Wednesday, December 23, 2009

From one Brian Anderson to another

So, Dayton Moore has gone and signed Brian Anderson, giving him a one-year deal and putting him on the Major League roster. I’m not sure what the point of signing another light hitting center fielder is, but this isn’t the end of the world. From the various accounts I’ve read, Anderson is far above average defensively and as bad as this team was on defense last season, any defensive help should be welcomed.

I have to tell you though, I still have a certain affinity toward the previous BA—the one who pitched for the Royals from 2003-2005. Of course, the two players have nothing to do with each other. It just gives me a reason to tell you a story about BA #1—well, really it’s about the 2005 season, but it involves BA #1.

In May 2005, a couple of newspapers I write for sent me into the Royals clubhouse to do two features. Ten days or so in advance, I applied for and received my media credentials for the games on May 12-13. The Royals were playing the Rays.

Two days before the series started, Tony Pena (the manager) quit during the series in Toronto and I’m thinking, “Uh oh, this might make it more difficult to get the interviews I need.”

Sure enough, that was true. I wrote about it in a post:
When I made plans to come to Kansas City and interview a couple of players for two newspapers I write for, I had no idea that I'd walk in to such chaos. Allard Baird was in the middle of a press conference yesterday when I got to the ball park. I slipped in and caught the tail end of it . . .

Most of the players weren't in a talking mood before the game yesterday and that was certainly understandable. The media had limited access to the players because the Baird press conference ran a little long and because the Royals kept the clubhouse closed longer than normal. The mood was what you would expect from a team whose eternally optimistic manager quit on them when the going got tough. Guys were a little down.
As I was walking from the clubhouse to the dugout, still hoping to get at least one interview before the game, I saw Ryan Lefebvre talking to Allard Baird. I waited for a minute and asked Baird if he was open to a brief interview. He was, so I hit record. I didn’t want to ask him about his search for a manager. Why would he tell me anything he wouldn’t tell other reporters? So, I asked him if he ever read any Royals blogs. There weren’t that many at the time, but you can read his brief reply here.

The Royals went on to win the rain-shortened game that night 7-5 on an RBI double by Mark Teahen and an RBI single by Ruben Gotay.

Thankfully, the clubhouse was quite a bit loser before the game the next day.

I was able to interview Jeremy Affeldt for one of the features I was writing and while I was waiting to get the other interview, with Tony Graffanino I believe, Brain Anderson (#1) came walking in. His locker was close to Affeldt’s. He plopped down on a stool and began talking to Affeldt. Nobody knew it at the time, but BA had just pitched in the final game of his career. He injured his elbow on May 8 against the Orioles. Later he had to have two Tommy John surgeries.

I don’t know if the seriousness of Anderson’s injury had been discovered or diagnosed yet. I just remember seeing a look of frustration on Anderson’s face as he talked to Affeldt. At one point, Anderson picked up a ball with his left hand and appeared to be showing Affeldt the pain he was feeling in his elbow during certain points of his delivery. Of course, they could have been talking about anything. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but the Royals were awful at this point, and I couldn’t help but feel for Anderson.

Royals v Giants 
[SCOTTSDALE, AZ - MARCH 8: Pitcher Brian Anderson #19 of the Kansas City Royals delivers against the San Francisco Giants during the Spring Training game at Scottsdale Stadium on March 8, 2004 in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Royals won 9-3. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) Content © 2009 Getty Images All rights reserved.]
Tony Pena had just quit on the team. They were 9-26 at this point. The season was basically over and it was just mid-May. They had no idea who their new manager was going to be. And Anderson was injured. In the big scheme of things, Anderson’s injury was not a big deal. But seeing the frustration on his face at that moment caused a shift inside me. I felt like I was looking at frustration personified.
The Royals only won 56 games that season. It was the worst season, winning percentage wise, of any in Royals’ history. Those were not good times for Royals fans or players. But I don’t see that particular losing season in some abstract fashion. Instead, I see the look of frustration on Anderson’s face and it gives me some perspective.

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