be our night when Angel Berroa actually walked—for the first time in 173 plate appearances. Throw in three more hits (including a home run) by Aaron Guiel at the top of the order, three hits from Justin Huber towards the bottom and a whole bunch of hits in between and you have a 12-2 Royals victory.

This victory means that Zack Greinke won't lose 20 games (he's 4-16 with 3 starts left). And for the first time since the Boston series, the Royals have finally won two games in a row. Unfortunately, we're still 10 games behind Colorado in the win column in the race to determine the worst team in baseball. While there's no saving this season for the Royals, it's still nice to win once in a while.

Sweeney was held out of the game (again) with soreness in his back, but it's a nice opportunity to see what Huber can do at this level.

Tonight, Jimmy Gobble (1-0, 5.92) goes against Mike Maroth (12-13, 4.82) in Detroit. Let's hope the Royals can give the Tigers their 10th straight loss and turn this into a real winning streak—three games.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Finally, a W in Chicago

Here we go again—with a team that is almost impossible to understand. The Royals lost their last ten games in Chicago and the pitching match up last night certainly was not in our favor (J.P. Howell vs. Freddy Garcia), but we pulled one out anyway, 4-2.

Howell walked too many guys (5), but he only gave up 2 runs in 6 IP and that was good enough—especially since he only gave up 2 hits. Bell was thrilled with Howell's performance.

"That's as good a game as we've had pitched in a long time," said Bell in an article appearing in the Star this morning. "He was down in the zone all night long, and he competed. He's just a completely different guy since coming back from the minors. It's a growing process."

I hope he's a different guy. His ERA is still 6.63, but getting it under 5.00 would be a good way to end the season.

Aaron Guiel continued his hot streak, going 3-for-5 at the top of the line up and you've got to wonder why Baird didn't bring him up earlier. The big blow in this game came off the bat of Angel Berroa in the 6th inning. The Royals were down 2-0 when Berroa hit a 3-run home run, his 10th of the season.
Sisco, Burgos, and MacDougal closed the door on the White Sox and the Royals finally won their 45th game of the season and picked up just their 18th road win of the season. Detroit is sinking like a rock with 8 straight losses, but we still have no shot at catching them—they are still 18 games ahead of us.

The Royals open a new series in Detroit tonight. Zack Greinke (3-16, 6.22) goes against Sean Douglass (5-3, 6.33).

Thursday, September 08, 2005

White Sox Just Too Good

Well, make it 13-27 in one run games for the Royals this season. Mike Wood made one mistake in the third inning to Paul Konerko and it cost him the game when Konerko cranked his 36th home run of the season. The Royals couldn't find a way to score and they lost 1-0.

The Royals only managed six hits. Two of them came off the bat of Aaron Guiel who is looking quite comfortable in the lead off spot and in centerfield—where he made an unbelievable sliding catch with fielders flying all around and over him. He got off to a slow start at the plate when he first came up a couple of weeks ago, but he's doing it all right now. Unfortunately, it's not enough to make much of a difference on this team.

The Royals are now 44-93, by far the worst record in baseball, and amazingly are 42.5 games behind the White Sox. And it's hard to be optimistic about the match up tonight. J.P. Howell (1-5, 7.08) goes against Freddy Garcia (12-7, 3.75).

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Another One Run Loss

The Royals dropped another one run game last night, losing to the White Sox 6-5. In the 39 one-run games that the Royals have played in this season, they are 13-26. It feels more like 3-36, doesn't it?

Lima couldn't locate his pitches in the first couple of innings and the Royals were down 5-0 in a hurry. He finally found a groove in the third inning and kept the Royals in the game. After scoring a run in the sixth inning, Buck hit a two run shot in the 7th and Emil Brown hit one in the 9th. Unfortunately, Paul Konerko hit a home run off of Affeldt in the 7th inning and it ended up being the deciding run.

Mike Sweeney made his return to the line up after missing more than a week with back problems. And we have a few more new faces on the team with the September call ups.

Andres Blanco was called up and he's going to get a shot at playing second base for the rest of the season. I think it's a good move. Actually, I'd like to see him get a shot at beating out Berroa, but that's not going to happen. Blanco has a great glove. His offense seems to be a question mark for team management, but he did hit .317 for the Royals last year in the 19 games he played. His career minor league average is .260, so the Royals have a legitimate concern…although, looking at the batting averages of people like Ruben Gotay (.227) and Donnie Murphy (.182), Blanco looks like Frank White in comparison.

The Royals also added Kyle Snyder to the roster and relief pitcher Chris Demaria. Demaria had a combined 5-3 record with 20 saves and a 2.16 ERA in 57 games in Wichita and High Desert. What I like about him most is his 89 strikeouts and 12 walks in 75 IP. Maybe he can show our pitching staff a thing or two about throwing strikes.

Calving Pickering was designated for assignment yesterday and it looks like his days in Royal Blue are over. I find that a bit odd, considering he made the 25-man roster out of Spring Training. We either made a horrible mistake in that evaluation or we're making one now. I tend to believe we made the mistake in Spring Training, which would be understandable since Tony Pena was still the manager.

Tonight, Mike Wood (4-5, 3.84) goes against Jose Contreras (10-7, 4.06) in Chicago.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Royals Salvage Final Game

After the Royals lost 5-3 yesterday to the Rangers, a four game sweep by the Rangers looked inevitable. Then, just to show you how crazy this game can be sometimes, the punchless Royals offense scored 17 runs in a 17-8 route this afternoon.

Aaron Guiel had a big day at the top of the line up, going 3-for-6 with a home run. Denny Hocking had two more hits to raise his average to .280. Angel Berroa had a big game, going 2-for-5 with a home run and 5 RBI. And the rest of these guys had two hits: Long, Stairs, Diaz, Brown, and Buck.

Jimmy Gobble was on track for the win, but he hit his pitch limit in the fifth inning and Bell removed him from the game after Gobble threw his 61st pitch. Talk about babying a guy. Sixty one pitches? What exactly are we saving him for? The end of the season is upon us.

Speaking about starting pitchers, David Glass made a few comments that appeared in the KC Star this morning about our staff and the potential to improve it during the off season.  

"We're not going to compromise our position, we're not going to settle for anything less than you can win the division with, and then we'll get out into the free agent market or in the opportunities we have for trades, and fill the holes that we can't fill internally within our own system," Glass said.

I'm not sure that I really follow Glass. If we aren't willing to settle for anything less than a staff that will win the division, how does he explain this season? We don't have a legitimate number one guy. We don't have a legitimate number two guy. And we don't even have a legitimate number three guy. Runelvys Hernandez is probably a number four guy. I'm not all that sure we have a number five guy though.

All in all, that is a lot of holes to fill if we are serious about making a run at the division. And can you imagine what it would cost to bring in four veteran starting pitchers—one of which would need to fill the shoes of an ace? Doesn't seem all that realistic to me. But I guess we'll see how serious Glass is during the off season.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Barajas Continues Onslaught

Another loss, but for the second straight night, this one doesn't sting nearly as much as many of the other losses this season. After a mediocre start from Greinke, the bullpen, let us down, but with the Royals down 7-3 going into the ninth, they mounted a come back and tied the game. Unfortunately, Rod Barajas (the new Royal killer) took MacDougal deep in the 10th and the Royals lost 8-7.

Mark Teahen had a big game, going 4-for-5 with 3 RBI. Even after such a big night, his average is only .238. But let's hope he's starting to feel more comfortable at the plate. Denny Hocking picked up two more hits, going 2-for-5 with 2 RBI, and unbelievably he seems to be fitting in rather nicely at the bottom of this line up. Justin Huber picked up two hits and the Royals are saying that they don't plan to rush Sweeney back—so Huber ought to get the majority of starts at first base. We should have a better idea about how good he is by the end of the season.

One guy that I'm really beginning to wonder about is John Buck. He was 0-for-5 last night and his average is now .216. I love his presence on the field. He always seems to be aware of the situation and he's constantly reminding the rest of the guys on the field. He backs up first base when he should and he seems to have a great attitude. But he just can't hit major league pitching at this point in his career. Phillips on the other hand is hitting .250 and is looking better than anybody probably expected behind the plate. A little competition is a good thing.

Sounds like David DeJesus might be done for the season. Nick Swartz said that his type of shoulder injury takes two to four weeks to heal. Hopefully, the Royals take the same line of reasoning as they are with Sweeney by giving DeJesus more than enough time to heal while we evaluate Ambres and even Guiel who is getting the chance to play a little center field.

D.J. Carrasco (5-7, 4.74) goes against Juan Dominguez (2-3, 3.96) tonight at Kauffman.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Back to Basics

Losing is never going to be fun to watch, but I was encouraged by a couple of things yesterday. Maybe we should back up a little—to the afternoon, when Buddy Bell called a little meeting on the field to teach fundamentals. I know it's September, but it sounds like he's finally seen enough missed cut off men, enough bad base running, and enough men out of position defensively. I'm sure it was a tad bit embarrassing for the players, but they've embarrassed us most of the season, so turnabout is fair play.

Back to the things I was encouraged by yesterday. With the Royals down one run with one out in the eighth inning and runners on first and second, Paul Phillips hit a come-backer to the Shouse and it looked like the Rangers would easily turn a double play to end the inning. Shouse fired to second, but the guy covering wasn't able to make a good throw because Angel Berroa was barreling down on him hard. Berroa forced a bad throw and took the guy out of the play. Phillips was running hard and beat the poor throw. The Royals didn't end up scoring the runner from third, but simply playing good fundamental baseball put them in a position to do so.

Then in the ninth, with the Royals still down a run, Ambres worked a walk to lead off the inning and McEwing got down a good sacrifice bunt to put a runner in scoring position with only one out. Neither Terrence Long or Emil Brown could get Ambres home, but again, playing good fundamental baseball put the Royals in the position to score. A good team finds a way to score in situations like these, but we aren't a good team. We are a young team who somehow never learned how to play the game. So Bell is left with the task of trying to teach them how. Last night that translated to a couple of missed opportunities and a 5-4 loss.

Tonight, Zack Greinke (3-16, 6.28) goes against Chris Young (11-7, 4.31).


Thursday, September 01, 2005

Expanded Rosters

You have to laugh when it happens to another team. But you aren't laughing at them. We hardly have the right. You just laugh in disbelief when the opposing team comes up with 13 hits and doesn't score once. Especially when you realize that we only had 5 hits and managed to score once in the bottom of the ninth to steal this one 1-0.

Mike Wood was hit around (8 H, 2 BB in 6 IP), but he managed to keep the Twins from scoring, so you've got to tip your hat to him. I still don't think he should be in the rotation on a regular basis, but when you look at his 3.84 ERA, he looks like our ace. Maybe we ought not to use that word though. We haven't had a real ace in Kansas City since David Cone.

The roster expands to 40 players today. While I'm anxious to see which players get the call, I can't shake the feeling that we've been watching a bunch of players all season who shouldn't have been here until now. And I'm hoping that some guys, like Leo Nunez don't get the call (although it sounds like he will). He's not ready. I'd rather see some of our older (post puberty) pitchers who have been in Omaha and Wichita all season get a shot—guys like Dennis Tankersley, Kyle Middleton, and Ryan Baerlocher.

Tonight, we open a new series at home against the Rangers. We're sending J.P. Howell (1-4, 7.23) to the mound against Kenny Rogers (11-7, 3.15).

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

And It Gets Worse

It wasn't Lima time. It was losing time. Again. And the worst month (4-21) in the history of Royals baseball is mercifully drawing to a close this afternoon. But we still have a full month to go and this team is looking worse fundamentally by the day. Listen to what Bell said after the game last night:

"Some of the things we do fundamentally, just the intangible stuff we do, is just incredible at this level," Bell is quoted on as saying. "I just have a hard time watching it sometimes." He went on to say, "It's never really a lack of effort or anything like that. It's a lack of instincts and things we should have learned a long time ago."

Bell is right…this is hard to watch, but at least he's getting paid to watch it. As fans, we are actually investing not only our money but also our time on a team that has become a punch line. And to build on Bell's last statement—why didn't these players learn fundamentals a long time ago? How is it that players can go through high school and college, play rookie ball, then play at least a limited amount of time in Double-A or Triple-A and still not understand fundamental baseball?

One such player is Emil Brown—a better than average hitter, but also a guy who looks clueless on the base paths. He didn't score last week from third with less than two outs on a ball hit to a first baseman who was playing back. He didn't even look like he knew if he was supposed to try to score or not. Last night he was thrown out on the base paths twice by the pitcher. Emil Brown isn't a young pup. How has he come this far without understanding how to run the bases?

For some reason, Bell seems to think that going to a 6-man rotation in September is a good way to "shake things up." He's adding Jimmy Gobble as the sixth starter and the rest of the league is probably shrugging and saying, "Let me at him." His ERA is 6.42. He gave up the three run shot that cost us the game last night. But somehow he's seen as the answer, or at least, an answer. I'm terribly afraid to ask what the question is.

This afternoon, the Royals send Mike Wood (4-5, 4.12) to the mound against Kyle Lohse (8-12, 4.32).

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Line Up Deficiencies

I'm not sure how much more proof that Buddy Bell needs to realize that Shawn Camp is not the guy to call upon when the game is on the line, but just in case he needed one more bad outing from Camp, he got it. Maybe a simple glance at his 7.85 ERA will be the nail in the coffin the next time he thinks about bringing him in during a pressure situation.

With the score tied at 1-1 in the tenth inning, Camp walked Jason Bartlett and Michael Ryan with one out and the game was as good as over when Nick Punto plugged the gap in left center field, scoring both baserunners. The Royals were only down 3-1 at that point, but one look at their line up told you all you needed to know:

1. Guiel
2. Ambres
3. Long
4. Brown
5. Teahen (.232 average)
6. Berroa (.260 average with ZERO walks in August)
7. Buck (.220 average)
8. Hocking (.226 average)
9. McEwing (.236 average)

Stairs is hurt, but he did pinch hit. Sweeney's back is bothering him again. David DeJesus is in a sling. And as a result, Bell used a line up that has to be one of the worst in the history of the game. Can you believe that the best number five hitter we could find (Teahen) was a guy hitting .232 with 3 HR and 34 RBI? Oh, and he's struck out 85 times. And Angel Berroa hitting number 6? If ever a guy was made for the nine hole, it was Berroa.

Doesn't sound like things are going to get any better because DeJesus is probably going to be placed on the DL. And I don't expect Sweeney or Stairs to be 100% healthy for the rest of the season, but you've got to give Stairs credit—the guy still wants to play and he seems to produce irregardless of his injuries. Sweeney told Bell that he wanted to play, but Bell didn't give him the option given his repeated back problems. Probably a smart move.

So it should be quite interesting to see what sort of line up Bell comes up with tonight when Lima (5-12, 6.43) takes the mound against Carlos Silva (8-6, 3.26).

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Yankees Complete Sweep

After going 5-for-32 against Yankee pitching today in a 10-3 loss, what the Royals really need is an off day. Well, they really need the off-season, but that's not going to happen for another month. I guess we'll have to settle for coming home to play the Twins.

Zack Greinke lost his 16th game of the season, giving up 7 ER and 10 H in 4 2/3 IP. His ERA climbed to 6.28 and unless something changes drastically, he'll end up with the worst season in the history of Royals starting pitchers.

Jeremy Affeldt's nightmare in August continued. He gave up 3 more runs in 1 1/3 IP and saw his ERA shoot up to 5.45. I liked the idea of Bell giving him the ball again today so quickly after getting hit hard last night. The game was already out of hand and this was a good chance for Affeldt to put yesterday out of his mind. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way.

Instead, Jason Giambi drove in 7 RBI and the evil Yankees turned the tables on the Royals by sweeping us. The Red Sox must be kicking themselves right now knowing that they allowed this team to take two out of three from them.

On top of the poor performances all the way around today, David DeJesus sprained a joint in his shoulder making a diving catch. He's day-to-day, but isn't expected back for a couple of days at least.

Tomorrow night, D.J. Carrasco (5-7, 4.88) goes against Scott Baker (1-1, 2.77).

Saturday, August 27, 2005


Jeremy Affeldt was tough on himself after this 8-7 loss. Justifiably so. His error, and his lack of ability to throw strikes, cost the Royals the game today. I still haven't heard why MacDougal wasn't brought into the game with the bases loaded in the ninth with one out. The speculation was that he was hurt. I sure hope that is the case because giving Shawn Camp the ball in a situation like that makes no sense whatsoever otherwise.

Beyond Affeldt's poor performance, something else really bugged me about this game—watching J.P. Howell's mannerisms in the dugout after he was removed from the game. No doubt about it, he pitched a great game—good enough to get a W in Yankee Stadium. But the fact is, he did need to come out after 6 innings. He'd thrown 91 pitches already and he put the fate of the game into the hands of the bullpen—and they've been excellent of late.

But what bothered me was Howell's clear agitation that he might not get credited with a win. He looked highly upset when Affeldt loaded the bases. And after Camp gave up the lead, Howell left the railing at the top of the steps and went to sit down—looking even more upset. Finally, after the Royals blew the game, Howell appeared to be the last Royal to leave the dugout.

Here's the deal, J.P. A real teammate might be irritated at blown lead, but unless the loss was due to a lack of hustle or by someone who didn't have his head in the game, then you at least give the appearance of supporting your teammates—especially those who are struggling. And a good teammate certainly doesn't sulk simply because he didn't get a W next to his name.

This one is going to hurt for a long while. And unfortunately, Baird hasn't left enough veterans on this team to demand that these guys stick together as a team. Instead, we have a bunch of young guys who seem more concerned about their stats and ultimately their next big contract than they do with making this a good team.

Not exactly a recipe for success.

Steroids and Statistics

Players who use steroids have brought the game of baseball lower in the public's eye than it's been since I've been alive. And even way too many of the players who are clean are partially responsible for baseball's tarnished imagine because they bowed at the feet of the player's union who continually resisted drug testing until public pressure wouldn't allow it any longer.

With all of that aside, I'm having a difficult time understanding the comments that Frank Robinson and Curt Schilling made recently regarding Rafael Palmeiro's statistics. Here's what they said:

Frank Robinson: "Where do you go back, stop and say, 'OK, when did he start using steroids?' To eliminate all that, and get the players' attention, you wipe the whole thing out."

Curt Schilling said that he agreed with Robinson about Palmeiro: "Yeah. I read something the other day about his career, his career numbers and how a lot of his career numbers coincide with certain dates, and he obviously sat next to me in Washington and lied. So I don't know there's any way to prove that anything he did was not under the influence of performance-enhancing drugs."

I understand their frustration, but wiping out Palmeiro's records doesn't make any sense to me. Why not wipe out Gaylord Perry's statistics? Or the statistics of every other pitcher who doctored the ball in some for or fashion? Or why not wipe out the statistics of Sammy Sosa and Albert Bell? Surely their use of corked bats wasn't a one time event. No, we don't have proof, but do we have proof that Palmeiro was on steroids when he put up all those numbers? We suspect it, but we don't know for sure.

Robinson and Schilling sound like people who want to make an example out of somebody. Examples are okay, but they don't solve the problem. But if all managers and (clean) players took a more active role in policing the use of steroids rather than pretending it doesn't happen, real changes could be made. Yes, that would mean confrontations, but so what? The reputation of the game is at stake.

The Big Apple Blues

Predictably, the evil Yankees got to Mike Wood the third time through their line up. Wood is a good major league relief pitcher, but he's not a starter. He just doesn't have good enough stuff. Here's what he had to say about his performance in the Royals 5-1 loss last night: "I tried to stay the same. I don't know what happened. My ball might have flattened out late. I felt great. I didn't change a thing. I just left the ball up late."

I really don't consider the fifth inning to be "late," but he is right in one regard. His ball flattened out the third time through the Yankees line up and it cost the Royals the game. That, and a Randy Johnson who looked like the Big Unit of old, who reportedly was throwing in the 96-97 mph range rather than the 91 mph that Sweeney said he threw the last time the Royals saw him.

Tonight might not be any better for the guys in blue. Short on pitching help, they've recalled J.P. Howell as planned and he is going to start against Jaret Wright, who hasn't exactly been dominant this year, but how dominant will he have to be to win this game?

Unfortunately the Royals pitching woes continue to get worse. Runelvys Hernandez has been placed on the 15-day DL with a low back strain and doctors are also looking at MRI results of an exam done on his right shoulder. His velocity was down in his last start and it sounds like the Royals expect to hear bad news about Hernandez's shoulder. If that does happen, it sounds like he'll be shut down for the season.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Royals Shell Schilling

Trying to figure out the 2005 Royals is like trying to understand women. I don't think it's possible.

Just a couple of months ago, the Royals swept the evil Yankees and then the Dodgers. In late July, the Royals took two out of three games from the White Sox and then went on to lose 19 straight games (including four to Tampa Bay). Now, as the other book end to the losing streak, they've taken two straight series against the A's and Red Sox—two teams who are far better than the Royals.

Maybe baseball really is like marriage—you just have to accept the ebb and flow without continually trying to figure out why they happen. They just do.

Last night, the Royals took it to Curt Schilling in his first appearance on the mound as a starter since April. He gave up 6 ER and 9 H in 5 IP. Emil Brown had a huge game, going 3-for-3 with a monstrous home run to left field. And for the first time in a long while, the Royals got some production from the bottom of the line up. Teahen was 1-for-4 with an RBI. Berroa was 1-for-4, with a big hit in the 3-run second inning. Hocking was 1-for-3 with an RBI and 2 runs scored—including a great slide to avoid a tag at home. And Phillips was 2-for-4 with an RBI.

Lima didn't have his best stuff, but his adrenaline alone seemed to be enough to get him through the fifth inning and ultimately give him the win. Lima was due for some run support. He'd gone 24 2/3 innings without one run of support, but he got plenty last night (6 runs in the first 4 innings) and the Royals went on to win 7-4.

A few other things to note:

1. Almost as if on cue (see yesterdays post), Aaron Guiel finally got the call to the big leagues. He replaced Donnie Murphy on the roster, who went on the 15-day DL. I'm not sure how Bell will find playing time for another outfielder, but with September call ups coming soon, he's sure to be giving guys like Guiel a little playing time for evaluation purposes anyway. I'm anxious to see Guiel play. He's a scrapper who always hustles and has surprising power.

2. With Murphy on the DL, Denny Hocking is sure to see more playing time. I'm sure that Joe McEwing will get a few starts at second as well. To be honest, neither is good enough to play second base every day, but I like the fact that they are both veterans (I left McEwing out of my post about veterans the other day…sorry about that Joe). McEwing prepares well for games, plays hard when given the chance, and sets a great role model for our slew of young guys. Hocking is a guy who is never going to hit well, but seeing him running hard down the line last night and then maneuvering himself to slide around the dish that was blocked was quite impressive. Seems like he'll be nice veteran edition on a team who desperately needs them. He's not a guy to keep around long term, but he'll be an asset for the remaining weeks of the season.

3. Runelvys Hernandez is headed for the DL. That's going to cause an even bigger whole in a rotation that already looks shaky. We are planning to bring up J.P. Howell to start in New York tomorrow. Doesn't that just sound like a major disaster waiting to happen? The guy is 1-4 with a 7.68 ERA in a KC uniform this season and giving him the nod in Yankee stadium seems a bit odd.

Tonight the Royals send Mike Wood (4-4, 4.09) against the Big Unit (11-8, 4.34) in New York.      

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Stairs Close to Resigning

The Royals are reportedly close to resigning Matt Stairs for one more year. I'm not sure why Baird wants to keep a veteran around all of a sudden, but I couldn't be happier.

Stairs is so much more than his .266 average, 11 HR and 50 RBI indicates. He's durable—filling in for the often injured Mike Sweeney at first base. He's willing to speak the truth to both his teammates and the media when he sees something that's amiss with the team. He plays hard—diving for balls in the field and running ground balls out while at bat. And he's loyal. Maybe to a fault.

"I feel somewhat obligated to the Royals," he is quoted as saying in an article currently running in the KC Star, "because they've given me two seasons of playing almost every day. I didn't have that for four years. Last year, I had more than 400 at-bats, and this year I'm on pace for more than 400 at-bats.

"I could go out into the free-agent market and probably go to a contender, but anyone can do that. I'd rather stay here and try to get this great organization back on a winning note."

He'd rather stay in Kansas City to help a team who often seems directionless than hook up with a better team looking for a left handed bat. And maybe, Baird has finally seen the light after making several wrong decisions regarding veterans.

He gave Joe Randa, another guy who liked the KC area and who wanted to remain with the Royals, his walking papers and that was clearly a mistake. He traded Tony Graffanino, someone who was quite content to stay in Kansas City and who has even expressed an interest in resigning for next season, and now we have a rookie playing second who is hitting a buck eighty two. And his back up is 35 years old. And Baird hasn't given Aaron Guiel a shot to play at the major league level this season, even though he opted to stay in the organization when he could have bolted and even though he has 30 HR and 95 RBI in Omaha right now (sounds a lot like that power hitting corner outfielder that Baird keeps telling us he's looking for).

Whatever Baird's reasoning is for keeping Stairs, I'll just be glad to see Matt in Royal blue for one more season.

DeJesus Shines in Royals Win

Last night the Red Sox played like we have most of the season—they kept giving us opportunities and eventually we found a way to take advantage of one to win the game. After Ambres did his Angel Berroa impersonation (by taking a murderous cut with two strikes and missing the ball by a foot) in the bottom of the ninth with bases loaded and only one out, he got a second chance in the eleventh. He hit the ball just deep enough to left field to score DeJesus on a sacrifice fly and give the Royals a 4-3 victory.

This game belonged to David DeJesus though. He hit a two run shot in the fifth inning to tie the game at 3-3. Before the night was over, he had three hits, two walks, and he scored three times, including the winning run. He has his average up to .293 with 9 HR and 54 RBI and he's only made 4 errors in centerfield. He doesn't have as many home runs as you'd like to see for an outfielder and he has struck out too many times (74) for someone at the top of a line up, but you can just see him maturing and improving as the season progresses. He's one of the few young guys you can look at on our roster and say, "Oh yeah, he'll be at this level for a long time."

Hats off to the bullpen, that once again, bailed out a mediocre performance by one of our starting pitchers. D.J. Carrasco gave up 3 ER, 4 BB, and 5 H in 5 2/3 IP. He couldn't find the strike zone, but Burgos, Affeldt, MacDougal, and Sisco saved him by pitching shut out ball for the final 5 1/3 innings.

The match up tonight is certainly intriguing: Jose Lima (4-12, 6.47) goes against Curt Schilling (5-5, 6.43) who is finally going back into the Red Sox rotation.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Baserunning Blunders Costly

If you've ever played baseball at any level, how many times did you practice situations like the one the Royals faced in the second inning yesterday against Boston? With guys on second and third and no outs, John Olerud was playing back at first base. Can't you just see your baseball coach yelling out that scenario while standing at the plate and then slapping a ball toward your first baseman? And when the scenario unfolded in an actual game, your third base coach reminded you that since the right side of the infield was playing back that you are to run on anything hit on the ground to the right side.

I don't know what Emil Brown was thinking, but when Mark Teahen finally managed to pull a ball with runners in scoring position, he hit it to Olerud, who was indeed playing back, and for some reason, Brown got a bad start. Olerud figured it out pretty quickly and fired home. Even with a bad start, Bell thought Brown should have scored, but he retreated to third base—where Angel Berroa was standing. Berroa was called out and Brown acknowledged his mistake after the game, but those types of things just can't happen. I don't mind seeing a guy thrown out trying to take an extra base (well okay, sometimes I do if they never had a chance), but this scenario is fundamental baseball that is taught at all levels. How is it possible for a major league team to be making these types of mistakes in the middle of August?

You'd think that we'd still be able to score since we had a guy on third with only one out, but when John Buck hit a weak shallow fly ball to left field, Brown held at third. Bell claimed the Berroa would have scored from third if he'd been there, so in his mind, Brown's blunder cost the Royals two runs. Donnie Murphy struck out to end the inning and the Royals didn't even score once. And Bell shook his head in disbelief.

In the fourth inning, Chip Ambres didn't take third on a single by Long down the right field line and that ended up costing the Royals a run. Ambres isn't a product of our system, so we can't blame his poor baserunning on that, but I can't figure out why so many major league players seem uncertain about how to run the bases. Being slow is one thing, but being out of position or unaware of what to do in various situations is unacceptable.

Zack Greinke's nightmare season continued last night. He gave up 5 ER in 7 IP. He took the loss and his record is now 3-15 and he has a 6.04 ERA. His stuff, coupled with our lack of depth in the rotation, has kept him in Kansas City (instead of Omaha). But you have to wonder how a guy bounces back after such a horrific season. He doesn't appear to have learned anything about pitching this season—including how to minimize potentially big innings, and now with 7 starts left, he is quoted as saying that he's starting to wonder about the possibility of losing 20 games.

Tonight, the Royals send D.J. Carrasco (5-7, 4.89) against Matt Clement (11-3, 4.38). Let's hope that we don't run ourselves out of this ball game as well.    

Monday, August 22, 2005

Royals Win Series in Oakland

The A's haven't been playing their best baseball recently weeks (they are 3-7 in their last 10 games), but who expected the Royals to take two out of three games there?Emil Brown singled in a run in the top of the 12th inning to give the Royals a 5-4 lead and Jimmy Gobble worked his third perfect inning to close the door and pick up the win—lowering his ERA to 6.98.

Runelvys Hernandez was taken out of the game after two innings with tightness in his back. He'll probably have enough time to heal though before taking the mound again. A ruling is supposed to be made this week regarding his appeal of his 10 game suspension for the incident with the Tigers. I'm guessing that he'll lose his appeal. Hopefully his suspension will be reduced, but if it doesn't his miss his turn in the rotation twice.

The Royals don't have another off day until September 5, so we'll have to find someone to make a couple of spot starts and our options appear to be limited. Here's a run down of the rotation in Omaha:

J.P. Howell has a 3-1 record with a 4.06 ERA in 7 starts. I doubt if he's ready to return to the majors given his disastrous performances here earlier this season (1-4 in KC with a 7.68 ERA in 8 starts). Ryan Jensen has been awful in Omaha, posting a 1-9 record with a 6.60 ERA in 15 starts. Chris George is still not getting the job done in Omaha. He's 7-7 with a 5.81 ERA in 19 starts and 10 relief appearances. Danny Tamayo is 8-7 with a 5.40 in 25 starts and 2 relief appearances. Dennis Tankersley might be the best candidate from Omaha. He's 9-6 with a 4.31 ERA in 20 starts and 9 relief appearances. Kyle Snyder is back in Omaha and he's an option if he's healthy, but I don't think anybody is convinced that he is. He's 2-2 with a 3.42 in 9 starts and 3 relief appearances in Omaha.

We have a couple of options in Wichita:

Ryan Baerlocher is 7-4 with a 2.58 ERA in 13 starts there, but he didn't pitch well (0-1, 6.00 ERA) in his three starts in Omaha earlier this season. But he's 28 years old. It's sink or swim time, so maybe now is the time to throw him in the deep end and find out what happens. Kyle Middleton is 10-8 with a 4.90 ERA in 25 starts. He's 25, so like with Baerlocher, it might be time to find out what he's got—or at least move him up to Omaha.
The rest of our starters in Wichita have ERAs over 5.00, so clearly they aren't ready.

For now, let's just enjoy the mini two game winning streak. We've finally hit the 40 win mark. With 40 games left, 60 wins looks out of the question. The Royals would have to go 20-20, but judging from comments that Glass made a couple of weeks ago in which he said that he expected the Royals to play .500 ball from there on out, 60 might just be the magic number that allows Baird to keep his job.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A New Look

If you've been here before, you'll notice the new design for Royal Reflections that was implemented just last night. A couple of things to note:

1. This blog will not have "comment" capabilities. I love getting feedback and talking baseball with fans, but with the flood of comment spam, I just don't have the time or desire to deal with spammers. If there's something you'd like to see me cover here or if you have any suggested links, please send me an e-mail. I'd love to hear from you.

2. As the season winds down, I'll be talking about the September call-ups and I'm already thinking about content for the site during the off-season. I'll be doing a player by player analysis, profiles about minor league prospects, and of course, covering any breaking Royals news. So, I hope you'll return regularly or add the site to your favorite aggregator service.


Saturday, August 20, 2005

Shooting the Monkey

Wouldn't you know it? The one night that I catch dinner and a movie with a friend rather than watching the game is the night that the Royals finally break through with a win.

Our offense didn't exactly explode though. We only had four hits, but we made them count. Looking back at the statistics, Terrence Long singled to start the fourth. Then Sweeney singled. Emil Brown came up big with an RBI double, moving Sweeney to third and Matt Stairs got him home on a ground ball to first. The two runs held up and the Royals won 2-1. Their first victory in August.

Mike Wood only gave up 1 ER in 5 IP, but he threw 92 pitches. Not sure what happened there, but he found a way to keep the A's in check and put the Royals in a position to win the game. That's all we can ask from a number five guy. Sisco, Burgos, Affeldt, and MacDougal closed the door and finally, the pressure valve has been released. For now anyway.

I was impressed by the player's reactions after the game was over. Smiles all around, big high fives, and they seemed genuinely happy to have finally shot the rather large monkey that has been sitting on their back for the last 19 games.

1899 Cleveland Spiders & Other Googlisms

Welcome to all of you new readers who are finding Royal Reflections by googling "1899 Cleveland Spiders" and "longest major league losing streak." I wish you were here under different circumstances, but I totally understand your desire to do a little research to find out how close the Royals are to being considered the worst team in the history of major league baseball. In fact, I had to do my own research so I could write about the same topic here a few days ago.

The Royals managed just five hits in Oakland last night (going 5-for-32 for a .156 batting average) and were shut out for the third time during "the streak." This time it was 4-0. Jose Lima didn't exactly pitch well (4 ER in 5 IP), but that hardly matters when you have the type of offense we've assembled. You can win games without scoring at least once.

The Royals official website is so pressed for highlights to show that they are actually showing Terrence Long throwing out Mark Ellis at home last night.

So the streak stands at 19 losses in a row and the descendents of 1899 Cleveland Spider players are hoping that Barry Zito (11-9, 3.65 ERA) extends it to 20 tonight when he faces Mike Wood 3-4, 4.25). I'm not a betting man, but I'd guess that the odds on that match up would be astronomically in the A's favor.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Losing Alex Gordon

I might be in the minority, but Alex Gordon doesn't impress me. His numbers at Nebraska during his junior season were certainly solid (.372 AVG, 19 HR, 66 RBIs in 72 games), but college baseball numbers are deceiving. Like I've said before, the term "college baseball" is an oxymoron. It should be called college cannon shooting—given their reliance upon aluminum bats.

Didn't Ken Harvey hit .478 his senior season at Nebraska? His major league career average was .276 coming into this season—speaking of which, where is Ken Harvey this season? Yes, I know he's been on the DL since May 19 with back problems, but you get the point. College baseball numbers are hardly transferable to the major league level.

So, now we've drafted a guy with our first pick in the draft who is hedging at the $3.8 million signing bonus the Royals have offered him. He wants a guaranteed spot on the major league roster and it sounds like he wants more money. We've already offered him $400,000 more than the player drafted after him received as a signing bonus, but that didn't do the trick for Gordon.

Now we receive word in Jeff Passan's column today that Gordon registered for classes at Nebraska and will start his senior season on Monday if a deal isn't struck. The Royals would lose his rights. He'd play another season at Nebraska and then re-enter the draft next season.

I'm probably like most other fans. I think we need to spend more money to put a better product on the field, but throwing huge sums of money at guys who are unproven and guaranteeing them a roster spot is crazy. We have no idea whether Gordon will ever produce at the major league level or not and letting his minor league options begin immediately is ridiculous.

Seems to me like we have two options. One, eat the draft pick and acknowledge that we drafted the wrong guy. Or two, allow him to strong arm us into giving him more than we think is fair and thus mortgage our future in the process. As much as it pains me to say it, especially given the long term ramifications, I say eat the pick and do a better job of making sure a guy can be signed before drafting him.

Streak Follows KC to Oakland

Last weekend I was in Kansas City with a couple of friends hoping to catch three Royals games and enjoy the 20th anniversary celebration of the 1985 World Series team. But the rain didn't cooperate, so my friends and I decided to make the best of the situation by trying new restaurants and coffee shops, and by hitting a couple of stores.

While we were in the car, we listened to coverage of the Royals on WHB. Buddy Bell was anxious for the rain to stop so they could finally end the losing streak. When the rain finally did stop long enough for them to play, they lost both games. Now, we're upon another weekend and the streak is still in tact. All kidding aside, the pressure on Bell and the players who actually care, must be enormous. Every at bat probably seems magnified. Surely, every mistake is magnified.

Last night, the mistake was a two-seam fastball right down Main Street by D.J. Carrasco in the first inning that Adrian Beltre clobbered for a grand slam home run. That was just the beginning of a nightmare outing for D.J., who saw his ERA rise to 4.89 after giving up 7 ER in 3 IP.

The line up featured Emil Brown hitting lead off. Why? Who knows. Maybe just to shake things up a little. I guess he'll work there as well as anybody (with an average over .250). Did you know that Brown is tied for the team lead in stolen bases with a whopping five? DeJesus and Berroa also have five. Brown went 0-for-4 in the experiment and the Royals lost 11-5.

Now it's on to Oakland. Let's just hope that we can get one out of three there. If we get swept in Oakland, all sorts of losing streak records are in danger of falling.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Little Things

As is often the case during long losing streaks, every mistake the Royals are making right now is coming back to haunt them. Last night, it was Affeldt's four pitch walk to Mike Morse that moved Jeremy Reed to second base. After the walk, Affeldt didn't keep Reed close enough to second, and with two outs, Reed stole third base—easily.

Then the multi-hopper into the hole at short off the bat of Betancourt sealed the deal. Especially when you looked at who the Royals had hitting to lead off the ninth inning: Berroa (who popped out on the first pitch—imagine that), Teahen (who was overmatched again—imagine that), and Buck (who was down 0-2—imagine that—before flying out to center field). Royals lose 4-3.

Not to add any more pressure, but the 17 game losing streak needs to end today. Have you looked at the Royals next three opponents? They fly to Oakland for a three game series over the weekend. Then they come home to play Boston. And then they are off to the Big Apple to play the evil Yankees, who, I'm sure, would love nothing better than to turn the tables on the Royals for a little sweep of their own.

Oakland, Boston, and New York are a combined 201-153 (a .568 winning percentage) this season. And we've already been swept by Oakland and Boston this season. Can you imagine a 27 game losing streak? The longest major league streak of all-time is getting dangerously close. In 1899, the Cleveland Spiders lost 24 in a row.

Here are a few facts about the current losing streak:
--It is the longest in club history.
--It is the longest in the majors since 1988 when Baltimore lost 21 in a row.
--It is tied for the 19th longest losing streak in major league history.
--The Royals are just the 8th major league team since 1950 to lose 17 straight.

Now for a couple of frightening pitching statistics during the streak:
--Team ERA: 7.19 (115 ER in 144 IP).
--Opponents Batting Average: .317 (196-for-618, including 23 HR and 76 BB).

Here are a few more statistics of note:
--We currently don't have one hitter with more than a two game hitting streak.
--KC starters are 26-55 this season.
--The KC bullpen is 12-25 this season.
--When KC scores first, they are 24-26 this season.
--When KC opponents score first, the Royals are 14-54 this season.
--When KC is trailing going into the ninth inning, they are 0-72 this season.
--Attendance at home is down to 18,647 in 2005 as compared to 22,181 at the same time last season.  

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Your Double-A Kansas City Royals

You know that times are tough when the highlight video currently showing on the Royals website from the game last night is Terrence Long driving in two runners in the ninth inning to make the score 11-3 Seattle instead of 11-1 Seattle.

KC hitters managed just three hits off 19-year old Mariner, Felix Hernandez. To be fair to the Royals, Hernandez isn't pitching like an awestruck teenager. In his three major league starts, his ERA is 0.86, the opposition is hitting .151 against him, he's only walked three guys, and he's given up just 11 hits in 21 IP.

I can't help but wonder where our Felix Hernandez has been hiding all these years. His name is supposed to be Zack Greinke, but Zack is 21, and well, you know what type of season he is having (3-14, 6.09 ERA and an astronomical 1.59 WHIP).

Felix Hernandez is certainly the exception and he's only started three games, but we have so many guys in the majors right now who are older but have no business being here that you have to wonder about two things:

1. Our judge of talent, starting with Allard Baird, and filtering down to our scouts. We aren't developing solid major league prospects. We've had a few over the past decade—Johnny Damon, Mike Sweeney, Carlos Beltran, and I think we can put David DeJesus in the "solid" category. But then you think about players like Chris George, Jimmy Gobble, and Carlos Febles. And then throw in young guys we've traded for, players like Mark Teahen, John Buck, Angel Berroa, and Mike Wood…you've got to scratch your head and wonder. It almost seems like the law of averages would constitute at least one superstar every few years, but not with us.

2. Our organizational philosophy, which has changed repeatedly over the years, and frankly, probably needs to change again. This team is way too young. We only have four veterans: Lima, Sweeney, Long, and Stairs. Who is going to keep all of these young guys in line? Who is going to talk to them about situational baseball in between innings? Who is going to watch out for them? And who is going to tell them about the history of the club? Over the weekend you probably heard the reports that our young guys don't even care about the history of our team. As ridiculous as that is, who is going to correct it?

Baird is defending his current plan to go all young, all the time. And in doing so, he finally said something that all of us already know, "The reality is most of our players should be in Double-A or elsewhere in the minors," Baird is quoted as saying in Bob Dutton's column today. "If they were, people would be saying how good our minor-league system is."

So, if most of our players should be in Double-A, why aren't they? Why didn't we resign Joe Randa? Why did we trade Tony Graffanino? Why isn't Aaron Guiel (who is putting up big, crazy numbers in Omaha, and only has 1 error there) on the major league roster? Why didn't we keep Kevin Appier around for another season? In Spring Training we told Kevin that he wouldn't have a spot in our rotation, but we can't even find a fifth starter right now. And our top four starters aren't exactly competing for the Cy Young.

I don't buy the small market argument for this team being so bad. The Royals were ran better by the Kauffman Trust Fund Board of Directors than they have been under the Glass/Baird partnership. This team is bad because Glass and Baird have created a chaotic environment, failed to bring in the right players, got rid of the wrong players, hired the wrong manager (Pena), and now they want us to believe that we are on the right track. They want us to be patient as the rest of the baseball world laughs at us. But as the fans dwindle and the jokes increase, I've decided to be patient for another reason.

I'm waiting for the fans to turn on Glass and Baird. Hopefully causing Glass to sell the team to someone who understands baseball who will in turn hire a GM who knows what he is doing.

Monday, August 15, 2005

15 and Counting

Two close games. Two more loses. And now the losing streak stands at 15 games. I still don't understand why Buddy Bell chose Mike Wood to pitch the first game of the double header. We certainly don't have a stopper, if we did, this losing streak would have ended long ago, but Mike Wood is our number five guy—or a spot starter. Why him?

And what in the world was Denny Hocking doing hitting in the two hole during the first game? After going 0-for-4, he's hitting .143, and doesn't belong at the top of any line up. In fact, he really doesn't belong in the major leagues any more, but we felt the need to trade Graffanino and give the young guys a shot.

Of course, Graffanino is now the starting second baseman for the World Champions. In his 17 games with the Red Sox, all he has done is hit .358, with 1 HR and 10 RBI. And our young guys at second base, well one of them is now in Wichita (Gotay) where he belongs, and the other one, Donnie Murphy is hitting .192. Oh yeah, and our other second baseman, the aforementioned Hocking is not so young any more. He's 35. So, I'm a little lost on the trading Graffanino away to give the young guys a chance line we were fed.

Amazingly, after Mike Wood gave up 6 ER in 6 IP and the Royals were still in the game, down by just one run after the sixth inning, thanks largely to Jason Johnson's poor outing. After tying the game at 7-7, Burgos found a way to lose it in the ninth. And nobody was surprised.

The second game of the double header was extremely well played. And everybody was surprised. Especially when Jose Lima had complete control of his pitches. In the fifth inning, Dmitri Young doubled to lead off the inning. And ironically, when Lima had his best stuff of the year, he threw a wild pitch that allowed Young to take third. Young scored on a sacrifice fly and that was the ball game.

The Royals offense couldn't get anything going against Mike Maroth—managing only five hits for the game (two of which came from DeJesus). Lima finished the game. Maroth was taken out one out away from a shutout so that new closer Fernando Rodney could face Mike Sweeney. Rodney got him to pop out and the Tigers won 1-0.

Bell had this to say after the game (as reported in an article in the KC Star): "At some point, these guys are going to have to have the courage to make some adjustments. We just can’t seem to adjust. If we go along and have got a guy out there who pitches to our strength, we’re fine. But if we’ve got a pitcher who does something other than that, we really struggle.

"This is getting really old."

Bell's "courage" comments raised quite a debate after the game among fans and media about what he really meant. Was he really calling his team a bunch of cowards? Or was he saying that they are timid about making adjustments because it means trying new techniques and they don't have a lot of experience in making such adjustments? Maybe it's the same thing?

I don't know. But I do know this…taken in context with the rest of his comments about his learning a lot about guys during this stretch, he seems to be saying that we have a number of guys who simply don't belong at this level because they lack heart and ability. If that's what he means, I don't know how anybody could disagree with him.

20th Anniversary Pictures

I took quite a few photos during the 20th anniversary of the Royals 1985 World Series celebration. One of which was this photo of the powder blue jerseys from the 85 team that was hanging up outside of the Royals offices on Friday night:

Unfortunatley, when the 1985 team was introduced on Friday night, the rain continued to fall. But the few thousand people who remained in the stadium stood and clapped. A list of the players who came back for the reunion: Steve Balboni, Joe Beckwith, Buddy Biancalana, George Brett, Steve Farr, Dane Iorg, Danny Jackson, Charlie Leibrandt, Darryl Motley, Jorge Orta, Greg Pryor, Bret Saberhagen, Pat Sheridan, Jim Sundberg, John Wathan, and Frank White. Several coaches and a trainer also made it: Gary Blaylock, Mickey Cobb, Lee May, and Jim Schaffer.

I took this one just before Bret Saberhagen was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame:

Here's Bret Saberhagen making his way to the podium:

Here's Bret giving his speech:

Shortly before game time:

Bret recieved one more "congrats" as he walked off the field:

Friday, August 12, 2005

Losing Streaks, Mistakes, and Changes

Beyond all of the quotes you'll probably read about how this losing streak "has been a real learning experience," for once, that phrase might actually have merit since this team is about to be embarrassed by the presence of a team (the 1985 Royals) who would have never accepted a 13-game losing streak. Shame can be a good thing. After a person is shamed once, he'll do almost anything to avoid it in the future—maybe even play fundamentally sound baseball.

The Royals made so many mistakes last night that it was painful to watch. In the fifth inning, the Royals were up 2-0, with DeJesus on third and one out. Mike Sweeney went after the first pitch and popped it up on the infield—a rare offensive blunder by Sweeney, but it cost us a run.

In the sixth inning, with the score still 2-0, Brown tripled to lead off the inning. Teahen, who seems incapable of handling the bat when he needs to advance runners, struck out. After Berroa, who was down in the count (1-2) as he always is, reached on a fielder's choice, but Brown got thrown out in the process. They had a guy at third base with no outs and couldn't get him home.

The most costly blunders came in the seventh inning. Carrasco walked Hafner to lead off the inning and you just knew he was going to score. Victor Martinez singled and then came the turning point in the game. Ronnie Belliard laid down a sacrifice bunt that Carrasco fielded. With two players yelling "three," Carrasco turned and fired to third. Hafner beat the throw and the bases were loaded with no outs. Paul Phillips was behind the plate and he was one of the guys telling Carrasco to go to third base. That's a decision the catcher can never be wrong about. If the guy advancing to third can definitely be forced out, then you do it. If he can't, you must take the sure out.

You know what happened next…the very next pitch in fact, Jeff Liefer smashed a grand slam home run and this game was over. By Bell's own admission, this team quit after Liefer's home run. "When they score four, we've got to keep going," Bell is quoted as saying on "We've got to keep playing. The focus was just not there after they got four runs. We played well until then."

So he held a 30-minute closed door meeting. If we still need to try to motivate guys to play hard and fundamentally sound baseball in August, then we have the wrong group of guys in uniform. Baird is beginning to take heat from fans and David Glass is beginning to sound like an owner who says he supports his GM, while at the same time, putting him on notice that this team better improve this season…or else.

"None of us are willing to go through another season like this,” Glass is quoted as saying in Jeff Passan's column in the KC Star today. "If this team turns it around—if we’ve bottomed out now—and we play .500 or a little better the rest of the year, it would be something totally different than if we struggle."

He went on to say that he supports Baird.

The Royals send Jose Lima (4-9, 6.84) to the mound tonight to try to stop this train from flying off the cliff. The Tigers will counter with Jason Johnson (7-9, 4.06).
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