A quick defense of Royals management...

This is a big picture. We should not lose sight of it.

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one blog to outline why its official hero isn’t as stupid as everyone seems to think, it must tread carefully. The Royals have certainly made some controversial moves of late – moves that have provoked scorn across all corners of Royals Nation, with the exception of our sizable enclave here at RC. And yet we remain undeterred. Allow us to explain.

Outlined below are the questions that seem to be on everyone’s mind. They have prompted “great” baseball minds such as RC’s official A-hole Rob Neyer to proclaim that Allard Baird “has gone completely ‘round the bend”, and they even have Neyer talking to himself. RC’s friends at Rotoworld.com frequently chime in with rather snide and bitchy comments about the Royals’ moves, and several people who RC respects are beginning to question their own confidence in the present management. So what are they concerned about? Here’s our list:

  • Why do the Royals continue to give Jose Lima starts when he gets a $250K bonus for every two starts he makes over 20 (and up to 30 starts)?

    This is probably the easiest question to dismiss, which we think we can do by posing a question of our own: Does it really matter? The way we see it, if David Glass is willing to pay Lima an extra $1.25 million, then that’s his problem – the Royals still have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball by a wide margin. And the fact is that $1.25 million is pretty insignificant when your payroll is still well under $40 million. The way we see it, this probably means that Glass will make $9 million in profit this season rather than $10+ million. Or whatever it is. The fact is that Glass is going to make a significant profit on the season, regardless of whether or not Lima gets his bonus. So as we said, if Glass ain’t crying about it, neither are we.

    Of course, that’s merely the financial defense of the move. Let’s explore the performance/roster aspect of it. Who, may we ask, would you rather see getting the starts in Kansas City? Ryan Jensen? Chris George? Danny Tamayo? Dennis Tankersley? After all, someone has to start the games.

    Among that group, only Tankersley would figure to be an improvement, but even that might not be the case. There’s an equal chance that Tank would… ummm… tank (bad pun absolutely intended), and we here at RC would be forced to hear the whining about how the Royals ruined yet another “pitching prospect” because they rushed him to the majors.

    The fact is that the same people who are whining about Lima getting his bonus 1) are not paying his salary, and 2) never mention who Lima’s rotation replacement should be. RC says let the guy eat his five innings per start, let him dance and sing and generally make a fool of himself, wish him goodbye for good in October, and acknowledge that the Royals need to do better when picking which free agent pitchers to sign. There’s just no need for fresh outrage over this. Moving on…

  • Why do the Royals continue to play Terrence Long over Chip Ambres and Matt Diaz???

    This one gives us a little more heartburn, but not much. Folks, the Royals are not as stupid as you think. They KNOW that T-Long won’t be here next year. And since we know that the Royals know that Long won’t be here in 2006, we think that the Royals’ refusal to play Ambres and Diaz says more about Ambres and Diaz than it does about the competency of Buddy Bell and Baird. It’s become increasingly clear that the Royals don’t view either as a viable option for a starting role on the ball club in the future, and that quite likely is a very reasonable view.

    It’s easy to figure out that Diaz’s horrible defense is probably what’s keeping him out, but with Ambres, it is admittedly more difficult to figure. However, we must acknowledge that the Royals are privy to much more information on Ambres than any of us – they see him practice, and they see him take BP. And all we’re saying is that it wouldn’t surprise us one bit if the Royals have accurately judged Ambres to be nothing more than a potential fourth outfielder.

    Look, if it were up to us, we’d still have Ambres playing ahead of T-Long most nights. Hell, we would have DFA’d Long months ago, just to keep him out of the lineup. But oh well. We can put up with it for another few weeks. No need to get upset about it, because our left fielder of the future is home in Florida right now, preparing for the Arizona Fall League after a great season in High Desert and Wichita, and our right fielder of the future is either at home in Nebraska or at home in Pennsylvania. The way we see it, Chip Ambres and Matt Diaz and Terrence Long merely give people who like to get upset about things something to get upset about. We will have forgotten the names of all three by 2007 – they will be nothing more than an Aflac trivia question.

  • Why is Andres Blanco starting at second base over Donnie Murphy and Ruben Gotay?

    Something frequently irks us about our sabermetric brothers (RC might be the bastard child of the sabermetric movement, but we still consider its strict practitioners our “brothers”). There comes a point when it becomes clear that some folks who base EVERYTHING upon a stat sheet have forgotten that you can still learn a lot by actually watching a player play. So we get folks like Neyer who can, without even seeing a player like Chris Lubanski play, conclude that the draft pick used to select him “was wasted, nearly as badly as the one used on Colt Griffin.” Hogwash! And the same is true of the criticism of playing Andres Blanco.

    We wonder, have the folks who are so upset about his starting role actually watched Blanco play? Have they seen Blanco’s ridiculous range? Have they seen his arm? No, they’ve seen that he has a track record of not being able to hit a lick. Blanco’s offensive upside may very well be nothing more than that of a hitter who struggles to register even a .650 OPS, but you don’t just throw away someone as gifted as he is defensively. After all, there’s a chance Blanco could improve offensively in a manner similar to fellow slick-fielding Venezuelan Omar Vizquel, who put up eerily similar hitting statistics early in his career. Keep in mind, Blanco is still only 21 years old, and he has improved his power numbers this season. We don’t mind that the Royals are getting a look at him now, particularly when we have yet to see him as overwhelmed at the plate at the Major League level as Donnie Murphy has been.

    Of course, if we had our druthers, we’d still make sure that Murphy gets every opportunity to win or lose the 2B job for next season. We still prefer Murphy over Blanco as the second baseman of the future. But there’s still time. If the Royals roll with Blanco at second next season, then Murphy is still going to get his at bats to show what he can do, either in Omaha or as a utility player in KC. If the Royals develop the offense we think they should be able to with a core of David DeJesus, Mike Sweeney, Justin Huber, Billy Butler, and Alex Gordon, then they very well may be able to afford a second baseman who hits lightly but fields at a Gold Glove level. In fact, with the young pitching the Royals hope to develop, it very well might make a whole lot of sense to field an infield that is adept at flagging down balls that defensively challenged players like Ruben Gotay couldn’t even dream of getting to.

    Sabermetricians can figure out whether or not Blanco’s superior defense saves enough runs to justify the differential in offensive production between Blanco and Murphy/Gotay, but we suspect that at this moment, Blanco just might be the best option. At least he does one thing well right now.

  • Why did the Royals re-sign Matt Stairs?

    Because Matt Stairs is the man! RC is going to have major problems next year if the Royals give Stairs anywhere close to 400 at bats, but in the meantime, Stairs offers KC a cheap source of quality at bats. And with Sweeney’s history of injuries, it’s not a bad idea to have someone like Stairs on the roster. There are fears that Stairs’ presence on the roster will rob Huber of at bats next season, but we’re going to withhold our outrage on this matter until it actually happens. We think it’s a good sign that Huber is getting the majority of at bats right now, and we expect him to become a full-time starter next season, regardless of Stairs.

  • Why hasn't Aaron Guiel been in Kansas City all season?

    If you think Aaron Guiel should have been in KC all season, then we invite you to stop visiting this website. He's a sentimental favorite of ours as well, but Jesus, there are about three million better things to worry about, and 2.68 million of those things weren't blind last year (approximately).

  • Well, that concludes our defense. Please feel free to tear us a new one, because it’s about 50/50 that we’re completely full of crap.


    At 9/13/2005 1:59 AM, Blogger Kevin said...

    Outstanding post, Dave.

    I don't agree with all of it -- namely the Royals assuming that Chip Ambres and Matt Diaz are nothing more than fourth outfielders -- but the entire article is well-reasoned and pretty balanced.

    Great work.

    At 9/13/2005 8:43 AM, Anonymous Eric said...

    Good work Dave. I especially enjoyed your answer to the Aaron Guiel question.

    Heck, if Guiel had been given the same chance Pick had -- he would have been cut before he ever turned the corner. It wasn't until about his 30th AB that he started to hit, and Big Pick only got 28. Heck, if Guiel and Brown are both starting opening day next year in LF and RF then something will have gone very, very wrong in the offseason...

    [Note: The above is not meant to be an endorsement for Pickering, as there is no room for another 1B / DH type on the team]

    BTW: What's your take on the "Sweeney was traded for Kotchman, Santana and Wood" deal supposedly nixed by Glass? Will Sweeney actually be traded this ofseason?

    At 9/13/2005 10:13 AM, Blogger Dave said...

    Thanks guys,

    As for the supposed Sweeney trade, I have my doubts about the rumors that have been circulating. If I was Allard Baird and Glass vetoed a trade for Kotchman, Santana, and Wood, I would probably just resign, because things would truly be hopeless.

    At 9/13/2005 10:53 AM, Blogger COroyal said...

    skilled - I would definitely rather see Tankersly than Lima, but my expectations would be pretty low. The money thing is only an issue for people b/c 1) the Royals have spent so little and Lima is a waste and 2) because the extra funds going to Lima essentially equal the gap btw the Royals and Gordon (and don't respond to that - I understand the precedent dumping money on a pick would set).

    As for Diaz & Ambres, you're right - the decision makers get to see them more than us, but that doesn't mean you know how a guy will respond to consistent AB's. We know exactly what we're getting out of TLong. The other two are still somewhat unknown. Maybe they're not even 4th OF's - who knows.

    I haven't heard too much griping about Blanco starting. He just should be replacing the walk machine at short.

    Guiel. Yea, he hung in there, back in KC. Nice story. Next.


    At 9/13/2005 11:52 AM, Blogger DL said...

    The outrage on Lima was signing him in the first place, but that's water under the bridge. If the Royals didn't start him now, the union would be all over them. My guess is that the "incentives" in this deal were of the wink-wink variety, and that it was privately agreed Lima would get his starts unless he was injured as a condition of his coming to the Royals.

    I agree that there's too much outrage over Ambres and Diaz, though the fact that Buddy Bell believes Terrence Long gives the Royals a better chance to win make me question his baseball sense.

    I have no idea why Blanco is playing second base. Since defense is his strong suit, he much better suited for SS anyway, which would allow the Royals to dump the putrid Berroa (which was another expensive AB mistake).

    Plus, 3 months ago the only question about 2B was which of the two solid prospects would eventually claim the job. Now, the Star reports that both could be removed from the 40-man roster.


    If there is a thread linking all of this collective outrage, its that the Royals have less patience with their players than their hysterical fans do with them. They've soured on Ambres, Diaz, Murphy, Gotay, Pickering and others after just a handful of at-bats. Gobble, Wood and Affeldt are starters, then relievers, then starters, etc. I know other organizations shift players around, too, but all of this shuffling around along with the constant losing paints a picture of organization that operates in a constant panic mode, and doesn't signal any confidence that they know what the hell they're doing.

    But I hear what you're saying, and I'm trying to take the long view as well. Its a very long view.

    At 9/13/2005 11:52 AM, Blogger DL said...

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    At 9/13/2005 1:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    On Lima....

    I just want to add this. Do the people criticizing Lima's starts not think that if the Royals stiffed him out of his incentives by sending him to the pen it might, just might, have had a teensy-weensy effect on negotiations with potential free agents in the future?

    At 9/13/2005 1:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I recently fell off the Baird bandwagon, but I enjoyed your post nonetheless.

    The main problem with it is that you rely on "well the royals must see something", or "The royals have better judgment card" to further your point. Keep in mind that this is a team that hasn't been competeive for 10 years, who, for the most part drafts poorley, and makes bad FA signings. Baird is still walking around with the Ibanez signing as the big feather in his hat.

    I just don't understand why Berroa and Buck, after being two of the worst players at their positions, and regressing horribly, are set in stone as the future catcher and shortstop, when 22 year old's Gotay and Murphey have had their fates already decided because the royals didn;t like what they saw at the major league level.

    At 9/13/2005 1:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    It would be one thing if Lima were performing adequately and put him in the 'pen. But he was far and away the worst starting pitcher in baseball before the All-Star break, so the Royals were completely within their rights to put him in the 'pen or outright release him. I don't think it would have had any effect on signing free agents, esp. because the Royals don't sign any good free agents anyway.

    At 9/13/2005 5:59 PM, Anonymous BDA said...

    I have to question whether your defense of Glass/Baird/Bell has crossed from "rational, optimistic" to dogmatic. I am one of the few not on the Fire Baird bandwagon, but if you're wanting us to see the forest through trees, isn't there an outstanding questions as to whether this group has the ability to properly evaluate talent? You may be right -- no one may remember Diaz/Ambres/Brown in '07, but Bell's reasoning for playing Long everyday is that he has been their best player this past month. That's just not true. T Long is a 4th outfielder. Are we positive based on 74 and 98 ABs that Diaz and Ambres are too? Even if they are, you're not looking at a decline in production playing either of them over Long.
    No one is disputing Blanco's excellent defense, but are the Royals making the most of it by having him play 2B instead of SS? (Are they making the most of their talent by moving their best arms into the bullpen?)
    I think you're dead-on in your comments regarding Stairs and Guiel, but adhering to "Baird's a genius" while dismissing the other complaints as "whining" seems as if, well, you're not seeing the forest through the trees.
    This winter it looks like the Royals will be active in the FA market and there are some impending roster decisions that have me concerned. I look forward to an objective analysis from what has become the premiere site for Royals commentary.

    At 9/13/2005 6:31 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

    After reading the article in today's Star about Allard's plan of attack, I'm getting a little bit scared. Scared not only because The Plan finally has a face, but also because it makes sense.

    What'd you think of it, Dave?

    At 9/13/2005 6:54 PM, Anonymous bda said...

    I can't tell if Kevin's comments are serious or sarcastic. The article I read had the following:
    *"The Royals appear to have some interest in retaining McEwing. Anderson and Lima could return..."
    *"Long won't be offered arbitration... but the Royals have interest in retaining him..."
    *"2B Ruben Gotay and Donnie Murphy... could also be booted of the 40 man roster and exposed to waivers."
    I would love an explanation from either of you as to how these moves should inspire confidence in The Plan.

    At 9/13/2005 10:12 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    At 9/13/2005 10:23 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

    I don't think I made myself very clear. What I liked was the progress that's been made in this project. The Royals sacrificed this year to determine which young players can help down the road. Now, they're ready for the next phase, which is supplementing those young players with veterans who can contribute not only in 2006, but also in 2007 when the expectation will be contention.

    Moving along, I don't want McEwing, Long, or Lima back either, but if they are, I'm not going to worry about it. I think there's a common misconception that Allard Baird just signs guys without any reason, and that couldn't be farther from the truth. If ANY of those guys are back next year -- and I doubt that highly -- it'll be an upset, but also done for a reason. The player probably won't see playing time over a guy who projects as an everyday player anyway.

    Gotay and Murphy being kicked off the 40-man roster is just speculation being spewed by Bob Dutton. Zack Greinke COULD be kicked off, as could Mike MacDougal, Jeremy Affeldt, and a few others. As long as solid reasoning is there to open up a spot, I don't really care what the result is.

    At 9/13/2005 11:08 PM, Blogger DL said...

    I don't see the progress, Kevin, much less how the Royals are ready for the "next phase". This is what I've learned this season:


    -- David DeJesus should be an above average centerfielder.

    -- Mark Teahen should be a league average third baseman.

    -- The young bullpen is talented (but the talent came from pillaging the starting pitching stock).

    -- MacDougal might be a servicable closer, though I'm still not a believer.

    -- Huber, Butler and Gordon are on the way.


    -- Angel Berroa is a terrible excuse for a SS.

    -- John Buck is the second coming of Brent Mayne.

    -- The Royals still have no corner outfielders. They have no faith in Ambres or Diaz, and no use for Brown and Guiel.

    -- Every starting pitcher at or near the majors sucks, including Zack Greinke. We can wish away Greinke's woes, but the odds are he's simply not as good as we'd all hoped he'd be. There is no help on the way in the minors.

    -- Jeremy Affeldt is a disaster. Jimmy Gobble has been completely mishandled.

    -- Both promising young second basemen have quickly fallen out of favor with Buddy Bell and maybe Allard Baird.

    -- Buddy Bell is not the right manager for a young team (or perhaps any team).

    Unless the next phase involves spending $40-50 million on two corner outfielders, a shortstop, a second baseman, at least 2 starting pitchers and one veteran bullpen arm, phase 2 is going to look an awful lot like phase 1.

    At 9/13/2005 11:47 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

    All good and valid points, David. I can definitely see that side of it too.

    Ultimately, like all things, this comes down to how each individual looks at it. And since I don't want to get so involved that the quality of my days are determined by what the Royals do, I've chosen to separate myself from it (the Royals' actions are not a controllable in my life), and look on the bright side of things.

    You, however, may have your way. I get it.

    At 9/14/2005 1:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    From kcroyals.com: Bell was asked if veteran pitcher Jose Lima might figure in the Royals' plans for 2006.

    "[General manager] Allard [Baird] and I talked about him yesterday and, yeah, he's a guy we want to talk about."

    Why even talk about Lima coming back? Looks like Baird is primed to make the same mistake twice.

    At 9/14/2005 1:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    The Star also said Baird would prefer that DeJesus NOT ONLY move to LF, but also vacate the leadoff slot.

    Knowing that Long won't be here next year (other than the notion that the Star pointed out... that Baird "has interest in him at a lower price" which is incredible if true), why we can't play Ambres to know for sure on him... well, that's just indefensible.

    I mean, Ambres could be Raul Ibanez. We didn't know on him either until he had a chance. We traded for Ambres, we passed Ibanzes thru waivers twice before letting him play.

    Baird's nuts.

    At 9/14/2005 2:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I don't get it.

    That article was just mind-blowing, in a year where not one young player took a step forward, they all regressed, AND a bunch of prosepcts fizzzled. The Royals have decided that that part of "The Plan" is a sucess and it's time to make this team competetive by adding low impact Mid-level veteran free agents.

    At 9/14/2005 10:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Well, Greinke DID turn in the worst season by any starter in the game, other than the ancient Lima.

    That doesn't get you excited?

    At 9/14/2005 11:35 AM, Blogger Dave said...

    Hey guys, thanks for all the comments -- even criticism is welcome. Keep them coming, and I'm planning on addressing a few more of the concerns in a "Defense, part II" column in the near future, perhaps even tonight.

    No, not all Royals moves are defensible. I hope I'm not giving you that impression. But my position is that the mistakes the Royals have made over the past few years are 1) minor in scope with minimal impact on the long term health of the organization, and 2) are easily corrected.

    At 9/14/2005 1:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    yeah, the sad thing is that point 1) is true because so many of these players, even the young guys, won't have any sort of meaningfull impact on the organization. At times it seem silly to argue over which awful career 4th outfielder should be playing, or which mariginal secondbaseman should start.

    I guess my final point is that, for me, faith in a GM's moves comes with prior sucess. I'd have a heck of lot harder time disagreeing with these moves if John Shurholtz, Terry Ryan or Billy Beane was making them.

    At 9/14/2005 3:04 PM, Anonymous Spike said...

    Dave, I first want to say that I appreciate the site. As a displaced Royals fan, I don’t get nearly as much Royals news as I’d like through traditional means. Secondly, I’m not a Baird hater and, like Joe Posnanski, Buddy Bell was my favorite player when I was a kid. But I’m losing any belief that Royals management will make the right moves to put the Royals in contention regardless of what talent we may have in the future.

    To take your Defense post point-by-point: Why should we care that Lima is making an extra mill or so, since it only impacts whether Glass will make 9 or 10 million this year? First off, after being subjected to one ridiculously bad Royals season after another – with one brief exception – where they’ve not only been bad, but they seem to stumble immediately, right out of the gate, so that it is impossible to even dream of success past say May 1, it enrages me that Glass is going to make 10 million off of this product. This year has undoubtedly been the worst for me as a fan. The Royals never fail to mention their financial constraints (though they always couch it as an obstacle to overcome) and yet they’re going to throw away an extra million on “performance bonuses.” (Lima’s bonuses would more accurately be described as Attendance Bonuses.)
    No, I don’t want to see Glass pocket the extra million that I don’t believe we should be paying Lima. I want to see him do something constructive with it. How about using that to sweeten a long-term deal with DeJesus, the only player on the team currently worthy of one? Perhaps KC could use that million for bonuses to worthy employees – scouts, coaches, whoever – I’m not sure who in the organization is worthy of bonuses, I’m only sure that Jose Lima is not worthy.

    On to Terrence Long. This is the most troubling one to me. And your “they must know better than us” defense is, I must say, a little silly. Because they’re arguably the worst franchise in the majors. I guess Royals fans are better off than Pirates fans, but that’s about it. I know I’m echoing another commenter, but there’s no reason to give Royals management any benefit of the doubt in this regard – their performance as a franchise does not justify it. On top of that, the argument that Ambres and Diaz are merely fourth outfielders and that’s why Buddy isn’t playing them every day is laughable. We don’t know if they’re fourth outfielders because he won’t play them. Bell is sitting them behind a guy WE KNOW FOR CERTAIN is a fourth outfielder. He’s got almost 3000 career at-bats that scream Fourth Outfielder. In fact, the only good season he’s had in the last four is when San Diego used him as a fourth outfielder. The fact that Long has little chance to be on the roster next year only exacerbates the sad comedy of it.

    Bell’s argument that Long gives the Royals the best chance to win is just painful to endure. The Royals are 7-30 in the last two calendar months. It’s hard to believe that they wouldn’t have won at least seven games with a frisbee catching dog in left field.

    I’m going to wrap this up before I have an aneurysm. I don’t mind switching Blanco to second, as long as they don’t mind switching him back to short if they can get rid of Berroa. I fear the Royals are the kind of franchise that would switch Ozzie Smith to second because they’ve already got a shortstop. I also don’t mind re-signing Stairs, but I do take some issue with your Guiel comment. He’s a better player than Terrence Long is, at the very least.

    At 9/14/2005 3:46 PM, Anonymous Eric (melhouse29) said...

    On Chip Ambres (and his lack of playing time) --

    I'm pretty sure he's going to go the way of Rich Thompson. Both were touted as a speedy guys who could play great defense, and would be a great late inning defensive replacement / pinch runners, if not more. But both suffered from mental lapses in their early debuts. Thompson never really gained the trust of Pena in the OF, and it's looking the same for Ambres.

    I'm guessing if he is with the Royals organization next year, it'll be in AAA, and he won't be on the 40 man roster. Aaron Guiel will probably take over his spot on the 25-man roster as the 4th of (hence all the CF time for Guiel).

    At 9/14/2005 9:20 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

    24 comments so far? That's a sign of GREAT writing. Dave, you got people talking. Very nice.

    At 9/15/2005 7:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I really like what I have seen out of Blanco so far at second. Big upgrade defensively but also has decent speed. I also think Teahan has made some good strides and will, at worst, be an average major league 3rd basemen. He has a good approach when he comes to the plate. I still wish Ambres would get more of a chance though. I was very impressed with his bat speed again today when he pulled to doubles down the line. By the way, thanks for the site Dave and the prospect updates. This is by far the best Royals site on the web.

    At 9/16/2005 1:01 AM, Blogger Kevin said...

    I'll second what, uh, "anonymous" just said. RC is indeed the best Royals website the web has to offer.


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