Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Fast Flyin' Train On A Tornado Track

(from "Last Thoughts On Woody Guthrie," The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3)

I know bloggers and stat nerds often get tagged with the reputation of being more interested in the numbers of baseball, rather than what the "old media" have tagged as the poetic, beautiful side of the game. Of course, any thinking person knows this is poppycock. There would be no reason to devote this much time and energy to something we didn't care about, and frankly, the statistically inclined would be better off using their considerable talents to make a pile of money on Wall Street.

Anyway, this particular blog post is about the poetic, beautiful side of the game. Namely, Jarrod Dyson. That dude is fast!

I know that's not earth-shattering news to any Royals fan, but it's fun to talk about. In fact, I'm hard-pressed to think of a Royals position player who has been more fun to watch than...Carlos Beltran, maybe?

I will admit, as a slow, fat guy, I have a soft spot for Royals who can run like the wind. I'm a little too young to remember Willie Wilson's prime as a speedster, but I always wanted Gary Thurman, Tom Goodwin and Joey Gathright to succeed. I like to imagine what I could do if I could run like that, just for one day. How much fun it would be, even in a beer-league softball game, to cover ground like that, to feel the wind rushing past your face as you fly down the baseline. Heck, I'd be parking my car at the far ends of parking lots and sprinting for the front doors wherever I was going.

Now that I'm older and hopefully wiser, I understand the limitations those guys had, and that Dyson shares with them: a lack of power and a low walk rate once pitchers realize they can challenge these guys and not worry about giving up homers.

In a perfect world, Dyson would be in Omaha, getting regular at-bats. The Royals are probably stunting his development some by keeping him in the majors. On the other hand, the Royals are definitely using him in the most judicious way possible while he's in the majors. Rather than just throwing him out there, they are picking their spots and letting his speed work for them at crucial moments in ballgames.

Meanwhile, I'm going to just enjoy the show whenever Dyson gets on base. Not only is he blazing fast, he seems to have very good baserunning instincts. And as a guy who was picked in the 50th and final round of the 2006 draft, Dyson is easy to root for. His mere presence in the majors is an example of odds overcome. In the first quarter of this season, the Royals have shown that they will fight, scratch and claw every night, and Dyson is just one Royal who embodies that spirit.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Your Hearts Must Have The Courage

...for the changing of the guards
(From "Changing Of The Guards," Street Legal)

I realize I am likely the last Royals blogger to say something about the Eric Hosmer callup, but really, what is there to say? I would have liked to see Kila Ka'aihue get a little more time to prove himself, but that's the way it goes sometimes. You can't really keep a guy hitting .439 with an OPS of 1.107 at AAA any longer than the Royals did. The fact that we still don't know for sure whether Kila is a bonafide major leaguer is due to the Royals trading for Mike Jacobs, not due to Eric Hosmer being called up. But that mistake happened and we can't fix it, just gripe about it.

The more interesting aspect of the Hosmer callup is what it says about the Royals organization right now. Whether you believe it or not, the Royals obviously think they are contenders this year. Personally, I don't think this team is good enough to win the AL Central, although they certainly look better than most people thought at the beginning of the season. And hey, as long as they are within a good two weeks of the division lead, they are actually contenders. I don't think Cleveland will continue on their 108-win pace, so why not give it a shot this year?

The easy play for the Royals would have been to let Kila keep playing here for another month, then call up Hosmer and not cost themselves an extra $8-$10 million in arbitration years from now. Instead, the Royals did the right thing for the team on the field, and for the fans. They should be commended for that.

It will be interesting to see how committed the Royals stay to the idea of contending this year. I can't imagine them trading top prospects for short-term "rental players." On the other hand, you could argue that adding Danny Duffy and Mike Montgomery to the rotation is a talent upgrade over whomever they replace, and a "free" one to boot. And adding Mike Moustakas to the lineup actually strengthens the bench, as he likely takes playing time away from Wilson Betemit and Mike Aviles. (In a perfect world, Aviles would start at second and Chris Getz would be benched. But in the name of defense and general scrappiness, I have no doubt Getz will see the majority of the time at second.)

In a way, the Royals are playing with house money. No one expected them to contend this year. Now, they do find themselves in the race, early as it may be. Any prospect they call up will benefit from playing in important games, if the Royals can stay in it. If the Royals fall out of contention, then they can focus on getting as many prospects who deserve it to the majors. It's a good spot to be in.