State of the Royals
I’m reluctant to declare the¬†playoff chase¬†over, because I’ve done that once and it backfired.¬† At that time, the Royals responded by going 19-5 in 24 games after the All-Star break.¬† This feels different though.¬† I could be reading too much into it, but there seems to be an overall lack of focus and energy with our boys in blue.¬† The Royals are 2-6 in their last 8 games (3 of those losses are to the lowly Marlins and White Sox), and suddenly another disasterous 30-day stretch like what they experienced in May sounds much more feasible than chasing down a division title, wild card spot, or even the second place Cleveland Indians.¬† Injuries,¬†extended slumps, and overall under-achievement¬†are taking center-stage right now.¬†¬†With no scheduled off-day until September 12th, these are the the dog days¬†of summer, which have a habit of separating the contenders and pretenders.¬† ¬†
Purely out of respect for what they did immediatley after the All-Star break, I’m setting the Royals Fan Anxiety Index (see below)¬†at BLUE.¬†
What are we playing for?
We’ve all been told the playoffs are a long-shot.¬† Even after that late-July/early-August stretch, the playoffs remained a long-shot,¬† but seemed¬†infinitely more possible than just before the All-Star break.¬† Here the Royals are in yet another funk, and people are coming out of the woodwork to remind you¬†the playoffs were never going to happen, the team is bad, Dayton Moore is a witch¬†and you’re a fool if you ever thought anything different.¬† MLB Network and ESPN Baseball Tonight are no longer talking about the Royals, the radio shows are feverishly shifting their focus to NFL and NCAA football, and social media is jam-packed with people playing the “I told you so” card.¬†
Just last week I was accused of “settling” for hoping the Royals can finish with a winning record.¬† Yes, “settling”.¬† The Royals have been awful for the better part of the last 22 years.¬† They’ve mixed in two winning seasons in that span, and those seasons were 10 years apart (1993 and 2003).¬† But I’m a buffoon for not EXPECTING playoff caliber baseball¬†fresh off¬†another 90-loss season?¬†¬†As though going from a 90-loss team to the playoffs is the norm.¬† There are people nearly¬†falling down from patting themselves on the back so hard¬†for telling us, “I told you so”.¬†
So, what are we playing for?¬† I suppose it varies from fan to fan.¬† If you’re a playoffs or bust kind of fan, then the season is over.¬† Though, if that’s the case, the season was likely¬†over before it ever started, if we’re being realistic.¬† If you’re a fan that likes to see your team get progressively better, then you have an opportunity to watch the Royals do just that.¬† They have a shot at finishing the year above .500 for the first time in 10 years.¬† No, there’s no parade for that achievement, but the general hope is that a .500 or winning season can serve as a catalyst to even better seasons.¬† If that makes me naive, I’ll own that.¬† I liken this season to watching my nearly 1 1/2 year old son go from just laying there, to crawling, to standing, to walking, to running.¬† Which stage the Royals are in, I’m not sure.
It’s too early for me to dive too far¬†into what I want to see the Royals do this off-season, but it is sure shaping up to be an interesting winter.¬† Here are a few things to keep an eye on:
- The Royals have no manager under contract for 2014, and their General Manager’s contract expires at the end of 2014.¬† Will Ned be back?¬† Will Dayton Moore be back?¬† Will Jason Kendall be our next manager?¬† All legitimate concerns.¬† My thoughts are that it might be time for change across the administrative board.¬† It should be interesting to see how it unfolds.¬† If Ned doesn’t return, Dayton Moore is going to be hard-pressed to find a legitimate managerial candidate take the job, while being a lame-duck GM.¬† With that being said, my guess is they either both go, or both stay.
- As far as roster construction, the glaring needs will be 2b and RF.¬† Those positions must be significantly improved.¬† I’d also submit that CF, starting pitcher, and maybe even 3b need to be improved (Much less concerned about 3b than the other two, at this point).¬† Remember Zack Greinke?¬† All we got in return for him was Alcides Escobar, in my mind.¬† I don’t think Cain can be trusted as an every day CF’er.¬† While he plays a Gold Glove caliber center field, you can’t win those awards from the diabled list.¬† I’d rather see the Royals get someone who might be¬†a notch below Cain in terms of defensive prowess, but a notch better in offensive production and reliability.¬†
- What will happen to Ervin Santana?¬† One thing is for sure, and that is Ervin will get paid handsomely.¬† Will it be the Royals signing his checks? As usual, I think it will come down to who is willing to offer him a longer-term commitment.¬† I’m not so sure that would be the right move for the Royals.
- What to expect if the Royals overhaul the front office?¬† Who knows?¬† If that were to happen, it wouldn’t shock me in the least to see guys like¬†James Shields and Greg Holland¬†dealt this offseason.¬† The Royals need bats in a bad way, and dealing those two players would seemingly be enough to net at least a couple of worthy bats.¬†
What does this have to do with the Royals? Nothing.¬† Just wanted to vent a little, is that alright?
Personally, I couldn’t care less if A-Rod got¬†plunked every at-bat for the rest of his career.¬† I think he’s a clown, and a black eye on the game of baseball.¬† I think what he’s done (among others), is arguably worse than what Pete Rose ever did.¬† Alex Rodriguez has been a cheater and a bush league player for most of his career.¬† Am I being too harsh?¬† It is safe to say this guy has ruined careers.¬† I’m sure at some point along the way, a young man’s career was cut short because he gave up a steroid/PED-induced homerun to Alex Rodriguez.¬† Or maybe it was a veteran, who was just trying to hang on, and the unfair advantage that Rodriguez weilded drove that final nail in the coffin.¬† Think about the number of wins Alex Rodriguez has been a deciding factor in, if not directly responsible for, and the managers/players¬†who got those losses hung on them.¬†¬†Somewhere out there are minor leaguers that never got a chance because they were log-jammed in the organizational depth chart, behind A-Rod.¬†
Maybe it’s time, if MLB is truly serious about fixing this PED problem, that teams are sanctioned if their players are caught cheating.¬† Hit them where it hurts–the Win column.¬†¬†¬†
I would be remiss not¬†to¬†mention Miguel Tejada of the Royals.¬† Literally no one is/should be shocked that his suspension came about.¬† He’s very similar to A-Rod in that he’s an admitted cheat, and anytime a PED scandal arises, he seems to be tied to it.¬† It’s unfortunate and disgraceful to have my hometown team involved in this kind of drama, but it’s hardly their first foray into a PED scandal.¬† Jason Grimsley¬†and Jose Guillen come to mind, as well as a few others who I suspect were of the same ilk.¬†
3 Points of Light
- Eric Hosmer-¬† He is the lone offensive force on this team right now.¬† That’s a double-edged sword.¬† It’s refreshing to see him mature into the offensive force we had been hoping for, but it’s also sad to see him be the only force in a lineup that boasts three All-Stars.
- Greg Holland-¬†27 saves in his last 27 chances.¬† He’s been nothing short of dominant.¬† It’s not like he’s just getting by, as¬†he has surrendered just 3 runs in that span.¬† He’s also racked up 77 K’s in just 49 innings.
- Danny Duffy-¬† I chose Duffy because of his performance on Friday.¬† You know, the one where he out-dueled Justin Verlander?¬† Duffy still struggles to be economic with his pitches, but the velocity and competitive drive are alive and well.¬† I hope and expect we’ll get to see a little more of Duffy before the end of 2013.¬†
3 Red Flags
- Alex Gordon-¬†Bad Alex is back.¬† In fact, rookie year Alex is back.¬† Down years are part of baseball, but it’s certainly disconcerting to see Gordon do this before the ink of his long-term deal was dry.¬†
- Billy Butler- There’s quite¬†a debate on sports talk radio and social media on how good Billy Butler is (or isn’t).¬† To me, it’s a silly argument.¬† Butler is obviously a good player.¬† The fact is though, this season, he’s fallen far from expectations.¬† People are quick to point out his¬† .381 OBP and¬†.808 OPS numbers¬†to justify how good he is.¬† Rightly so, as those are good numbers.¬† Unfortunately, for a middle of the order bat, his .427 SLG% isn’t going to cut it.¬† That stat alone is down 83 points from last year.¬† Bat him lead-off if you want to take full advantage of that glossy OBP (tongue in cheek…kind of).¬†¬†That would certainly eliminate some of the¬†double-plays he has a penchant to hit into.¬† Also of note, his home runs are down this year, and his doubles are projected to drop for the fourth season in a row.¬† I don’t venture too far into the world of advanced stats, but Butler’s WAR (Wins Above Replacement) currently sits at 1.6–exactly half of what it was last year (3.2).¬† 2.0 is considered a starter level MLB player.
- Ned¬†Yost- All I can say is each lineup is like a box of chocolates with Ned.¬† You never know what you’re going to get.¬† Simply put, they defy logic.
3 Point Plan
- Get Healthy- Not sure I’ve ever seen a team reel from losing a .230 and .260 hitter like the Royals have, but they clearly miss Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain.¬† It would be nice to get one or both of them back for the stretch run.
- Do the little things-¬† This team, more than just about any other, must do the little things right because they’re not capable of the big things.¬† This Royals team isn’t going to out-slug anyone, so focusing on the finer points of defense, base-running, etc. are paramount if they have any chance of winning.
- Finish strong-¬† Yes, playoff hopes are all but dashed, but I hope a lot of these guys take this opportunity to audition for 2014.¬† I’d like to know if we can count on Justin Maxwell as a 4th outfielder next year.¬† I’d like to know if Emilio Bonifacio can be our super-utility guy next year.¬† I’d like to see Moustakas build on what had been a promising second half of the season.¬† The list could go on and on, but I also want to see who is closing up shop, and mailing it in the rest of the 2013.
ROYALS FAN ANXIETY INDEX:
GREEN- I LIKE WHAT YOU’VE DONE HERE.
BLUE- OK, THAT SUCKED, BUT THEY CAN BOUNCE BACK.¬† RIGHT?!
PURPLE- HERE WE GO AGAIN. #FACEPALM
ORANGE- THIS IS LIKE WATCHING A THREE LEGGED CAT TRYING TO BURY A TURD ON A FROZEN POND.
RED- FIRE EVERYONE!¬† I HATE EVERYONE!¬† I HATE THE ROYALS, AND PUPPIES TOO!!
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