Monday, August 24, 2009

More on what ails the Royals

Elaborating on the Monday print column:

I was probably generous to the Royals in suggesting that luck was a factor in their years in the wilderness compared to the Twins.

Management makes its own luck. Was there a Joe Mauer in the 2005 draft? Probably not — but after the Royals took 3B Alex Gordon with the No. 2 overall pick, the Nationals took 3B Ryan Zimmerman (fourth) and the Brewers took 3B Ryan Braun (fifth). Braun, of course, has since moved to left field, but there's a couple of All-Stars K.C. passed up.

Then there's Troy Tulowitzki (seventh overall to Colorado,) Ricky Romero (sixth to Toronto), Andrew McCutcheon (11th, Pittsburgh) ... the Twins took Matt Garza 24th, which is, of course, a whole 'nother story itself.

Eyeballing the first round, I see at least 10 players taken after Gordon who have clearly established themselves as better major league players. (And a number of out-and-out busts as well. C.J. Henry, anybody? Brandon Snyder?)

The Royals made the conventional choice in taking Gordon. The Twins made a slightly unconventional choice in taking Mauer over Mark Prior (and Mark Teixiera) in 2001. But the Twins have done their best work in the upper rounds of the draft when defying the conventional wisdom. The Royals really haven't done any best work in the upper rounds of the draft (other than taking Zack Grienke in 2002).

Further deepening the Royals-Twins comparison: The Mike Jacobs fiasco is worth considering. Last winter, Kansas City had on hand for first base Billy Butler (above), then 22, who appeared hopeless defensively, and Kila Ka'aihue, a 24-year-old who had raked the upper leaves of the minor leagues (a combined OPS of 1.085 in Double A and Triple A.) Two young hitters with defensive shortcomings.

The Royals eyed those options and traded a decent middle relief arm (Leo Nunez) to Florida for Jacobs, an older hitter (now 28) with defensive shortcomings and a $3 million-plus contract.

Butler has taken over first now; he's worked on his fielding — not that he's threatening Carlos Pena or Teixiera for a Gold Glove. Jacobs is a part-time DH with a miserable OBP (.305) and slugging percentage (.422). Nunez is closing for Florida. Ka'aihue? He's in Triple A amassing a .400 OPB.

This, as my brother would say, is dumb with a capital M. If you have Butler and Ka'aihue, you don't need Jacobs. But everybody in baseball can use an arm like Nunez, and everybody can use an extra $3 million in the budget.

Then there's the manager. Joe Posnanski is an unabashed Ron Gardenhire admirer — has written often that Gardy is the best manager in the game — and that admiration is only understandable in the context of the silly decisions he's watched Royals managers make over the years. Here's a Posnanski post on one such.

And as long as I'm linking to blogs complaining about the Royals — consider this piece of bitterness from Rany Jazayerli, although I should warn you that there's a semi-edited obscenity involved.

There's no disgrace in being bad for a few years. Being relentlessly bad for as long as the Royals have ... that's another matter. That the Royals stand here today, with ONE player under 25 on the roster and headed to a sixth 100-loss season in nine years ... well, that may deserve an obscenity to describe it.

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