Tuesday, May 31, 2005

You Gotta Be Kidding Me!!!

I'm beside myself right now.

Buddy Bell is the Royals next manager.

That sucks.

Of the five candidates he was the last guy I wanted in the position.

I'll have some more thoughts and maybe some analysis after the press conference later this afternoon or early this evening.

Now, where did I put those anti-depressants?

EDIT: I'd like to hear what some other Royal fans think... Bad hire or good hire? If not Bell, who would you have hired? Someone from the "short list" or someone who didn't get an interview? Thoughts are good...Together we can get through this.

Will They Ever Win Again?

So much for that "bounce" that the Royals got from changing managers.

The Royals embark on a six game road trip and proceed to drop every single game. The amazing thing about the three game series in Los Angeles was it really, truly was a microcosm for the season so far. A primer on how to lose ballgames:

• Friday: Blow a huge ninth inning lead and lose in the tenth.
• Saturday: Get blown out.
• Sunday: Fall behind early, battle back and lose by one run.

And now the dreaded Yankees come to town. Sure they lost two of three to the Red Sox over the weekend, but that probably only served to make them angry. The Royals best shot to make any kind of noise is tonight when Zack Greinke faces Kevin Brown. I’m not optimistic about these next three games.


After completing the winless road trip, the Royals fired hitting coach Jeff Pentland. A hitting coach has got to be the single, worst job in all of professional sports. You get almost no credit when the team is swinging well, but if the team batting average drops too low, you’ll be looking for another job.

So the Royals made Pentland a fall guy for some truly tepid offensive production.

I have no idea if Pentland was a good or bad batting instructor. I do know he comes highly recommended by none other than Barry Bonds. And I also know the Royals young hitters haven’t shown enough development over the last year to justify keeping Pentland around.

The timing of the Pentland firing is interesting to me because that leads us to…


All reports indicate that Allard Baird and the Royals are nearing the conclusion of their search.

That makes the timing of the firing of Pentland interesting. Why not let the new manager bring in his own guy or at least have some input? Wouldn’t a new manager welcome the opportunity help make a coaching hire? We know pitching coach Guy Hansen isn’t going anywhere. And first and third base coaches are usually pretty safe until after the season. I think what the Royals are doing is showing any prospective manager that these types of moves will be made by the organization. The manager is going to be a piece of the puzzle, not the ultimate solution.

And as we hit the home stretch in the search for a new manager, it’s time once again to shake up the odds.

As a reader pointed out in the comments, and other have written emails, it’s time to downgrade Bob Schaefer. He falls back on the board after:

• Losing six in a row and having an overall record of 5-12 since taking over
• Not having a formal interview.
• Not having the managerial experience the Royals crave.

That puts Terry Collins in the lead. For reasons previously stated, he seems like a good fit for this young team. It will come down to the wire between him and Art Howe. Howe has a ton of experience and plenty of success and will be difficult for Baird to pass by. But I think he ultimately goes for a guy who demands you play the game the right way, and who isn’t afraid to challenge players who don’t. I predict Baird selects Terry Collins as the next manager of the Royals.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Jaime, Could You Take Jose With You?

Lima sucks. I'm waiting for him to get wacked, Albie Lopez-style.

Glad we could be of service, Mr. Hidalgo. Please don't forget to tip your servers...errr...I mean pitchers.

I-29 Happenings

Before Thursday's game, the Royals optioned Jaime Cerda to Omaha and purchased the contract of Steve Stemle.

Cerda has been playing Russian Roulette all season, with bullets in, say, four of the six chambers. He'd have a couple of back-to-back solid outings and follow that up by allowing three runs in his next appearance. He wasn't getting it done and now his demotion leaves WTP Favorite Andy Sisco as the only lefty in the pen.

Stemle is a former fifth round draft choice by the Cardinals who basically throws strikes, averaging about 2 BB/9 IP. He was a starter until last season and has been very successful in Omaha this year posting the following line:

20 IP, 13 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 12 SO

That's impressive.

And the Royals, being the Royals, throw the new guy right into the middle of the action. Not a bad big league debut:

3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO


So lets turn our attention to the happenings off the field because, let’s face it, it’s more interesting.

Do you get the feeling that Allard Baird travels the country with a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist, with a lock only he knows the combination to, while the front office staff refers to him by a super-secret code name? Me too.

I think we can safely say we have the shortlist of candidates:

Buddy Bell
Terry Collins
Art Howe
Jerry Manuel
Bob Schaefer

Since we’ve already looked at Schaefer and Howe here, and Collins here, it’s time to look a little more in depth at the final two candidates on the list:

Buddy Bell

The fact that we are even considering this stiff gets me seriously depressed. How vanilla can you get? Do we want a guy who can teach our young players how to win, or do we want a guy who can recount the glory days of the 1970’s Cleveland juggernaut? Bell has never been a winner. Not as a player and not as a manager.

As a manager for all or part of six seasons, he’s guided his teams to a winning record only once (82-80 in 2000) while landing in last place twice. (He was fired in the midst of a third last place season.) His players all seemed to have liked him and he hasn’t had the best talent to work with, but this just seems like a bad fit. He’s twice been handed the reigns of a young team and twice failed to improve. Now that Phil Garner is in Houston, Bell is the ultimate managerial retread.

Jerry Manuel

Another surprise on the list, Manuel managed the Chicago White Sox for six full seasons before getting the ax after the 2003 season. Manuel is the antithesis of Buddy Bell: He had some talent, and the expectations, but didn’t win enough. He was at .500 or better in his last five seasons and finished below second place in the Central only once.

Manuel can’t shoulder all the blame for the troubles in Chicago. Saddled with Kenny Williams as a general manager, the Sox built a roster ultimately ill-suited for a pennant race. Awesome power can’t overcome a lack of a leadoff man, a weak bullpen and a below-average defense. Williams was also the architect of the horrible trades for Carl Everett and Roberto Alomar at the expense of an already thin farm system. As a GM, Williams has been a bust and Manuel was the fall guy.

Manuel strikes me as one of those steady baseball lifers...A steady presence in the clubhouse. I actually want to say he reminds me of Bob Schaefer, but Schaefer has a fun kind of personality that I’m not sure Manuel has. But Manuel has a calm and relaxed style that is popular with players. He will get after them if he needs to, but seems to favor a more hands off approach. I don’t think he's the best fit for this ballclub.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Wash, Rinse, Repeat

Same old story Wednesday night in Texas.

Zack Greinke pitches, the Royals don't score, the Royals lose.

Well, maybe that's a bit too simplistic.

Pedro Astacio? Damn, that’s really depressing.

• For the second game in a row, Greinke has not looked sharp. In a bizarre role reversal, Greinke threw more like you would expect Pedro Astacio to pitch. Meanwhile, Astacio looked Greinke-esque. Here are Greinke’s numbers from his last two starts:

5/20 5 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
5/25 5 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 K

He’s had rough patches like this already in his brief career. I’m sure this is just a minor speed bump on his road to excellence, but it still has to be noted.

• So much for that “selectively aggressive” theory I floated out there on Monday. It was like the Pena era where Royal batters would go up to the plate with the intent of working the count, only to fall behind and expand the strikezone. Wednesday, the Royals looked at a first pitch strike in 13 out of 35 at bats, struck out seven times and walked only once.

Clark, over at the Royals OP-ED Page ran some numbers from Tuesday’s game on this very topic. Wednesday’s game looks almost to be a mirror image.


Allard Baird is more secretive than the Colonel guarding his secret recipe. Here's what we know:

• He interviewed his first candidate Wednesday.

• It wasn’t Gene Lamont, who somehow figured out he wasn’t on the Royals’ list. Maybe it’s because Allard never called him.

• Buddy Bell is rumored to be on the double-secret short list. I just don’t see that happening.

• I’m bumping the odds lower on Terry Collins. Collins has had some time away from the managerial hot seat to reflect and figure out how to be a better manager. In a business where you’re hired to be fired, the ability to learn from your mistakes and to adapt, seems really crucial.

Collins moves past Art Howe into second place on the odds board.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Missed It By That Much

When entering the ninth trailing by two, do the Royals try to score only one run?

Notes from another one run loss, the thirteenth of the season:

• The last person I want up at the plate in a “clutch” situation is Angel Berroa. Until this guy figures out what exactly the strike zone is, and where it's located, he’s a liability.

• Not to pick on Berroa too much, (it’s so damn easy) but did you see his steal of second base in the third inning? The only, and I do mean only, reason he was safe was due to a terrible throw from Rangers catcher Rod Barajas. Berroa gets a horrible jump and has no power in his first few strides. Really if the throw was anywhere close, he was out by five steps. For the love of Willie Wilson, someone sit this kid down and tell him to please never, ever steal a base.

• Here’s a stat that is rather meaningless but interesting: After Terrence Long’s pinch-hit single in the ninth, Royal pinch hitters are now 2-27. (.074) Not surprisingly, that's the worst in the league.

• Once again, it’s the missed opportunities that come back to bite this team. The Royals had runners on base all night but failed to ever break through for any kind of big inning. The worst was failing to capitalize on Matt Diaz’ one-out triple in the fourth.

Team batting average with runners in scoring position (Bottom 5):
TEX .248
KCR .248
CHI .243
CLE .235
OAK .230

See, it only seems like the Royals are the worst team in the league with runners in scoring position.

Minnesota is the best in the AL with a .315 average. I’m really surprised to see the White Sox so low on this list. Enjoy your stay in first Sox fans. I don’t think we’ll be seeing you there in September.

• Starter Runelvys Hernandez had a typical night. Struggle early, settle down in the middle, and finish with a whimper. Sometimes, he just seems to labor out there. I get tired just watching him. And it seems 90 pitches is about his limit before the serious trouble starts. He was lucky to finish his start with only three earned runs.

• The home run WTP Favorite Andy Sisco gave up to Richard Hidalgo in the eighth, and was the difference in the game, was a no-doubter. I don’t know much about physics, but I do know that when maximum velocity squarely meets maximum force, it’s better to have no one on base.

Zack Greinke goes for his first win of the season tomorrow. Again.

Building A Better Offense

The Royals have played eleven games since Tony Pena quit. And if you ask those who follow the team closely, they will agree that this team has been playing better baseball since their skipper walked out on them in Toronto.

But why is that?

Since the Royals have an off day, I thought I’d run some numbers comparing the recently departed Pena with interm manager Bob Schaefer to see if I could find some tangible reasons for the improvement.

What I have done is take Schaefer’s entire tenure this season (11 games) and held them up to the final 11 games of the Pena regime.

Let’s get to the results:

Patience at the Plate

We’ve heard from both Schaefer and his players that they are being more aggressive at the plate. The numbers bear this out. Under Pena, the Royals were averaging about 3.67 pitches per at bat. With Schaefer, Royal batters are seeing about 3.54 pitches per at bat. That would lead us to believe that the Royals are indeed going up to the plate and swinging the bat.

But the interesting thing is the Royals are now taking more walks. In the last 11 games, they have drawn 33 free passes (an average of three walks per game.) In the final 11 games of Pena’s tenure the Royals had only 21 walks (an average of 1.9 walks per game.) That is a huge difference.

What all this means is the Royals hitters are being what I would call “selectively aggressive.” It’s about finding the right balance. They are going up to the plate swinging, but for the most part they are swinging at strikes. That results in more real opportunities to get on base either via the walk or the base hit. And that results in more opportunities to score runs.

Outs on the Bases

One of my major complaints against Pena as a manager was in his quest to manufacture runs, he would just give away too many outs. To look at the differences, I looked at stolen bases, caught stealing and sacrifices. So this isn’t going to account for missed attempts like when Angel Berroa fouled off two sacrifice bunt attempts and then swung at a ball out of the zone for strike three (5/8 vs. Baltimore), which I would classify as giving away an out.

Schaefer seems to be slow to call for the sacrifice bunt. The Royals have executed only three sac bunts in the last 11 games. And Pena’s apparent love of the bunt didn’t come through in his final 11 games…His team only got down two sacrifices during that time. But over the last season, Pena called for a sacrifice roughly once every three games. Schaefer is looking to sacrifice less…About once every four games.

And the Royals are still awful on the bases. In the last 11 games the Royals have been successful on four of 8 stolen base attempts. In Pena’s final 11 games, the Royals had only one stolen base in five attempts. But for the entire season with Pena, the Royals were successful under 50% of the time. (13/27 – 48%)

Although conventional wisdom will claim that the team isn’t making as many outs on the bases, from this limited sample size it’s really too close to call. The difference between Pena and Schaefer isn’t enough to claim with absolute certainty that the Royals are better on the bases under the current manager. The trend does appear favorable, but the evidence just isn’t there.

What does it all mean?

The bottom line is wins and in that area the Royals have obviously improved. Schaefer has led this team to five wins in his 11 games in charge. Pena didn’t have a stretch of 11 games where he won at least five of them all year. We’re currently in the middle of the most successful time of this short season.

The big difference is in runs scored. Under Schaefer, the Royals are scoring a little over six runs a game. That’s a good stretch for any team. Also, you have to remember that for six games in this stretch the Royals were without Mike Sweeney, who is by far their best hitter. Even without their captain, they’re scoring almost double the average number of runs they scored with Pena at the controls.

Through their “selectively aggressive” approach at the plate, the Royals are getting on base more and that leads to more runs which leads to more wins.

It’s funny how simple this game can be sometimes.

Monday, May 23, 2005


Six runs in the first inning?!?

Lima wasn’t in the game to give the runs back by the third?!?

The Royals stayed in control the entire game and won?!?


Well, maybe that is a bit of hyperbole, but it did feel nice:

• The six runs the Royals scored in the first, matched their best inning of the season. (5/8 @ Baltimore) But really, what was so great about it was all six runs were scored with two outs. Credit goes to Emil Brown with a double that drove in the first two, keeping the inning alive before John Buck capped it off with a two run homer. Buck is now batting a robust .204/.256/.343 on the season. He’s five for his last 10 with two doubles, the aforementioned home run and four RBIs. Maybe, just maybe, he’s coming alive at the plate.

• With seemingly every Royals player on the DL (Swingin’ Ken Harvey is the latest casualty) the Royals summoned Ryan Jensen from Omaha to fill a hole in the rotation. Jensen did well, pitching five solid innings. In his lone full season in the majors (2002) he was a flyball pitcher (.83 ground out to air out ratio) but Sunday was ridiculous. Of his 15 outs recorded, three were strikeouts, three were ground outs and nine were in the air. Leaving the ball up in the zone against the Cardinals is no way for a pitcher to make a living. Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good.

• Short reliever Leo Nunez continued his strike-throwin’ ways in throwing three innings of one hit ball. My first reaction when hearing a reliever like Nunez pitched three innings is usually, “What?!? What the hell is the manager thinking?” But I’m really liking the way Bob Schaefer is using the bullpen. Nunez needed only 26 pitches to work his three innings and threw 21 of them for strikes. In other words, he was dealing and not working very hard at all.

That Schaefer left him in the game shows he thinks outside the box. We always hear about pitch counts for starters, but the measuring stick for relievers remains to be number of innings pitched. When discussing a reliever you always hear, “He can give us one inning,” or “He’s someone we can count on for two good innings.”Well if your “one inning” guy can work his inning by throwing only eight pitches (like Nunez did in both the seventh and eighth innings) why can’t he go longer?

Other notes from the weekend:

• I just feel the Royals are getting closer. They were in all three games over the weekend, losing a pair of one run games before winning Sunday. Sooner or later, they will come out on the right side of some of these close games.

• It’s always discouraging when St. Louis comes to town and the split is about 60-40 in favor of Cardinal fans. Its been this way since the start of interleague play and it’s pretty damn depressing. I’m usually able to go to one of the so-called I-70 series games a year and I always have to endure a sea of red.

• Speaking of interleague, this week was “rivalry week.” Is it just me, or does it seem like there isn’t as much hype as years past? It sure seemed that way in Kansas City where attendance for the three games was off almost 18,000 from last year. (118,242 in 2004 vs. 110,563 in 2005)


Hooray! We get to change things up on our managerial odds board.

The Kansas City Star is reporting that former Astros and Angels manager Terry Collins has been contacted by the Royals and has interest in the job. Collins is known for a no-nonsense approach that has rubbed just a few players the wrong way over the course of his career. Collins is one of those guys that makes his team competitive, but for whatever reason, they just have a hard time clearing that final hurdle. In each of his five full seasons as manager, he’s finished second all five times. Collins has the experience, the fire and he’s currently working under Paul DiPodesta as the minor league director for the Dodger organization. Let’s rate his chances as above average. He’ll go on the board just behind Art Howe at 8-1.

We'll add a couple of other new names as longshots: Gene Lamont and Bobby Valentine. Valentine is on the board really just for fun. Lamont is a more serious candidate, but has yet to be contacted by the Royals.

Friday, May 20, 2005

The Bullpen Saves The Day

Starter Runelvys Hernandez is like that kid flicking matches at the gasoline can. He was really trying to blow that sucker up. In the four innings he started, he put the leadoff hitter on via a walk three times. And in the one inning he didn’t walk the leadoff hitter, he gave up a two-out double and two walks to load the bases. Really, it was only a matter of time before the wheels fell off. But when they did, it wasn’t entirely Hernandez’s fault. A misplayed fly ball and another lost in the sun contributed to a looming disaster.

Thankfully, the bullpen saved the day:
• 5.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K

Leo Nunez will get credit for the win, but really he should get a save. Entering the game with runners at second and third and asked to face the heart of the lineup, the kid calmly strikes out Melvin Mora and gets Miguel Tejada to fly out to end the threat. There couldn’t have been a bigger situation than that in Thursday’s game.

Nunez pitched 2.2 innings and was economic with his pitches, needing only 27 to get his eight outs.

Jaime Cerda followed and, like Nunez, was a model of efficiency throwing 17 pitches for his six outs.

Mike MacDougal was surprisingly brilliant striking out the side in the ninth to nail down the win, starting each batter with a called strike. His fastball was jumping today, hitting 97 mph on the stadium radar gun.

The Royals picked up an insurance run in the eighth by not getting a base hit. After Matt Stairs walked and Matt Diaz was hit by a pitch, Oriole reliever Steve Reed really fell apart. He walked Ruben Gotay to load the bases and followed that by walking Alberto Castillo on four pitches. The Royals are poised for another big inning and the chance to really put the game away.

Enter Joe McEwing.

To face a pitcher who is clearly struggling (eight of his last nine pitches were out of the strikezone) and gift wrap an at bat like that is criminal. Maybe I’m nitpicking. After all, we are enjoying a victory today. But you know what, there’s a right way to play the game and there’s a wrong way to play the game. It just hacks me off to see a so-called professional have an at bat that would make any little leaguer embarrassed.

Maybe McEwing should take a lesson from Stairs, who has been a walking machine drawing 13 bases on balls in the last six games. He’s also scored nine runs in those games. Hmmmmm…

One other quick note from this series. After going 0-4 (and stranding six runners) Thurday, the Orioles Tejada is a paltry 4-25 at the plate which equates to a John Buck-like .160/.222/.200. If he didn't have to play the Royals, his numbers would be .350/.391/.650. Call the Royals if you are at all interested in getting Miguel Tejada out. Credit to the excellent Baseball Musing's Day By Day Database for the breakdown of Tejada.


No movement today on the line for the next manager. This search is going to be slow, methodical, and so far, boring.

But Bob Schaefer has seized the opportunity, hasn’t he? Usually, most interm managers kind of stay the course of the previous regime. After all, their job is only temporary so why rock the boat? Schaefer’s approach is different. Things on this team have changed from batting order, to pitching rotation, to the bullpen. Schaefer really seems wants this job and is trying to show management that he can be part of the solution. He’s still listed as the favorite over on the right. I think Allard is going to give him a long look.


Thanks to the brilliant marketing machine that is the MLB, Friday marks the beginning of inter-league play. I'll be at the game on Friday for Zack Greinke vs. Mark Mulder. To say I'm looking forward to this matchup would be an understatement.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Ugh, Part Two

No lead is safe from the Orioles…

• What’s more frustrating that scoring three runs in the bottom of the second and then turning around and allowing the opposition three runs in the top of the third? I think I know…

• The Orioles scored every one of their seven runs on Wednesday with two outs. TWO OUTS! I know they are the best hitting team in all of baseball, but damn. Perhaps most frustrating of all is the fact that when they scored in the fifth and sixth innings, the Orioles didn’t even get their first baserunners until there were two down.

• WTP Favorite Andy Sisco struggled. Brought in by Bob Schaefer in as a LOOGY (who doesn't like that term?) in the sixth, he gave up his first major league home run to David Newhan. He followed that by allowing another homer to Javy Lopez.

There were a couple of times in the Pena regime where I thought Tony had been tempted to use Sisco as a one-out lefty specialist, but for the most part he avoided that. Not the case last night. We know that when Sisco is “on,” he has electric stuff. We also know that his future is as a starter. The Royals need to make sure he is properly taken care of which means giving him an inning or two (or three) a couple of times a week. I don’t think his or the team’s best interest will be served if he’s asked to be Jesse Orosco.

John Buck, who I was a disappointment on Tuesday, came up big on Wednesday delivering a two-out, two-run double. Really, there’s nobody I feel happier for than Buck when things go his way. It’s no fun to watch a guy struggle the way he has over the first month and a half of the season.

Matt Diaz was another Royal who had a good evening at the plate, going 3-4 with a run and an RBI. He said he was heating up toward the end of his visit to Omaha and it showed Wednesday. He needs to stay in the lineup for the next month just to see what he can do with regular MLB playing time. We know he’s not an All-Star, but let’s see exactly how much he can contribute.

• The Royals announced before the game that Jose Lima (he will no longer be referred to as Lima-Time for reasons that should be obvious) will have his start moved up one day and will take the mound on Saturday. That analogy about deck chairs and the Titanic can be applied here.


There has been almost no movement on the managerial search. Allard Baird says there is no “shortlist” of candidates and doesn’t expect to have one until the end of the week. Interviews, for the purpose of secrecy, will most likely not be held in Kansas City.

Buck Martinez says he was contacted by the Royals. I hope this isn’t true.

Joe Posnanski of the Star called Bobby Valentine in Japan to see if he is interested in the job. Looking at the length of the column, I hope Joe is on one of those cell phone plans where you get free international calling.

I'm kind of ambivalent about Valentine, mainly because I don’t think he would be interested. As they say, “He’s big in Japan.” But for fun let’s add him to our “Field” entry of the managerial odds.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


That was fun for about an hour.

• Raise your hand if you thought Lima-Time could hold that lead. I didn’t think so.

• Looking back at Lima-Time’s starts in the month of May, here is the damage:

5/1: Blew a five run lead at Cleveland
5/7: Lost at Baltimore
5/12: Blew a five run lead vs. Tampa Bay
5/17: Blew a six run lead vs. Baltimore

Despite Lima’s best attempts the Royals are 2-2 in his last four starts, but the Royals have to be wondering what in the world is going on. Here he is, getting run support that would make Zack Greinke jealous, and every time out he’s blowing it. I think the time has come for the Royals to show Lima the door.

• Is there a pitcher who has underachieved more than the Orioles Sidney Ponson? I realize he has had more than his share of off-field trouble lately, but he was just awful Tuesday. He was leaving the ball up in the zone to almost every batter he faced and the Royals were taking advantage. Truly, the last thing I wanted to see was for Matt Stairs to tag Ponson with a batted ball up the middle but that’s the way the season has been going. O’s manager Lee Mazzilli was quick with the hook and aside from a couple of walks to force in Ponson’s runners, the Royals didn’t score for the rest of the night.

• As bad as Ponson was, the pitchers behind him were great.

Orioles bullpen: 7.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 9 SO

Compare that to the Royals bullpen.

Royals bullpen: 6 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 4 SO

• The super-happy-funtime that is Angel Berroa on the bases continued Tuesday. In the second inning, he tagged up at second on a fly ball to left. Hmmm. OK, the ball was deep, but still...Then he scored when Stairs nailed Ponson with the comebacker. Watching replays of Berroa on third, he hesitated for just a brief moment before coming down the line so I don’t think he was going on contact, which makes his break for the plate even more unbelievable. But Ponson couldn’t make a good throw from about 45 feet and Berroa was safe. Since Berroa was successful on both of his crazy baserunning plays, let’s call it “creative.” If he’s out, we can call it “stupid.”

• John Buck struck out with one out and the bases loaded in the second inning. I don’t mean to pick on Buck, but he needs to figure out what he’s doing at the plate and soon. He was 0-3 last night with three strikeouts and is now at .173/.226/.276 on the season. He now has more strikeouts than total bases. It’s like last July all over again for him.

• Mike Sweeney is supposed to return to the lineup Wednesday. Of course, he was supposed to return Tuesday so at this point let’s just say we’ll believe it when we see it.

• Do you think if Greinke and Lima swapped jersey numbers, Zack would get some run support?

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Morning Line - Managerial Odds

Despite the fact there is no clear favorite, let’s start handicapping the field.

Jockey: Bob Schaefer..........Morning Line: 3-1
Schaefer is the favorite right now for a couple of reasons:
1) He’s got the team relaxed. This is an organization that hasn’t looked at ease playing ball since game 2 of the 2004 season.
2) He’s not afraid to shake things up. While I completely disagree with Angel Berroa in the leadoff spot, sometimes a little change is a good thing. I’d also like to see how David DeJesus bats in the number two spot with Mike Sweeney behind him.
3) He has the respect of his players who, in a five game stretch, are playing better for him than they ever played for Pena over the last year.

Jockey: Art Howe..........Morning Line: 7-1

Howe is probably the most experienced of the group that will get a look from the Royals. The reason to seriously consider him is based on his success in Oakland, where he went to the postseason three straight years while working on an economic footing similar to that in Kansas City. Although I’m sure the most of the credit for the development of their “Big Three” (Hudson, Mulder, Zito) goes to pitching coach Rich Peterson, Howe can take credit for taking a team that replaced Jason Giambi with Scott Hatteberg, Johnny Damon with David Justice and Jason Isringhausen with Billy Koch, and actually GOT BETTER.

Jockey: Larry Dierker..........Morning Line: 10-1
Dierker is Mr. Astro. Would he ever think about taking over the reigns in another organization? Plus, Baird has said he wants someone who gives everything to the team. Could Dierker forget about Houston and focus on KC? You can’t argue against his success as manager where he in five seasons he won four division titles. Word in Houston is he lost the veterans in the clubhouse, specifically Craig Biggio. That’s not going to be a problem in Kansas City.

Jockey: Frank White..........Morning Line: 15-1
Local favorite White is clearly the fan favorite to become the next skipper. After George Brett, no one represents the franchise like #20. His stated goal is to manage in the majors and he went to Wichita specifically to gain experience to accomplish that goal, and with the current “Youth Movement,” White has managed many of the players on the current roster. But for some reason, I just keep thinking that the job opened up about two years too early for White.

The Field ..........Morning Line: 25-1
Let’s file a bunch of guys here: Jim Fregosi, Jimy Williams, Grady Little, Carlos Tosca

Jockey: Larry Bowa..........Morning Line: 50-1

Please God, no.

Jockey: Jamie Quirk..........Morning Line: 100-1

George Brett’s running partner from back in the day, doesn’t have the experience Allard is looking for to be the next manager. Besides, he had a nasty parting of ways when he was a member of Tony Muser’s staff. No chance.

Jockey: Whitey Herzog..........Morning Line: 250-1
Last I heard about the White Rat, he was inviting Don Denkinger to the 1985 Cardinal Reunion.

And after all of that, I wouldn’t be surprised if Allard found someone who wasn’t even on this list.

So, what do you think? Did I leave anyone out? Post some comments with your thoughts and suggestions. I’ll try to keep the odds updated as we go along.


A hugely successful weekend for the Royals! And by hugely successful, I mean taking three out of four from any team is a good thing.

• Zack Greinke has to be wondering what he did to his teammates to make their bats go so cold every time he takes the mound. The Royals lack of production in his starts is insane. Zack, it’s time to start a plan to motivate the offense. How about something like gift certificates for base hits, RBIs and in an effort to keep Angel Berroa on base, runs.

• Mike Wood…Closer?

• If it’s May, it must be time for the injuries as Denny Bautista joined an already crowded DL over the weekend. The good news is Mike Sweeney is reportedly making progress with his strained oblique and will return on Tuesday.

• Speaking of Sweeney, how great is it that this team has won three out of five with their best player out of the lineup?

• Off day today with the Orioles coming to town beginning tomorrow.

A brief post to start the week, but if you're interested I should have something with a little more meat on it later in the day.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Hot Bats And The Search Continues

Quick notes from a rainy night at the K:

• Uh-oh. Mike Sweeney was a late scratch with a strained oblique.

John Buck collected his first base hit with runners in scoring position. He is now 1-18 with runners in scoring position this season.

Matt Stairs scored from first on base hits not once, but twice! Both times on Emil Brown extra base hits. Hey Matt, the oxygen is on me!

• In fact, with Sweeney out of the lineup, all of the damage was done from the lower half.

Mark Teahen continues to flash the leather at third.

Scott Kazmir will probably be a good pitcher in the majors someday, but Thursday he struggled. He had trouble finding the zone against leftys and against the right handed hitters he was leaving the ball right in the hitters wheelhouse.

Lima-Time gave his usual performance. Cruising through the first couple of innings before hitting the speed bump in the middle innings. Tonight it was the fourth when a couple of singles, a couple of walks (one with the bases loaded) and Lima entered full meltdown mode.

• The tarp went on the field with the score 7-5 with two outs in the top of the seventh. Looking at the radar, I doubt they will resume tonight. And with the Royals not having to take the field in the eighth inning, they should be virtually assured of a victory.


I really like Allard Baird. He's got an incredibly difficult job and he strikes me as someone who is honest (sometimes brutally so), forthright and pulls no punches. Ask him a question, and you’re going to get an answer. He doesn’t play games with the media, like the GM of the other professional sports franchise in this city.

I also think that Baird has done an outstanding job over the last year and a half acquiring talent while giving up next to nothing.

Some highlights from his press conference Thurday about the process of finding a new manager:

• As far as the next manager goes, Baird wouldn’t get specific with names, but said he anticipated a “master list” to be in place by Friday. The timeline is secondary to getting the right person. Baird even said that if the Royals don’t find “the right guy” they were willing to wait until after the season to make a permanent hire.

• He defined two types of managers: Independent contractors vs. the organizational guy. Baird is looking for total commitment that he says is crucial for our market. He’s looking for someone who will, pardon the cliché, bleed Royals blue. The new manager needs to be someone who believes in the youth movement as being what is best for this organization. Total commitment is necessary. A manager who will look to veterans when the going gets tough need not apply.

“The youth movement is very easy to talk about, but it becomes very hard to carry through when you are struggling.”

• Previous managerial experience in the big leagues is a plus, but will not be deemed a necessity.

• Baird described his ideal manager as someone who is a communicator, a winner, a tactician at the major league level, committed to the organization and someone who believes in the direction the team is going.

I believe the search will last at least two weeks. Baird is going to be very methodical. He mentioned that he is “a planner.” Pena’s resignation truly took him by surprise and he will take the time to put together the framework to make the right decision.

Pena wasn’t working as manager of this team. He was Baird’s first managerial hire and his resignation has given Baird a second chance, so to speak. Baird realizes the pressure is squarely on him. Truth be told, he’s lucky to have gotten this second chance to make things right.

He’s going to take his time and I have faith based on his track record over the last several months that he will make the right decision for this team.

Good luck Allard. You're going to need it.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss

Game one of the post-Tony Pena era ended like so many others…

Interim manager Bob Schaefer tried to mix things up with some interesting results.

• Mental midget Angel Berroa led off for the first time this season and responded by going 3-4 at the plate. Three hits from the leadoff spot for Berroa? I thought this guy might be an imposter, but after he was caught stealing in the eight, I can confirm that, yes, that was Angel.

Berroa should be fitted with a pair of concrete shoes, if only to keep him from trying to steal a base.

• After starter Denny Bautista had to leave the game with stiffness in his shoulder in the third inning the Schaefer went to Mike MacDougal. I would have thought the first choice would have been the only long reliever in the pen: Kyle Snyder. But I guess after Snyder got slapped around in a brief stint on Monday (.2 IP, 4 H, 4 ER) they were a little shy to give him the ball.

The Royals find themselves in this position after the odd decision to promote Leo Nunez after placing Brian Anderson on the DL earlier in the week. As a result, the only reliever not to make an appearance Wednesday was the aforementioned Snyder.

Bullpen pitch counts:

Thursday’s starter is Jose Lima. Wanna bet were going to need at least two of those pitchers?

• As great as Ambiorix Burgos was on Sunday, he was awful on Wednesday. He could only get one out in the eighth inning, allowing five hits and five runs. He’s used the pressure baseball in the Dominican, he’s done well in America, it must be Canada.

• Why is it the Royals offense can only score one run for Zack Greinke, but the next day they come up with nine runs on 16 hits and still manage to lose both games?


Not much to report in the Royals search for their next manager. Allard Baird, as expected, is very tight-lipped about the process. It makes sense. It’s early in the process and no one wants to look like a fool throwing a name out as a possibility only to have that person have no interest in the job.

Not to shock anyone, but George Brett says he’s not interested.

The Kansas City Star is running a poll online where you can cast your vote. As of midnight Thursday, here are the top five:

Frank White……..33%
Larry Bowa……...18%
Whitey Herzog….14%
Art Howe………...9%
Jim Leyland……...7%

Not surprising at all.

Still no sign of Buttermaker.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

And Gone!

It could be said that Tony Pena finally made the right move. He resigned.

There are a couple of things going on here that I’m sure factored into this decision:

• Tony lets the losses bother him way too much. Not to go too “psycho-analytical” or anything, but he seems to have a problem. It’s well documented what losing does to a manager. They don’t sleep, they don’t eat. Hell, Sparky Anderson was totally grey when he was 40! But Pena seemed particularly ill equipped to handle the pressure as the losses mounted. Who the hell jumps into the shower with their clothes on to make a point?

• Tony is dealing with some personal issues right now. He’s been subpoenaed in a civil case in Cass County, Missouri. At this time all I know is he’s has been called to testify by one of the parties in a divorce proceeding. I don’t know why he’s been called and I won’t speculate, but it doesn’t look good.

EDIT: This story just appeared online detailing the reason for the subpoena.

Tony had a great start in his first full season as manager when the team managed to finish above .500 for the first time in years. Those were fun times, as the Royals were in contention and Pena was the self-proclaimed “D.J.” But he couldn’t maintain the momentum in 2004 and, well we all know what’s happening in 2005.

So now we turn our thoughts to the next manager. Last time there was an opening, Buck Showalter openly campaigned for the job, proclaiming the Royals were an organization on the rise. I’m not too sure we’re going to have anyone calling Allard Baird this morning asking for an interview.

Here are some candidates off the top of my head:

• Larry Dierker
• Art Howe
• Bob Brenly
• Bobby Valentine
• Larry Bowa
• Don Baylor
• Jamie Quirk
• Frank White

I can’t say I’m thrilled with any of these names. The first six all have previous managerial experience. The last two, obviously, are ex-Royals with managerial aspirations. White is in Wichita for the expressed reason of ultimately managing a big league club. Quirk left the Royals organization after a falling out with Tony Muser and is currently the bench coach in Colorado. Hiring one of these two would fit a pattern this team has of hiring ex-players with no managerial experience. In fact, the last manager hired by the Royals that had previous big league managing experience was the late Dick Howser.

The short list will take shape over the next several days. Some of these names might be on it, some won’t. We’ll look at each candidate in-depth when the time is right.

My choice for manager is someone who has a proven track record of taking a bunch of misfits and making them winners. He's a motivator (when he's sober,) knows how to handle a young pitching staff and doesn't back down. Unfortunately he's dead:

Pena Gone

Well, I guess my plan to evaluate the manager at the All-Star break is out the window.

I'm going to have a cup of coffee, make some phone calls and will have a detailed post later this morning.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

There Will Be No Winning Streak

I don’t really feel like doing any kind of in-depth recap of loss number 24. They are kind of starting to all look the same to me.

• Monday’s 6-1 loss marked the eighth time this season the Royals have scored exactly one run. Last year, they scored exactly one run in 16 games.

• One day after Benito Santiago was released by the Pirates, the player the Royals acquired for Benny, Leo Nunez, was called up to the majors. In calling up yet another player who began the season in A-ball, Allard Baird is rotating as many young guys as he possibly can. John Sickels at Minor League Ball rates Nunez as the Royals 16th best prospect and gives him a grade of C+. Hell, I was excited that Allard was able to actually get a live body in exchange for Benny. Now we actually get to see him pitch in a big league game.

• I don’t like the way that new type of artificial turf (called FieldTurf, how original!) shows up on television. It always looks like my vertical hold is this close to going haywire.

• Did you know that Skydome is now called Rogers Centre? When did this happen?

• Just curious, does anyone who reads this blog pay for baseball information on the web? It seems like every time I visit the ESPN baseball website, they’ve moved another writer behind the “insider” veil.

• I’ll probably be late with the next update. I’m taking a break from baseball to go see the Killers tonight at the Uptown.

Zack Greinke goes for his first win of the season tomorrow. 3, 1, 1, 2, 0, 1. That's the game-by-game breakdown of run support for Greinke this season. No wonder he's still searching for his first win.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Hey, It's A Win

Plenty of interesting things to talk about. I so much enjoy discussing a win. First some fun notes about scoring runs:

• The Royals erupted for six runs in the fourth inning. That’s the most runs the Royals have scored in one inning this season. Their previous high was five runs which they have done exactly once this season (on April 30 at Cleveland.)

• Sunday’s win broke a five game losing streak. In those five games, the Royals scored eleven runs. Sunday they scored 10.

Mike Sweeney continues to be the man for this team. Sunday, he went 2-4 with a walk, a nice opposite field home run and scored all three times he was on base. The three runs scored by Sweeney tied the mark for most runs scored by a Royal in a game this season.

For a rare victory, things could have been better:

• Could Tony Pena please get it into his freaking head that this team needs to conserve every single out? Tony, outs are like valuable commodities. You get 27 of them per game. Giving them away by trying to steal bases with two outs, or by asking for a sacrifice bunt might make sense for a team that knows what they are doing. But asking a guy like Angel Berroa to sacrifice is just dumb. He’s more likely to get hit by a pitch than to lay down a successful bunt. Of course, after fouling off two bunt attempts, he swings at a ball up, out of the strike zone. Why even come to the plate if your at bat is going to be like that? Just save yourself the trouble and stay in the damn dugout.

• I wish John Buck could get it figured out at the plate where he shows no signs of snapping out of his season-long slump. His numbers are absolutely dismal. (.163/.212/.263) Remember, he went through the same thing when he was traded last year, getting off to just a horrible start. But after awhile, he was able to find his stroke and began to look more and more comfortable at the plate. I hope he can do it again this year. I haven’t given up on him, and I really like his defense, but jeez. Maybe he should worry now that Benito Santiago is available.

• The bullpen almost blew a seven run lead. The warning signs began popping up in the fifth inning when Mike Wood gave up a two out walk and a double, but got out of the inning. The wheels came off completely in the sixth when Wood gave up single, home run and a double. Enter Jaime Cerda, who looked like…Well, Jaime Cerda. After he gave up his walks and home run, it was Mike MacDougal’s turn. When it was all over an 8-1 game had turned into a 8-8 tie. It looked like the Royals were going to find yet another way to lose a ballgame.

Ken Harvey has had 40 at bats and is .225/.279/.350. Usually, it takes only 30 at bats to get sent down with those kind of numbers, but Super Ken does have a grand slam to his credit.

• The Star’s Jeffery Flanagan in his Top Of The Mornin' column (who, if you read this post, you know I’m not a fan) dropped another name to help the Royals. Aaron Guiel. Jeffrey, I don’t know if you are serious or not, but please stop. Really. It’s not funny.

But for all the negativity, there were some positives:

Ambiorix Burgos was nails. Coming into the game with the bases loaded and one out, he needed strikeouts and he got them. His stuff was just filthy nasty…Running fastballs at 95 mph and an out of this world splitter. In the end, he retires all eight batters he faced, striking out four and gets his first major league victory.

• The Royals didn’t seem to get too down about blowing a big lead. Everyone watching this game, me included, had to be thinking, “Here we go again.” I mean come on, we have a league-high 23 losses on the season and we just coughed up a seven run lead. The players probably were feeling a bit down, but I have to think Burgos working out of that bases loaded jam was a huge morale booster for a team desperately in need of some good things.

• The Royals took the lead when Steve Kline balked home the go-ahead run. Is it just me, or do you get some sort of perverse happiness when another team does something colossally stupid or inept that costs their team a chance for a win? Like LaTroy Hawkins bouncing a throw to first off the helmet of the runner, into the stands. I saw that on Friday and thought to myself, “That could have happened to the Royals.” Losing a game on a balk?!? I’m just angry the Royals didn’t think of it first.

Now it’s onto Toronto for three against the Jays and the chance to win two in a row for the second time this season.

Friday, May 06, 2005

"Offensive" Offense

It is early in the season, but I don’t think it’s too early to take a moment to see where the Royals stand in relation to the rest of the league. In fact, we’ll hold onto these numbers and revisit them over the next couple of months. It will help illustrate if the Royals are improving over the course of the season.

• The Royals are last in the AL in runs per game averaging 3.57. The bottom three:


Those are the only teams in the AL that are averaging less than four runs per game. League average is 4.63 runs per game.

• Is this Royals team worse that last year’s team? I know…That’s a stupid question, but let’s have some fun and look at some key offensive numbers from 2004 and compare them to this 2005:

Not surprisingly, there is a substantial drop. Maybe the 2004 numbers are skewed a bit because we did have the services of Carlos Beltran for about half the season. Let’s see how the team did post-Carlos:

The team actually maintained it’s performance when Carlos left showing a slight improvement is key statistical areas. But that’s not the point. The point is this 2005 is basically the same core group of guys that finished 2004 and they have regressed. I expected possibly some regression replacing Joe Randa for Mark Teahen, but this team should not have fallen this far, this fast.

• The Royals aren’t making good contact and we have proof. One of my favorite new stats is Line Drive Percentage. Tracked by Baseball Info Solution, this number is the percent of batted balls that are line drives. It’s a telling number because line drives fall for hits roughly 75% of the time. The Royals are last in the majors with a Line Drive Percentage of .143. League average is .175.

• The numbers from above are taken from the excellent Hardball Times Stats Page.

The numbers don’t lie. This is one bad baseball team. I shudder to think at how the numbers would look if we didn't have Mike Sweeney in the lineup everyday.

But remember, this season the wins and losses aren’t really important. What is important is the overall improvement of this team. For any kind of “youth movement” to take hold, we need to see strides and they need to be tangible.

Frankly, I just don’t see how we can sink any lower.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Play Ball!

Day game today and work is slow so I thought I would have a little fun...

I'll update every inning.

I just can't believe it. This team seemingly finds a new way to lose every...single...day. Some numbers from today:

• The Royals are now 3-9 in one run games this season.

• The Royals have now scored a grand total of eight runs in his six starts. That’s an average of 1.3 runs per game. Hernandez is the second-worst supported starter, averaging 3.2 runs per game.

• I would have liked to have seen Greinke remain in the game. He had thrown only 85 pitches and didn’t seem to be struggling. With runners on first and second the double play was in order. He had pitched so well up to that point and wasn’t overworked so I don’t see why you don’t let your best pitcher try to get out of the jam.

• A couple of nice defensive plays by Teahen at third. Add that to the previously mentioned gem by Berroa in the first and the throw by Castillo to nail Posednik trying to steal and the Royals probably played their best defensive game of the season.

• Someday the Royals will win games like this.

Ninth Inning
The Royals can't buy a break. Shingo Takatsu does his best Andy Sisco impersonation, putting two runners on without a hit, but Super Ken looks at called strike three. In fairness to Ken, the pitch was way low. Another Laz Diaz special. His strike zone has been all over the place this afternoon.

Long flies out to end the game.

Royals 1
Sox 2

Eighth Inning
An inning after the Royals had their collective foot on the neck of Contreras, they backed way off. Seven pitches, three easy outs.

Meanwhile, Greinke has never pitched past the seventh inning in his major league career. Today he makes it seven and a third before giving way to WTP Favorite Andy Sisco. A walk, a sacrifice and a hit batter chase Zack. I'm disappointed he didn't get the chance for the complete game and the shutout, but what an effort. He threw 85 pitches, 53 for strikes.

Sisco retires Jamie Burke pinch hitting for Pierzynski on a ball dribbled to third where the only out is at first moving the runners to second and third. With first open, Sisco pitches around Crede loading the bases...

And Sisco walks in the tying run on four pitches.

In comes Ambiorix Burgos and he can't find the plate either.

The Sox take the lead on four walks and a hit batter. It doesn't get anymore disgusting than that. And the best part of it all is Greinke is now on the hook for the loss. Crap.

Royals 1
Sox 2

Seventh Inning
Royals break through first!!!

Graffanino hits his first home run of the year on a 3-1 fastball.

Contreras recovers getting Sweeney to foul out and Stairs to strikeout on a questionable non-call on a foul tip (why do the Royals always seem to have trouble with Laz Diaz?) But he runs into trouble allowing a single to Super Ken and a walk(!) to Terrence Long. Contreras is in trouble, but Berroa bails him out by chasing a pitch in the dirt.

Greinke has made six starts this year and in the bottom of this inning was the first time he has pitched with a lead all year. Read that last sentence again. Unreal. The Royals have now scored a grand total of eight runs in his six starts.

Sox go down quietly. Greinke has now retired 12 in a row counting the Posednik caught stealing after he singled to lead off the fourth.

Royals 1
Sox 0

Sixth Inning

That was the Sonic Slam Inning. Like that was going to happen.

Sox go one, two, three as well. Neither team has gotten past first base.

Royals 0
Sox 0

Fifth Inning
Royals manage their second hit of the game, but Berroa is caught stealing to end the inning.

The Sox go quietly as Greinke rings up two more. The last was on a questionable call to former Royal Jermaine Dye low and away. Greinke has thrown 53 pitches thru five innings.

Royals 0
Sox 0

Fourth Inning
Nothing happening for the Royals. Contreras has retired 10 in a row.

Greinke seems to be working the inner half of the plate today. Trouble happens when he goes away from the hitter and Posednik leads off with a single. But Castillo guns him out stealing on the first pitch. That's only the second time in 13 attempts that Posednik is caught stealing. Zack celebrates by striking out Iguchi on a slow curve and Everett on an inside fastball.

Here's the pitch sequence to Everett to show the effectiveness of Grienke working inside:

Royals 0
Sox 0

Third Inning

Stat of the day courtsey of RSTN...David DeJesus sees more pitches per at bat (4.7) than any other leadoff hitter in the league. He looks at two balls before popping out.

Greinke goes to 3-2 on the leadoff hitter, A.J. Pierzynski before he gets the first hit of the afternoon for the Sox. But Zack doesn't let the leadoff walk get to him as he gets Crede to pop out and Uribe lines into a double play. He smoked the ball, but right to Teahen at 3B.

Royals 0
Sox 0

Second Inning

Royals go in order. Terrence Long looks particularly bad striking out.

Greinke has his lucky necklace and the White Sox are hacking. Aaron Rowand is the only batter who decided to take a couple of pitches and Zack got him in the whole 1-2. Cue the slow curve and Rowand is out in front and lifts a lazy fly to left. Three up, three down. Seven pitches that inning.

Royals 0
Sox 0

First Inning
It goes as usual for the Royals in their half of the first as the Royals get one hit by Sweeney who couldn't be any hotter right now. Too bad everyone else in the lineup is currently inept with the lumber.

Great play by Berroa ranging in the hole at short to end the White Sox half of the inning. Assist goes to Super Ken Harvey for digging the throw out of the dirt. Greinke sails thru the inning throwing only six pitches.

Royals 0
Sox 0

DeJesus CF
Graff 2B
Sweeney DH
Stairs RF
Harvey 1B
Long LF
Berroa SS
Teahen 3B
Castillo C

Greinke SP

There's Not Enough Antacid In This World...

It’s funny. Coming into this season I felt this team was built for 100 losses. Believe me, when you are thinking that in February and March there’s really no way expectations could be lower. And as I’ve written here numerous times in the brief history of this blog, I’m not concerned with the Royals’ record this season. They have finally committed to a “youth movement” that I feel will progress over the next couple of years.

But, damn these losses are tough to stomach.

It’s tough because I believe we are coming close. That doesn’t mean I think this team is close to contending. It means in a number of games already this season, if the Royals were able to make a play here, or get a hit there we’re discussing the win instead of dissecting the loss.

• It’s boiling down to the “big inning.” Wednesday, it was Runelvys Hernandez not being able to close out the fourth inning. With two outs he gave up a single, double and home run. Suddenly a 1-1 game turns into a 4-1 and as we all know on most nights, four runs is enough to beat the Royals.

• Captain Fantastic, Mike Sweeney, continues to be the only Royal worth watching at the plate. Two doubles and both RBIs Wednesday.

Mark Teahen is 3-6 since returning from the DL. Much has been made about his lack of power, but I’m really impressed with his bat control and his ability to make contact. It’s cliché but he seems to be staying within himself and just put the bat on the ball. Really there’s no reason to believe that the power won’t eventually come.

Ken Harvey was 1-4 with three strikeouts. One of those strikeouts came with the bases loaded and two down in the seventh inning. I wonder if my favorite columnist from the KC Star will write about how “clutch” Harvey is tomorrow.

Day game Thursday with Zack Greinke on the hill. Check back during the game for some updates.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Royals Dig The Long Ball

There will be no three game winning streak. Not right now anyway. Maybe someday.

• The Royals are continuing to rely on the long ball as their primary way to score runs. Tonight, all four runs were the product of home runs. That means in the last three games, 16 of 19 runs scored came from round trippers. For a team that has so little power to begin with, this is a disturbing trend if only because they can’t possibly keep hitting this many balls over the fence. Remember all those games the second week of the season when the Royals struggled to score more than once a game? I have a feeling we’re going to be reliving those days real soon.

• But the captain has been coming up huge, hasn’t he? In fact, over at Baseball Prospectus and their nifty VORP statistic, Mike Sweeney is currently rated as the top AL first baseman. And that’s before tonight’s two home run, three RBI performance. I’ve always liked Sweeney and would like nothing more than to see him remain a Royal for his whole career. But if he keeps hitting like this, the pressure will mount on Allard Baird to flip him for some value. Corner outfielder (Kevin Mench, Austin Kearns) anyone?

• I thought Tony Pena left Brian Anderson in for one batter too long. I know his pitch count was low (he finished with 84 pitches) but Aaron Rowand has always had success against Anderson (10 for 22, 2 HR coming into Tuesday’s game.) Anderson pitched six strong innings and with a bullpen rotation set, why not bring Mike Wood in to start the seventh? Especially if you are going to be so quick with the hook after the home run. Once again, Tony’s bullpen mismanagement helps to cost this team a win.

• Rough inning for WTP favorite Andy Sisco. When Scott Podsednik singled, you have to believe the knowledge of his speed, and the fact he was the tying run, was enough to rattle the rookie. But on the bright side, he was able to battle back after giving up the lead by striking out Rowand and Jermaine Dye to end the inning and prevent any further damage.

• It’s always nice to see another team run the bases like the Royals. First inning, one out, runners on first and second when Sweeney sneaks in behind Carl Everett and Anderson picks him off. While this is happening, in a moment of temporary baserunning insanity, Tadahito Iguchi breaks for third. Sweeney makes a nice throw and Iguchi is out by a mile. End of threat, end of inning. Someone help me out here: Is that part of “small ball?”

Monday, May 02, 2005

Ken Harvey To Save The Day!

Jeffrey Flanagan, otherwise known as the president of the Kansas City chapter of the Ken Harvey Fan Club, has to be smiling. His man finally(!) got called up to the big club on Thursday of last week. And within days SuperKen inspired his team to their first winning streak of the season. Somebody get the movie studios on the phone. This is better than Hoosiers!

OK, so that above paragraph was a bit on the sarcastic side.

But those of you who read the Kansas City Star are well aware of Flanagan’s infatuation with certain players who can “help” the Royals. As the April losses began piling up for the Royals, Flanagan began his pining for SuperKen:

“OK, so this whole Calvin Pickering-Ken Harvey experiment is looking more strange as the weeks pass by…And here's the kicker to the whole situation: No one can really explain why Harvey got beat out of the job in the first place. What did Harvey do so wrong the last two years, except win a bunch of dramatic games as a rookie and make the All-Star game last season?”

“So Cal Pickering is sent back down and still no Ken Harvey, even though he continues to hit around .350 at Omaha and had a two-homer game over the weekend. This is getting crazy, Royals fans. A guy who came up with clutch hits time after time his first two years in the major league, and he can't even get called back up on this team?”

“Harvey keeps pounding out hits at Class AAA Omaha, and the organization does not seem to be making any movement to bring him back to the big-league club. Harvey, through Monday, was hitting .382 with three homers and 14 RBIs. That's right, .382.”

The argument here seems to be that Harvey is: 1) Clutch, 2) An All-Star and 3) Raking in the minor leagues. Only one of these has any validity. Let’s address each of these points.

1) SuperKen is clutch.

Yes, Harvey has had several “dramatic” plate appearances for this team over the last couple of years. I don’t think anyone who saw the 11th inning, game-ending Harvey bomb against the Tigers in April 2003 will ever forget it. It was a great moment for a team where great moments have been in short supply over the last 20 years.

I do believe in the myth of the clutch hitter. In fact, it’s damn near impossible to have grown up in Kansas City in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, watching George Brett and not believe in the clutch hitter. But is Ken Harvey clutch? Please. Big hits in April are nice and even necessary if your team is going to contend, but hits become “clutch” in September and October.

SuperKen might actually be clutch, but his second half slides preclude us from finding that out.

2) SuperKen is an All-Star.

This is the argument that will forever make the least amount of sense. Harvey had a solid start to the season last year and was the Royals lone representative in the All-Star game. A nice honor to be sure, but it has absolutely zero value in determining his worth to the team. And as long as every team has to be represented in the game, it doesn’t carry the meaning it actually could. You know, Junior Spivey was an All-Star once.

3) SuperKen is raking in the minors.

This is the only valid argument for his promotion to the big club. To Harvey’s credit he didn’t sulk when the Royals sent him down. It looks like he used it as motivation and took out his frustration on PCL pitchers. I like that. It shows a certain level of maturity other Royals (Dee Brown anyone?) were lacking the last few years. And as the Royals are on a quest to avoid record-breaking losses, it makes sense for the I-29 shuttle to be in full swing. Come on up and hopefully get a few more at-bats than Calvin Pickering. If you do everything average, you can stay…If not, let’s try someone else. I’m fine with that. It’s Harvey’s turn.

So Flanagan is happy. As of Sunday, he’s firmly now firmly on the Royals’ side:

“Royals fans have heard the mantra of a Royals youth movement for almost 10 years. In truth, the Royals never actually committed to a youth movement before. They stuck their big toe in it a few times, but never actually dived in headfirst. They have now, and that's the message the Royals need to get out. They are committed this time around. “

Glad you finally figured it out, Jeff.

But beware fellow Royals fans. Here’s who Flanagan has tapped as the next guy that can help our team to 100 losses:

“Jeff Conine was drafted by the Royals, developed by the Royals and spent two stints with the Royals. Now he's sitting on the bench with the Florida Marlins. And he's not too happy about it. Here's a crazy thought: Why not bring him back to Kansas City?”


Two In A Row!

It only took them until May, but the 2005 Royals have finally put together their first winning streak of the season. After a month of things breaking the wrong way for this team, on Sunday things went pretty much according to plan:

• Lima-Time had his typical start, but in reverse. Usually, the first inning spells trouble, but Sunday he was able to work out of a jam with runners at the corners. After that, he was on cruise control until the wheels came off in the sixth. He actually didn’t allow a single base hit until there was one out in the sixth inning. Then he seemed to tire and couldn’t get anyone out, let alone keep them in the park and the Royals saw their 5-0 lead turn into a 5-5 tie.

But here’s where things get really good. In this situation for the whole month of April, this is where the Royals bullpen comes in and promptly gives up the lead while the offence strands runners in scoring position for the rest of the afternoon.

• Tony Pena decided to play for the win by sending out his “A” bullpen team. Mike Wood finished up the sixth when Lima-Time couldn’t, then sailed through the seventh. He then gave way to fellow “A” teamers Andy Sisco and Ambiorix Burgos. The three were able to completely shut down the Indian bats. Final bullpen line: 3 1/3 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO.

• The Captain, Mike Sweeney came up huge with two solo home runs. The second of which leading off the eighth provided the winning margin.

The home run was the theme for the weekend.

• In fact, both wins this weekend were what I would term anti-Royal wins simply because most of their runs were scored via the long ball. Of the 15 runs scored in their two wins, 12 came on home runs. Hardly the Royal way.

• Before Saturday, the Royals had clubbed a total of 17 home runs this season. This in their two wins this weekend, they hit seven.

• All-Star Ken Harvey hit the Royals first grand slam of 2005 on Saturday.

Other notes from a fun weekend:
• WTP Favorite Andy Sisco was the only pitcher to throw in both wins. His line: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO. His ERA is now at a cool, round 1.00.

• One of the things that has been so maddening from the first month of the season is how the Royals have been facing some truly awful pitchers and making them look like the second coming of Cy Young. Saturday, the Royals finally beat up on a pitcher everyone else in the league beats up on. Cliff Lee has been absolutely terrible since the 2004 All-Star break. But that didn’t stop him from shutting the Royals out on two hits through seven innings in his previous start against them on April 18. Saturday, he was exposed as the number five starter he truly is.

Two wins in a row. Sweet.

Later on Monday, I'll have some thoughts on the return of Ken Harvey and how the Royals can keep the streak alive.

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