Tag Archive | "Team History"

Cardinals Magazine Debuts Digital Edition

CardsMagazine

 ST. LOUIS, MO (April 24, 2013) – The St. Louis Cardinals announced that fans can now enjoy Cardinals Magazine as an electronic publication on a variety of computer and mobile device platforms.

“While we’ve enjoyed tremendous loyalty and continued growth in circulation among our print readers, we also want to meet the demands of fans that prefer to read about the Cardinals on their electronic devices,” said Steve Zesch, Director of Publications and publisher of Cardinals Magazine. “Our goal each issue is to provide the widest variety of content on all-things-Cardinal, and our ability to now deliver it via a downloadable edition that can be enjoyed on a range of electronic devices makes perfect sense.”

Cardinals Magazine, which marked its 21st anniversary this spring, may be downloaded on Mac and PC computers, as well as a variety of popular mobile device platforms including Android-based tablets and smart phones, and Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices. The Cardinals are just the fifth team in Major League Baseball to offer a digital publication. The Yankees, Dodgers and Rockies have electronic magazines that complement their print editions, with the Braves publishing a digital-only magazine.

“One thing that’s made Cardinals Magazine so popular is the substance you get with each issue – we load it up with one-of-a-kind content so that each issue feels like a keepsake souvenir,” Zesch said. “Our mission is simple: provide the definitive word on each story we cover, with the highest-quality presentation possible. As the electronic edition evolves, we’ll be adding extras that take advantage of the digital platform, such as bonus video and audio, picture galleries and a wealth of other material drawn from the extensive resources the Cardinals have to offer.”

Cardinals Magazine has provided fans behind-the-scenes access and the most authoritative, comprehensive look at team history since its first issue in April 1992. Published monthly during the baseball season and once during the offseason, the magazine is available via a digital subscription for $25 (seven issues), with single copies $5 each. Fans can learn more about subscribing to the magazine at cardinals.com/publications.  Join the conversation with #CardsMag.

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Mitchell Boggs and finding a new answer for the ninth

With the unknown status of the full extent of Jason Motte’s injury, the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen will be the next unit that is forced to adjust on the run. However, with their closer on the mend, a brand new set of questions will have to be answered in a short amount of time.

Mitchell-Boggs

When it was revealed that Motte is suffering from a mild sprain in his elbow on Saturday, it immediately reshuffled the entire bullpen’s responsibility. While the depth of arms on the roster, and within the organization, has been much hallowed, the role of closer is not one that is easily passed along. Motte became the first pitcher in team history to gather every save on the season for the team, and his 42 saves tied for tops in the National League. And despite only being the technical closer for the team for a year and a half, he remains one of the most indispensable parts of a team that has long looked for a definite lock on the end of games.

Finding anybody that can take up a mantle that was absolutely held by another is a tall task. While it makes sense to place a similar styled arm in the role, finding the right makeup to match the arm is a tougher equation. There’s a lot more that goes into ending games than just throwing hard for one inning. It’s a mentality, and often it’s not one that is developed; it is it there or it isn’t. “Jason has it. You could tell even before he took on the role,” said assistant general manager and former All-Star Cardinal closer Ryan Franklin said during the Cardinals Winter Warm Up. “Either you have it or you don’t, and you will find out soon enough along the way.”  Little did he know it was a question that the team would have to find an answer for in the near future.

For the time being, Mitchell Boggs will be the answer. After the strides he took a year ago, it is right that he does so. He was the undisputed eighth inning answer last season, and his 34 holds led the National League and he is accustomed to preserving games. Boggs has the attitude and the fire to do so; he has embraced the late-inning role that he has been trusted with. Just one spring removed from having his place on the team questioned, he developed the competitive mentality to continue to compete night in and night out just to stay relevant to the team. The question is not in his arm, next to Trevor Rosenthal, he may have the liveliest arm on the team, but for a team that struggled to win late with some regularity last summer, how he transitions to having his nights moved back one inning could tell the story of how the season goes.

Boggs shift in the mix changes the demand of the rest of the pen as well. The push to replace Boggs in the setup role could prove to be a tougher equation than him replacing Motte. Edward Mujica, who was the defacto setup man for Boggs last fall, will likely become the favorite to be the new setup man, but the role will likely be a time share. Rosenthal, who was the fireman for pitching the club out of tight spots late in the season, will also get the ball in the eighth inning more often. Fernando Salas also receives a more concrete role on the team, with the seventh inning becoming a prime situation to use the former closer in. Joe Kelly will likely see a more variable role in the fashion that Rosenthal and/or Salas had been pegged for out of the pen, if he loses out on the fifth starter slot to Shelby Miller.

The trickledown effect of the loss of Motte for the time being changes what was a definite strength of for the team, a deep and matchup heavy bullpen. With Rosenthal not being able to float as easily between the sixth and eighth innings, it changes how quickly Mike Matheny can let his starters off the hook. And it puts an even higher demand on scoring enough runs early for the offense that the tight game isn’t as often of an occurrence.

Yet the question for Boggs finds it’s way to every other arm in the bullpen equation: can they answer the call to their new demand as easily as their previous one? The answer will have to be found on the run, and if there isn’t one, it won’t be able to be planned for. Whether its the  return of Motte, the emergence of Boggs or even who takes the ball in the sixth inning now, with the end of the story changing, nothing else earlier is the same.

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Cards’ Past Could Predict Wainwright’s Future

Adam Wainwright made his first “start” in what could be a year full of both starts and stops. Of course he’s still over a month away from his first meaningful appearance of the year, but these days, not much he says or does is without meaning.

Adam  Wainwright

With the high stakes nature of his ongoing contract negotiations hanging over his 6’7” frame, the comparison machine is going crazy in a wild attempt to get a grasp on what a long-term extension for the Cardinals’ ace would look like. Would it be a rather short-term, balanced money deal in the nature of the one Yadier Molina received last spring? Or would it be an extensive, full career (and then some) style deal, such as the one Albert Pujols ultimately received…elsewhere?

The expectation that the pact would be the largest team history isn’t a far fetched idea. In reality, it’s very much a fact. And the best comparison possible is one that is drawn from the terms that the current holder of that distinction agreed to: Matt Holliday.

Holliday turned 29 just days before signing his seven-year, $120 million deal back in 2009. This is was a mid prime deal for him that also would carry him likely through the remainder of his career. It also became the winter’s biggest deal, despite him likely passing on more lucrative offers from the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox. It also came during a time when there was rapid contract growth around him, with Jason Bay, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez all recently receiving long-term deals.

This is nearly the exact scenario that Wainwright is placed in right now. He is 31 years old right now, and would be 32 by the end of the year. Yet, the starting pitching position is the middle of a massive salary push, with large scale deals going out to Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke and Felix Hernandez over the past year. If he was to hit the free agent market, he would instantly become among the most sought after free agents available. He stacks up very well in a class that features Matt Garza, Josh Johnson and Tim Lincecum, each of which will also be over 30 years old by the winter. Basically, Wainwright is running out of contractual obligation at a perfect time for his causes.

But what does the organization have to consider? There is much to be considered in how the team has approached its recent dealing, but also many parallels to pull away as well. The differences from the Pujols deal are numerous. In Pujols’ case, he had been playing a far lower rate than his performance would indicate for many years. And while he entered the market a similar age, his value took on historic connotation, not a superb prime for a top-tier performer, which is what Wainwright is, much like Holliday was. In the case of Molina, he took a shorter term extension, which will carry him into his late 30’s. Yet he still didn’t push for every dollar that he could have on the open market, and likely would have earned if he waited a few months.

The differences between the Pujols and Molina deals are clear, but there some similarities as well. All indications are leaning towards Wainwright wants a guarantee on the length of the deal, which was something they balked at with Pujols. The Cardinals have taken a pretty strong stance against signing over the low-to-late 30’s bridge. It was a balk in their offer to Pujols, and both Molina and Holliday’s deals would expire at ages 35 and 37, respectively. If Wainwright is seeking a deal that is comparable in length to either Cain or Hamels, the balance in length would be six years. This would carry him to his 38th birthday, and most likely into a scenario where is paid past his prime and into his decline years. The ability to avoid doing this; and have been able to sign many players to their exact prime years and escaping the decline as it approaches. This is a primary factor for what has kept the small market Cardinals with the ability to field the financially flexible roster it has for so many years.

It doesn’t seem that Wainwright would push to hamstring the financial competitiveness of the team, but he has acknowledged that a lowered value deal isn’t likely. In comparison to his last deal he signed at age 26, his focus has changed, “I’m in a different place from last deal. My family is set up, and I’m looking at different things,” he stated last month regarding his desires for this contract. These are the words of a man that is looking towards the future, his own.

And as always, the organization will do what’s best for its future as well, financially and competitively. Both sides will be forced to concede a portion of their absolute interests to find a deal here. While the Cardinals have proven to be resistant to extreme concession (as the Pujols dealings showed), and prefer shorter term commitment (as they proved with Molina) they also have shown that when the situation requires it, as proved with Holliday, they will throw caution to the wind and compete over the long term.

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St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak might be best in MLB

In just four years, St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak has done just about everything an organization could ask out of that position, and he has done it in steady, yet stunning fashion.

JohnMozeliakBillDewitt

Mozeliak was promoted to the general manager position in 2008 after the Cardinals fired long-time GM Walt Jocketty, who had helped lead the organization through one of its most successful stretches in team history.

Since, Mozeliak took a team that was in the midst of a two-year hiatus from the playoffs and helped turn it into a team that has won a World Series and made the playoffs in three of the last four seasons despite losing arguably the best player in the game, Albert Pujols, at the end of 2011.

Mozeliak made some shrewd moves to reach that success, and he took avenues that weren’t necessarily glamorous, but they were vitally important to the success of the Cardinals.

For example, the only big signing he’s made since taking over as general manager was the seven-year, $120-million contract he gave Matt Holliday after trading for him midway through the 2009 season. Other than that, Mozeliak has deftly made trades that didn’t make major headlines, but paid off huge for the team in the long run.

In one of his first moves, Mozeliak traded Jim Edmonds to the San Diego Padres leading up to the 2008 season, and the Cardinals received a minor leaguer by the name of David Freese in return. At the time it looked as though the Cardinals had given up a fan favorite at the end of his career for a player who had potential but hadn’t had a stellar minor-league career.

But Freese has gone on to hit .296 in his four seasons with the Cardinals to go along with a .345 postseason batting average that includes the most famous hits of the 2011 World Series, a ninth-inning triple in Game 6 to tie the Texas Rangers, who were one strike from winning their first championship, and an 11th-inning homerun to win the game that sent the Cardinals to their championship moment the next evening.

Mozeliak has also added a great mix of veterans and young players. He signed Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran in back-to-back seasons, and both had their best seasons in recent memory. But he also has developed a farm system that is cranking out big-league caliber players who are on the cusp of stardom.

In just the past two seasons, Freese, Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Jason Motte and Trevor Rosenthal have filled critical roles for the Cardinals throughout the regular season, and in the team’s deep postseason runs.

Baseball America also recently ranked the Cardinals minor-league system as No. 1 in baseball. That is quite an honor for a system that the same organization ranked last in 2005. The organization is currently stocked with exciting prospects such as outfielder Oscar Taveras, infielder Kolten Wong and pitcher Carlos Martinez.

The combination of all of those factors is what makes Mozeliak the best general manager in baseball. He hasn’t had incredible amounts of money to throw at free agents to try and buy a winning team, as so many organizations have done. The New York Yankees, Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are just a few examples.

Those teams can overcome poor decisions by throwing money at the problem. Others, such as the Toronto Blue Jays this year, trade for a bunch of high-priced talent all at once and hope it all mashes together to create a winning team.

The Cardinals don’t solely use either of those approaches, but they take pieces from each. They are an organization that has developed a near-perfect combination of developing young talent while maintaining the flexibility to add key outside pieces to the puzzle of a big-league roster. The Cardinals are sort of a balance between the Tampa Bay Rays, who rely almost solely on home-grown talent, and the big market teams that spend a ton of money.

Granted, general managers are often viewed as good or horrible based on the flexibility their owners give them. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was viewed as a genius when the Yankees spent loads of money each offseason, but this year his reputation has taken a hit because the Yankees don’t want to spend as much money. That’s not fair, but it is something that comes along with the job.

Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels is probably the closest to Mozeliak in terms of his ability to build a consistent winning team without breaking the bank on free agents. The Rangers had the No. 1-ranked minor-league system in 2009 and followed it with two consecutive World Series appearances.

San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean is another who does an excellent job, and Jocketty is also building a strong foundation with the Cincinnati Reds by applying the same principles he used during his successful 13-year run with the Cardinals that included seven playoff appearances and a World Series championship.

Mozeliak has taken those principles to the next level and built a team that is capable of winning a World Series now, as well as a team that should consistently compete for championships in the foreseeable future.

Given the Cardinals’ recent success and the projections that similar success lays ahead, Mozeliak deserves to be called one of the best, and quite possibly the best, general manager in Major League Baseball.

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Hispanic Heritage in KC: All-Time Hispanic Team

In a by-gone era, there was a bit of a perception from the outside looking in that the Kansas City Royals were a franchise opposed to minorities.

Black pitchers were essentially unheard of in Kansas City. But John Mayberry, Hal McRae, Frank White and Amos Otis, prominent black position players in the 1970s, more than made up for it.

Hispanics, on the other hand, played almost no role with the Royals for decades. Tracing the history of Mexican-born and Latin-born Royals makes for a short story.

So to make a Royals All-Star team of Hispanic players is difficult. But in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s worth a try.

The first problem was what to do with new members of the team Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar. Perez is already the greatest Hispanic catcher in team history. He has virtually no competition. But he’s not even played a full season in KC.

So for the sake of the exercise, the team will exclude current players who haven’t played at least two seasons for the Royals. And to keep it simple, the team will only include players born outside of the U.S.

Catcher: Perez will own this spot in no time. But the Royals first All Star was Puerto Rican Ellie Rodriguez. Someone had to make the All-Star Team in 1969. Why not a guy who hit just .236 with 2 homers in that inaugural season?

He gets the sentimental nod over Dominican Miguel Olivo, who hit 35 homers and had 106 RBIs while sharing the catching duties for two seasons. Olivo was probably a lot better than Rodriguez, but he never could unseat John Buck, which tells you something.

1B: Wow. Almost no options here at all. Tempting as it is to go with Orlando Cepeda based on his Cooperstown credentials, the truth is the Puerto Rican slugger did nothing in 33 games in KC, and played strictly DH.

The nod goes to… Mendy Lopez. The Dominican played a handful of games at firstbase in 2003, when he hit .277 with 3 homers.

2B: Lots of choices here, including some decent contributors like Jose Lind, Jose Offerman and Carlos Febles. But one of the most beloved Royals ever was Cuban Cookie Rojas. The diminutive, bespectacled Rojas made four trips to the All-Star Game for KC.

SS: The one position where the Royals have employed tons of Hispanics is shortstop. Alcides Escobar will claim this honor after this season. But before that there was a host of nightmarish options to choose from: Yuniesky Betancourt? Neifi Perez? Angel Berroa? Angel Salazar? Onix Concepcion?

I’ll go with Puerto Rican Rey Sanchez because he hit .294, .273, and .303 in his three seasons in KC.

3B: Two options here, which seem basically interchangeable. I’ll go with a tie: Dominican Wilson Betemit and Venezuelan Alberto Callaspo, who both hit reasonably while in KC.

Outfield: Not a lot of options here, surprisingly, so the choices are obvious. Puerto Rican Carlos Beltran is arguably the second greatest Royal in history, and has a chance to go into Cooperstown wearing a Royals cap.

Mexican Jorge Orta played four solid seasons and was a key contributor on the 1985 World Series champs. In that series, he reached first base safely (wink) on the most important play in team history.

And the third outfielder is Melky Cabrera, who rejuvenated his career in 2011. The Dominican hit .305, socked 18 homers, collected 201 hits and played solid defense in his one year in KC. Busted for PEDs in 2012, we may never know how legit those stats were, but it was a darn good season.

DH: Like it or not, Dominican Jose Guillen claims this spot. He belted 45 homers as one of the only power sources in the KC lineup from 2008 to 2010.

Starting Pitchers:

1), Hipolito Pichardo, Dominican Republic: 42-39, 4.48 ERA, 67 starts. Not many pitchers have a plus .500 win percentage recently. Pichardo has more wins than Luke Hochevar in half as many starts.

2) Bruce Chen, Panama: 35-32, 4.59 ERA. One rotten season (1-6, 5.78 ERA in 2009) sullies his otherwise solid numbers.

3) Luis Aquino, Puerto Rico: The first Hispanic pitcher to play a significant role, from 1988-92, Aquino made 55 starts over five seasons. His career mark is 22-19. He pitched in 114 games in KC.

4) Runelvys Hernandez, Dominican Republic: Hernandez was given every opportunity to succeed. But on some teams that had almost no other option, he still wore out his welcome. Hernandez posted a 25-33 mark in 78 starts before eating his way into early retirement.

5) The options are so bleak, Hernandez makes the rotation, but no one else is worthy of consideration. (Jose Rosado and D.J. Carasco are ineligible because they were born in the U.S.)

Relief Pitchers:

1) Joakim Soria, Mexico: Without a doubt the greatest Hispanic pitcher in Royals history. Soria’s160 career saves rank third in team history, and only arm injuries keep him from being one of the best relievers of his era.

2) Roberto Hernandez, Puerto Rico: The first Hispanic closer in team history. Hernandez notched 54 saves in two seasons, but was never really welcome in KC.

If minorities were discriminated against in some form or fashion in KC, hopefully that day has passed. Salvador Perez, and Alcides Escobar are getting every opportunity today, as Joakim Soria was before he was knocked out by an arm injury. The Royals have made more effort to sign Latin talent in the past few years, so hopefully more Hispanic players will bolster the current youth movement.

But as can be seen by this “All-Star Team,” the number of Hispanic stars in KC’s history is shockingly small. Not much history to celebrate in National Hispanic Heritage Month.

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Beltran Becomes a Royals Legend

By signing a five-year extension with Kansas City, Carlos Beltran ensures that he will finish his career as a life-long Royal and will be firmly established as the second best player in team history.

Having spent 14 years patrolling centerfield of Kauffman Stadium, Beltran hopes his career will end on a more competitive note.

“We’ve lost a lot during the last decade here in KC, but with all the talent we’ve got coming up, I really think we’ll compete for championships before I’m done,” Beltran said.

Despite being slowed by injuries, Beltran has been one of the few bright spots for the Royals. When outfield mates Jermaine Dye and Johnny Damon sought greener pastures in the early 2000s, Beltran chose to stay in KC, joining George Brett and Frank White as the faces of the franchise.

“Sure I could have made some more money somewhere else, but I always wanted to be a guy who played his whole career for one team,” Beltran said upon signing the contract extension. “Some things are more important than money. Who knows where I’d be right now if I’d listen to that money-grubbing Scott Boras.”

Ok, so the reality is that Beltran is now a Cardinal. He’s also an ex-Giant, ex-Met, ex-Astro, and of course, ex-Royal. Beltran is now 34 and might possibly finish his career in St. Louis.

Beltran left KC at age 27, having played five and half seasons in a Royals’ uniform. Because of injuries and the natural decline of skills, Beltran played his best baseball before the age of 32. About half that time was spent in Kansas City.

Sadly, KC just missed out on some of Beltran’s best seasons – 2006 to 2008. In those seasons he won three Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, made two All-Star appearances, and in 2006 finished fourth in the MVP balloting.

I really shouldn’t blame Beltran for his departure from KC. The team wasn’t paying top talents at the time, and they knew they had to deal Beltran when they could get a good return. It’s not his fault that the three players KC got in the trade (Mark Teahen, Mike Wood and John Buck) didn’t help the team rebuild.

What Beltran can provide the Cardinals and where Beltran stands among the greats of history are topics for another article.

But what interests me is just where Beltran would rank if he had played the same seasons, with all the same production, and with all the same injuries and decline of skill, in KC.

Here are Beltran’s career numbers compared to the best in Royals history:

Games – 1768 Beltran would rank 6th currently and could move to 3rd this season behind Brett and White.
At Bats – 6767 Beltran would currently be in 5th place.
Runs – 1184 Beltran would already be in 2nd place on the team list, with only Brett’s 1583 to shoot for.
Hits – 1917 Racking up hits isn’t exactly Beltran’s game. Even so, he would rank 6th on the team list and could move into 2nd this season. Only Brett and White collected more than 2000 hits.
Doubles –390 Beltran would be in 4th place at present.
Triples – 73 Beltran would be a distant 3rd behind Brett’s 137 and Willie Wilson’s 133.
Home Runs – 302 Beltran’s home run total might be different if he’d spent his entire career playing in Kauffman stadium. But for the sake of this game, we’ll give him full credit. Amazingly, only one other Royal has more than 200 homers – Brett with 317. Beltran would, in 2012, become the Royals all-time home run leader.
Runs Batted In – 1146 Beltran would trail only Brett, who drove in 1595 runs.
Stolen Bases – 293 Beltran is one of the most efficient base stealers in the game, but thievery numbers are down from the Royals golden years. Even so, he would rank behind only Wilson (612), Amos Otis (340), and Freddie Patek (336). In reality, Beltran ranks 6th in team history.
Average – .283 Of players with more than 4000 at bats in a Royals uniform, Beltran would sit fourth, behind Brett (.305), Mike Sweeney (.299), Hal McRae (.293), and Wilson (.289).

Without a doubt, Beltran would rank as the second greatest player in Royals history, and by some measures could be considered THE greatest.

It’s been hard over the past decade for Royals fans to resist delving into a lot of “what ifs:” what if the Royals had kept the outfield of Beltran, Dye and Damon together; what if they could have held onto Joe Randa and Raul Ibanez, what if Mike Sweeney had stayed healthy…

I’m sure millionaire professionals like Carlos Beltran don’t waste time on “what ifs.” But if Beltran did, he might wonder what his legacy would be had he stayed in KC. He might think that players who jump from team to team during the prime of their careers are quickly forgotten. But players who grow up and grow old with the same team can become legends.

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Splitsville

The Royals’ separation from Frank White feels all too much like a divorce, and we fans are the children, helplessly caught in the middle. There are always two sides to every story. We’ve heard only a little of what certainly must be a bigger, uglier situation. White was too negative. The Royals wanted to get rid of him for a long time. Come on. That’s it?

At the moment, it’s very tempting to want to side with White. Looking back at the way he’s been treated by the franchise over the years, it’s hard not to think that he was used, abused, unappreciated and passed over time and again by the Royals, until finally they decided they had no more need for him.

He was unceremoniously released at the end of his career, allowed to slip away to coach in Boston, passed over for managerial positions at least twice, and forced into retirement from the front office when it conflicted with his broadcast duties.

White has meant so much to KC over these many years, it’s unfathomable that they would just divorce him. He’s among the greatest players in team history, and easily the second most important face of the franchise. Only George Brett means more to KC, and he isn’t nearly as willing to get out and shill for the company as White was.

I’ve interacted a couple of times with Frank White at Royals’ fan events. And while most of the current players are cold, stand-offish and colorless, White embraced every fan with a smile, handshake and kind conversation. His warmth and down-to-earth friendliness will be missed. His lifelong connection with the city is something that will probably never be duplicated.

The Royals may have felt they had acquired some new measure of goodwill from the 2011 infusion of talent and decided to strike while the iron was hot. Like a marriage, they decided to get out while the getting was good.

But while it looks so easy to side with White, who knows what else was going on Nearly every divorce involves two parties with at least some degree of guilt. White’s supposed on-air “negativity” was the sole reason given for his firing. Could it be there was some kind of insubordination or disruption the Royals decide to no longer tolerate?

We’ll probably never know the whole truth. But like the children watching the parents they love divorce, the fans are forced to mourn and wonder why it had to happen.

One of the last links to the great Royals teams of the past is now an “ex.” His name will come up from time to time, but his role in our lives will forever be changed. And like children in a divorce, we’re helpless to do anything about it.

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Hosmer’s Rookie-Of-The-Year Miss Is A Blessing in Disguise

Eric Homser finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. Royals fans probably felt he deserved to finish even higher.

Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas

But perhaps they should count themselves lucky their young star didn’t come closer to winning the award.

Hosmer finished a distant third to Tampa Bay’s Jeremy Hellickson and the Angels’ Mark Trumbo. But Hosmer appears destined to win many more awards. And judging by the Royals’ track record with Rookie of the Year award winners, it’s for the best that he didn’t win this one.

In the Royals’ very first season, Lou Piniella took the award. There was certainly nothing wrong with Piniella’s career, except that not enough of it took place in KC. Piniella had five good seasons with the Royals – he hit .286 with 45 homers and 348 RBI’s during that stretch. But sadly Piniella departed just before he, and the Royals, had their best seasons.

The problem isn’t so much that they traded Piniella. It’s what they received in return.

I’m not old enough to remember the trade of Piniella for reliever Lindy McDaniel, but in hindsight it looks nothing short of senseless. Piniella was 30 at the time of the trade. McDaniel was 38.

McDaniel wasn’t awful, just old. He pitched in 78 games in two seasons in KC, amassing a 6-5 record with two saves. But then he was done. Piniella, meanwhile, played 11 seasons in New York, and had at least six really good years. In all, he hit 102 homers, drove in 766 runs, and finished with a .291 average.

The Royals hope Hosmer doesn’t wind up like the only first baseman in team history to win the Rookie of the Year honor.

Bob Hamelin took the award in a remarkable 1994 strike-shortened season. He belted 24 homers, and his other numbers were pretty impressive too. He batted a respectable .282, with a .388 OBP, .599 SLG, and .987 OPS. Had he been allowed to play a full season in 1994, it is estimated that Hamelin would have hit 32 home runs.

But Hamelin was already 26, battled weight problems and had a history of injuries before his rookie year. Whether due to injuries, poor eyesight, or general lack of ability, Hamelin couldn’t sustain that kind of success. He crashed hard the next season, hitting .168 with just 7 homers.

After another disastrous season in 1996, Hamelin was released just before spring training in 1997. Hamelin bounced back with Detroit that season, pulling it together to hit 18 homers and bat .270. But those two good seasons stand in stark contrast to the rest of his career. Hamelin hit more than a third of his career homers in that magical rookie year and never played more than 110 games in a season.

The third Royal to win the rookie award is definitely the best of the group. At just 22, Carlos Beltran exploded on the big league scene as part of a talented young KC lineup that included Jermaine Dye, Johnny Damon, Mike Sweeney and Joe Randa.

Beltran’s 22 homers, 108 RBI’s and .293 average only told half the story. Beltran tore up the base paths as a dangerous leadoff man and flashed his five-tools as a standout centerfielder.

Unfortunately, agent Scott Boras thought Beltran’s star would shine brighter in some other galaxy. In the middle of his sixth season, Beltran was dealt in a blockbuster trade that netted the Royals the marginal talents of Mark Teahen, John Buck and Mike Wood.

Beltran was one of baseball’s best for a decade. But in 2009, at just 32, injuries reduced Beltran to just a shadow of his former self. Royals fans look back with regret that one of their greatest players played on just one winning team while in KC.

The last Royal to win Rookie of the Year was Angel Berroa in 2003. Berroa was just one of several shortstops to break the team’s heart during the past decade. Berroa won the award with some impressive numbers for a shortstop – 17 homers and a .287 average. But even in his award-winning season, he struck out a lot and had a low OPS.

Things only got worse from that point. By age 26 the wheels had fallen completely off, and the Royals moved on to another in the string of disappointing shortstops.

So the Royals had two Rookies of the Year who maintained a significant level of success, but left Kansas City in the prime of their careers. And they had two others who dropped off dramatically after their freshman seasons.

Such a drop-off is not a rarity for Rookies of the Year, according to Jeff Zimmerman of Royals Review. He wrote back in late September that more than half of the winners of the award regressed in their second season:

  • 12 of 20 saw their AVG drop. Overall the average dropped 10 points the next year
  • 11 of 20 saw their OBP drop. Overall the average dropped 3 points the next year
  • 13 of 20 saw their SLG drop. Overall the average dropped 10 points the next year

Note that Zimmerman didn’t specify if those statistics represent the last 20 AL award winners, or the last 10 winners in the NL and AL. But the trend would indicate, regardless, that many top rookies actually perform at a level they cannot sustain.

If Hosmer’s stock trends up instead of down, Royal fans won’t mind a bit that he missed out on the Rookie of the Year award.

After all, another 21 year-old once finished 3rd in the rookie balloting, and things turned out pretty well for him. His name was George Brett.

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Schlender Promoted to Assistant General Manager

Schlender Promoted to Assistant General Manager
Becomes highest-ranking female employee in team history

OMAHA, Neb. — Laurie Schlender has been named the Omaha Storm Chasers’ Assistant General Manager of Business Operations, the club announced Wednesday. She becomes the highest-ranking female employee in the 43-year history of the organization dating back to 1969.

“Laurie has been an integral part of nearly all major decisions involving the franchise since I became GM,” said Martie Cordaro, currently the club’s President and General Manager. “It’s always great to recognize performance, loyalty and dedication, and this is a well-deserved opportunity to credit Laurie for her commitment to the organization over the past dozen years.”

Schlender, a native of Quimby, Iowa, has lived in Omaha for more than 25 years. She began her career as a CPA for Arthur Andersen, before starting a consulting practice with non-profit clients in the Omaha area. She worked on a part-time basis for six-and-a-half years with Completely Kids (formerly Camp Fire USA-Midlands), while also providing part-time accounting assistance for the then-Omaha Royals in the team’s business office.

In March 2008, the newly-minted GM Cordaro offered Schlender an opportunity to move into a full-time role with the baseball franchise, and she quickly became a central figure in the team’s office management, information technology, risk management and community relations efforts. During the move to Werner Park at the tail end of 2010, Schlender spearheaded the implementation of an updated IT solution, put together security procedures for the new facility and was involved in every capital expenditure.

“Fans of the Storm Chasers may not know this, but Laurie’s input led to the creation of each of the amenities they see throughout Werner Park,” Cordaro said.

In the community, the Midland Lutheran College graduate has been actively involved with St. Andrew’s Church since it began more than 15 years ago. Schlender has also volunteered extensively in the Millard Public Schools system and is currently involved with the Millard North Band Boosters and Millard North Show Choirs. She resides in Omaha with her husband, Greg, and their three children.

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Fun With Royals Comps

Baseball-Reference.com has a list at the bottom of player pages called “Similar Pitchers/Batters” that shows the top ten similar players based on a system created by Bill James. I love the idea behind the similarity scores, but the implementation leaves a lot to be desired. RBI is used as a comparison while OBP is not, and there is no era adjustment. Just a reminder of the obvious point to not read too much into the lists; it is really just a fun toy. But now that the lists have been updated to include the 2011 season, let’s see what the lists have to say about some key Royals players:

• Before the 2011 season, I did a little exercise examining the numbers put up by Billy Butler‘s comparable batters through age 24. I averaged the seasons put up by his comps, which before last season included John Olerud, Kent Hrbek, Nick Markakis, Chet Lemon, Carlos May, Delmon Young, Carl Yastrzemski, Ellis Valentine, Tony Horton, and Keith Hernandez. Those comps ended up projecting a similar season to what Billy actually did in 2011. Here is the average age 25 season by those players compared to Billy’s:

Since Billy followed his comps closely, there was not a lot of turnover among his top ten similar batters this off-season. Off the list are Chet Lemon, Ellis Valentine, and Tony Horton, replaced by Don Hurst, Steve Kemp and Ben Grieve. I have calculated the average age 26, 27, 28, and 29 seasons using the updated comps, shown in the tale below. The age 21-25 seasons shown are Butler’s actual numbers, and the totals at the bottom add together Butler’s actual career to date with the projected age 26-29 seasons. The last line shows where the totals would rank in Royals history right now:


The games played by his comps decrease quite a bit from what Billy has done the last three seasons. Hopefully as a dedicated DH Billy can keep playing 150+ games a year. Even if Billy “only” follows the path of his comparable hitters and stays in KC, he should be around the seventh best hitter in team history when the contract is up, with the possibility of some more productive seasons after that.

Eric Hosmer has played a grand total of 128 games in the majors, so his comps mean even less than most. Keeping that in mind, it is still a kick to see three Hall of Famers on his list, and that one of them is, um, Willie Mays. Of course, Delmon Young is on there too. The eight retired players on Hosmer’s list put up a 125 OPS+ for the rest of their careers.

Alex Gordon‘s career to date has been so up-and-down and injury-riddled that I do not put any stock in his list. One exception is Larry Hisle, who was a very similar hitter before Alex’s age 27 season in 2011, including ups and downs and trips to the minors, and had a similarly big year at age 27. Hisle is an encouraging comp because he continued hitting at a high level for the next four seasons, only to be stopped by injury. In my mind, health is the only barrier to Alex continuing as a premiere hitter for many years to come (even if another year like 2011 is unlikely).

Bruce Chen’s comps pitched an average of three more seasons with an ERA+ of 99.

Luke Hochevar’s list does not offer any encouragement in the form of a starter who turned a corner after a similarly inauspicious career through the age of 27. I still have hope that Luke figured something out in the second half of 2011 that will allow him to become a decent starter, but the odds are stacked. Interestingly, Hochevar’s top comp, Jose Mesa, never started another game after age 27—but he closed out 632. There have been many games where Hoch cruises for three, four, five innings only to fall apart…he looks a lot like a reliever those days.

Danny Duffy‘s career is too young for his comps to have any meaning, but one of the names on his list, Jesse Burkett, started like Duffy and ended up in the Hall of Fame. Something tells me Duffy will not be converting to a left fielder and posting a 140 OPS+ over 16 seasons like Burkett did though.

Aaron Stilley also blogs here and tweets here.

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