Was It Worth It?
Cling to your hopes, ye mighty, and despair.
A mini-collapse has brought the Royals back to the realm of Realism, and much of the shine of their jaunt proceeding the All-Star Break has cascaded into darkness. What we’re left with is the specter of the revered tomb, a No-Man’s Land of neither being good enough to be “in it” nor bad enough to hope that the team’s Quixotic tumbles at relevancy will enact change within the organization.
The Royals currently sit at 64-60, 8.5 games back of the Tigers. After going 2-3 against Les Tigres, no one thinks we will catch them for the division. No one really should have thought that we would anyway, but that’s a different matter altogether. Kansas City is a half-game further back than they were at the All-Star break with decidedly fewer games to try and make up ground. Even if they were two games better, it really isn’t in the math for them to make a push for the AL Central. All of this says nothing about the fact that the Cleveland Indians are still a better team as well. So, kudos to Dayton Moore for putting together the 3rd-best team in what is often considered baseball’s weakest division. When you can put together a team better than the Twins (55-69) and the White Sox (50-74), you must be doing something right.
Speaking of ill-fated attempts at competitive baseball, the Royals are also 6.5 games back of Oakland in the Wild Card race. They also have Cleveland, Baltimore, and the New York Yankees (again) between them and the right to play in Bud Selig’s latest raison d’√™tre, the single-elimination playoff game. Assuming Oakland, Cleveland, Baltimore, and New York (or 1/4th of the American League) played .500 (or the closest approximation thereof, given an odd number of games) the rest of the season, that would require the Royals to go 26-12 to leapfrog the Athletics and sneak in baseball’s proverbial back door. Considering they are coming off a stretch where they went 21-11 by the most Yostian of ways – grit, moxie, gumption, and good old American sticktoitiveness – and that it requires four teams (again, one-quarter of the league the Royals play in) to do something which is statistically highly improbable, it is no small gamble to say (again) that it isn’t going to happen. It just isn’t.
Which brings me to the crux of this article: Was it worth it?
Wil Myers, Mike Montgomery, Jake Odorizzi, and Patrick Leonard are gone. Elliot Johnson, the PTBNL in the trade for James Shields, has been DFA’d already. Jamey Carroll, Emilio Bonifacio, and Chris Getz populate your lineups. James Shields (2.5 fWAR) has been worth only slightly more than Wil Myers (2.0 WAR) despite the fact that Myers has played in only 52 games. Myers is currently hitting .316/.362.490. Shields’ K-rate (7.06 k/9) is off by more than a full strikeout per inning from what it was the last three seasons (8.82, 8.12, 8.28, respectively). Wil Myers is under control for six more years after this season. James Shields will pitch in approximately 40 more games for the Royals. Jake Odorizzi has a 3.56 ERA and 3.61 FIP in AAA this season with a K:BB of 2.89. On pretty much any other team (including the Royals), he’d be starting in major league games and costing about one-fifth of what Wade Davis will make this year (and about one-tenth of what Davis will cost next season).
They re-signed Guthrie for $25m over three years, brought in Ervin Santana for $12m plus a minor league reliever, clung to Bruce Chen and tendered Luke Hochevar for $4.5m. In addition to giving Wade Davis over $7.5m combined from 2013 to 2014, the Royals have committed $68.5m in payroll for this season and next on six players, three of whom will most likely not even be around next season. The other three (Shields, Guthrie, Davis) represent a payroll commitment on diminishing returns: Shields and Guthrie will be a year older and Davis (with his $4.8m salary) will most likely be pushed to the bullpen at some point next season to make room for Paulino, Duffy, Ventura, and (hopefully) Zimmer.
This could have been a good team. A borderline great team. A team that truly fit into the postseason discussion, that wore the edges of other teams whenever they came to town. Instead, it has become an eighty million dollar dumpster fire, albeit a dumpster that happened to have some fireworks packed away in a heap somewhere in the middle.
Barring a full collapse (which is more likely than you’d think), Dayton Moore will get extended. Ned Yost will get extended.The same people responsible for the current state of things will be put in charge of trying to correct them. The last time they tried (last winter) they traded away what looks to be a future perennial All-Star and a solid innings-eater for the opportunity to keep their heads above water. A feat which they may in fact accomplish, but at a price too great to bear for the accomplishment, like tossing dollar after dollar in a carnival game to win a stuffed toy worth less than the wire coat hanger used to display it.
Some people like carnival games. They enjoy the escape and could care less about the cost. “Consumer blindness” is often what it’s called. You make decisions based on the colorful baubles and bells in front of you without considering that the $10 you are about to spend on that defective off-brand Winnie the Pooh could have gotten you a legitimate one at the local Stop ‘N Shop if you had bothered to look. It is pretty common among children; the tantrums they throw at the impulse racks cleverly situated around every store register is a public enactment of such a mindset. Fewer people grow out of it than you’d like to think, only in adulthood candy aisles and carnival games get replaced with lease-to-own stores and cash-advance facilities. It’s a shame, really.
A winning season in which you don’t really win anything. Dayton Moore torpedoing a promising future for the shiny bauble of mediocrity. Was it worth it?
–Follow me on Twitter @JoshuaKWard
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