Release of Maier can only signal improvement

Farewell to Mitch Maier.

Frankly, I’m surprised it took this long.

The Royals designated Maier for assignment Thursday, stocking up on pitchers during the dog-days leading up to the All Star Game. It looks like this is the end of the road for Maier, who has spent most of the past six seasons with the big league team.

I actually thought this might happen a couple of years earlier, but Maier just kept hanging around. He played good defense, was a positive presence, and even pitched a few times when the team was in a pinch.

But he just wasn’t good enough. Not for a team that wants to contend.

I take this as a positive sign.

The fact that Maier was on the team at all the last several years told me that the Royals just weren’t any good. But Maier kept working his way onto the roster because the old guys who were supposed to start got hurt, or the young guys weren’t quite ready.

Something must be different now, because the Royals finally deem Maier expendable.

“We’ve got so many young outfielders we want to look at,” said manager Ned Yost about the decision to let Maier go. “He was a great guy to have on your team as your fourth or fifth outfielder. But being mostly left-handed in the outfield, we needed a right-handed bat in [Jason] Bourgeois and we’ve got [Jarrod] Dyson, [Lorenzo] Cain’s coming back soon and we’ve got [Wil] Myers on the horizon.”

The Royals carried just four outfielders into Thursday’s game in Toronto. But Bourgeois can play all three outfield spots, so they seem to be comfortable with a lighter bench. Bourgeois has a much higher ceiling than does Maier, and apparently Cain and Myers could be coming to KC shortly.

To improve as a team, you need to have a roster full of good players. Cain and Myers have more talent in their pinky than Maier has on his best day. To get better, the team has no room for someone like Maier.

I know that sounds harsh. I’ve talked to Mitch Maier, and he seems like a good guy. By all accounts he’s a great teammate. But when someone is described as “the consummate professional,” it’s like saying that a girl has a great personality. Maier was doing all he could with his limited skills, but that girl isn’t someone you invite to the prom.

Good luck Mitch. I hope you land somewhere and continue your career. I’m surprised how many other Royals are able to find a place in the league.

But this move can only be seen as a sign of progress, and it was high time for you to go.

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