Thursday, May 29, 2008

Don't Mess With The Guillen.

Say what you want about being a Royals fan, but it's rarely boring. Painful, humiliating, soul-sucking...but never boring.

Here's what I learned in the last 18 hours:

- I do not ever want to piss off Jose Guillen. Ever. If I do, I'm hiding up in the press box with Jay Mariotti.

- If Guillen has a big game tonight and the Royals win, he will immediately become the most popular player on the team.

- If Guillen goes 0-for-4 and the Royals lose, he may need a police escort from the stadium.

There's no in-between here. I don't blame Guillen for saying what he said one bit - I was saying far worse things last night, and I didn't have nearly as good a view of Monroe's game-tying homer. And the mere fact that today people are talking about Guillen's outburst as much as they are about the collapse last night and the 10-game losing streak is proof that he's done some good.

On September 19th, 1999, the New York Mets were 92-58, a game behind the Braves and four games ahead of the Reds in the wild-card race with 12 games to go. They would lose their next seven games in a row, and were 2.5 games behind Cincinnati with 5 games left. It was at that point that their manager, Bobby Valentine, went on a much-publicized tirade in which he fell on his sword, declared that the collapse was all his fault and that the media should lay off the players.

This being Bobby Valentine, many members of the media viewed this outburst as another manifestation of Valentine's ego, a sign that in Valentine's world, everything was about him, him, him. Needless to say, a controversy ensued over the next 24-48 hours about what Valentine's intentions were, whether he was trying to fire up his team, whether he was trying to deflect attention away from the team, whether he'd be fired if they didn't make the playoffs...and for a day or two at least, the issue at hand - that the Mets had just lost seven in a row to potentially cough up a playoff spot - was lost in the shuffle. Which was almost certainly Valentine's real motivation. It was a brilliant move, and the Mets won four of their next five games, tied the Reds for the wild card, then won Game 163 to advance.

Contrast this with the Mets' collapse last year, when Willie Randolph basically sat around and waited for the wind to change direction. Valentine would take the Mets to the World Series the following year; Randolph may not last the summer.

So if nothing else, Guillen's outburst has taken the focus off the 24 other players, even as he was calling out those same players. I don't know if it was intentional or not, but it was an inspired move. Now all he has to do is back it up.

(Incidentally, I completely agree with Sam Mellinger's take that the fact that Guillen went out of his way to defend his manager is a good sign that Hillman still has respect in the clubhouse. It may seem silly to you or me, but the fact that Hillman never played in the majors can present a significant credibility problem to his players. He's just the third Royals manager to have never played in the majors. The other two were Jim Frey, who lost control of the clubhouse so fast that he was fired half a season after he took the Royals to the World Series, and Jack McKeon, who also lost respect in the clubhouse and had to be fired. I have some developing beefs with Hillman, but none of them involve his interpersonal skills.)

- Apparently, Billy Butler is a baby. And I don't just mean he is the youngest player on the team. Or was.

Maybe Guillen wasn't calling out Butler, though it's telling that he was the first guy I thought of when I heard Guillen's comments. And anyway, if the Royals had to make a move, who else could they send to Omaha? Butler might be the only hitter on the roster who had an option remaining - well, other than Gordon, who's not going anywhere.

I think it's a risky move, scapegoating one of your most important players. There was no reason to worry about Butler in the long-term even though he wasn't hitting well; he's barely 22, and the only number in his batting line that's worrying is the home run column. I think he would have made the necessary adjustments in due time had he been left alone. Those changes might come faster in Triple-A, as they did with Teahen. But the Royals have to understand that there's a small but real risk that they lose Butler over this.

- So Mike Aviles starts at shortstop tonight. That's pretty cool. What's not cool is that we're excited about the fact that a 27-year-old hitter is making his major league debut tonight. I've made the case before that Aviles' best-case scenario translates into something like Rich Aurilia, a below-average defensive shortstop who nonetheless hit well enough to make up for it. Aurilia had some sweet seasons in his late 20's, but then again, he was in the majors when he was 24. If Aviles hits well enough to convince the Royals to live with his defensive inadequacies at shortstop, it will be a minor miracle. That doesn't mean we can't pray.

- It's a fool's errand to try to predict the outcome of a single game, but I'll say this. Last night notwithstanding, I still believe this team is fundamentally on better footing than it was in 2005. The pitching, day in and day out, is better and deeper. Case in point: our #4 starter goes today, only our #4 starter is Luke Hochevar, who is erratic but certainly has the ability to dominate on any given night. And if the game is close in the late innings, Soria is available, and he's the one player on this team that seems immune to the loser virus.

Kevin Slowey is exactly the sort of pitcher the Royals inerrantly turn into Cy Young - a right-hander with tremendous control of an average, but diverse, repertoire. If the Royals are jumpy and overeager to put last night's debacle behind them, Slowey will carve them up. If they stay within themselves and wait for their pitches to hit, they could eke this one out. How the Royals approach their at-bats tonight should teach us a little something extra about Hillman.

34 comments:

mike perry - Omaha, NE said...

I watched Mike Aviles hit two out with the wind blowing in a couple nights ago. They were BIG shots too. The guy can really hit. I'm excited to see what he does against MLB pitching.

Ron Rollins said...

How is sending Butler down going to help? All that does is let "Gold Glove" Gload play 1B.

He's already proven he can hit AAA pitching. He's not going to learn hit to hit major league pitching in Omaha.

Moore is just as bad as Hillman. they both need to go.

Collin said...

maybe Butler was losing confidence... then he could use a boost from AAA. I'm proud of Guillen no matter what he does tonight -- but the losing has to stop. Let's make some moves, even if it means releasing players or making trades for nothing... let's get the roster straight and go with it. No fat hanging around, so useless parts. I still have confidence in Hillman and Moore. Let's get it done, Royals.

Nathan said...

Wow, Ron. It's kind of ironic that you want to bail too early on Hillman and Moore for bailing too early on Butler. Except for extraordinary cases, you can't accurately evaluate a GM in 1 year or a manager in 50-odd games. Besides, most of Moore's decisions so far have paid off.

Nathan said...

I know he's a veteran, and I know he's been playing better lately, but it's still a little strange for a player with a .275 OBP, who acknowledges that he showed up for spring training overweight from the fat of his $36 million contract, to lecture anyone on "doing what it takes to win."

RickMcKc said...

Game notes:

1) I'm just not impressed with Hochevar.

2) Do we swing early in counts? I used to think so, but watching closely tonight I think pitchers challenge us over the plate on the first pitch (because they have no fear) and we swing - and miss and justify their lack of fear.

On the idea of Guillen not having credibility to call out his teammates ... I think the fact that he was honest about his lack of preparation gives it to him. He's not only pointing the finger at other players, he's also pointed it at himself.

TSK said...

Good call on Slowey, looking a lot like Cy Young out there.

Anonymous said...

I'm still surprised that so many people are actually applauding Guillen for this. Someone who came in out of shape, is as much to blame as anyone for poor offensive start to the season, has not run out ground balls, and made some bone headed plays in the OF alienates his teammates by calling them babies and there are people who think this is a good thing.

Its quite obvious now how he got his clubhouse cancer label. It can be overlooked if he actually has a good year. But if he's basically just Teahen with less plate discipline and more power then its not going to go over well.

Anonymous said...

F..................CK!

Kevin

skeptic said...

At least we avoided the shutout.

Bart said...

Uh, Rany, we're in the midst of 37 innings without walking. I can't find the record anywhere, but I think we might be moving in that direction. Maybe your BP friends can help out with this number?

Anonymous said...

Did David Glass deficate on an indian burial ground or something?

Anonymous said...

C'mon, ALL Royals front-office employees of the past 20 years have defecated on indian burial grounds.

It's just that David Glass isn't willing to be the pooper-scooper...though he signed up for the position.

Anonymous said...

Um, don't look now, but tomorrow night we face.....Cliff Lee. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!! God has a sense of humor, and the Royals are his punchline.

If we made the formerly 1-4 Kevin Slowey look like Greg Maddux, Cliff Lee just might throw a...gulp...perfect game. On the bright side, how cool would it be to have a losing streak start with a no-hitter and end with a perfect game? Oh wait. CC Sabathia pitches on Saturday. LOL! Maybe we can get to Paul Byrd on Sunday.

Brian said...

Butler was the first person you thought of when Guillen mentioned babies? I can definitely see that, but for some reason, my mind immediately turned to Dejesus. Every time he grounds out, or misplays a ball, or gets picked off, he and his fangy grin always seem to find the cameras and send the message, "Good thing I didn't care anyway."

Maybe it means that he has thick skin, and won't sweat the small stuff. Or maybe it means that he's arrogant, and really doesn't care that much.

Or maybe I'm just afraid of his fangs.

Ryan said...

Brian,

Rany called out Butler, because evidently he got sent to Omaha tonight when they brought up Aviles.

Anonymous said...

I totally agreed with Jose's comments and they needed to be said. This team is young, they don't know how to win, and they really don't know how to hit either. Someone needs to get them good and angry because nice and friendly isn't working anymore. These guys do seem like little babies on the field, or at least children, just happy to be playing the game. It would be nice if just once after they lost a close game we got more than a soundbite of "well, golly gee... you just have to tip your cap... the pitcher was hitting his spots... blah blah blah... etc." We got it now from Guillen, the one player we were guaranteed to. Now we just need the rest of the team to get fired up. Maybe a good old fashioned brawl would do the trick.

And Butler needed to be sent down, not for scapegoating in any way. He just needs to get some confidence back. Butler knows his spot on the team is safe, he just needs to earn his way back to the team with a great few weeks of weak AAA pitching.

Anonymous said...

We need a brawl after the first pitch Cliff Lee throws inside.

Ron Rollins said...

Nathan,

You can evaluate a manager after 51 games, when he has shown in that time that he has no clue and doesn't know what he is doing out there. He makes terrible game decisions, can't put the right players on the field, and can't put a batting order together. He's proven he can't do it. He needs to go.

As for Moore, his move with Butler is a cop-out. Butler was the only one with options left, so he could go down. All that does is say, "hey, look at me. I did something. I'm a good GM, becasue I'm making moves."

But if they're the wrong moves, and they are, then he hasn't accomplished anyhting.

If Callapso is going to be the 2nd baseman of the future, then he needs to be playing at SS, and getting the AB's. Not a career minor leagure 2B who isn't any better defensively than Callaspo is.

And sending Butler down just gives more AB's to Tehan and Gload, who already proven throughout their careers that they should not be starters. Butler didn't have any power, but his hitting was okay.

KIrby Puckett hit 4 HR's his first 2 years, and went on to the HOF. You don't send one of the guys who's actually hitting to Omaha to let others who can't stay.

This move didn't make any sense at all. It was a knee jerk reaction to say, "I've done something." Just like signing Tomko and Guillen. He did something. But its not working.

They both need to go.

Eric said...

No doubt we are all sick of losing
but the Royals remain a team with
average talent, even though that
talent (we believe) is a bit better
than the talent they've had the
previous 2-3 years. We're still
suffering for years of bad drafts
and real progress isn't going to
show up for another 2-3 years at
least unless Dayton/Trey or SOMEONE
has some tricks up their sleeve we
haven't seen yet. I'll keep the
faith because I have to (I'm in the
media)!

Anonymous said...

Hey Rany, won't this delay free agency for Butler if he's down long enough?

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the Royals needing a good brawl to get them going. If nothing else, it would take at least a little bit of attention away from the streak.

Two problems, though. First, in order to get a really good, bench-clearing brawl going, you have to be playing a rival. The Royals have been so bad for so long, I don't think there really are any rivalries anymore (even St. Louis has lost most of its edge). Second, in order to ignite a brawl, the Royals have to get pitched inside. In order to get pitched inside hard (and eventually plunked), you have to be hitting really well and laying it on the other team. Plunking one of the Royals now would be like kicking a five-year old while he's on the ground because you just punched him in the face.

-Ben

Ryan said...

I really wish Ron Rollins was a GM in my fantasy baseball league.

Anonymous said...

To Jose Guillen, team leader:

Kudos to you for your inspiring words. We all remember how the Angels valued your crucial leadership role during their 2004 championship run. The only thing I would add to your rant was, "This (bleep) team is so (bleep) bad that they (bleeping) thought they needed to sign me, Jose Guillen, to be their cleanup hitter!"

Ron Rollins said...

Ryan,

I prefer to deal with the real world, and not some fantasy life like Dungeons and Dragsons.

Put down the mouse. Step away from the computer. Unplug any gadgets you have hooked up. Go outside. Feel the sun on your face. Talk a walk around the block. Talk to a girl. A real one, not on a computer. Join the rest of us in the world.

Its a nice place. Really. It is.

Anonymous said...

Ron,

I play fantasy baseball. I have a computer, a mouse, plenty of gadgets, I go outside regularly, I'm engaged to a beautiful woman (and, since I know she's not going to read this...have had my fair share of attractive, intelligent women before her), I have an active social life, I booze it up (at some of the nicest, trendiest bars in the city) on occasion, and try to make it to a boxing workout at least twice a week.

In short, I live in the world. Just not your world of lunacy where you fire people willy-nilly after a few weeks on the job, and after they have established a pretty good track record in those few weeks. What's your employment history like? I assume that you've never made even the slightest mistake, and that if you did, you immediately went to your employer, told them you were worthless and quit on the spot.

Anytime a person demands that a manager, coach, GM, be fired, my first question is usually: "Who's going to take his place?" So, let's play your Scorched Earth Employment Philosophy game. Who, do you suppose, Glass could go out and bring on board, who would WANT to take over the ROYALS, mind you, who would be an immediate and drastic improvement over Moore and Hillman?

-Ben

Anonymous said...

Only position players with options were Teahen, Butler, and Gload.

37 innings since the last walk is correct (DeJesus in the 3rd inning of Monday's game). Taking a step further, did you know only two walks in the last 67 innings! Think about that. What if you had a pitcher with a line like that (67 IP, 2 BB). You would think you had found the greatest control pitcher of all time!!!

I don't think the roster shuffling is over. For one, Davies will be called up Saturday. Will be interesting who is released/sent down/traded. I've got a feeling they may dump a middle infielder. It makes zero sense to have 5 (FIVE!) middle infielders out of only 13 position players. For now, that GUARANTEES that Gload and Gathright will be in the lineup everyday - and that's a disaster, especially against left handed pitching.

Shelby said...

Cliff Lee gets roughed-up tonight.

Mark my words.

Ron Rollins said...

Ben,

That's a great philopsohy. Lets not fire the incompetent people we have becaues no one else wants the job.

Did you actually read what you wrote. I'll bet there are penty of people who would take either job, if given the opportunity. Have you ever had a real job. Ever heard of a probationary period. Usually 90 days. If you don't measure up, you're not guaranteed employement.

Hillmnan has had 90 days. He doesn't measure up. What exactly is this "phantom" proven track record he has? And if you say Japan, it just shows you are a person who cares more about style than substance. I'll bet you go to a concert for the light show and the dancers, and don't eve care about the acutal music.

I'll take substance anyday. So should the Royals. When they find it.

Anonymous said...

Ron,

Right now name Trey Hillman's replacement. And Dayton Moore's too.

There must be someone...

Anonymous said...

Dear Ron Steinbrenner,

Dumb and obvious way to dodge the question. OF COURSE, there are plenty of people who would take either Moore's or Hillman's job. I would. As I bet most any other commenter on this blog would, being that we're all big enough dorks and fans to be checking in on a blog about the freaking Kansas City Royals. An EXCELLENT blog, by the way, Rany (one of, if not THE, best on the net), but a blog about one of the worst professional sports franchises in recent American history, nonetheless. We all have to be some of the biggest die hards out there.

Anyway, the point isn't that there are plenty of people who would take the job. The POINT is who the hell do you think is more qualified and would do a better job (in less time than has been given Moore and Hillman)? However much any of us might want the job, I highly doubt that any of us are even remotely qualified (unless Bobby Valentine or Steve Phillips are posting anonymously--and I'm sure many would argue they aren't qualified either).

Maybe you're right. Maybe Hillman just got incredibly lucky with the rag-tag, low-talent Fighters teams he had. Maybe Dayton has just been incredibly lucky with most of the moves he's made up until now. But I just don't think that either one of them are all light shows and dancers. I think they've been making some decent music with the terrible, beaten-up, low-rent instruments they've inherited.

And yes, I do have a real job...which often involves arguing and sometimes involves cornering people and making them give me an answer. Soooo, ANSWER THE QUESTION. WHO DO YOU THINK IS BETTER AND AVAILABLE???

-Ben

Oh, and I'd love to see you bring in any qualified GM or managerial candidate, interview him, and then specify, "Oh, by the way, you've got 90 days (or even games) to turn a perennial 90-100 loss team into a winner. If you can't do that, then you're gone." Bet you'd have top candidates lined up around the corner with those expectations.

Ryan said...

The Royals just picked up Brayan Pena, a back up catcher from the Braves, off of waivers. They put Hudson on the 60 day DL to clear room on the 40 man roster. They still have to send someone to Omaha to clear room for him.

Three catchers. Does this mean Olivo or Buck gets traded?

Brayan has some decent minor league numbers. Not much power, but seems to average .300 with an OBP around .340 in AAA the last three years.

Ryan said...

I'm going to answer my own question after thinking about it for two minutes

With Butler in Omaha that means Olivo will DH more. Brayan Pena provides some catcher insurance in case something happens to Buck. He's also a switch hitter, and provides another right handed bat off the bench against lefties. He makes Hillman's bench deeper and more flexible, especially when Olivo DHs.

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