Friday, July 11, 2008

I'm Back.

I didn’t intend to be absent this long. We had a lot of family in over the 4th of July weekend, including my oldest sister and her kids, who live in Dubai. I live by the rule of thumb that when someone travels 10,000 miles in part to visit you, you give them a high priority. And the last few days I’ve been trying to spend as much time as possible with my wife and daughters, who are leaving this evening to visit relatives in Syria for four weeks. With any luck my kids will come back more proficient in Arabic than their father, whose vocabulary is limited to ordering food at a restaurant. (Not that being able to order Arab food isn’t a very useful skill on its own.)

The upside of all this is that I’m going to have significantly more free time over the next four weeks to do things like, I don’t know, update this blog. The downside of this is that over the ten days, the Royals have returned to American League action and returned to playing in such ways that they are once again threatening to suck the life out of me.

Tuesday night they lost in 13 innings, after holding a two-run lead with five outs to go. They lost because Ozzie Guillen pinch-ran for Konerko with Brian Anderson in the eighth, and Anderson alertly made it to third on a single, allowing him to score the tying run on a sac fly. They lost because Jose Guillen led off the bottom of the fifth with a triple and then died there. They lost because in the 12th inning Trey Hillman called for Billy Butler to do something that 1) he should never be asked to do and 2) he is incapable of doing, the result of which was a double play.

Mostly, they lost because the second base umpire failed to call interference on Alexei Ramirez when he ran into Esteban German trying to field a grounder in the tenth, leading to a bases loaded, one-out situation – and then when Gathright made a sensational catch in right-center but collided with Teahen, Ramirez raced home all the way from second base for the exceedingly rare two-RBI sac fly. The Royals managed to score two runs of their own in the bottom of the inning, which only made the loss more painful when the Sox scored another run in the 13th. Naturally, the Royals teased their fans by loading the bases with one out, only to have Grudzielanek rap into the game-ending double play.

But as Buddy Bell once said, “I never say it can’t get worse.” When the Royals took a 5-0 lead after three innings on Wednesday, with Bannister dealing, I said to myself that if the Royals managed to find a way to lose this time, I was through with them. A pair of Carlos Quentin homers later, and the Sox had scored four runs through six innings without leaving anyone on base, a neat trick. Butler killed another rally in the sixth with a double play – this time he was swinging away – and Hillman tried to use Robinson Tejada to hold a one-run lead in the eighth to rest his weary bullpen, with unfortunate results.

Ramon Ramirez would be called to put out a fire, and as fine an addition as Ramirez has been, weird things seem to happen when he’s on the mound. He gave up the winning run on a wild pitch earlier this year; there was the ninth-inning meltdown against Minnesota when he gave up some cheap hits and Hillman decided to bring Joel Peralta in with the tying run at the plate. Wednesday he decided to raise the standard for bizarre methods of losing by balking in the winning run. Butler hit into another double play with two men on in the bottom of the eighth – a bunt might have been the right call there, if only Billy knew how to put one down – and that was that.

I don’t need this aggravation. I’ve spent half of my life as an utterly obsessive fan of this team, and in return, after 17 years I’ve received no playoff appearances, no thrilling September pennant drives, and only a single hint of a pennant race in the summer of 2003. And after the games of Tuesday and Wednesday, the Royals appeared no closer to turning things around than they did 17 years ago. Further away, actually. Why should I waste time following a loser with all my new free time when I could be playing GTA4 or something? At least in that game, someone else gets to be the victim for a change.

So it was with no expectations but more of the same that I watched yesterday’s game unfold, the brilliant but sure-to-be-wasted effort by Greinke tainted by a single homer, the utter inability to do anything against Mark Buehrle, who was 16-6 against the Royals in his career. A 1-0 loss after losing 7-6 and 8-7 the last two nights? Sure, why not.

And then they sucked me back in. They always do. John Buck reminded me that he’s having a much better year that most people realize, singling to lead off the bottom of the eighth. Paul Konerko reminded me that sometimes the breaks don’t always go against the Royals, it just seems that way. Mike Aviles reminded me that if nothing else, this season the Royals have found a shortstop who can hit. Jose Guillen reminded me that throwing him a first-pitch fastball anywhere around the plate is usually a mistake. Mark Teahen reminded me that he might be the smartest baserunner in the major leagues. Joakim Soria reminded me, as always, that I no longer have to be afraid when the Royals have a ninth-inning lead.

The Royals: I can’t live with ‘em, I can’t live without ‘em. I’ll never be through with them; just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in. If you’re reading this blog, you probably feel the same way. Which is why I’ll keep going, and keep hoping that the Royals don’t continue to test my limits.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

thanks, Rany.

Bill said...

1. What team in baseball has their DH bat 7th?
2. What team in baseball would NOT bunt their #7 hitter with men at 1st and 2nd, in the eighth and down by 1 run? Remember, that team did have Pena Jr.(who can bunt) on the bench--of course, who would ever pinch hit this guy--for any professional hitter?
3. What manager in baseball would say bunting in the above situation was NOT the correct move--after all, his next hitter (hint:Mark Teahan) does not handle left handers particularly well--of course, that same hitter(Teahan)bats 5th the next night against one of the best left handers in the AL!!
Conclusion:
-Billy Butler needs to be in AAA-like most 21 year olds-and hit, bunt, field, run the bases and get in shape.
-Trey Hillman needs to keep his excuses simple and reasonable.

Still love the Royals and love the direction they seem to be headed--lets just be sure we ahve guys who know how to win

Jon in Dallas said...

welcome back! it has been a bear checking your website for the last few weeks. now i know i will have a good weekend! Go Royals!

Mark LaFlamme said...

Truer words have never been blogged. If nothing else, the Royals are almost never boring.
Hang in there, Rany.

Paul said...

I've been critical of Lumpy (butler) just like everyone else, but I blame trey for asking him to bunt. it's like asking a caveman to do surgery or tony pena jr to get a hit: you have to know your players' capabilities.
Also, I don't know how he remains so calm when the royals are getting hammered by the umps. I don't know why I get so upset if the manager doesn't seem to care.Going to the game tonight: king felix vs hochevar.

Shelby said...

I don't see how John Buck is having a good year. Enlighten me.

And there is a rumor going around about the Brewers wanting to nab Greinke. If this happens, or if Moore is even considering this, I don't know what I'll do. I'll still be a Royals fan but I won't be a happy one.

I'm also very, very disappointed in Butler. I hope the Royals are closely evaluating his progress (or lack thereof). Same with Gordon, although I guess he's progressing a little, taking some walks, but also striking out a ton. He's going to end up with a sub .800 OBPS, which is not good, even if he ends up with 24 homers.

Jay0864 said...

Rany

Please answer this for me. I listen to the pre-game show and I hear Hillman say that Bannister (as well as all his pitchers) can't be afraid to pitch to contact. And then when the get contacted ala Carlos Quentin style, you read his post-game comments are "He threw too hittable of a pitch".

AARRRGH! Make up your mind, Trey. I can live with many things you do or try to do, but this is insane. If you want them to make pitches unhittable well they are going to have elevated pitch counts. If you want your guys to pitch to contact, well, they are going to be hittable and sometimes for distance!

aaron said...

Uhhh... Bill? Since when can Pena Jr bunt? He repeatedly fails to get bunts down, at least Butler got his down on the first try, he just runs like a snail.

Buck is doing great with the pitching staff while chipping an OPS+ of 90. His OBP is 70 points higher than his BA (.324 to .253). Olivo has an OPS+ of 100, but his OBP is only .276. Career wise Olivo has an OPS+ of just 79. There is much worse around the league that we could have. Buck at least has some power.

AC said...

Amen, Rany! There are dozens of us that feel the same way you do about this team . . .

Question: How big of a sample size do we need before we declare the Alex Gordon selection as a bust? It's not that he's a bad player . . . I love watching him play the field . . . but he is JUST not handling lefties like the other high draft picks seem to.

Are there examples of other players out there that started out this (I'll say it) 'poorly' for THIS long but have come back to be All-Star calibre (my expectation of Gordon) players?

ksuim4u said...

Jay

The idea behind "pitching to contact" it throwing the ball in an area where the ball can be put in play, but not crushed (Vladimir Guerrero being a notable exception due to his ability to crush nearly anything). Ideally, you want to induce ground balls or pop-ups. Similarly, a pitcher cannot be "afraid to pitch to contact," because the entire idea of a strike zone is that it is an area where a player should be able to hit a ball. Clearly, there are areas in the strike zone where players can more easily "square up" on a ball - those are the areas Hillman is referring to.

Kevin said...

AT LEAST Alex Gorden is not in the 3 hole anymore.

Anonymous said...

I've seen somewhere that Aviles has fewer walks than ANGEL BERROA in HALF as many at bats....

Isaac said...

Nice to have you back Rany. I have said for a while that the ROyals play just well enough to disappoint. It's been that way for years.

There is only one person to blame for the Butler bunt and that is Hillman.

What Teahen did last night and what he did against TB when he scored from first on a single up the middle is the very reason that he is my favorite Royal. He may not be performing as well as we would like but he is the one guy on this team that plays fundamentally sound baseball. His baserunning skills are the best in the league and I challenge anyone to find someone better than him. It's not just his baserunning though. It's the fact that he is running out of the box. That's how you play baseball and why the rest of the team doesn't take some tips by watching him is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know why Guillen wasn't in the line-up tonignt? Didn't see him after the game shaking hands either. You gotta love DeJesus. The guy just comes through in the clutch almost every night.
Watching the Royals is like looking at dirty pictures, I know I shouldn't but I can't make myself stop, then I am rewarded with games like the last two nights.
Welcome back Rany, please keep it up1

AC said...

With his ability to to drive in runs, what do you think about DeJesus in the 3-hole? (To be fair, I think the Star's Joe Posnanski called for this about 6 weeks ago).

And, no, I don't know who (not Aviles, Gathright, Teahen...maybe Grud?) to leadoff if DeJesus is batting third. So, solving one problem might create another.

Anonymous said...

I so agree....I'm 40 and it is too late for me...I will be a Royals fan the rest of my life no matter how often I curse and throw things and get frustrated. Unfortunately we are season ticket holders so we are subjecting our kids to the same fate. I guess I should go apologize eh?
On the positive....outside of how everything feels this year is still the best year so far, record wise, this decade. (Outside of the 2003 anomaly) so we have that going for us eh?
Love the blog...please keep it up.

D.W. said...

Yay, Rany's back! I know just how you feel. For me, Royals fandom is what I imagine a cigarette habit to be like. I know they'll kill me someday, but I can't make myself stop. If only they made a "bad baseball" patch...

Anonymous said...

Its time for Gload to move up in the order! He's been hitting great the last month and has shown to hit in the clutch, especially against right handers. Let's move Gordon down and Butler out of the lineup.

Paul said...

Great game last night. Soria coming into the game with guns n roses blaring was nothing less than electric.

steak said...

AC beat me to the punch, but my roommate and I had the "Gordon platoon split" conversation about three weeks ago. Gordon is not hitting and hasn't hit for what seems to be any significant amount of time while in the bigs.

Players with a lower AVG on the Royals with at least 100 AB:
Tony Pena Jr.

Thats it. TPJ is the ONLY Royal hitting worse than Gordon

He leads the team in KO (4th in the AL), but also BB by a slim margin.

Lastly, splits:
vs Left .190; 3 EBH; 0 HR
vs Right .276; 30 EBH; 11 HR

All of this might be more palatable if it weren't for what seems to be a complete lack of enthusiasm. Ninth inning, one-run game and he gets called out on three pitches... more disconcerting than this ugly AB was the fact that he simply turned on his heel and walked back to the dugout without so much as a deep sigh. The guy seems to be bored/unhappy/indifferent/something. Not enjoyable.

Can we please get an updated post on "George Brett 2.0?" Gordon has quickly become the least watchable Royal (behind arguably TPJ or Butler).

steak said...

oh, and welcome back, Rany!

Anonymous said...

I think Alex may get a quick tour of duty in Omaha after the break--- obviously Longoria's put him to shame.

Shelby said...

Butler and Gordon....two beacons of hope, two of the "new class" -- The Future of our team.


Or were they just "sure things" from the Royals point of view?


Or do we just have an uncanny proficiency of screwing up young talent?


I'm not going to close the book on these two, but I, for one, don't want to say I saw this coming, but I definitely didn't think they were sure things--I gave them about a 35% chance of them developing into stars. But I'm no talent scout, just a pessimist.

What did talent scouts around the nation think about these guys' potential?

Mike said...

Rany, I love reading your commentary on the Royals, and your perspective is always as if I had written it myself. I feel the same emotions, and share the same frustration and heartbreak at this franchise's continuous flirtation with failure. Thanks for doing what you do.

One small correction to make, though, is that Robinson's last name is Tejeda, not Tejada. But that's small beans in the grand scheme of things, and he's a new addition.

Go Royals!

Anonymous said...

I love the Royals, but Royals fans have to be the most over-dramatic, moronic fans in baseball.

Gordon is a bust? Move Butler out of the lineup, and move Gload up? Send down Gordon? Are you people insane?

Geez, it's like you people enjoy being miserable. If you're already calling Gordon one of the "hardest to watch" players, then you really should stop talking. Spare the logical people the headache of reading your essence of stupid.

Chill out people. This may come as a shock, but you don't know all.

skeptic said...

The other night (7/9) Dotel came in and retired the Royals 1-2-3 on 3 strikeouts. None of the hitters even made contact.

I'd rather have pitchers that can make hitters swing and miss while still pounding the strike zone than guys who "pitch to contact."

Paul said...

Not sure the reason for the negativity on the same night as a walk off homer. enjoy it royals' fans. we don't get too many like this. we can get back to complaining about the royals when the play the white sox after the break.

ray ray said...

Shelby, Gordon is nearly on pace for a 20/100 year and Butler is 22. Sorry youre ready to give up hope

Anonymous said...

sorry to be "that guy" ray ray but gordon is on pace for 18 and 76. While hitting .250
Those are horrific stats for a guy who hits 3rd and plays everyday. Hopefully he can get hot for the 2nd half of the season and get to 20/100.