Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tomorrow Is Never What It's Supposed To Be

(from "Don't Fall Apart On Me Tonight," Infidels)

It's easy to say now, but back in January when the Royals announced the "Our Time" slogan for this season, I was a little worried. I didn't think it was a bad slogan, just a bit presumptuous. My first thought was that if I were a Detroit Tigers fan, I'd be laughing my butt off at that. But even more than that, it seemed to me like it was tempting fate just a little bit. Like any Royals fan, I was excited for this season, although my heart liked the team's chances a lot more than my head did.

Despite the emphasis on statistical analysis these days (an emphasis I definitely support), there are things that can't be quantified. Things like...whatever you want to call it: karma, reaping what you sow, or just getting what's coming to you. And a franchise with one winning season in the last 17 proclaiming that they are going to win right now seems more than a little hubristic to me.

Obviously, I can't say that a slogan caused the rash of injuries that has befallen the Royals in spring training so far. After last year's basically injury-free campaign, they were probably due to have a major injury or two this year. But it's a little concerning that the season is two weeks away and the Royals are already down two catchers and a closer.

Joakim Soria's (probable) impending Tommy John surgery will get the most attention around baseball, but Salvador Perez's torn knee ligament and the possibility he could miss three months is a bigger deal to me. Between Jonathan Broxton and Greg Holland, I think the Royals can cover for the loss of Soria pretty easily. Closer is an overrated position, but Broxton has experience there and Holland was quite good last year (and has been excellent this spring, too). Heck, it might be helpful for the future if Holland gets some experience closing games this year.

The injury to Perez really hurts. Here's a player whom the Royals thought so highly of that just a few weeks ago, they signed him to a five-year contract after only 39 major-league games. For someone so young , he certainly seems to have the full respect of the pitching staff and the coaches. It's hard to replace someone like that, even if it's only for three months.

The Royals proved how hard it is by trading for Humberto Quintero and outfielder Jason Bourgeois on Tuesday. Quintero has a reputation as a good defensive catcher, but he can't hit at all. He'll split time with Brayan Pena until Perez is back. Pena can hit a little but isn't much defensively, but even if the Royals combined the best attributes of both, I don't think they would match what Perez can do. To me, that puts a serious dent in "Our Time."

The addition of Bourgeois is a little puzzling to me. Here's a 30-year-old outfielder who can run well, play all three outfield positions (and has played second base, too!), doesn't walk much, and put up an 89 OPS+ last year. I think the Royals already have that guy, and his name is Mitch Maier (and Maier has the advantage of batting left-handed, too). When you compare their career numbers, it's hard to see how Bourgeois has any advantage over Maier:

Bourgeois: 192 games, .262/.307/.324, 2 HRs, 22 RBI, 46 SB
Maier: 328 games, .253/.332/.346, 8 HR, 86 RBI, 13 SB

It will be interesting to see if the Royals view Bourgeois as an alternative to Maier, or if the consider him organizational depth. He probably is ahead of Jarrod Dyson in the pecking order, but it's hard to see how he's clearly better than Maier. He likely has more foot speed, which is always nice in Kauffman Stadium's spacious outfield, but Maier seems to be a better hitter. It is possible the Royals could keep both and only have Yuniesky Betancourt as a backup infielder.

In the meantime, we have to hope that the injury bug moves on from Surprise. The Royals already faced an uphill battle to win the division before this rash of injuries, so the possibility of it really being "Our Time" was small to begin with. Any more injuries to key players could be the end of that idea before the season even begins.

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