Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The five major disappointments of the 2009 Kansas City Royals’ season

The season started with so much promise: a revamped stadium, a 12-10 start in the month of April, a 6-0 start by Zack Greinke and an appearance on cover of SI, and optimism from fans, the likes of which haven’t been felt in a long time. Then, everything seemed to crumble in May. The defense was atrocious, the bats grew silent, and the losing began. So much so, that it looked like the Royals were headed for another 100 loss season. They barely avoided it.

A season that start with so much promise ended in major disappointment. Let’s look back at the five major disappoints of the 2009 season:

The signing of Yuniesky Betancourt. Not only is he one of the worst everyday players in the Major Leagues, he came with a big contract that runs through 2011. The Mariners paid his salary this season. He’ll make $3 million in 2010 ($2 million paid by the Royals, $1 million by the Mariners). And he’ll make $4 million in 2011 ($3 million paid by the Royals, $1 million by the Mariners). You know a player is bad when his former team is willing to pay several million dollars so you won’t put on their uniform any more.

Dayton Moore, for so many reasons. For saying he wants guys who play the game the right way, but then going out and acquiring guys like Yuniesky Betancourt. For saying he wants guys of high character and then going out and acquiring guys like Sidney Ponson, Ryan Freel, and even Jose Guillen for that matter. For not taking defense into consideration when assembling the team. For overpaying for Kyle Farnsworth. For disassembling a good bullpen with the belief that he could easily rebuild it. For being defensive when criticism came. For being arrogant when questions came. And more.

Alex Gordon. Gordon got hurt the first week of the season, and that’s not his fault, but it was still a major disappointment. It moved Mark Teahen from second base to third, which put Alberto Callaspo at second. More about that in a minute. When Gordon was able to come back, he wasn’t good. He didn’t move well defensively and his timing was way off at the plate. He spent several weeks in Omaha before coming back to KC to finish the season. The Royals needed him to have a breakthrough season. Instead, people began to whisper about him being a bust. That’s probably pre-mature, but 2010 is huge for Gordon.

Injuries. Coco Crisp, Mike Aviles, Alex Gordon, Gil Meche—on and on it went. The first three were devastating for the Royals. Crisp was supposed to be the guy who set the table offensively for the Royals. Mike Aviles simply needed to do what he did in 2008. And we’ve already covered Alex Gordon. Meche battled back injuries all season and never really looked like the Meche we’ve grown accustomed to. The Royals had a couple of more injuries to guys like Brian Bannister, but by then, the season was already over. The Royals aren’t deep enough to overcome injuries to key players.

Defense. I don’t want to overstate this or exaggerate, but as I search my memory banks going back to the late 70s when I first became a baseball fan, I cannot remember a worse defensive team than the 2009 Royals. Injuries played a role. Alberto Callaspo wouldn’t have been the everyday second baseman if Alex Gordon hadn’t gotten hurt and we wouldn’t have been subjected to his clueless defensive play. Put the injuries aside for a minute and think objectively about this defensive infield: Billy Butler at first (sub-par to slightly below average), Callaspo at second (one of the worse everyday second baseman ever), Betancourt at short (might be worse than Angel Berroa when it comes to making the routine play), and Alex Gordon at third (who doesn’t look natural at the position). Throw in the missed cut off men from the outfield, catchers who were routinely out of position for plays at the plate and you have one terrible defensive baseball team.

There you have it. In the coming week, we’ll look at some of the surprises (in a good way) of the 2009 season.

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