Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Never Bein’ Able To Separate The Good From The Bad

(From “Dead Man, Dead Man,” Shot of Love)

I find it funny (funny strange not funny ha-ha) sometimes that, in most aspects of life, I tend to be a pessimist. Yet, when it comes to the Kansas City Royals, an organization that has spent 20-some years screwing up the most basic decisions, a franchise that invariably chooses the worst option possible, I tend to be an optimist. I don’t know why this is, although I suspect it’s partially human nature and partially a coping mechanism.

I started writing this post on Tuesday, and was going to write about how that optimism may have finally met its match in the last week. I was ready to blast the Royals for trading Omaha relief pitcher Carlos Rosa to Arizona for shortstop prospect Rey Navarro, because I felt Rosa had a chance to help the Royals’ bullpen in the short-term. Meanwhile, Navarro will start his journey up the Royals’ ladder at Class A Wilmington. Also, while I admit I’m no expert on the minor leagues, the people who seem to be experts don’t seem to have a consensus on Navarro’s future, except he’s not much of a hitter. Then again, he’s only 20. While I know the Royals are not contenders this year, it would be nice to win as many games as possible, and I’d rather have found out if Rosa could help the bullpen than see the Royals waste money on another “big name” relief pitcher, like Kyle Farnsworth.

I also was going to blast the Royals for their handling of Alex Gordon. After giving him 12 whole games this year to prove himself, the #2 overall pick in the 2005 draft was sent to Omaha (bright spot: Mike Aviles finally gets called up and, hopefully, given an actual chance to play this time). Then came the real bombshell: the announcement that Gordon would be learning to play left field and first base at Omaha.

I don’t understand why the Royals seem to have it in for Gordon. I’m afraid they are going to start jerking him around much like they did with Mark Teahen, giving him a new position to learn every year, then wondering why he never hits like they think he should. I don’t know that there is a correlation between changing defensive positions and subpar offense, but I don’t think it helps a player concentrate on offense when he is constantly learning a new defensive position. It’s true that Gordon will probably never be a superstar like we all hoped, but he can still be a valuable major league third baseman (assuming he can stay healthy, which has certainly been a problem). Let’s not forget, he posted a 109 OPS+ when he was 24.

But here comes that stupid optimism again. My mind begins to entertain the possibilities…if Gordon can work himself into an acceptable defender in left field, I think he will hit well enough to be a contributor (for comparison, David DeJesus had a .781 OPS and 106 OPS+ as a left fielder last year, and in Gordon’s last full season, he had a .783 OPS and that 109 OPS+). Now you’re looking at a 2011 outfield of Gordon, Rick Ankiel (or Mitch Maier, if the Royals decline to bring Ankiel back), and DeJesus. Not too shabby.

And then, even more optimism. Have the Royals decided to give Mike Aviles a real shot at reclaiming his shortstop position? When he started the season on the major league roster, he got two token appearances. This time around, he waits one day, then gets a start (a productive one, with three hits and a homer). Miracle of miracles, he gets another start the next day. I think we all know that a healthy Aviles is going to hit much better than Yuniesky Betancourt, and probably field better too. The question now is, will the Royals let him prove that? An infield of Billy Butler, Chris Getz, Aviles and Alberto Callaspo is also not too shabby. And that doesn’t include Mike Moustakas, who has been tearing up the Texas League in Class AA and could conceivably be ready for his major league debut next year.

Finally, the cherry on top of this optimism sundae: after Ankiel went on the disabled list, the Royals actually called up Kila Ka’aihue for something more than a September appearance. I don’t know that he will play regularly, or even that the Royals will keep him in the majors after Ankiel comes off the DL. But I take this as a sign that he has finally made an impression on the Royals—after all, they could have easily called up an outfielder (or another relief pitcher). It would be nice to find out for sure if Kila can hit in the majors, as he could be a very affordable replacement for Jose Guillen next season.

Sigh. Perhaps one of these days I will finally get the optimism out of my system and join reality. Until then, though, I guess I will keep hoping for the best.


One Royal Way | Travis Pflanz said...

I think the Royals have Gordon every chance to prove himself. He has not only disappointed with his performance, he has also disappointed with his attitude and effort.

The guy looks as if he simply doesn't care at bat, on the field or on the basepaths.

This is a guy who was to be "the savior" of the Royals, a guy who ex-Royals George Brett and Joe Randa have taken a personal interest to help grow. He has simply shown no interest.

The Royals seem to have given up on him as becoming a star for this team, and I am fine with that.

The silver lining here: The position move may indicate that Moustakas will arrive in the MLB at 3b, and maybe even ahead of schedule.

Old Man Duggan said...

I think the likelihood of Ankiel coming back at the $6 million price tag of the mutual option is nil. Look forward to a year of unadulterated Mitch (and I mean this in a sincerely optimistic way).