August 24, 2005
Peter Gammons noted recently that both Allaird Baird and Buddy Bell
relieved that the Royals losing streak ended because now they could get
back to giving their young players much needed experience. While
that may sound admirable, the problem with it is that they weren't
playing players with upside then, and still aren't. They continue
to play Matt Stairs, Terrence Long and Emil Brown whose average age is
32 years old. Stairs is a useful hitter so he actually has some
value in playing. They may have an excuse for playing Long
because they are still on the hook for $4 million plus in salary.
Still, if they were interested in the future, it's not like young
players are learning how to win from a guy who'd be a 4th or 5th
outfielder on any other team in the majors.
But allowing Emil Brown to
continue getting regular at bats is just silly. He's 30 years old
making major league minimum and, with the exception of his batting
average this season, hasn't
showed significant improvement in any other aspect of his game.
Meanwhile in AAA they have Matt Diaz hitting .370 (1.057 OPS) and Aaron
popping 30 homers (.914 OPS). Granted, neither of those guys are
prospects, but both are younger than Brown and Long and at least have
outside chance of becoming major league regulars. Not a good
chance mind you, but there is a chance. That can't be said
of Long and Brown, at least not without giggling.
They've also taken to giving Denny Hocking at bats... Denny Hocking for
Pete's sake!!!! He's 35 years old and only three times in his
career has he amassed more than 300 at bats in a season. Only
once in his
13-year career did he produce an OPS in excess of .700 and has a
career OPS of .654. That, folks, is lousy. But they're
finding ways to give him at bats at the expense of Ruben Gotay and/or
Donnie Murphy. Meanwhile Diaz, Guiel and Justin Huber (850 OPS in
AAA) are stuck in Omaha while the outfield equivalents of Hocking are
racking up regular ABs in Kansas City.
And that is why the Royals will continue to stink forever... or at
least until they get a new
GM and a new owner. They have demonstrated quite ably over the
last 5 years that they have absolutely no clue as to how to value
player production. The only regular player who has a chance to be
better than major league average that they got in return for Johnny
Carlos Beltran and Jermaine Dye is Angel Berroa. When they
acquired Mark Teahen last year they announced that they thought he
could become a Joe Randa-type player. The problem is that they
can only hope that he will become Joe Randa. That's Teahen's
of potential. The reality is probably much lower. When your
aspiration for the key prospect in a deal when you are surrendering an
star impact player like Beltran is that he will develop into a role
player, then you simply don't belong in a position with the power to
make those kind of decisions.
Allaird Baird gets points from a lot of sportswriters because he's
friendly and accessible, but that doesn't hide the fact that he's just
not competent as a GM. If I was a free agent, the Royals would
have to pay me twice as much as I could get anywhere else to come there
because they have no hope of ever contending as long as Allaird Baird
GM and David Glass is owner.
"The Clear" Sox
It's interesting the reaction Frank Robinson's comments regarding
steroid users has gotten. If you're not familiar with them, Frank
suggested that anyone who is caught using should be erased from the
record books. It doesn't matter when a player was using, whether
he used for his whole career or just for one day. If he is caught
with steroids in his system, everything he has done should be removed
from the record book. Most sportswriters recoiled at the notion
possibly expurgating the careers of guys like Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds,
McGwire, Jason Giambi and Rafael Palmeiro in part because it would be
so difficult to determine a) when they were using and b) how many other
players were using but hadn't achieved the same historic results.
isn't that exactly what Kenesaw Mountain Landis did when he was hired
to bring integrity to baseball after the Black Sox scandal? He
banned for life all eight players who were implicated even though they
were found not guilty of conspiracy to defraud in their trial.
of the players, Buck Weaver, didn't participate in the fix yet was also
banned because he knew about it and didn't say anything. And it's
not like the players Landis banned were scrubs. The
two primary instigators of the fix - Chick Gandhil and Swede
Risberg - were barely league average, so they had nothing to
the teammates they took down with them lost plenty.
Shoeless Joe Jackson was a no doubt Hall of Famer. His story is
well-chronicled but just to highlight how great a player he actually
was, his career adjusted OPS is 170 good for 7th best ever.
That's better than Ty Cobb, Jimmie Foxx, Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Hank
Aaron, Joe DiMaggio, Frank Robinson and Mike Schmidt. The only
players who were better according to this metric which measures a
player's offensive production relative to his peers are Babe Ruth, Ted
Williams, Barry Bonds (uh oh), Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby, Mickey
Mantle and 19th century star Dan Brouthers. Before Bonds'
offensive (and possibly steroid-augmented) onslaught that began in
2000, his career OPS + was 164.
Eddie Cicotte, who was also a key player in the fix, was a borderline
Hall of Famer although probably wouldn't
have ever made it. He nearly won 30 games in two different
seasons, including 1919 when he won 29 before being benched the final
few weeks of the season, an order according to legend that came from
White Sox owner Charlie Comiskey so that Cicotte wouldn't meet a
contract incentive. Lefty Williams was just 27 years old and had
won 23 and 22 games in the two years before being banned. Happy
Flesch had just entered his prime years and posted a 143
adjusted OPS (meaning he was 43% better than league average) in what
turned out to be his
final season. According to his defensive range statistics, he was
the equivalent of Torii Hunter in center field. Essentially, he
becoming Ken Griffey Jr. in his prime. Buck Weaver was a slightly
than Joe Randa is: a little better than league average as a hitter,
than average with the glove. I bet you
are wondering how I was going to tie this with the Royals; there ya'
go. But Weaver was still young enough that he could have become a
good, perhaps even a star player.
As Milan Kundera suggested in The
Unbearable Lightness of Being, obviously times have
changed. We live in a world where integrity isn't valued as it
once was, where shameful behavior is a career choice and where right
and wrong aren't so much moral imperatives as they are a matter of
perspective. I'm certainly not suggesting that what we need in
the commissioner's office is an avowed racist like Landis, who was one
of the primary reasons why it took so long for baseball to
re-integrate. I'm merely suggesting that if Landis were
commissioner or had the steroid scandal taken place 80 years ago, the
response from baseball would have been quite different and Frank
Robinson's suggestion wouldn't seem so draconian.