Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Debate Continues

The Kansas City Star’s sports section runs a daily column on page two called Top ‘O The Morning. (registration required) Written by former Royals beat writer Jeffery Flanagan, the column is a mix of gossip, “insider” info and opinion. Flanagan has been around for awhile and is someone I would consider “old school.” Put another way, in the debate between scouting and stats, he falls firmly in the former category.

That’s what makes today’s column not very surprising at all. As a matter of fact, I am kind of surprised it took this long. Flanagan is shaking his head at the Royals keeping Calvin Pickering over “All-Star” Ken Harvey.

As Flanagan points out, Pickering has only played in six of the Royals’ first 14 games. So what’s the use demoting our “All-Star” if his replacement isn’t going to play? What Flanagan doesn’t bring up is that Pickering has left the team twice this season to be with his pregnant wife. He missed one game in the opening series against the Tigers when they thought she was going to deliver, and two games the first weekend the Royals were at home when she actually had the baby.

Plus, when Pickering made the team out of spring training, it was as the left-handed hitting side of a platoon. So in the games when the Royals have faced a southpaw, Pickering has been on the bench. That accounts for three more missed games (a fourth game against a lefty starter, he pinch hit late.)

So by my count. Pickering has been kept out of the lineup a grand total of two games when he probably should have played. Cut the guy a break. In the span of two weeks, he’s made his first ever Opening Day roster, he’s become a new father, and he’s sat against some leftys.

The last thing this organization needs to do is panic and deviate from their plan. Allard Baird said so in spring training: This team is putting an emphasis on getting on base. (Although we haven’t really seen that so far this season.) Throughout his career, yes Pickering has been a guy who strikes out a lot. But working in his advantage is he does have power, he will take a walk and he does get on base. Ken Harvey does none of those things.

I was watching this spring training battle with interest and was firm in my belief that who the Royals kept would tell us a great deal about the future of this team. I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Kevin over at his very excellent Royals Blog is the "Official Site to Free Calvin Pickering." (A claim I probably would have staked if it wasn’t already taken.) On a team that is going to lose 90-100 games this season, I needed to have hope that even though we are going to struggle, the organization is at least making the right decisions with the talent they have at their disposal.

The question was: Would they remain in love with the “All-Star,” the "veteran" who has proven he can do it at this level? Or would they back up the talk about the importance of working the count and getting on base?

I think they made the right decision. Yes, Pickering has missed some games. Yes, in the games he’s played he’s struggled. But let’s give him some time. A half season at the very least to prove what he can do at this level. On this team, Ken Harvey isn’t going to make a lick of difference.

To make a change after only a handful of games would be foolish.

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