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).

Thursday, August 11, 2005

It was the Best of Times, It was the Worst of Times

How ironic would it be for the 1985 team to roll into town just in time to see the Royals lose a team record setting 13th game in a row? If we have nothing left to play for, then this is enough. It's all up to D.J. Carrasco (5-5, 4.29 ERA) tonight as he goes against Kevin Millwood (5-9, 3.12 ERA). If the Royals lose tonight, the fans on Friday night are going to literally be witnessing the best and worst of both Kansas City baseball worlds in one night.

At least Joe Posnansiki still has his humor. He had this to say about the losing streak in his column today, "The Royals have been outscored 105-44, which means they have lost, on average, by five runs. … Here’s one for you soccer fans: The Wizards have played three times during the streak. They have outscored the Royals all three times."

As funny as that line is, being outscored by five runs per game over this stretch is difficult to comprehend. I wish we could blame one aspect of our team, but even Bell acknowledges that we have problems in all areas of the game: "Pitching, hitting, fielding," Bell is quoted as saying in an article on "I mean there are quite a few things that are not quite right right now."

The pitching staff has a 7.75 ERA during the 12 game losing streak. Of course for the season, they haven't exactly been lights out, posting a 5.56 staff ERA, which is 29th in the majors, just slightly ahead of Tampa Bay.

Hitters have a .248 average during the losing streak. Which isn't all that far off their .261 team average for the season. They are tied for 20th in the majors in team average. It's a miracle that we're ranked that high with so many guys being outmatched at the plate.

Fielding has been horrible, both during the streak and for the entire season. We've committed 12 errors in the last 12 games (only four of which were completely error free) and now have 88 errors for the season—putting us in 28th in the majors in fielding percentage.

In spite of it all, I'm going to be at the ball park this weekend, starting on Friday night. I'm anxious to see the videos of days long since gone—the days before cable television, RSTN, players who didn't hustle, and astronomical salaries that have pushed the game to the edge of ruin. I just had a transistor radio and an imagination and that was all I needed as I spent summer night after summer night in my bedroom listening to Fred and Denny call the action.

I'm going to Kansas City this weekend because I want to see the guys in powder blue who threw strikes, plugged the gaps, stole bases, ran hard, and earned the right to celebrate after winning the 1985 World Series. And I'm going to hope that as the festivities kick off, that everybody who is currently affiliated with the team, from the players to Allard Baird, will take it all in and with a few exceptions, for the first time, see how baseball is supposed to be played.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A Royal Implosion

An 11 run ninth inning did the Royals in tonight. Imagine that. They only had a 7-2 lead to begin the inning and then one of the biggest implosions in history took place. From Angel Berroa dropping and then kicking a ball, to Chip Ambres dropping the third out, to Emil Brown misplaying a ball and falling down…this was an absolute embarrassment. Little league teams don't give up 11 runs in the last inning—or any inning. This team is beyond bad. Players are talking about opposing fans laughing at them. I'll be surprised if Royals fans aren't laughing at them after this game.

Where do I start? Maybe with Bell's decision to leave MacDougal in the game when he obviously didn't have a clue how to get anybody out. How can a manager leave a guy in the game, with the game on the line, and allow him to give up 7 runs (5 earned because of our Bad News Bears antics) on 6 hits? When Bell finally did take him out, he brought in Jimmy Gobble, who gave up 4 more runs (1 earned).

If this game isn't an indication that we have guys who don't belong here, I don't know what is. Angel Berroa has been horrible this season—both offensively and defensively. Let's either dump him to another team who is gullible enough to believe that he's the same guy who won the Rookie of the Year a few seasons ago or just release him. And Jimmy Gobble doesn't belong in the major leagues either. His ERA is 7.94. Enough said. And Donnie Murphy is our starting second baseman. He's hitting .209. His back up is Denny Hocking. Wow. Anyone else missing Tony Graffanino?

"I don't think I've ever been through a game like that," Bell said after the game. He went on to say, "Hopefully this is rock bottom, because if it's not…I don't know."

Me either Buddy. Me either.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Another Long Losing Streak

The Royals look like an alcoholic in a freefall who knows that the bottom can't be far now. Just a few more drinks and surely the numbing effect will kick in. Then consciousness will fade into a calming darkness where pain can no longer be felt.

The Oakland A's absolutely embarrassed the Royals this weekend. They outscored the Royals 32-5. Beyond Greinke on Friday night, the pitching was so bad that it's hard to even call it pitching. They walked 18 guys in the last three games. Jose Lima gave up 7 ER in just 4.2 IP on Saturday. Jimmy Gobble followed Lima, giving up 8 ER in 2 IP. Not to be outdone, Runelvys Hernandez gave up 7 ER in 1 IP today.

This pitching staff is in huge trouble. Runelvys Hernandez is a close to a number one guy as we have, and he 8-10 with an ERA near 5.00. D.J. Carrasco seems to have lost his magic. Zack Greinke has an ERA over 6.00. Kyle Snyder finally got sent down. And we're about to start Mike Wood for the first time this season. Remember how well he pitched last year when he was in the rotation the first and second time through a line up, but then he'd get shelled the third time through? He seems to be a solid middle reliever, but we're about to try to make him into something that he's not. Thankfully, the Oakland A's are no longer in town.

As bad as the pitching was against the A's, you still need to score runs to win games and five runs over a three game series isn't going to cut it. I wish I could say that help is on the way—especially after the Royals sent Ruben Gotay to Wichita (finally!), but of all guys, the Royals called up Denny Hocking. Yes, the same Denny Hocking who hit .202 for the Colorado Rockies last year. And yes he's old—35 to be exact. I was hoping we'd bring a veteran or two up from Omaha to give the team a little stability, but not Hocking. Why is he even in our system?

Mercifully, tomorrow is an off day. Tuesday will bring the Cleveland Indians to town and the Royals will try to end this losing streak at 10.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Changes Necessary, But…

Change for the sake of change often doesn't work. The Royals got even younger yesterday when they released back up catcher Alberto Castillo and according to this article in the KC Star this morning, it sounds like more personnel changes are coming soon.

Castillo, 35, wasn't exactly having a banner year (.210, 1 HR, 14 RBI in 100 AB), but he meant a lot more to this club than his offensive numbers.

A couple of months ago, when I was in the Royals dugout to get a couple of interviews, I saw Castillo playing first during pre-game warm-ups (Sweeney was banged up), all the while encouraging the young infield. He was always ready to step in and help the team any way he could. I recall another situation, right after the Royals signed Castillo, when he was sitting on the field way before a game started, watching the other team to see if he could spot any weaknesses.

We need more guys like Castillo around, not less. With personnel changes coming, I'm guessing that Baird is going to do the opposite of what probably needs to happen—he's going to give more young guys a chance to compete for starting positions. If those young guys were ready for the major leagues, I'd say, go for it. But clearly we have a team full of guys at the major league level right now who shouldn't be here.

Ruben Gotay is hitting .227 and his defense has been far from solid. His swing is way, way, way, too long. He shows no patience at the plate. And he ought to be in Wichita or Omaha right now.

Donnie Murphy is only hitting .206 since coming up to the majors and it looks like he's another second baseman who could use another year or two in the minors.

Mark Teahen has some of the most pathetic numbers (.251, 3 HR, 31 RBI in 279 AB) that you'll ever see from a starting corner infielder this late in the season. He can't pull the ball—even just to advance a runner. His footwork in the field is off, he doesn't show a lot of range, and he needs to be with Ruben in Wichita or Omaha.

John Buck has been a disappointment (.228, 7 HR, 31 RBI in 268 AB). I like his hustle and the way he runs things behind the plate. But like Gotay, he shows no patience at the plate and appears to be totally outmatched most nights. He certainly has power, but a .228 average is unacceptable.

Angel Berroa isn't turning out to be the shortstop that we hoped for after his rookie season. He was picked off first base the other night in Boston, with the Royals down 10-6, bringing back memories of him being picked off second base earlier this season when it cost us the game. He's been atrocious in the field. He still takes bigger swings at the plate than Mike Sweeney and he has less patience than Gotay or Buck. He's already struck out 78 times this season and walked just 14 times. I don't think that Berroa needs more time in the minors. I think he needs to be released.

And what in the world is Leo Nunez doing in the major leagues? He's just 21 years old and doesn't appear to have any idea how to get major league hitters out. His 8.54 ERA says all you need to know. He throws ridiculously hard, but he needs to learn how to pitch. Preferably as teammates with others on this list who should be in Wichita or Omaha.

Kyle Snyder (0-3, 9.24 ERA in 25.1 IP) is not throwing well. I don't know if he came back too quickly or if something else is wrong, but he needs more work in the minors. Let's fill the gap in the rotation with someone in Omaha—someone who isn't 21 and about to get their skill crushed by screaming line drives. Let's bring up a guy who can actually help other pitchers on the team. How about Dennis Tankersley? He's not the long term answer with numbers like a 7-6 record and a 4.80 ERA in Omaha, but we clearly don't have anybody else who is ready.

Baird appears to be headed in the direction of going younger which doesn't make a lot of sense when many of the young guys that we've already got at the major league level shouldn't be here. I'm not asking him to sign a bunch of expensive veterans. I just want him to fill in the obvious gaps at the major league level with more experienced players already in our system. Give these younger guys more time to actually learn how to play fundamental baseball.
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