Friday, May 31, 2013

How The Hell Did This Happen?


I have to admit: I didn’t see this coming. I realize this is not the first time I’ve written those words. It’s probably not the second or third time either.

It’s not that I didn’t think the Royals would play this poorly in the first third of the season. If you had told me back in March that the Royals would start the season 21-29 – but only be outscored by seven runs in their first 50 games – I would have said that’s quite plausible. For the season as a whole, they’ve basically played like a .500 team, with some bad luck – they’re 7-12 in one-run games. They’ve played worse than I expected, but not a lot worse. I could have foreseen this.

But I could not have foreseen this. If you had told me that they started 21-29, I would have guessed that the primary culprit was that their starting rotation had not lived up to the hype and the resources put into it. I would have guessed that Ervin Santana would have relived 2012 all over again, and that Jeremy Guthrie’s inability to miss bats would have caught up with him, and maybe even that James Shields had been ineffective and/or hurt.

And here’s the thing: if that had been the culprit in the Royals’ terrible start, that wouldn’t be the end of the world. Sure, it would have been a ton of money thrown down the drain, but Santana’s a free agent at the end of the year. Guthrie’s under contract for two more seasons, but Danny Duffy is almost back, and Felipe Paulino shouldn’t be too far behind. The Royals could chalk this up as bad luck, and start fresh in 2014. Sure, they’d be out Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi, but they could wipe away the mistakes of 2013, start fresh with another rotation makeover, and be confident that their young hitters could rake enough to put them in contention.

Instead, we got this.

Before last night’s bizarre, Matheny-aided, weather-almost-denied victory, the Royals had lost 19 of their last 23 games. That is tied for the worst 23-game stretch since Dayton Moore was hired. Yesterday was also the seventh anniversary of the date Dayton Moore was hired. So SEVEN YEARS AFTER HE TOOK THE JOB, the Royals are playing as badly as they have played since he was hired.

And let’s not overlook this point: the Royals are playing atrocious baseball even though they’ve been healthier than they had any right to expect. Of the 25 guys who broke camp with them, just one – Jarrod Dyson – has been on the DL. And while Dyson’s been missed, particularly since he was just starting to take playing time away from Jeff Francoeur, David Lough has hit .305 in his absence, so you can’t pin this all on him.

The only other absence has been Salvador Perez, who’s been on bereavement leave this week after his grandmother passed. And that’s it. The trainers are doing their job magnificently. The players are not.

Before the year started, I said that I wanted nothing more than to issue an apology to Dayton Moore for criticizing the Shields trade. Yet here we are, two months into the season, Shields is pitching a little better than expected (although Wade Davis has been a disappointment), Wil Myers is hitting a little worse than expected (although coming on strong lately in Triple-A) – and it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because of what I did not foresee: a lineup filled with former top prospects, a lineup where no one has yet reached his 30th birthday, a lineup with a pair of 23-year-olds and a 24-year-old, a lineup that every scout loved and every analyst thought was overwhelmingly likely to improve…that lineup has laid a giant goose egg.

Two years ago, with the youngest offense in the major leagues, the Royals finished sixth in the AL in runs scored.

Last year, with an offense that was still the youngest in the majors, the Royals dropped to 12th in the league in runs scored. Eric Hosmer had a terrible season. Salvador Perez missed half the year. Jeff Francoeur was below replacement-level and batted over 600 times. These were all easily fixable problems. We thought.

This year, with a lineup that is still young but has two additional years of experience, the Royals now rank 13th in the AL in runs scored, ahead of only the Mariners and White Sox. The Mariners also can’t develop their hitters to save their life, and their front office is also in mortal danger. The White Sox are finally paying the price for a decade of short-term decisions.

And the Royals are trending downward. They’ve scored 82 runs in their last 24 games. After firing Kevin Seitzer, who is increasingly looking like the Winston Churchill of this organization – the one guy who understood the weightiness of the task before them – because Ned Yost wanted more power, they’ve hit two homers in their last 14 games. Jeff Francoeur’s ninth-inning homer raised that total to three in 15 games, which is still one less homer than the CUBS PITCHERS have hit in that span (thanks, Travis Wood!)

And I hate to say this, but not only am I caught off-guard by what has happened, but I am incredibly pessimistic about what this means for the future of this organization. If the 2013 Royals were in a tailspin because they did a poor job of complimenting their home-grown talent with veterans from outside the organization – again – that would be a problem, but it would be a problem with an expiration date.

Instead, they’ve gone from sole possession of first place to sole possession of last place in 28 days because of their home-grown talent. The one thing that Dayton Moore and his front office was supposed to be good at – the one thing that convinced me to start supporting this front office again after the debacle of 2009 – looks like a fraud.

If you haven’t read it already, here’s Jonah Keri and I over at Grantland last week, talking about what happened to the Best Farm System In The History Of Baseball. The quick recap: two years ago, the Royals had nine Top 100 prospects in their farm system, including three Top 10 hitters, the safest type of prospect. Here’s what the Royals have to show for them:

James Shields – for two years.

Wade Davis.

Two corner infielders hitting .261/.321/.335 and .184/.254/.309.

Danny Duffy, who appears to be hitting on all cylinders 12 months after Tommy John surgery.

John Lamb, who is definitely not hitting on all cylinders 24 months after Tommy John surgery. (In his defense, Lamb’s velocity reportedly ticked up in his last start, and he’s on a run of 14 shutout innings. But as I’ve said many times: never trust a pitcher based on how he’s performing in Wilmington. On the road this year, Lamb has a 5.83 ERA. Unless and until he starts retiring batters at Northwest Arkansas, don’t bother getting excited.)

Chris Dwyer, who might be a #5 starter one day. Might.

Christian Colon, who HAHAHAHAHAHA

So yes, it appears that I need to offer a sincere apology for being wrong. But the apology isn’t for Dayton Moore. It’s for people like Will McDonald, and Matt Klaassen, and Scott McKinney, whose conclusion from his in-depth study on the track record of top prospects was that a farm system, even one as outstanding as the Royals’ farm system appeared in the spring of 2010, was no guarantee of future success.

I tried to parry McKinney’s findings, because I have a blind spot when it comes to the Royals, and in my defense I still think the points that I raised are valid. But I made one fatal mistake, which one should never make when analyzing the Royals: I forgot that I was analyzing the Royals. When it comes to the Royals, Murphy’s Law reigns: if anything can go wrong, it will. And when it comes to prospects, anything can go wrong.

I’m convinced that the theory was sound: great farm systems, more often than not, lead to good teams. I know it can work because I’ve seen it work. I know it can work because I’ve seen it at work all week. Look at the St. Louis Cardinals:

Yadier Molina: drafted by the Cardinals, fourth round in 2000.

Allen Craig: drafted by the Cardinals, eighth round in 2006.

Matt Carpenter: drafted by the Cardinals, 13th round in 2009. Despite never playing second base in the minor leagues, Carpenter has started 34 games there for St. Louis this year. Amazingly enough, the world did not end. Someone should alert the Royals that it’s okay to play a marginal defensive second baseman if he can hit.

Pete Kozma: drafted by the Cardinals, first round (#18 overall) in 2007.

David Freese: acquired from the San Diego Padres for Jim Edmonds – who was released by the Padres after 26 games. Freese was a ninth-round pick who had yet to reach Double-A.

Matt Holliday: acquired for three prospects named Clayton Mortenson, Shane Peterson, and Brett Wallace. Mortensen and Wallace were first-rounders, Peterson was a second-rounder – but none of them would have success in the majors.

Jon Jay: drafted by the Cardinals, second round, 2006.

Daniel Descalso: drafted by the Cardinals, third round in 2007.

Adam Wainwright: drafted by the Braves, first round (#29 overall) in 2000. Acquired by the Cardinals – along with Jason Marquis – for one year of J.D. Drew.

Lance Lynn: drafted by the Cardinals, supplemental first round (#39 overall) in 2008.

Jaime Garcia: drafted by the Cardinals, 22nd round in 2005.

Joe Kelly: drafted by the Cardinals, third round in 2009.

The Cardinals are built around farm system products, or minor leaguers that they shrewdly acquired for veterans, and the one time they traded top prospects for a veteran, they just happened to pick the top prospects who would flop in the majors.

The Royals had the Best Farm System In The History Of Baseball two years ago; this spring the Cardinals just had the Best Farm System Right Now. But in two months, they’ve gotten as much production from their prospects as the Royals have gotten from theirs in two years.

Shelby Miller (#2 prospect, drafted in first round - #19 overall – in 2009) has a 2.02 ERA in ten starts.

Carlos Martinez (#3 prospect, signed from Dominican Republic in 2010) made just four starts in the minors this year before he was promoted to the Cardinals’ bullpen, where he’s allowed four runs in eight innings so far.

Trevor Rosenthal (#4 prospect, 21st round in 2009) throws 100 mph, and in 26 innings in the bullpen, has a 2.08 ERA and 39 strikeouts.

Matt Adams (#7 prospect, 23rd round in 2009) can’t even break into the Cardinals’ lineup because they’re so stacked with hitters, but is hitting .346/.382/.577 in 52 at-bats, mostly off the bench.

Pete Kozma (#13 prospect, first round - #18 overall – in 2007) looked like a rare bust for the Cardinals; his career totals in the minors are .236/.308/.344, and last year he hit .232/.292/.355 in Triple-A. But called up late in the year to fill in for Rafael Furcal, Kozma hit .333/.383/.569 and started at shortstop in the playoffs. This year, he’s hitting a respectable .263/.321/.327.

John Gast (#26 prospect, sixth round in 2010) has made three starts for the Cardinals this year, winning two of them.

And of course, the team’s #6 prospect coming into the season, Michael Wacha, who was drafted with the #19 pick last year and raced to the majors in under a year, debuting last night by retiring the first 13 batters he faced, going seven innings and allowing two hits and no walks. Meanwhile, Kyle Zimmer, like Wacha a college right-hander, drafted #5 overall by the Royals, has a 5.28 ERA. In A-ball. IN WILMINGTON, one of the best pitchers’ parks in America.

And unlike the Royals, the Cardinals didn’t feel it necessary to trade their top prospect, an outfielder considered one of the five best prospects in the game (Oscar Taveras) for a quick fix to their pitching staff. They still have Taveras in the minors, along with fellow Top-100 prospect Kolten Wong, a second baseman who’s hitting .333 with walks and pop in Triple-A. (And unlike the Royals, the Cardinals show no signs of giving up on their second base prospect. But then, the Cardinals don’t have Chris Getz.)

So you see, having a great farm system can pay dividends. It can even pay instant dividends. It just requires an organization that has some ability to convert minor league potential into major league production. The Royals have shown shockingly little ability to do so. EVERY PLAYER they placed on the Top 100 list has seen his career go backwards in the two years since, with the arguable exception of two players – Myers and Odorizzi – who are no longer in the organization.

And suddenly, you look at the Royals roster and realize that Dayton Moore has no clothes. He was hired by the Royals SEVEN YEARS AGO yesterday, and in the seven years since:

- There is NOT A SINGLE PITCHER signed by his administration who has made a start in the major leagues this year.

- Only one position player signed in the last seven years is playing every day in the majors without sucking: Salvador Perez. The only other position players who have reached the majors: Jarrod Dyson, Derrick Robinson, Mike Moustakas, David Lough, Clint Robinson, Eric Hosmer, and Johnny Giavotella.

By the way, Derrick Robinson? The guy the Royals drafted in the fourth round in 2006, paid him $1 million to sign, but never learned to hit and was designated for assignment this winter? He signed with the Reds, made their team out of spring training, and in 46 plate appearances off the bench, has hit .342 with a .444 OBP. It’s probably a fluke. But in seven minor league seasons with the Royals, he rarely showed enough ability to make you think he could muster a .444 OBP in the majors even as a fluke.

The Royals have drafted plenty of relievers, and there’s something to be said for having relievers. But two of the relievers on their team right now were taken in the first round, one with the first overall pick, one with the 12th pick. Turning Luke Hochevar and Aaron Crow into major league relievers isn’t a feather in the cap of the front office; it’s an indictment of them.

Speaking of first round picks…let’s take a closer look at them.

2006: Luke Hochevar (#1)
2007: Mike Moustakas (#2)
2008: Eric Hosmer (#3)
2009: Aaron Crow (#12)
2010: Christian Colon (#4)
2011: Bubba Starling (#5)
2012: Kyle Zimmer (#5)

First off, that’s an utterly breathtaking stretch of horrible play – the Royals had a top-five pick SIX TIMES IN SEVEN YEARS.

And what do the Royals have for those picks? A pitcher with a 5.39 career ERA as a starter, who might find some success out of the bullpen. A pair of corner infielders who have suddenly lost the ability to hit. Another college starter who had to be converted to relief before he even reached the majors. A shortstop-turned-second baseman who’s hitting .246/.297/.341 in Triple-A, and is already 24. A tools-laden outfielder who’s hitting .209/.291/.368 in low-A ball, has struck out in over a third of his at-bats, and turns 21 in August. A starting pitcher who, in his first full pro season, has a 5.28 ERA in a fantastic pitchers’ park in high-A ball.

I’m not going to spend too much time on the 2006 pick, both because no one wants to take credit/blame for it, and because the player that most deemed worthy of that #1 pick, Andrew Miller, is himself a failed starter trying to hold on as a lefty reliever. But in 2007, the Royals chose to go the long route, selecting a high school hitter over the best college player in the draft – and picked Moustakas over Matt Wieters. In 2008, the Royals chose to go the long route, selecting a high school hitter over the best available college player in the draft – and picked Hosmer over Buster Posey.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with selecting a high school hitter over a college hitter – the study I did back in 2006 showed that the advantage college players had enjoyed in the 1970s and 1980s has pretty much disappeared. But you have to get it right. The Royals, to this point, haven’t got either pick right.

In 2009 the Royals took Aaron Crow, and given the options on the board, it wasn’t a bad pick. While the Cardinals got Miller at #19, Crow is probably the best player that was taken between picks 11 and 18. But they then panicked after he had one bad year as a starter in the minors, turned him into a reliever, and now are too dependent on their crutch to ever try him in a more significant role. In 2010 they finally took a college player – only this time it was a compromise pick that was made at least in part because shortstop was, at the time, a position of need. They almost took Chris Sale, but they did not. I wanted Yasmani Grandal, and while it’s not clear how good he’ll be – at least in part because he failed a steroid test and missed the first 50 games of this year – he’s a damn sight better than Christian Colon.

In 2010, easily the deepest first round since Moore was hired, the Royals took Bubba Starling, ignoring the fact that Bubba was nearly 19 years old. Sure, they wanted one of the four pitchers that were taken ahead of him – but that’s a weak excuse when the four players taken after Starling were Anthony Rendon (can’t stay healthy, but hitting .330/.473/.625 in Double-A and has already played in the majors), Archie Bradley (just 20 years old, promoted to Double-A this year, has a 1.01 ERA and 80 Ks in 63 innings), Francisco Lindor (Gold Glove-caliber shortstop hitting .313/.385/.438 in high-A ball, is just 19), and Javier Baez (shortstop – future third baseman – hitting .264/.299/.487 in high-A ball, just 20).

And that doesn’t count #11 pick George Springer (tied for the minor league lead with 16 homers), or #14 pick Jose Fernandez (made the Marlins’ rotation out of spring training at age 20), or any of a dozen other guys taken in the first round that the Royals would gladly trade Starling for straight up – and get turned down in a heartbeat.

I’m not going to pass judgment on Kyle Zimmer yet – Zimmer, at least, has struck out 29% of the batters he’s faced this year. But despite drafting in the top five of the draft SIX TIMES, the Royals haven’t hit on a single player yet. Not one.

Meanwhile, the much-maligned Allard Baird, hampered from his first day to his last by financial constraints that Moore hasn’t had to worry about in the draft, hit on three of his five first-round picks – Zack Greinke, Billy Butler, and Alex Gordon. Only Gordon was a top-five pick (although Baird also whiffed on Chris Lubanski, taken fifth).

There’s still plenty of time for Hosmer and Moustakas to turn things around, Alex Gordon looked like a bust a couple of years ago, yada yada yada. The point is that despite more drafts, despite far more elite picks, despite substantially more financial resources than Allard Baird, Dayton Moore has yet to come close to Baird’s success. And Baird was chased out of town by a pitchfork-wielding mob five years after he got the job.

You know what else Allard Baird had during his five years as the Royals’ GM? A winning season. Sure, it was a stone-cold fluke, and yes, the Royals lost 100 games in each of the other four seasons in which Baird was GM on Opening Day. But still: at least he had a winning season once in his five years.

Dayton Moore doesn’t. And he’s had seven. And this winter, he traded one of the most significant prospect packages this century in order to jump-start the rebuilding process and win in 2013. And the Royals are 22-29. A year after they went 71-91, two years after they went 70-92, they’re on pace to go…70-92.

So I think it’s time we acknowledge the elephant in the room, and stop worrying about who the hitting coach is. Yes, Jack Maloof deserved to get fired – if not for his performance, than for his ridiculous comments to Jeff Flanagan in this column, comments that I said on Twitter ought to end his career, and – shockingly – actually did end his career. (Although in retrospect, given how fast the move was made, I wonder if Maloof already knew he was being let go and decided to go out with a bang.)

And look, I’m thrilled that George Brett is the new hitting coach, if for no other reason than it’s a blast to see him in uniform during the season for the first time since I was 18. And I’m genuinely curious to see whether he can have an effect. It’s a no-lose situation for him; if the hitters hit, he’ll be hailed as a genius, and if they don’t, they were already broken when he got here.

But the problems with this team go deeper than the hitting coach. They go deeper than the manager, which is why I don’t understand why everyone is focusing their frustrations on Ned Yost. Is Yost a great manager? No. But he’s not as terrible as everyone thinks either. Just by way of comparison, did you see how the Royals ended their eight-game losing streak Thursday night? (Well, not the very end – only the crazies stayed up until 3 AM to see that.) Here’s what Cardinals manager Mike Matheny did:

- With a 2-1 lead to protect in the top of the ninth, and closer Edward Mujica unavailable because he had pitched four games in a row, Matheny turned to…Mitchell Boggs. Boggs came into the game with a 10.43 ERA, having allowed 20 hits and 14 walks in 15 innings. He was the worst pitcher in the Cardinals’ bullpen, and maybe in any team’s bullpen.

- After Boggs gave up a game-tying home run to Jeff Francoeur, and walked Alex Gordon, Matheny replaced him with…Victor Marte, who had just been called up from the minors, and had a career 7.09 ERA. Worst of all, Marte was a former Royal. Marte let the next two batters get on base even though both guys were trying to sacrifice themselves – he hit Alcides Escobar with a pitch, and then threw wildly to third base on David Lough’s bunt.

- Matheny ordered an intentional walk to Chris Getz. I don’t care that it worked (four hours later, when Miguel Tejada just wanted to put a pitch in play and get the game over with). He intentionally walked Chris Getz.

Mike Matheny, it should be noted, managed the Cardinals to the playoffs last year. I see no evidence (and not just this game) that Matheny is a better tactical manager than Yost. But he has the horses. Yost doesn’t have the horses.

Yost doesn’t have the horses because his GM hasn’t given them to him. And now fans want Yost fired, just like they wanted the manager that Yost replaced, Trey Hillman, fired. Well, at some point you have to ask yourself if the problem is the manager, or the guy who hired him, and who hired his predecessor, and allowed them both to fail?

I’m not calling for Dayton Moore to be fired quite yet, for a couple of pragmatic reasons:

- The draft begins next Thursday, and as you’ll recall, the only thing worse than having your draft run by a GM no one has any confidence in, is having a draft run by no GM at all.

- On the morning of May 6th, the Royals were 17-10 and in first place. As horrible as this month has been, I’m not sure it’s fair to go from signing a GM’s praises to axing him on the basis of barely three weeks of data.

Having gotten the Royals into this mess, it’s fair to give Moore another couple of weeks to see if he can get them out of it. But if he can’t…it’s time to acknowledge the reality that it’s time to make a change in the GM’s chair. Because it will also be time to acknowledge that it’s time to make a change with the roster, because the roster just isn’t good enough. It will be time to administer Omaha therapy to Moustakas and Hosmer. It will be time to send Crow down with them and tell him he’s a starting pitcher again. It will be time to trade Ervin Santana for the best possible package, and it will be time to, yes, at least entertain offers on James Shields.

It will be time to blow up the entire roster, in other words. It will be time for the Royals to take yet another stop backwards in order to take two steps forward. Dayton Moore can’t take that step, nor should he be expected to – if the Royals are going to take a step backwards, Moore won’t be there when they start moving forward again.

But they need to take a step backwards. And so they need a GM who can focus on the long term without having to worry about his job security in the short term. It’s not fair to anyone, least of all Moore, to ask him to do his job when doing his job right may cause him to lose it.

I hope this doesn’t have to come to pass. If the Royals go 18-9 in June and get back over .500, maybe we’ll look back at this as a bad dream. But right now, with an offense that can’t score and a rotation of guys who are, frankly, pitching over their heads, I think the Royals are more likely to go 9-18 than 18-9.


And if they do, then it’s time. Seven years is long enough. The Best Farm System In The History Of Baseball was a nice fantasy, but it’s looking like that’s all it was: a fantasy. If that’s the case, then the notion that Dayton Moore can ever be a playoff-caliber general manager is a fantasy too. And so it will be time to give someone else a chance to be that guy.

52 comments:

Gary Hamilton said...

Are you available?

Gary Hamilton said...

Are you available?

Mark said...

The more the Royals fail, the more Dayton Moore looks like Scott Pioli.

Both Moore and Pioli were "Executives of the Year" in their respective sports. Both came from winning, model organizations. Both were considered home run hires for flailing midwestern franchises.

Both have produced disastrous results on the field.

The Chiefs rightly canned Pioli after year three. The Royals have given Moore more than twice as much time. It's fair to say that players take longer to develop in baseball. But Moore has had plenty of time. It's now or never for him. I don't think he should be allowed to go into the final year of his contract with the turd of a product he's put on the field.

I agree with what you write here, Rany. Let's see if Moore can get this righted by the All Star break. Assuming the team continues to flounder, fire Moore in season, keep Yost to finish the season, and clean house this fall.

Sad...

Tommy Thomas said...

Well done Doctor. It's looking like this whole thing might need to be blown up, unfortunate as it may seem.

Anthony Gialde said...

Perhaps one of the best articles I've read regarding the Royals' front office fiascos. Thank you for all of your time and insight. You are a lighthouse for the wayward ship that has been, and continues to be the KC Royals.

Will McDonald said...

And something that is often overlooked: Moore was given every resource he asked for. Royals were regularly top spenders in the draft/amateur market.

And not only did he do nothing with it, but the new CBA takes away that approach as a consistent option for small market teams.

He's done.

Kansas City said...

Objectively, based on seven years of failure (and some incredibly bad past decisions), Moore should be fired. But that will do nothing for this year, so there is little reason to do it now during the season.

I don't understand the rationale for not firing Yost. Because Matheny is a worse tactical game manager? So what. Matheny is otherwise successful and presumably is good at player assessment. Yost is both a bad tactical manager and a bad judge of talent. He plays Getz and bats him leadoff and plays Francouer and thinks he is a good fielder. I would promote Brett to interim manager for the rest of the year and see if magic happens. (I have heard on pretty good auhtority that Brett has no affection for Yost.)

The next 45 days should be dedicated to getting the team back in contention. That means platooning Frenchy and Lough, optioning Getz and probably Moose (if there is a decent bat to put at 3rd) and platooning Dysod and Cain. Possibly platooning Hosmer if there is a decent righty bat to use (maybe Tejada is worth it).

If that fails (and it likely will), then dedicate the rest of the season entirely to finding out what we have, which means Moose, Gio and Hosmer every day in the lineup, release Fracouer, Hochaver, Tehada, and Chen (or trade them for whatever is available), try to trade Santana for prospects, and play Dysod, Lough and Cain as much as possible. Duffy and Paulino in the rotation. Maybe even Ventura. (Mendoza, Davis and Guthrie can sit if need be - we pretty much will know what we have in them).

Seems obvious to me that is the best approach.

Kenneth said...

I think you have a major contradiction. You say the Royals have a problem developing talent but you wanted them to keep Meyers. Maybe they would be better off trading prospects for veterans ?

After all the talent scouts said Moose and Hosmer have are you ready to give up on them ? I mean you can't give up on them now ?

I cannot argue with your assessment. Let's tear it down and suck to get better. Seven years later things have not improved. It would be different if the team finishes over .500 or if there were plenty of prospects still down on the farm to work with.

I have to say changing management personnel often does not help any franchise. Can you find an instance of that working? It is a difficult dilemma for an owner. But you have to be working under the premise the owner cares about winning. I wish the Royals organization luck in figuring it out.

Troy said...

The real elephant in the room is WHY the Royals can't get prospects to play well at the Major League level. It's because, organizationally, winning is not a priority. Both Baird and Moore have been locked in permanent "development mode," where WINNING TONIGHT'S GAME is perceived to be less important than 'developing' talent. That's why "Moosey" is still on this team despite hitting like a pitcher. Etc. The truth is that players come up, and are quickly indoctrinated to the idea that their job isn't to win - it's to work on their 'approach.' The Cards develop talent because that talent gets to the Majors knowing that their job depends on them helping the team WIN. The Royals lose because they are built that way.

Excelsior, True Believers! said...

The comment, "you have to be working under the premise that the owner cares about winning" is dead on. Glass doesn't seem to be interested in owning a baseball team, Mark Cuban desperately wants to own a baseball team. Something to consider...

Excelsior, True Believers! said...

The comment, "you have to be working under the premise that the owner cares about winning" is dead on. Glass doesn't seem to be interested in owning a baseball team, Mark Cuban desperately wants to own a baseball team. Something to consider...

Unknown said...

I have long wondered if other teams have much better advance scouts than the Royals. It seems every time we bring up a prospect, they perform well at first, then go into a two-year funk. See: Carlos Beltran, Mike Sweeney, Alex Gordon, and now Hosmer and Moustakas. Other teams see relatively smooth production from young hitters, on average, but the Royals consistently have to put up with deep and extended sophomore slumps. Could it be that pitchers are adjusting to our hitters, and nobody is catching on to it?

Josh Duggan said...

I know you don't want to call for Moore's head, but aside from the point about drafting without a GM, he needs to go as soon as humanly possible. He doesn't deserve any more time. He has proven time and time again that he is unable to perform virtually every aspect of his job in a competent manner. From his one-size-fits-all player development model to his inability to evaluate Major League talent to his fundamental lack of understanding as to where runs come from, Moore is not a Major League GM, and any day in which he is allowed to continue on in his charge is one too many.

Mark LaFlamme said...

What Duggan said.

Fast Eddie said...

Don't forget Vin Mazzaro, he has a 1.75 ERA in relief for Pittsburgh!

Reflection on Sunday game: It's not good when you send up 3 batters in the 9th inning each with sub .600 OPS, trailing 3-1.

I was listening to the Rangers pre-game show today on radio. The Rangers' Matt Hicks was interviewing Rex Hudler, and asked him about Moustakas. Hudler said Moustakas was not only having a bad year, but he wasn't hustling, either. He also said he can see a ticket to "the bushes" coming soon.

Kansas City said...

Great. The first interesting thing Rex has said in 1.5 years and he does it on Texas radio. They way Royals dislike honesty in announcers, it might be the thing that gets him fired, rather than 1.5 years of nonsense he has said on our broadcasts.

Jeff Lambert said...

Pitching is more important than poor hitting. I am hopeful that the pitching continues to be good and the hitting improves to the point the Royals can consistently win. A look at the 1985 World Series year shows the pitching carried the team. Of course, it would be nice if Moose or Hosmer hit like Brett.

Max said...

Sounds like you all need another lecture from Dayton on patience! Don't you know you need another 5-6 years before you can develop a true contender?

Mark said...

But you can be too eager to punt.

Why is everyone ready to blow up the season after one admittedly very bad month? Why waste another year of favorable contracts with Gordon, Butler, Perez and Escobar? The starting pitching is solid except for Davis, and the bullpen is pretty good while carrying some dead weight (ahem). Even Hos is starting to hit, a little.

Deal with the problems--cut Francouer and play Louugh and Dyson, switch Getz for Gio, dump Hochevar. If Hos or Moose don't respond to Brett, then they can go to Omaha. But in a month Duffy and Paulino will probably be available. And maybe Stanton, too. I'm not drinking the Kool Aid. I am as unhappy as anyone about the last month, but geez, Louise. Blow up the whole thing? Really?

chrisc said...

Rany, I heartily disagree with your assessment of GMDM. Provided that the Royals were not a team that was rebuilding through free agency and based upon the heavy weighting of high school players in GMDM early draft years, 7 years is too early to pull the plug. Hosmer and Moustakas aren't even in their prime hitting years and these are the first prospects from GMDM's early draft years. Bonifacio, Mondesi, Cuthbert, Ventura, Lamb, Zimmer, Smith, Marks, Duffy, Binford all show promise. If NFL GM's whom draft players worthy of starting as rookies get 5 years to build a champion, baseball GM's whom must build through the draft and have emphasized high school talent should receive 10 years. I credit GMDM for rebuilding the farm system and Latin America talent pipeline. The development of hitters at the MLB level and teaching patient hitting and working the count is reprehensible, but GMDM should be given the opportunity to improve on this.

kcghost said...

Seven years isn't enough time?? With all the teams that have done it in 3-4 years I can tell you seven is an eternity.

As for GMDM, you can't be seriously entertaining the idea that he gets to hire a third manager??

GMDM is a far better human being that Pioli but the results are about the same.

What else can we do but blow it up? Waiting for Hos and Moose to hit seems to be a lost cause.

Bobinkc said...

Chrisc,

I needed a good laugh...that is the funniest thing I have read in a long time. I am assuming you were being sarcastic. If not, God help you.

Marco said...

Rany, two questions:

1. Do you have a fundamentally different opinion of the quality of the players today than you did one month ago?

2. If you still believe that the theory of good farm systems lead to good teams, why would you support the replacement of a GM who has demonstrated the ability to produce an elite farm system?

Thanks

chrisc said...

Marco - I second your questions for Rany. I would like to hear his response.

Bobinkc - Not joking. It's an unpopular opinion -- I realize. GMDM deserves credit for the farm system. His players have not reached prime years and most aren't even at MLB level. More time is needed to pass judgment.

thomasj19 said...

Finally you are on board Rany. I have said it for a long time that until the Royals get rid of Moore and Yost they will not win. And while it looks nice that Brett is in uniform he likely isn't the answer either. The Royals need a new GM, a new manager and maybe the season can be saved. But it won't happen now and by the time it does it will be too late. But I have been saying this for a long time and the Glass' just don't listen.

Pogue009 said...

The Cake is a Lie! the cake was always a lie. This is a team that is about 2-3 years from serious contender status, and the front office short circuited that by trading players in Myers and Odorizzi who were likely to be core to that contention for a chance to save their jobs. A Hosmer/Moustakas/Myers/Salvy/Cain/Escobar core would have likely been ready to compete in 2015-17 especially if the FO had been willing to trade Gordon or Butler for Value. Young teams rarely win in this league because young players are not(or rarely) consistent enough to take advantage of what is given to them. Thankfully the Royals can replace 3/4 of Myers production relatively cheap. Of the RF eligible OF on Fangraphs with 1 WAR many are cheap FA signings(Schierholtz jumps to mind)

formerbagger said...

How many years is enough? We need only look to the Chiefs' Carl Peterson, who lasted 20 years into a 5 year plan to get to the Super Bowl. At least King Carl put together a competitive team for many years, never good enough for a Super Bowl run, but not an embarrassment either. As Royals fans, most of us would gleefully accept a competitive team, especially considering the heartache we've been through. Seven years? Yep, that's enough.

Daniel Kim said...

This is certainly useless to bring up now but I'm wondering if a trade of Butler for Shields (either straight up or with one or two extras packaged in that do not include Myers and Odorizzi) wouldn't have been better at this point.

I certainly believe that Butler's key attribute, hitting, is still extremely valuable. However, with the way this team has been made up (as in with not much power, all singles hitters). Butler's 'deficiencies', as in how he clogs up the bases and does not play the field, might have made him the wiser choice to send to TB.

Certainly with an established veteran such as Butler, who was coming off winning the EM DH award, I think he could have netted Shields without having to give up any other major pieces.

So lets say the trade went through as such.
We would have the following:
C-Perez
1B-Hosmer
2B-Getz
SS-Escobar
3B-Moose
LF-Gordon
CF-Cain
RF-Myers
DH-Franceour/Tejada
maybe we don't have Johnson and instead use Tejada/Falu/Gio combination here and in the DH slot.

Our SP rotation would look like
1-Shields
2-Santana
3-Guthrie
4-Mendoza
5-Odorizzi

I think this might have been a perfect compromise of not selling out our future and still being in a win-now mode with the upgrades in our SP.

Daniel Kim said...
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Robert said...

@Troy, I don't think the difference in organizations is as nebulous as a "focus on winning", I think the Royals organization has a long (horrendous) history of not valuing plate discipline. It's bad enough to finish at the bottom of the league in walks year after year, but having free swingers in the minors allows them to never walk but bash mistakes...then they get to the majors, stop seeing mistakes, but still never walk. Major league pitchers don't have to routinely throw strikes to these guys. You just can't develop major league hitters that way.

Robert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JR said...

@marco and @chrisc

Your point that GMDM deserves some credit for developing an elite farm system--regardless of how they ultimately pan out--is reasonable.

But musn't GMDM also shoulder responsibility for their apparently stunted development from AAA to MLB?

Also, GMDM has a pretty awful track record as regards contract extensions, FA signings, and trades.

Why is 7 years not sufficient time for GMDM to make a substantial impact when other small-market teams turn things around much quicker? How much more time do you think GMDM deserves and why?

chrisc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chrisc said...

@JR Seven years is insufficient for turn around based on the starting point. In 2006, farm system was barren and Royals wanted to build a winner from the ground up -- not FA signings. I believe he deserves 2-3 more years so that we can see the first wave of prospects we were so high on two years ago mature. Let me be clear, there is a problem and GMDM needs to improve his performance. I would judge him on

1) the development Moose, Hos, Duffy, Lamb, Dwyer, Ventura at the MLB level. Development of these guys is not over, Gordo is exhibit 1A.

2) Wins at MLB. level '13-15. Playoffs at least one year.

3) the ability of the current crop of prospects in A ball and those in future drafts into quality prospects. Thus back filling the org talent lost to MLB team.

4) Improve plate discipline at all levels.

JR said...

@chrisc

Isn't Gordon's career trajectory an outlier? Why would we expect Hosmer, Moose, et al, to follow a similar path? I do not think it's the case that most baseball players need 1642 PA before their careers take off. I can't find any data, but I'd be very curious to see (also taking into account age).

Is it also true that other turn-around small market teams have had richer farm systems than GMDM had when he started? I wonder if that's actually the case. What makes you think that?

Your last criterion--improve plate discipline at all levels--is the most problematic in my eyes. This strikes me as a massive systemic change that couldn't possibly take place in the short time span you are citing. It's an entire philosophical, mechanical, coaching, scouting, drafting, personnel, etc. revolution you're naming.

I don't think it's fair to dismiss GMDM's atrocious use of limited funds as regards contract extensions, etc. You don't mention that factor but it's highly relevant in terms of judging his performance, right?

KHAZAD said...

Rany - I think you should start all of your entries the rest of this yer with "What the hell?"

Troy- I heartily agree about there never being any pressure in this organization to win now.

Robert-I agree about the lack of plate discipline. The Royals walk the least of any team during Moore's tenure (and even before) and it is not close.



Chrisc- Quoting names of minor league players does not mean that Moore has done anything. I will give him credit for getting Glass to actually use the draft to acquire players, bu how many players has Moore drafted or signed that have been average or above at the major league level? I count two. Perez, who has just finished 1 year of MLB service time, and you could also count Crow, though getting a middle reliever with the 12th overall pick is not exactly a prize. The other MLB teams have a much better track record.

You cannot really compare Moose and Hosmer to Gordon as an example, because Gordon was never this bad. Not even close. he was just a touch under an average MLB player before his breakout.

Part of the excuse for allowing the hitters to fail at this level has been that there is no one in the system that could do better at this point. That is Dayton Moore's farm system.

Will Mcdonald- Great point in the fact that even if you do give him credit for drafting well (on paper)that the new CBA takes away that advantage. It also puts the focus back on something Moore has failed at- acquiring talent at teh major league level.

Michael said...

JR-I count exactly one bad contract extension in Moore's time here, that being Francouer's. The Greinke, Butler, Gordon, Perez, and Escobar extensions have all worked out just fine, IMO.

Bobinkc said...

Chrisc,

That is some funny stuff...whenever I need a laugh I just come to this thread and read your posts...are you related to Dayton?

JR said...

@Michael

You know, fair enough. I think it was just the overall crap contracts I had in mind more than the extensions per se:

Jose Guillen

Willie Bloomquist

Jeff Francoeur

Juan Cruz

Betancourt

Jeremy Guthrie (we'll see--three years sounds risky to say the least)

Farnsworth

Kendall

Chen

Hochevar

Ankiel



twm said...

What did it take Freidman in Tampa, three years, four? And he had what in the system? Crawford, Delmon Young, a couple others. I think that situation parallels Dayton's pretty well. Four years and in the World Series. Now the WS appearance, you know, we can argue whether it was a fluke or what, but the perennial contender status is no fluke. They did that with similar payroll constraints and similar amounts of pre existing talent.

I think the Twins took a bit longer for their last major overhaul, the late-90s one. Maybe five years, from like 1997 to 2001 or 2002. It was quick and it resulted in almost a decade of competitive play. No WS appearances, but plenty of losses to the Yankees in the division series.

Others?

10 years is just silly.

JR said...

@KHAZAD

While I agree overall with your points, and am personally in favor of seeing GMDM go sooner than later, I do want to try to refine one point you raised:

Gordon was about league average in his first two seasons, then regressed dramatically to below league average, before finally taking off. So, naysayers can pick apart this comment: "You cannot really compare Moose and Hosmer to Gordon as an example, because Gordon was never this bad. Not even close. he was just a touch under an average MLB player before his breakout."

Gordon was pretty awful for 470 or so major league PA between 2009-2010 (roughly .686 OPS). However, it is true that overall to the point before he broke out Gordon was a roughly .737 OPS player. Moustakas and Hosmer are not at that level.

It's also true that comparing Gordon to those players through the same amount of PA is not favorable to either Hoz or Moose:

Moustakas -- 1161 PA -- .673 OPS
Gordon -- 1172 PA -- roughly .754 OPS

Hosmer -- 1372 PA -- .718 OPS
Gordon -- 1361 PA -- roughly .746 OPS

And, again, even if Hoz and Moose are comparable to Gordon (which they're not), isn't Gordon a pretty unusual player career-trajectory wise in the overall scheme of things?

JR said...

So, can we agree:

- Moore scouting: good

- Moore player development: bad

- Moore roster construction: bad

- Moore FA targeting and negotiating: bad

- Moore trading: mixed

- Moore manager hiring: bad

This picture all sort of makes sense when you consider that Moore's background is in scouting. He appears to still be a great scout--and head of scouting--but not much else. And he hasn't adapted the other necessary skills quickly enough to justify his position.

JR said...

Well--turns out he was director of player personnel development after earning his stripes in scouting. So... maybe the background doesn't explain the picture. The picture is still the picture though, I think.

KHAZAD said...

@JR- Gordon's 2 bad years consisted of 470 PA's over two seasons, broken up over 4 separate stints in the majors, with two demotions. He also had an injury each year, changed positions, and was completely retooling his stance and swing. His OPS+ was 85 during this dip.

Hosmer, who at least, like Gordon, showed potential his first year, has an OPS+ of 81 over his last 809 PA's of every day play, with no demotions or injuries. He has 1 more home run than Gordon with 379 more PA's.

Moose's career OPS+ is 84 over 1161 PA's of every day play, with no demotions or injuries. This is kind of pumped up by one 3 month hot streak (1 and a half months over the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012) Over his last calendar year, and 598 PA's, he is at .210/.264/.345.

Both these guys have clearly been worse than Gordon's lowest point for some time. It is an example of either the lack of accountability the Royals now require from their players, and perhaps also the team's feeling about using their backups or high minor league guys for a short term that neither one of these guys has been sent down, as Gordon was. Twice.

Both players are regressing at this level rapidly. Hosmer could not hit off speed pitches, and his attempted adjustments to that have turned him into an opposite field slap hitter who can't catch up to a good fastball. Moose has one bad at bat after another with no accountability. He hasn't looked at any film of his struggles because "he just goes out and hits". Or not. Mostly not. Neither one of these guys will ever be Alex Gordon.

Michael said...

"Neither one of these guys will ever be Alex Gordon."

Seriously? Are we forgetting these guys are still young and still not even close to their prime years? Heck, at this point in his career very few people thought Gordon would ever be league average, now he's All Star caliber.

Another point of reference, go back and look at the early Brett years. I'm sure some of you would be calling for him to be traded or released his first few years.

Point is, its way too early to be writing these guys off just yet.

KHAZAD said...

Michael- Perhaps you should go back and look at Brett's early years. It is something you obviously did not do before your comment. The year Brett "struggled", he only had 41 PA's. He finished third for rookie of the year in his first full season, and was a well above average player in his second season and thereafter. No one was calling for him to be traded or released.

I have already made the point that in the worst of Alex Gordon's struggles he was a much better player than Moose or Hosmer have been during theirs. Just because Alex took some time to develop does not mean that his struggles resembled Hosmer's or Moose's. They did not, as he was a much better player then than they are now.

Michael said...

His second year, in 486 plate appearances, had 2 home runs and very few walks while playing third base, a premium offensive position. Basically, he was what Eric Hosmer is right now. In this day of sabrematricians, he would have been lambasted and ridiculed. He didn't hit for any real power until his fourth year, when he had 22 homers.

Also, when comparing these two to Gordon, you can't just look at number of plate appearances. These guys were already in the Majors at an age when Gordon was still at Nebraska. Its not fair to compare them to someone who was 1-2 years older than they are with the same number of plate appearances.

Again, its ridiculous to write these guys off because they aren't All Stars yet. They are still just kids.

KHAZAD said...

That year was his first year, unless you wish to count a 41 plate appearance September cup of coffee as a season. He hit .282.,313/.363, and the average AL third baseman hit .255/.317/.364. He finished 3rd for rookie of the year. His second year he hit .308/.353/.456. His third full season, at age 23, he won the AL batting title. All these seasons came in a lower offensive era than this year.

I am not writing them off completely, I am just saying that they are worse right now than Gordon ever was - and they sent him down twice.

We have the rights to them both through 2017, but that is not necessarily a good reason (speaking of Moose in particular) to have them stinking up the team right now. I don't give a damn of they are kids, there are plenty of 23 and 24 year olds doing fine. They are major league ballplayers, whether they should be or not, and as long as they are I will judge them on their (lack of) performance. They are both in their third year, and in regards to "offensive positions" the Royals are creating about 59% of the runs offensively that the average AL teams are getting from these positions.

I think it would do them good to send them down - especially Moose - just so they realize that they might actually have to get better instead of worse at some point to keep their jobs. Babying them has certainly not done the job. My swing was more consistent at age 14 than either one of theirs are right now.

Michael said...

Khazad, I agree that maybe a demotion is necessary to get their heads right and confidence back up. I won't argue that. My original response was to the guy who said that "they will never be Alex Gordon."

Roy in Omaha said...

Has everybody noticed how much "throw away" pitching the Royals have been seeing for at least the last 6 weeks?

It's pretty clear to me that the Royals are being targeted for the use of such pitchers by opponents. I am not surprised since if I were an opposing team's manager, I wouldn't want to have to waste my best pitching on a team like the Royals, either, if I didn't have to.

Expect to see this continue, I bet.

John said...

George Brett in his first full MLB season was very close to league-average production and strong in the field. He was playing every day and more than holding his own at the age of 21 in the major leagues. Competent sabermetricians do NOT "lambaste and ridicule" ballplayers who are good enough to play every day in the major leagues at the age of 21.

Eric Hosmer, right now, is 23 and hitting worse than George Brett did at age 21, with more major-league experience, and in an era with much higher levels of offense, and at a much less demanding defensive position. The comparison between the two is ridiculous. When George Brett was 23, he was a 7.5 WAR player and a batting champion. Hosmer will be lucky to be a 1.5 WAR player this season unless he picks up the pace.

twm said...

Dude, Dozier signed before you had an opportunity to write about the draft. I think it is time to cut back at the office.