Tag Archive | "Ken Harvey"

Kansas City Royals: Still a ways to go

After May, it looked like another typical Royals season. But approaching the All-Star break, the Royals are around .500 and within striking distance of the A.L. Central. It’s a position the Royals haven’t been in since 2003, when they had marquee names like Darrel May, Ken Harvey and Desi Relaford (those were the days). The team is playing better baseball, but they’re not playing good enough baseball.

DaytonMoore

Things are getting better. Eric Hosmer is playing like he should. Jeff Francoeur is gone and signed with the San Francisco Giants. Fan favorite Johnny Giavotella has the chance to be the everyday second baseman. Greg Holland is one of the best closers in baseball. The outfield is solid with All-Star Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, David Lough and Jarrod Dyson. All-Star catcher Salvador Perez is the cornerstone of the team and he’s only 23 years old. The offense is waking up. Yes, the Royals are the best they’ve been in years.

But there’s still a ways to go. Besides James Shields and Ervin Santana, the starting rotation is hit-or-miss. One start, Jeremy Guthrie is great, another start he’s lousy. Wade Davis is failing as a starter and Luis Mendoza is back in the bullpen, with Bruce Chen taking his place. The bullpen doesn’t have a go-to guy for the eight inning. Inconsistent reliever Kelvin Herrera spends too much time on I-29 shuffling between Kansas City and Omaha. Giavotella is the everyday second baseman, but after seven games he’s at .208/.269/.292. Mike Moustakas isn’t where he needs to be and Billy Butler is at .270/.374/.407, which is almost pedestrian for the Royals designated hitter.

So far, the Royals can’t get to .500. They had a chance against the Yankees Wednesday night, but lost 8-1, and now are two games under .500.

The trade deadline is at the end of the month and the team has to decide if they want to make a trade for a run for the A.L. Central or stay where they are and hope things get better. So far, there’s no real trade rumors, big or small. It depends how the Royals play the next couple of weeks.

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Royals All-Time Draft Team

The Kansas City Royals are on a pretty good run with their first round draft picks, dating back to 2002 and the selection of Zack Greinke. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, Luke Hochevar and Aaron Crow are all former first rounders who make up the core of the team’s rebuilding effort.

A study of first round selections by other big league teams reveals that no one has a crystal ball when it comes to the draft. But the Royals have avoided any major gaffes since their disastrous draft of 2001.

The team still hasn’t exactly achieved the success on the big league field that Dayton Moore envisions, but he’s done a good job following up the last few decent drafts of the Allard Baird era.

The Royals hope the selection of Kyle Zimmer and development of Bubba Starling and Christian Colon continue the run of success.

When you look back at the history of the Royals draft, however, the team has been anything but clutch. In fact it’s hard to look back at the top five selections of each year of their history and even find recognizable names. (See the history courtesy of the Baseball Cube here.

Forget Colt Griffin and Roscoe Crosby, who’s Juan LeBron? Who was Ben Grzybek? How did the Royals blow the number nine pick in 1973 on someone named Lew Olson?

Now Jarrod Dyson will tell you that decent players aren’t only found in the top five rounds. But just for fun, let’s construct an all-time team of picks from rounds 1-5 from Royals history. (Starter and backup are listed with round and year drafted):

Catcher: Mike MacFarlane (4th round, 1985) gets the nod over Brent Mayne (1st, 1989).

First Base: Because Eric Hosmer (1st 2008) has got barely a year under his belt, I’m going to go with the great Ken Harvey (5th, 1999) as the Royals’ starter. He was an all-star, after all, and his 27 career homers still lead Hosmer’s 26 (as of June 8).

Second Base: Uh oh. No real good choices here. Give it to Terry Shumpert (2nd, 1987) because he played parts of five seasons in KC. Too early to go with Johnny Giavotella (2nd, 2008).

Shortstop: Double uh oh. How can Buddy Biancalana (1st, 1978) be the best shortstop any team ever drafted? David Letterman is still waiting for Biancalana to top Pete Rose’s hit total. But he did start 311 games, including the World Series in 1985. Jamie Quirk (1st, 1972) was drafted as a shortstop, but he only played 22 big league games at the position.

Third base: Finally a position where KC actually hit it big. George Brett (2nd, 1971) was actually taken as a shortstop, but gets this spot. Mike Moustakas (1st, 2007) will be a good one, but will have trouble making the first team on this list.

Outfield: Lots of good choices here, so I’ll just name a 1-6 order.

1)    Willie Wilson (1st, 1974) One of only a few KC first-rounders to actually become superstars.

2)    Carlos Beltran (2nd, 1995) Would probably be the second greatest Royal of all time, had he stayed with the team.

3)    Johnny Damon (1st, 1992) Similar story to Beltran.

4)    Bo Jackson (4th, 1986) Aside from what he did on the field, he brought the attention of the world to KC.

5)    (tie) I can’t pick between Brian McRae (1st, 1985) and David DeJesus (4th, 2000), but they each get the nod over Alex Gordon, who may eventually rank much higher on this list.

Designated Hitter: Billy Butler (1st, 2004) is the epitome of a DH. I’ll go with Tom Poquette as a backup, even though he only DH’d seven times. He showed some promise his first couple of seasons, and he made it into Terry Cashman’s Royals version of “Talkin’ Baseball” (if only because his name rhymes with Brett.)

Starting Pitcher (1-6):

1)    Dennis Leonard (2nd, 1972) A career Royal and three-time 20 game winner.

2)    Mark Gubicza (2nd, 1981) A two-time all star who pitched on the 1985 World Series team at just 23 years of age.

3)    Kevin Appier (1st, 1987) Perhaps the best of all, but played for bad teams.

4)    Zach Greinke (1st, 2002) Had just one great season in KC, but might be the best pitcher the Royals ever drafted.

5)    Dave Cone (3rd, 1981) Same story as Greinke – just one great season in KC.

6)    Rich Gale (5th, 1975) A winning record over four seasons gets him the nod over Luke Hochevar (1st, 2006).

Relief Pitcher: Mike MacDougal (1st, 1999) was actually a closer, so he edges out Aaron Crow (1st, 2009), who hopefully will have a much longer and more successful career in KC than MacDougal.

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Tigers ‘Heavyweight’ Deal May Benefit Royals

I received several texts, emails and phone calls in the days following the Tigers’ signing of Prince Fielder. The messages varied, but the tone was always the same:

“Now we have to go sign Roy Oswalt, there’s no way we can compete without him.”

“Now we have no reason to sign Oswalt, we can’t compete this year, period.”

“Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera in the same lineup? In the AL Central? This sucks.”

Yeah, well imagine you are a Royals fan that wrote this last week. Then you read that all signs point to Oswalt signing with the Cardinals. The Cardinals? Did anyone tell him that Dave Duncan left? Anyway, there was only one person that could wake me from this nightmare of the week… you guessed it, the Kool Aid Drinker.

See, the Kool Aid Drinker thinks the Fielder signing was great for the Royals. $214 million for a 275 lb first baseman that had his career high in HRs 5 years ago and his career high in RBI 3 years ago? Awesome! Prince will have 1000 games on those knees after the third game of 2012. His dad hit 1000 games, also with the Tigers, in 1999. He was also 5 years removed from his career high in home runs. He hit exactly 100 home runs from that season forward, and more than 20 just once. Sure, his dad was 4 years older, so how about another heavy first baseman? Ryan Howard hit 1000 games last season, 5 years after his career high in home runs, I guess you saw how that season ended. How about Mo Vaughn? He hit 1000 games in 1998, just three years after his career high. Vaughn played 4 more years, 2 of them productive, and had nearly twice as many strikeouts as RBI in that time frame.

Listen, the Kool Aid Drinker is not all about boring people with statistics. But feel free to check out John Kruk or Steve Balboni if you want. In fact, I think we can make some fairly simple deductions:

  1. Fat first basemen do not age well
  2. Prince Fielder is fat
  3. Prince Fielder plays first base
  4. The Royals are going to dominate the AL Central

Seriously, over the next 4 years Prince is guaranteed just shy of $100 million dollars. Eric Hosmer, over that same time, will likely make less than $20 million. Who would you rather have? In 2014 the Tigers will have a 30 year old Fielder, a 31 year old Miguel Cabrera, a 30 year old Justin Verlander, and a 35 year old Victor Martinez on the books for $83 million dollars. If you are counting at home that is a pitcher with a whole lot of mileage on his arm and 3 DHs for what figures to be 70% of their total payroll. The best part is the Royals will have control over almost all of their best players through 2014 at a much more reasonable price.

We have not even talked about defense, or the irony of Prince’s last name. A fielder he is not. Rumor has it the Tigers are planning on putting the 4th worst defensive first baseman in baseball at first base and the sixth worst defensive first baseman at third base. The Tigers should be the worst defensive team in the division, if not all of baseball. Can you imagine the hilarity of a bunt situation with Cabrera and Fielder charging? We may get some Ken Harvey humor out of this contract. By the All Star game it will be clear to even the Tigers that one of the big boys has to play DH, and neither of them wants to. That’s a chemistry builder.

Essentially, the point the Kool Aid Drinker is this: Even if the Tigers do win the division in 2012 (and I don’t think they will), they have set themselves up for failure in the future. They have behaved like far too many of our countrymen, deciding to get what they want now regardless of what effect it may have on their future. I have heard a lot about how the contract will never go 9 years because Fielder will opt out long before that, I assume the people saying that have not seen the Kool Aid Drinker’s very scientific study above. It would be pretty odd for a 295 pound DH hitting .250ish to opt out of $24 million a year, and that is exactly what Fielder will be in 3-4 years.

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Winter Worries

Kansas City Royals fans are excited for the coming baseball season. I’m not sure if they’re excited to have any kind of baseball back, or they think the Royals have a legitimate shot at winning games during the 2012 season. Like most either-or situations the truth is most likely in the middle. I’m excited too, and I have been since the end of the regular season.

I have not been this excited during a Royals off-season since the winter of 2003-2004. Remember that? I do, and it has me slightly worried. The Royals finished the 2003 Season 83-79. While the 2003 Royals faded down the stretch, and dropping their last three to White Sox there was lot to be excited about that fall. The Royals had a collection of young guys. Angel Berrora was the 2003 AL Rookie of the Year. He flashed some leather in the field, and was surprise at the plate. Surely Berrora would get better during the off-season? Ken Harvey had a good first half of the season and became an All-Star. Even though he faded during the second half of 2003, surely he would figure some things out and get better? Mike MacDougal would learn some control. Jose Lima had eliminated his demons and was back to being a productive starter. Mike Sweeney will get healthy over the winter. Runelvys Hernandez, Brian Anderson, Jeremy Affeldt, DJ Carrasco, Jimmy Gobble, would all come back in 2004 and be better. Because that’s what young ball players do. They get better. They don’t ever regress? Do they?

Not only was the current roster going to improve but Allard Baird signed veteran free agents Benito Santiago and Juan Gonzales. Zack Greinke was waiting in the minors. Some national media prognosticators even picked the 2004 Royals to win the division! The Royals future was bright, and the Royals fans had to wear shades to even look at it. How could anything go wrong?

You're looking at the best moment of the Royals 2004 Season.

The 2004 Off-Season concluded with one of the most exciting Opening Day’s in franchise history with Mendy Lopez hitting a home run off Damaso Marte in the bottom of the 9th. I was at that game, and it’s one of my favorite Royals memories. The Royals march to October was underway. I went to two more games that opening week. The Royals finished up the opening home stand 4-2. Of Course, we don’t need Paul Harvey to tell us what happened to Ken Harvey and learn the rest of this story. The Royals only won three more games the rest of April, finishing 7-14. This included a six game losing streak. May got even weirder with Tony Pena fleeing the country and the wheels officially coming off the wagon. Thus began even darker days for the franchise and it’s fans, and truthfully I don’t know if we’ve ever fully recovered.

This season does look promising. But years, and years of disappointment have dulled my optimist’s blade a little. After all, the 2003 Royals won twelve more games than the 2011 Royals. I claim to not be a very big statistics person. But one statistic that came to my attention during the 2003 season was the Pythagorean Win-Loss Formula. You use total runs scored and total runs allowed for a team to determine what a team’s record should be. The 2003 Royals had a better record than their Pythagorean W-L: 78-84. Their actual W-L was 83-79. In other words, the 2003 Royals were lucky. Any team that got to play the 2003 Tigers 19 times was lucky. The 2011 Royals Pythagorean W-L: 78-84. Their actual W-L was 71-91. The 2011 Royals were more unlucky than the 2003 Royals were lucky. This tells me that last season’s Royals weren’t all that far off from being a .500 team.

Knowing that last season’s team was better than perceived sort of eases my mind. However, a lot of assumptions on 2012 being a good season for the Royals are dependent on the same things that made us think 2004 was going to be a good season. Youth taking a step forward, no major regressions from the established roster, and new additions being as advertised or better. I’ve been this excited before only to see the worst team in franchise history trotted onto the field. There are always a lot of ifs for a baseball team this time of year. Too many times the answer to those ifs has been wrong for the Royals. That’s what has me worried. If this group of players doesn’t turn things around for the organization the only thing we’ll have to look forward to is another GM and another process. For once it would be fun to be excited about the Royals, and not worry that the wheels might fall off. Of course, like a lot of Royals fans problems only consistent winning will take care of that.

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Optimism Is Well Placed For Royals Fans

Hi. You don’t know me or anything about me. But if you’re reading this column, I’m pretty sure I know plenty about you.

You are obviously a Kansas City Royals fan, and are for the first time in a very, very, very, very long time, feeling legitimate optimism for the upcoming season. However, for the better part of the last 20 years, you have endured year after year of baseball misery. You have cursed every player, manager, pitching coach, general manager, owner, trainer, and groundscrew captain that has passed through the orgainization during this time, using your entire repertoire of colorful language many times over. You have watched Scott Elarton, Brian Anderson, Runelvys Hernandez, and Jose Lima trot out to the mound to start Opening Day, and nearly been forced into regurgitation over it. You allowed yourself to get excited about the arrival of washed up, non-roided versions of Juan Gonzalez and Benito Santiago. You watched the All-Star games and cringed when Mark Redman and Ken Harveywere announced as the Royals’ representatives.

And as you know, this doesn’t even come close to scratching the surface of what you have endured being a Royals fan. Yet for some reason, you have continued to come back. Oh, I know, you have considered walking away many times. There are so many other things to focus your energy on in the summertime. You are sick of being laughed at and dismissed by fans of other teams. But your hope is that your loyalty would be rewarded eventually. You say that when the Royals finally do win again, the celebration will be unlike any other that anyone has ever seen (of course, nobody reading this has likely seen the Cubs win the World Series). Could that eventually be now? You are optimistic, but we will forgive you for guarding your optimism with an armed militia. You know you have been burned before, but you also know that now just feels different. Actually, it doesn’t just feel different, you are sure it is different. But you’re trying not to talk about it, because you remember when you argued with your friend who is a Cardinals fan, that OF COURSE Reggie Sanders was the missing piece in the Royals lineup. Or that one time, when you got into it with someone in the bar, saying ABSOLUTELY Calvin Pickering has what it takes to hit big league pitching. Haven’t you seen what that guy has done in AAA??

The difference this year, of course, is that you, as a Royals fan, don’t have to argue on behalf of your team anymore. The national media, and people in other baseball towns are hip to what’s going on with the Royals. They are the ones drooling over Eric Hosmer as being “can’t miss” and Mike Moustakas having terrifying power. They are saying Alcides Escobar may be the best shortstop in baseball and Salvador Perez might be the next Pudge Rodriguez. And now it is you that is either keeping quiet, or even taking the other side… reminding everyone that people spoke of Alex Gordon when he came up the same way they speak of Eric Hosmer today. And, you also say, while it is possible that Escobar could be a perennial Gold Glove winner, he could also regress into the second coming of Angel Berroa. As a Royals fan, you are now trained to think that way.

In just over 3 months, the time for talking will be over. You and I will get to know each other much better throughout this time, and together, we will watch the story of Project 2012 unfold. Will it be another self-depricating comedy? Or a dramatic thriller with a joyous ending? Who knows? Maybe in 3 months the time for talking will be over…or maybe the time for talking could finally have arrived.

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Myers, Colon And Others Have Chance To Shine In Fall League

Seven top Royals prospects will continue their seasoning in the Arizona Fall League – a proving ground for many Double and Triple-A stars on their way to the big leagues.

Jeffress

Minor League pitchers Jeremy Jeffress, Bryan Paukovits, and Brendan Lafferty, and position players Clint Robinson, Christian Colon and Wil Myers will join Royal reliever Nate Adcock as members of the Surprise Saguaros, which will begin play Oct. 4.

The teams in the AFL are made up of selections designated by big leagues. The season is highlighted by a Rising Stars Game on Nov. 5, and culminates with a championship game on Nov. 19.

The AFL season will be headlined by Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, the top two prospects in the minors this season. The league is a launching pad for players on the verge of the majors. Often players in the league are just a few months from a call-up, as certainly Trout is.

Trout, of course, saw some action this season with the California Angels, as did Adcock, who spent all season in KC as a Rule 5 selection.

In fact, of the seven Royals who played in the AFL last season, four are now in KC – Eric Hosmer, Danny Duffy, Johnny Giavotella, and Salvador Perez. Other participants last fall were Robinson, Mike Montgomery, and Brandon Sisk.

A non-Royal who garnered lots of attention in the league last fall was Jeffress. As a Milwaukee Brewer prospect prior to the Zack Greinke trade, Jeffress made headlines by registering 101 mph on fall-league radar guns.

The league enters its 20th year of existence. Jermaine Dye is a member of the AFL Hall of Fame, and Ken Harvey was once named its Most Valuable Player.

For Adcock, the league will provide a chance to gain additional experience. Plucked from the Rule 5 ranks in the offseason, Adcock has been used sparsely by KC.

Myers is the headliner of the Royals prospects. Converted to the outfield and slowed by an injury this season, Myers is still considered on of the top hitters in the minors. His .260 average with just seven homers is below what what expected, but a good fall season could give him a jump start for next spring.

The Royals’ top pick in the 2010 draft, Colon’s reputation could be helped by a solid fall. With a .255 average and eight homers, Colon is looking all too much like a bust in the early going.

Jeffress has regressed after making the Royals’ bullpen in April. A demotion to Omaha didn’t help, and he wound up falling to Northwest Arkansas, where he is still trying to harness his potential.

Robinson might hope to attract the attention of other big league teams in the fall league. Robinson continues to destroy minor league pitching. Currently blocked by Hosmer and Billy Butler, the best he could hope for might be a trade.

Paukovits and Lafferty, both in their mid-20s and still in the lower levels of the minors, hope to accelerate their advancement in the fall league.

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These Guys Were All Stars?

Bo Jackson has the last RBI by a Royal in an All Star Game

There has been some discussion this week about who should represent the Royals in the 2011 All Star Game, in both the Twittershpere and Kansas City sports radio. This got me thinking about past All Stars from the Royals, both good and bad. Which also got me to thinking about the importance of the All Star Game in general.

Say what you want about Major League Baseball’s All Star Game. If you’re going to watch an All Star event from any major sport, Major League Baseball’s is the one to watch. Mostly because baseball lends itself to being the least effected by the event itself.

Unfortunately, Royals fans looking for solace from the teams losing ways shouldn’t look to the All Star Game. I only have one real memory about a Royal in an All Star Game. Bo Jackson’s 1989 1st Inning Home Run. That’s it. That was the last RBI by a Royal in the All Star Game. Think about that. Kids that watched Home Run on TV after their Little League Game, are now coaching Little League.

Of course in order to be show cased in the All Star Game a team must send some one who can make a difference. Ken Harvey did not have a very long Major League career. But a hot two and a half months made him an All Star. Same with Mike MacDougal. He’s not much, but he’ll at least be able to tell his grandkids he was an All Star. Mark Redman? These guys were All Stars? There’s three people that are fans of the “Every Team Gets Representation Rule”

This year is shaping up to be like most years of late. The Royals will get one representative. Don’t look for it to be Eric Hosmer, his name isn’t even on the ballot, and there is a log jam of talent at first base. It most likely will be Alex Gordon. Don’t look now but he appears to be the best left fielder in the American League. You could call Alex Gordon a late bloomer, or you can just call him The Dominator. Most likely you’ll be to call him an All Star after July.

Which brings us to next years All Star Game. The one being played at Kauffman Stadium. Surely, with Hosmer, Gordon, and some strong arms out of the bullpen the Royals will send more than a token representative to their own yard. Then you can say: These guys were All Stars. Except this time it will be a statement, not a question in more ways than one.

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Juntos Podemos! The Unforgettable Opening Day of 2004

April 5, 2004: The stadium is positively electric. Fans chant, whoop and holler as they exit the stadium like it’s college football game day. High fives for everyone who passes by.

The spiraling ramps bubble with the kind of glee found on Bourbon Street. The cause for such elation?

Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, the Royals just won their opening day game on two dramatic home runs in the bottom of the ninth. After trailing 7 to 3 going to bat for the last time, Mendy Lopez tied the game with a three-run blast. And then with movie-quality drama, Carlos Beltran launched a two-run homer to finish it off.

The Royals are going to be contenders once again.

After all, we came oh so close to making the playoffs last year. And we’re a lot better this year than last year. We’ve got Juan Gonzales to rake home runs and a veteran catcher in Benito Santiago to shepherd our up-and-coming pitching staff. We’ve got the Rookie-of-the-Year at shortstop in Angel Berroa, plus Mike Sweeney, Ken Harvey, Joe Randa… this is a team that’s built to make a playoff run.

Well… that didn’t quite turn out as planned.

But that was an opening day to remember.

I’ve taken in quite a few opening day games. There’s nothing like it, as far as the Royals are concerned. The team is still mathematically in contention, and for one afternoon, the stadium is packed with people.

In talking to the people actually in the stadium on opening day, however, you learn that most of them aren’t exactly there because they’re enthusiastic about the team. They are there because they got free tickets from work, or because it’s a tradition to come out one time a year, drink beer and enjoy the spring afternoon away from the office, or because they just like to be where the action is.

Not many folks in the stands really care about the Royals success or failure. But on that day in 2004, we were all believers. When I say it was like a college football atmosphere, I mean it. We were passionate, hanging on every pitch.

Of all the games I’ve seen in Kaufman, I’d say that was possibly the most exciting one.

Funny as it sounds now, we really did have high hopes for that team. We’d finished the 2003 season still believing like Tony Pena even after faltering down the stretch to finish at 83-79. It was the most exciting season in about a decade. Why couldn’t we improve upon it?

“Juntos Podemos!” was the battle cry for 2004. Unfortunately, it would seem Gonzales and Santiago didn’t understand that in English that means “Together we can!” They weren’t a part of anything but the disabled list for most of the year.

Berroa wasn’t terrible… yet. But he was well on his way. Three of our best hitters – Sweeney, Randa and Harvey – all finished with the exact same batting average: .287. They each battled injuries, as did just about everyone else.

The losses started mounting immediately following the opening day thriller.

With a record of 28-41, the plug was pulled on this team on June 24. After getting blasted 12-3 by Detroit, the Royals shipped off their best player, Carlos Beltran, for prospects that would prove to be the building blocks for the terrible teams of the rest of the decade.

That team won just 58 and lost 104. There have been some awful teams in KC since then, but possibly none as bad as that one. And certainly none as disappointing.

But for that one glorious afternoon, the exit ramps rocked with chants of “Let’s go Royals” and it was great to be a fan on opening day.

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