Fire Dayton Moore

Fire Dayton Moore
It's time.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"In a small way..."

My first post for was on Dec. 10, 2012. I declared that moment -- just days after the James Shields-Wil Myers trade -- the end of Dayton Moore's second act. For very different reasons than I imagined at the time, I was right.

Based on a few snarky Facebook and Twitter comments, it seems people expect me to bow down to Dayton Moore, beg for forgiveness and feel some sort of shame for such a misguided endeavor as this blog.

Of course, these are the same people who've never visited this blog or followed Fire Dayton Moore on Twitter. They take everything at face value, read a Twitter handle and draw conclusions. I get it; it's easy. It's also lazy. And it's the reason there was no pressure on the Royals front office to win until December, 2012.

Q: If the Royals do make the playoffs next season, will it change your opinion?
S: To be content with a playoff appearance and nothing more is such a defeatist mentality to me. I want to see a team that can compete for a World Series. If the Royals were to somehow reach the playoffs only to get swept by a superior AL East or West team in the ALDS, it would mean less than nothing to me. But to watch a team comprised of players that came up through the system compete for a pennant would mean a great deal to me.

This quote is from a Q&A I did with myself on Dec. 19, 2012, regarding the fallout from the Shields-Myers trade. If you want to boil down the purpose of this blog into one paragraph, that would be the one -- years of frustration boiling over to hold Moore accountable from that point forward. There were myriad arguments to make against that trade. Rany Jazayerli, Joe Posnanski, Rob Neyer, Dave Cameron, Keith Law, Sam Mellinger and many other respectable analysts questioned the trade. Those same analysts have questioned Moore's competence before and since that trade. They are just more politically correct than FIRE DAYTON MOORE DOT COM.

Despite the unforeseeable events of the last month, the arguments against that trade, and the critiques of Moore, still apply. Even though it's clear the Royals didn't lose the deal, neither did the Rays. When the World Series ends, the Rays still have Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard. The Royals will be left with the best setup man in the game.

The payoff is the Royals have a World Series appearance -- maybe a world championship -- and, yes, that alone justifies the trade. However, if you're here expecting a mea culpa from me, you should stop reading now.

I never viewed this as a campaign, so in no way do I consider this blog a failure. Instead, I view this as an overwhelming success. I specifically stated early on in the blog's existence that I never expected Moore to be fired. However, don't think for a second that the front office didn't begin to feel pressure when this domain name was purchased.

Go back to December 2012. At the same time this blog sprung up, the Chiefs were busy overhauling their front office, thanks in part to the frustrations expressed by that fan base. This blog was a seed -- a dormant seed -- but a seed, nonetheless, for a similar revolt.

From that point on, the front office knew mere incremental improvement -- let alone regression -- would not be tolerated. It had to deliver playoff success before Shields left Kansas City. As small of a role as this blog played, it still played a part in forcing the front office's hand in finally fulfilling promises made by, "The Process."

Speaking of "The Process," everyone does remember it took Dayton Moore EIGHT seasons to do this, right? Neal Huntington led an equally hapless Pirates organization to the postseason in five seasons. A Pirates blog actually summed up Moore's tenure with the Royals pretty well recently, comparing him to Huntington.

Allow me to summarize it: Jose Guillen, Yuniesky Betancourt, Tony Pena, Willie Bloomquist, Mike Jacobs, Jeff Francoeur. Ring any bells? I compiled my own list of Moore's failed acquisitions last year. Furthermore, let's not forget all the embarrassing comments Moore and his field staff have made nearly

Making bad choices, saying stupid things and experiencing success are not mutually exclusive. Just look at politicians.

When I try to think of a metaphor for this postseason, the scenario that keeps coming to mind is this: Dayton Moore walks into a casino and sits down at a blackjack table. Every hand he's dealt is either a 16 or 17. Every time it's a 16, he stays. Every time it's a 17, he hits. And he wins every hand. That's exactly what has happened this postseason thus far.

The starting pitching has kept the team in every game. The offense has eight home runs in eight playoff games after hitting 95 in 162 -- last in baseball. The team stole SEVEN bases to escape the Wild Card play-in game and speed has continued to do "what speed do." The bullpen, of course, has been nearly unhittable.

Specifically, players like Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Christian Colon, Omar Infante, Nori Aoki, Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Vargas and Jason Frazor -- all acquired by Moore -- have come through at critical moments despite checkered pasts entering the playoffs. Lorenzo Cain has taken the postseason by storm with his brilliance in the outfield. BILLY BUTLER STOLE A BASE. And the Ned Yost narrative has flipped 180 degrees in less than two weeks. Ironically, Shields has been one of the few players yet to shine in the postseason. But realistically, the only thing that has really gone wrong for the Royals all season has been Luke Hochevar's injury in the spring. That's it.

And I've loved every minute of this magical ride.

But anyone who wants to ridicule this blog because everything that could go right has gone right for the Royals since the bottom of the 8th inning of the Wild Card game has no credibility as far as I'm concerned. These things don't happen. They haven't happened to the Royals for 29 years.

It's not hypocritical to revel in an unprecedented playoff run while acknowledging that not every step of "The Process" has gone according to plan. If "The Process" had gone off without a hitch:
  • Hosmer wouldn't have had observers wondering if he was a lost cause this summer.
  • Moustakas wouldn't have been sent to Omaha this year, nor would he be batting No. 9 in the playoffs.
  • Colon would have been the Royals' starting second baseman this spring, if not sooner.
  • Aoki would not have been a trade target during the offseason.
  • Raul Ibanez and Josh Willingham would not have been members of the Royals this season.
  • Danny Duffy and Aaron Brooks wouldn't have been the only pitchers drafted and developed by Moore to start games for the Royals this season.
  • Guthrie and Vargas would not have been pursued in free agency.
  • Aaron Crow would pitch the first six innings instead of just the sixth inning and he wouldn't have been left off the postseason roster.
  • The Royals wouldn't have been the only team in baseball to hit fewer than 100 home runs this season.
  • Ned Yost wouldn't have been booed in the middle of a Wild Card game.
  • Wade Davis would be a contributing member of the starting rotation instead of the bullpen.
  • And.....Wil Myers never would have been dealt for Shields.

Having said that, Billy Beane and Andrew Friedman have earned praise in the past for exploiting market inefficiencies. Likewise, Dayton Moore does deserve credit for zigging when everyone else was zagging.

Despite being unable to develop power from within, he didn't pour all of his funds into free agents like Nelson Cruz or Kendrys Morales. He spent on pitching. He spent on the best available second baseman to finally fill a hole that should have been filled long ago. He crowded his outfield depth chart with some of the best defenders in the game. And along the way, he found players who would buy into a philosophy based on putting the ball in play as often as possible when conventional wisdom said to work counts, earn walks and turn mistakes into three-run home runs.

That formula was enough to get the Royals into the playoffs. That formula -- combined with an unexpected power surge -- has proven to be unbeatable in the playoffs. Nobody saw this coming. Nobody could have seen this coming. Not even Moore or Yost.

Nevertheless, this World Series appearance undoubtedly justifies Dayton Moore's position as GM of the Royals. It might just get him a raise in Atlanta. For the record, I've always applauded his efforts internationally as well as the Zack Greinke trade. I'm just not simple-minded enough to allow a selection of good moves and a ton of good fortune at the perfect time to cancel out eight years of head-scratching, inexplicable miscalculation on Moore's behalf.

I'm grateful to Moore for bringing postseason relevance back to Kansas City. Excuse me for expecting it in a timely manner. I'll always be proud of this blog. I've probably made a few comments I shouldn't have about Moore. Other than that, I stand behind the words on this blog. Not many fans would ever put forth this much effort in hopes of someday seeing their favorite team in the World Series. Well, I did. The Royals are in the World Series. I don't owe anyone a thing.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Enjoy this

The last time the Kansas City Royals were in the playoffs, I was barely more than 3 months old. If you want to put it in days, I was exactly 100 days old when the Royals claimed Game 7 of the 1985 World Series against the Cardinals.

If you're reading this, you're well aware of the Royals postseason track record since October 27, 1985. It's nonexistent. But in less than an hour, the Royals will play host to the Oakland Athletics in the Wild Card Playoff Game at Kauffman Stadium and the story lines are endless.

It's Kansas City's former team against Kansas City's current team. It's "Moneyball" against "The Process." It's the team that limped (literally, in Josh Donaldson's case) into the playoffs against the fastest team in baseball. It's the pitcher traded to Oakland out of nowhere in July against the pitcher traded to Kansas City almost two years ago -- both of whom acquired with a game like tonight's in mind. And there are more where those came from.

Yet, none of those story lines truly matter. What matters is this moment may not come around Kansas City for another 29 years. So enjoy it.

I composed two tweets after Friday's playoff-clinching victory that basically boiled down to: "Don't let this be the highlight of the season." I meant what I wrote, but it was also selfish of me.

I'm lucky to be streaming pregame coverage of a Royals PLAYOFF GAME right now. Since October of 1985, the Royals have played countless games that were utterly insignificant. But the next nine innings will all matter.

And as badly as I want the Royals to get the best of Jon Lester tonight to advance to the ALDS, more importantly I want to enjoy the next four hours.

What happens during the next four hours will ultimately decide how I will feel at the end of the night, but one way or another I'm going to savor this experience. The Royals are in the postseason again. They're part of the playoff landscape. Whether or not they advance, they'll have a say in who wins the World Series. It's a moment I'm not fully prepared for, but it's one I'm thankful for. I hope you are too. Enjoy this.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It's real and it's spectacular

If you'd told me before the season a Royals fan from South Korea would be as popular as the Royals themselves in mid-August, then I would have safely assumed the Royals' season had gone exactly as I'd expected. Not well.

But as I stood in section 429 and looked across Kauffman Stadium on Monday night to see SungWoo Lee hoisting a royal blue "W" while the Crown Vision flashed the Royals' sole possession of first place in the American League Central, I was floored. This season has not gone as I expected. To this point, anyway.

As I wrote on Monday, the last 19 game could simply be a tremendous, yet small, sample size and the next 45 games could be a heartbreaking, yet more brutally honest, larger sample size. As euphoric as it was to feel what must be what others refer to as "hope," the Royals still find themselves in a slippery position. Their best chance at making the playoffs (and by far their best chance to make a run in the playoffs) is to win the Central outright. However, if you stack up the Tigers against a field of the Mariners, Blue Jays, Yankees and, I suppose, the Indians for the final Wild Card spot, it would seem the Royals' have better odds of holding off the field than the Tigers.

Many Royals followers have written about the team's remaining schedule. Their upcoming nine-game road trip certainly appears advantageous. But how many wins is it going to take? The Royals have 64 wins entering Tuesday. The Tigers won the Central with 93 wins last year. To match that mark, the Royals would have to go 29-16. Combine a 29-16 run with their current 16-3 run and that means they'll have played .703 baseball the final 2/5 of the season. Even 90 wins would require a 26-19 flourish from here on out.

Of course, maybe it won't even take 90 wins to claim the Central this year. Maybe the Royals could play one game over .500 their final 45 games. That'd put them at 87-75. Even if that doesn't top the Tigers, maybe it's enough to outlast the likes of the Mariners, Blue Jays, Yankees and so on. The best part about that, though, is an 87-75 season would be a one-game improvement from 2013. If the Royals play just one game under .500 the rest of the way, they'll tie last year's record. A mere 21-24 record from this point and suddenly their odds of being on the outside, looking in come playoff time start to balloon.

I guess my sobering point here is it will take a truly magical finish, not only for the Royals to make the playoffs, but for Dayton Moore's process to produce any improvement from Year 1 with James Shields to Year 2. And without some semblance of an improvement in the win column, the process isn't going to yield so much as a play-in game appearance at the expense of Wil Myers and Co.

That sucks.

Nevertheless, last night was an unforgettable experience and regardless of what I've written, I'm hoping against hope the Royals can hold on. On that note, here are some random thoughts from my Monday at the K:

1. If the Royals want to make the playoffs, Eric Hosmer should not play again this season. In 409 at bats this year, he's posted a .312 OBP and .377 SLG. Even against right-handers he's slashing .319/.382 with a whopping 5 of his 6 home runs off righties. That's pathetic "production" from a player the Royals have curiously deemed bulletproof.

Earlier this season I was optimistic Hosmer could salvage a decent season. Adding a hand injury to the mix does not help matters. His defense isn't that good. Butler's defense isn't that bad. It's first base anyway. There's a reason the Royals are winning without him.

2. Dayton Moore is blinded by his devotion to his 1st round picks. Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Mike Montgomery, Aaron Crow, Christian Colon, and I'll cut off there. What do these players have in common? All five were drafted by Dayton Moore. All five were first round picks. All five have either reached the Major Leagues and performed poorly or they're development in the minors stalled significantly. Yet, aside from Montgomery who was actually a compensatory pick taken 36th overall, they are all still with the Royals and, when healthy, Moustakas, Hosmer and Crow all play prominent roles on the team.

Moustakas, Hosmer and Crow all made their MLB debuts in 2011. Moustakas's career WAR is 4.6 nearly four seasons later. Hosmer's is 1.8 (seriously, do not play him the rest of the season). And Crow's is 0.7. By comparison, Alex Gordon's WAR this season alone is 5.3 and Wade Davis's WAR this season alone is 2.1.

The fact four of those five players have reached the bigs (and Montgomery probably will with the Rays) is an accomplishment. But it's also fair to say Moore has not hit on any of them in a significant way. What's worse, what are the odds any of them make drastic improvements at this point in their careers? Yet Moore can't find it in him to commit to a platoon with Moustakas or move Hosmer down in the order or stop using Crow in higher leverage situations.

The only blessing here is, thanks in part to the players' agents involved, none of them have been signed to lucrative extensions. Yet. But it's still disturbing Moore has designated these players as "his guys" while snubbing his greatest success story, Jarrod Dyson, and trading away another in Myers.

Also makes you wonder why Luke Hochevar has stuck around so long if Moore wasn't behind that pick, as well...

3. I used to respect Soren Petro's opinion. Then again, I hadn't really heard much from him since he was a guest speaker in one of my journalism classes at KU. I just don't listen to sports talk radio. But I couldn't help myself after the game Monday night.

Petro seriously argued that the Royals' free-swinging approach would be better suited for the playoff format where opponents are starting one of their top pitchers every single night and using their best remaining pitchers whenever necessary out of the bullpen.

His argument? The Royals would benefit from facing top tier pitchers because they pump pitches in the strike zone more regularly, thus the Royals would have fewer bad pitches to offer at, thus having better pitches to hit, thus getting more hits. I'll let you pick that one apart in your head for a second.

So the hidden argument by Petro is that the Royals have only struggled against bad pitchers this year and have only struggled against them because they lack the same command as elite pitchers. The thought that the Royals have performed or will perform better against good pitchers than bad pitchers is absolutely insane. And I guess it never occurred to Petro that elite pitchers might scout the Royals, notice their tendency to swing at anything, and therefore use their pinpoint accuracy to work away from the middle of the plate.

That's why I don't listen to sports talk radio.

4. I'm not too worked up about the Josh Willingham trade. Jason Adam is a pitcher I'd been hearing about for years. I would've liked to have seen him in Kansas City. I'm sure the Twins will max out his pitching potential. But at the same time, if deployed against lefties as a DH-only, Willingham could and should provide value down the stretch. But playing him in the field under any circumstances would be a mistake.

And it could be worse, I'm almost positive Dayton Moore offered at least Jason Adam to the Phillies for Marlon Byrd but Ruben Amaro Jr. was too foolish to take it. Willingham won't clog up payroll after this season whereas Byrd would have. They're both equally bad defenders and they both bat from the right side. Byrd might be a slightly better hitter, but not enough to make a significant difference in a 45-game span and certainly not enough to justify that contract.

5. SungWoo must stay in Kansas City the next two months. The only acceptable exception is if he's on a road trip with the Royals.

Fire Dayton Moore

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Catching up -- in more ways than one

I'm sure you've all be wondering when FDM would break its brutally long silence and offer up more hard-hitting analysis of the limp-wristed Royals.

Believe me, there were times I was rilled up and ready to lay into Dayton Moore on here. However, just as I wrote in my FDM Predictions piece, the Royals were nothing but a .500 team in my eyes. Any .500 team is going to have its ups and downs and the Royals have had their fair share. Plus, it's impossible for me to get too worked up about a .500 team with a GM and manager who have job security (whether or not that security is justified).

I've never had the expectation that this blog would make any difference when it came to how the Royals did business. So as much as I wanted to lambaste the Royals after their embarrassing series against the Astros, ridicule them for pampering Eric Hosmer, or excoriate Dayton Moore for pussing out at the trade deadline, I told myself "What's the difference?"

But as I look at the standings, the Royals are suddenly 10 games over .500 and half a game behind the Tigers. KC is 9-1 in its last 10 while Detroit is 5-5 and coming off a crushing 19-inning loss on Sunday. The Royals also find themselves with a 1.5 game cushion between them and the Mariners and Blue Jays for the second Wild Card spot. And that's all I'm going to say about that.

I'm not going to dig into all the playoff scenarios or plot out the Royals' remaining schedule compared to their competition. I'm just not. All this could be meaningful. Or it could simply be an exceptionally high high like the Royals experienced after the break last season. The Royals could get swept in four games by the A's this week and Royal it up on their nine-game road trip and that'll be that for their playoff aspirations.

Instead, I wanted to write about the decisions Moore has made -- both good and bad -- that have led the Royals to this point:

Norichika Aoki -- Might as well start with Moore's first big splash of the offseason. My stance on Aoki was consistent from the start. I was not excited. I seemed to be the only Royals blogger (if you even want to consider me one) who pinpointed Aoki's drop-off in doubles and steals from 2012 to 2013 and considered it a red flag for 2014. If you look at his stats now, his slide in doubles turned into a season-long home run drought until this past week. And he's unlikely to match his 20 steals from last year, although he has missed time this year.

The only defense for the Aoki trade was: 1. He would be an upgrade from the sorry lot of RFs the Royals deployed in 2013 and 2. All it cost was Will Smith while the deepest aspect of the Royals' roster was the bullpen. Well, as I look at the deal now, I don't think it's hard to argue the club might've been better off with Jarrod Dyson in center and Lorenzo Cain in right. A fourth outfielder of Aoki's quality could've been found elsewhere at a cheaper cost.

The argument for trading Smith still holds true, to a degree, but on the heels of a trade deadline that saw Drew Smyly turn into David Price, I can't help but wonder what Smith and his 68 punch outs in 51.1 innings would be worth. And if this really was the year for the Royals to go for it, it wouldn't have killed them to keep Smith at Triple-A and try one last time to see if he could start. Worst-case scenario, they'd have had a strikeout-heavy lefty to bring out of the bullpen right now.

Jason Vargas -- I described the Aoki deal as the first big splash of the offseason, but the Vargas signing was actually Moore's first move of the winter. I just refuse to classify the signing of a No. 4 starter as a "big splash." Nevertheless, Vargas (3.68 ERA, 1.27 WHIP) has been part of the solution, not the problem. Much to my surprise.

Vargas has basically stepped up and done what Moore expected Jeremy Guthrie to do while Guthrie has stepped down and done what I expected Vargas to do. And what most of us thought Guthrie was going to do, anyway.

Omar Infante -- As unimpressed as I was with the Aoki trade, that's how impressed I was with the Infante signing. I would say it was the biggest "go-for-it" move Moore has made since the Shields trade. Unfortunately, even compared to the Shields trade, it's been a disaster. Like Aoki, Infante has battled injuries this year, and he's lucky he hasn't missed more action.

But that doesn't change the fact he's posting his third worst OBP since 2004 (.302), his worst SLG since 2004 (.360), and he has three years left on his contract plus a $2 million buyout in 2018. Given the plethora of utility men Moore has developed and acquired (Johnny Giavotella, Christian Colon, Pedro Ciriaco), it's hard to even fathom Infante providing any value as a super utility man any of the next three years, let alone being a productive starter.

Danny Valencia -- Valencia, of course, is no longer with the Royals. He seemed like a decent addition at the time, though. At the cost of David Lough, Valencia appeared to be an ideal platoon partner for Mike Moustakas. Of course, Yost didn't really use Valencia unless he had to. Then again, Valencia didn't do much to force Yost's hand. And the fact Moore was able to flip Valencia into a semi-legitimate backup catcher and semi-legitimate Triple-A pitcher kept Valencia from being a complete flop.

On that note, I think it's fair to now look back at the Royals' Opening Day roster and state the obvious: Moore did a poor job of roster construction to begin what was supposed to be "the year" for the Royals.

Rather than go into the season with George "All I do is Hit Bombs and Walk" Kottaras, Moore thought it more prudent to back up Sal Perez with a glorified Triple-A backstop in Brett Hayes. And given all the teams that have disposed of Kottaras, maybe he has a personality disorder, but so what. Every playoff team in the league probably has at least one asshole on its roster. Put Kottaras' locker in the corner of the clubhouse and, in return, you don't have a complete black hole in your lineup when Perez gets a day off.

If the Royals were going to go into the season with seven infielders (including Billy Butler), why wasn't Emilio Bonifacio among them? What did Ciriaco offer that Bonifacio couldn't? Bonifacio would have been a much more competent replacement option for Infante during his injury struggles, could now be Moustakas' backup at third, or could've been a platoon option in the outfield. Or he could've just been a badass pinch running option late in games with a glove that would've allowed him to stay in the game.

Lastly, to this day, does anyone know why Justin Maxwell was on the Opening Day roster? Is there anyone else who catches lightening in a bottle and assumes it will last forever like Dayton Moore? I remember crushing the Maxwell trade when it happened and, of course, he proved me wrong the rest of the season. But if Moore seriously expected to get another .857 OPS out of Maxwell this year, he was out of his mind. Maxwell hadn't even posted a minor league OPS that high since age 27.

Five months later, Moore has shuffled that mess of bench fodder and turned it into Erik Kratz, Colon and Raul Ibanez. He had half a season to shore up the team's bench and the only reason it might be improved is that it started out in the negative.

Sure, it's just the bench we're talking about here, but we're also talking about the bench of a team that is trying to hold its own as a playoff contender. These are the players the Royals are going to need late in games (although this might be a moot point considering the man entrusted with making late-inning moves isn't actually very good at doing it). And these are the players the Royals will have to use if and when a starter goes down.

This isn't a video game. This is a real life playoff race and the Royals have rested their postseason hopes entirely on their starters. That wouldn't be quite as daunting had Moore actually showed up for work in July, but he didn't.

So as well as the last 18 games have gone, they're in the past. The Royals still have almost no room for error and they will still be depending on Infante, Moustakas, Aoki, Guthrie, Bruce Chen and that bench down the stretch.

Oh, and I'll be attending my first game since 2012 (pre-Shields trade) on Monday. So let's not discount my ability to send any team I want to win into a tailspin. You've been warned, Dayton.

Fire Dayton Moore

Sunday, March 30, 2014

FDM's 2014 Predictions

I've always felt like a jinx on my favorite teams. The Chiefs tormented me during my youth, taking 13-3 regular seasons and rendering them worthless in the playoffs. Then last fall I moved from Kansas City to Los Angels and suddenly they were contenders. I held off buying in, but by playoff time I was genuinely excited about the Chiefs. OK, I was skeptical as hell, but I was paying attention to the Chiefs again, which is saying a lot. Like clockwork, they were bounced from the playoffs without putting up a fight.

As a former Royals enthusiast, I don't need to explain why I feel like my fandom has had an adverse affect on the boys in blue. But right about the time I started writing for this blog, the laws of logic and reason stopped applying to the Royals. If you need a reminder, this blog started shortly after the Wil Myers-James Shields trade. Since that time, Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie became useful starting pitchers. Justin Maxwell played a useful role for an above-.500 team. And the Royals finished 2013 with an 86-76 record despite relying heavily on Mike Moustakas, Chris Getz, Alcides Escobar, Wade Davis and Luis Mendoza. Think about that for a second.

Anywho, I'm back in the Midwest with limited internet access and starting a new job on Opening Day, which I find fitting. So on one hand my presence in the Midwest could very well bring the Royals back down to earth. Then again, my less-than-hopeful expectations for the season could create a reverse jinx and spur the team on to a playoff run.

So without further adieu, here's my predictions for the 2014 season:

AL East
Tampa Bay Rays
Boston Red Sox
Baltimore Orioles
New York Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays

AL Central
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals
Cleveland Indians
Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins

AL West
Oakland Athletics
Los Angeles Angels
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners
Houston Astros

NL East
Washington Nationals
Atlanta Braves
New York Mets
Florida Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies

NL Central
St. Louis Cardinals
Milwaukee Brewers
Cincinnati Reds
Pittsburgh Pirates
Chicago Cubs

NL West
Los Angeles Dodgers
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
San Francisco Giants

Wild Card Teams
AL: Red Sox and Angels
NL: Braves and Brewers

World Series
Cardinals over Rays in 7 games

There you go. I do not have the Royals making the playoffs. Let me have it for being a Negative Nancy. But in all honesty, I see the Royals as a .500 team that will need everything to break right for it to get above .500 and into the playoffs.

Keep in mind, Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie and Bruce Chen are all parts of the Royals' Opening Day rotation. James Shields and rookie Yordano Ventura will have to carry the staff. That's a lot to ask. And as excited as I am to see Ventura with the Royals for a full season, pitching analyst Eno Sarris has watched Ventura and claims he can see his curve coming a mile away. If that's the case, how long will it take MLB hitters to adjust?

As for the offense, I liked the Norichika Aoki trade very much, but I think his career trajectory is dropping rapidly. In more games last season, he had 10 fewer stolen bases (from 30 to 20) and his slugging decreased 66 points despite having a nearly identical batting average and OBP. I also liked the Omar Infante signing but he's already injured, which means the team is going to have to rely on Johnny Giavotella, who I equate with the departed Getz, or some other second base experiment. Escobar has proven by now he's not much more than a glove. All reports out of Spring Training are that Moustakas is a changed hitter. But I feel like we've heard this before. I'm not holding my breath. But I do like Danny Valencia as a platoon partner to help Moustakas out. The team also needs Lorenzo Cain to not only stay healthy, which he hasn't done in a while, but also reach his potential. Most importantly, the Royals need Salvador Perez to remain healthy and continue his ascent to the top of the list of American League catchers as well as bounce back seasons from Alex Gordon and Billy Butler.

ALL of these things have to happen or the Royals are not making the playoffs. Injuries have helped thin the heard in the West, but the East is still stacked and the Indians are coming off a 92-70 season.

I admit, I'm kind of on an island here. Las Vegas has the Royals going 82-80. ESPN has them going 83-79. Royals bloggers Clint Scoles and David Lesky have them winning 86 and 89 games, respectively, if my memory serves me (By the way, subscribe and listen to their Pinetar Podcast. Seriously. You can find it on iTunes. It's free. It's fantastic.).

BUT PECOTA projections actually have the Royals winning 76 games and finishing third behind the Tigers and Indians. Also, Bill James' logic has always stated that a team that comes out of nowhere and has a great season, as the Royals did in 2013, is due to regress the next season. I feel like predicting an 81-win season after an 86-win season is fair. I'm eager to see the Royals prove me wrong again.

Fire Dayton Moore

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ervin Santana's twitter account is dead to me

For better or worse, I'm still here. But between moving back to the midwest and a boring last month in baseball (at least from the Royals' perspective*), I haven't found the time or motivation to write anything.

*Read below

But today, Ervin Santana ended his excruciating free agency, signing a one-year deal with the Braves for roughly $14 million. I figured that was as good a reason to get me back on here. The Royals' offseason has been over for some time now but this announcement officially puts a period on it. Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales are still available but would be curious acquisitions, even for Dayton Moore.

I'll try not to dwell too much on the Santana signing and then I'll touch on the few things I skipped writing about earlier this offseason.

I'm actually not sure why the Braves weren't in on Santana months ago. Even if Kris Medlen weren't barreling toward Tommy John surgery, Brandon Beachy weren't having his own arm issues after missing nearly all of 2013, and Mike Minor wasn't flirting with starting the season on the DL, the Braves would still have their fair share of question marks in their rotation. Julio Teheran is legit as far as I'm concerned but Alex Wood was their fifth starter before the Santana signing and the jury is still out on whether he's starter material.

When healthy, that's certainly a good rotation. It's a deep rotation. But there's no clear-cut hierarchy to it. Teheran, Minor and Medlen could all be the No. 1 guy and Beachy could easily be the No. 5. If it were me, from the start, I'd have seriously considered giving up a late first round pick to add a proven veteran to stabilize that staff and allow Wood to slide into a relief role or be the first guy up from Triple-A in case of injury.

Well, the injuries came early this spring for Atlanta and a partnership with Santana became inevitable. And ironically, Santana signed for the same amount he turned down when the Royals presented him a qualifying offer of one year, $14.1 million. Yeah. Now you see how hollow all those cute tweets were from Big Erv (or whoever was operating his twtter account — perhaps his former agent!).

I'm curious to see who Royals fans turn into the bad guy in this situation.

The obvious punching bag is David Glass for not breaking the bank to bring back Santana.

Someone like me might point the finger at Dayton Moore for signing Jason Vargas in November. Sure, Vargas's four-year, $32 million deal looks outrageously cheap compared to the five-year, $100 deal Santana was dreaming of. But compared to a one-year deal of any amount for Santana, the Vargas deal again looks foolish. So I'll say it again: YOU DON'T SIGN FRINGE PLAYERS IN NOVEMBER BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT BARGAINS WILL BE AVAILABLE IN MARCH — AS LONG AS YOU STILL HAVE THE FUNDS!

And then there's Ervin.

"Making me believe again" can be loosely translated to "making me a relevant pitcher again." And Royals fans hoped against hope all offseason he would reward the risk the Royals took on him by signing a team-friendly deal to come back. Especially when it became clear he wasn't getting a $100 million deal.

And Santana sure teased fans. Not only did he tweet about how much he was enjoying being a Royal. ("Be Royal." That should be a slogan. Write that down.) Santana tweeted about the Chiefs more than I thought about the Chiefs last season.

And that's if you believe Santana was actually the mind behind his twitter feed. In my experience, I've never seen an athlete fall so head-over-heels for a city. I highly doubt Santana spent his offseason within 1,000 miles of Kansas City. I'm guessing if any reporters ask him to name his favorite Chiefs players during his first press conference with the Braves, he'll be stumped.

How do I think this played out?

Well, I think Santana might have been desperate enough to return to the Royals this month for the same offer he originally turned down. Even if he wasn't behind his twitter account, if he absolutely hated his time here, I don't think he would have allowed whoever was tweeting on his behalf to be quite so pro-Kansas City. However, because of the Vargas signing, I think the Royals refused to spend another $14 million, even if for only one year — a year in which they almost have to win or suffer the humiliating consequences of losing James Shields this offseason and reverting to another eight-year plan.

However, I wouldn't say the Royals passed on Santana because they're cheap. I'm sure the price was part of it. But I think they also believe between Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Vargas, Bruce Chen, Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, Wade Davis and Kyle Zimmer their rotation will be fine. That rotation doesn't inspire playoff-caliber confidence in me, but I'm not working for the Royals.

And maybe the Royals don't believe Santana will repeat his 2013 success. He was a -1.0 WAR pitcher in 2012, afterall, before bouncing back to a 3.0 WAR last year — a level he'd reached just twice before in his career and not since 2008.

Last but not least, don't forget the draft pick. With the Braves losing their pick and the Royals gaining one, Kansas City gained the 28th overall pick, which could turn into the 27th or 26th if Drew and/or Morales happen to sign before the draft. Scouts are raving about the Royals' second pick last year, pitcher Sean Manaea, so with extra slot money to spend now, maybe just maybe Moore can hit on another sneaky draft pick.

Personally, I think Santana's stuff plays well at Kauffman Stadium and the Royals defense might even be better this year, so I could've seen him repeating his success in KC. But if the Royals weren't calling, I can't blame Santana for switching over to the National League, going from the eighth best hitters park to the 10th best pitchers park, and pitching in front of another great defense (or at least Andrelton Simmons).

Really, the Santana signing is a fitting end to the offseason. The Braves have had an excellent offseason, signing nearly every young player on the roster to an extension. Meanwhile the Royals essentially drew a line in the sand. Dayton Moore has constructed his team and it's the team he's going into the season with. And if you want to look at it optimistically, perhaps he and Glass decided to save whatever money they would have given to Santana for a midseason acquisition. Perhaps that $14 million is in a "break in case of emergency" case and they don't view a rotation without Santana as an emergency.

*Anyway, while I was away, the Royals released Brad Penny and lost Luke Hochevar for the season to TJ surgery.

This is the first time I've written Brad Penny's name and this is precisely why.

As for Hochevar, it's a tough break for all involved, but on the bright side it saves Ned Yost from being tempted to use Hochevar as a starter. And if there was one area the Royals could take such a hit, it was the bullpen. I'll be surprised if there's a noticeable difference without him.

The real shame to me is the Royals didn't get value for Hochevar at any point they could have traded him — whether they'd traded him at his worst to an organization looking to revive his career or to any team looking for bullpen help after his resurgence last year.

Worst of all, he's eating up $5.2 million of the Royals' budget as he sits on the shelf. Had he been cleared at any point, even if he'd been traded for dirt, that's $5.2 million that could have put the Royals in the market for an impact starting pitcher. Instead Hochevar will be a free agent after the season so he'll either walk for nothing or Moore will just hand him the $14 million he didn't spend on Santana.

I'll go to my grave believing Dayton Moore played a role in the drafting of Luke Hochevar. He was hired to run an organization and that organization just so happened to possess the No. 1 overall pick — a pick that can define the franchise — and he just sat back and left the decision to some scouts he didn't even know that well? No way. If that's truly what he did, then it was an insanely irresponsible decision. So assuming he did in fact pull the trigger on Hochevar, that's an unforgivable mistake.

Fire Dayton Moore

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Dayton Moore: Bargain Hunter (or Dumpster Diver)

We all know this person. Some of are this person.

The person I'm referring to is the one who hears about a gas station across town selling really cheap fuel. So this person drives all the way across town to fill up on this really cheap fuel.

Of course, this person doesn't drive the most fuel-efficient vehicle to begin with, so they burned a little bit of fuel going across town and back. And of course, the really cheap fuel they bought was actually only like 8 cents cheaper than the station just down the street from where they live. And of course, this person's fuel tank was only half empty, so they only saved 8 cents a gallon on half a tank.

For me, this person is my grandma. I love her dearly, but she's old and has nothing better to do with her time. If she feels like she's accomplishing something, more power to her.

However, there's another person loosely associated with my life who does this on a much larger scale. Dayton Moore. And he mostly seems to do this when it comes to shopping for pitching.

Last season Moore got suckered into trading for Wade Davis along with James Shields. I can only imagine his conversation with Andrew Friedman went something like this:

Friedman: OK, so for Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and this Patrick Leonard kid, I'll send you James Shields AND I'll throw in Wade Davis for FREE.

Moore: Wait. Did you say FREE?

Friedman: Yeah. F-R-E-E.

Moore: (Be cool, Dayton. Be cool.) So you're just going to include Davis and not ask for anything else in return?

Friedman: Not only that, Dayton. I'll include a "player to be named later." I mean, it'll only turn out to be a utility infielder who won't even last the season with your team, but...


Whereas I'm of the mind that if something is free, there's usually a catch — or at best, it wastes space in your home — Moore strikes me as someone who can't turn down a "deal," someone prone to bargain shopping.

I mean, the only explanation for Davis' inclusion in the Shields-Myers deal is Moore had to think he was getting some kind of "buy one, get one half off" deal for starting pitching. Of course, the truth of the matter is Davis has no business being in a starting rotation. The Rays knew this and couldn't have been more pleased to unload him, especially when they were getting Odorizzi, a younger and cheaper version of Davis, in return.

Now fast-forward to this offseason.

Moore tripped over himself in his one-man mad dash to sign Jason Vargas to a four-year, $32 million contract in November. Why? Why exactly would someone want to be handcuffed to the 31-year-old Vargas and his career 8.3 WAR, 4.30 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 5.9 K/9 rate in eight seasons for four more years?

The only explanation I can think of is Moore looked at the numbers and couldn't get over the fact he was signing a Major League pitcher for $8 million a year. It didn't matter to him how many years he was committing to this replacement-level pitcher. All that mattered was by adding an extra year, Moore was able to get a discount over the course of those four years.

And now the Royals are stuck with a glorified fifth starter — something the roster is already fully stocked with — for the next four years.

Less than three months later, with the rotation already overrun by the likes of Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie and possibly even Davis or Luke Hochevar, Moore goes out and signs an older version of Vargas in the familiar form of Bruce Chen. And Ned Yost announces he expects Chen to hold down a rotation spot.

Of course, by this point in the offseason, the conventional wisdom was that the Royals rotation was set unless the club was willing to spring for Ervin Santana or another assumed difference-making starter. Not free agent fodder like Chen. So why did Moore torment Royals fans with such a needless signing?

Well, because Chen was willing to take such a significant discount compared to what he wanted back in November. Moore signed Chen for what amounts to a one-year deal with $4.25 million guaranteed and incentives to sweeten the deal. Originally, Chen was hoping for something between what he got and what Vargas signed for. (Monetarily. I'm not saying Chen was expecting a four-year deal.)

So there Moore went again, drooling over this great bargain he was able to find. In a vacuum, maybe these deals make some sense. Last offseason the Royals really needed pitching. Why not try to get a second arm in the Shield-Myers deal. This offseason, the Royals really needed pitching. Why not sign two reasonably useful arms to discount deals. So what if none of these three pitchers are especially good at their craft. If you're in a generous mood, you can credit Moore for filling the Royals' need for pitching.

However, when you take a step back and look at the entire baseball landscape, it seems Moore was too busy driving across town to save pennies on the dollar and forgot just how many reasonably-priced options would be available to upgrade his pitching staff if he'd been patient.

Tim Hudson 2 years, $23 million with the Giants: If there was ever a time for Moore to sign a former Brave, why not this offseason with Hudson? Seems like the kind of pitcher and personality you'd want on a team with supposed playoff aspirations.

Bartolo Colon 2 years, $20 million with the Mets: I don't care how Colon does it. I don't care how he looks while he does it. His career numbers speak for themselves and I have little doubt he has two more decent years in him.

Scott Feldman 3 years, $30 million with the Astros: Feldman is the same age as Vargas and his career numbers aren't as good, but Feldman has pitched in far more challenging ballparks compared to Vargas, compiling a 10.2 career WAR in nine seasons. And for just $2 million more a year, the Astros are committed to Feldman one fewer year.

Bronson Arroyo 2 years, $23.5 million with the Diamondbacks: Arroyo's numbers are quite similar to Vargas' and Arroyo is five years older. But the fact he would have cost the Royals two fewer years for only $8 million more is what makes him attractive to me.

Paul Maholm 1 year, $1.5 million with the Dodgers: What is it with the NL West? I guess as competitive as the division is compared to the AL Central, more is expected from the GMs out west. Another pitcher with similar career numbers to Vargas and about a year older, but his contract makes him perhaps the biggest steal of the offseason. OF COURSE DAYTON MOORE COULDN'T TAKE ADVANTAGE OF MAHOLM'S DESPERATION BECAUSE HE SIGNED VARGAS IN FUCKING NOVEMBER!

The bottom line is this: If Moore had any confidence in his ability to cultivate pitching prospects, he never would have felt compelled to hand out a four-year contract to a mediocre free agent. He wouldn't have wanted a pitcher like Vargas blocking the way for Sean Manaea, Miguel Almonte, Christian Binford or Jason Adam two years from now. And he sure as hell wouldn't have signed such a nondescript pitcher in November if he had any clue how to work the free agent market.

-Fire Dayton Moore