Fire Dayton Moore

Fire Dayton Moore
It's time.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Official FDM 2013 MLB Predictions

I've made some bold statements the last three months, so now it's time to branch out and make some bold predictions for the 2013 season. Well, they might not all be bold, but they will be predictions and I'll stand by them as I have everything else I've written. So enjoy a little light reading.

American League East
1. Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays play in a stadium that should never host a baseball game in a city that doesn't appreciate baseball, but from top to bottom the front office hierarchy has running a baseball franchise down to a science. The Rays won't miss James Shields and could get a midseason boost from Wil Myers to push them over the top in an always-tough division.

2. Toronto Blue Jays (WC): I was behind the Blue Jays pushing their chips all the way in this offseason. On paper, they have the best team in the division, but their one downfall could be staking their fate to players with vast injury histories (Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio), a Cy Young winner with a short track record (R.A. Dickey) and an outfielder coming off a PED suspension (Melky Cabrera).

3. Boston Red Sox: It's not the Red Sox's year to return to glory, but they're headed in the right direction after purging their roster in 2012. At least they'll be better than the Yankees.

4. Baltimore Orioles: Buster Olney and several other ESPN personalities I've listened to have gotten incredibly positive vibes from Orioles camp, but I'm not buying in. Everyone is upbeat in March.

5. New York Yankees: Too many injuries, too many aging players and no money to spend to stay under the luxury tax threshold. There are promising prospects on the way, but this season is simply the Yankees' chickens coming home to roost.

American League Central
1. Detroit Tigers: The most complete team in the division topped off by perhaps baseball's best hitter and pitcher in Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander.

2. Cleveland Indians: A sneaky good offseason, giving up draft picks to sign free agents such as Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn. If Scott Kazmir can actually resurrect his career, there's no reason the Indians can't compete in an otherwise blah division.

3. Chicago White Sox: They're similar to the Rex Sox, but seem to be going in the wrong direction. They're going nowhere important this year and probably aren't headed in the right direction as players like Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Jake Peavy continue to age.

4. Kansas City Royals: No surprise here as I fully expect Dayton Moore's poorly executed offseason to blow up in his face. But if the Royals approach .500, he'll likely keep his job for another undeserved season.

5. Minnesota Twins: This will be a truly sad season if the Twins are forced to trade Joe Mauer. But if the same clause that allowed the Yankees to acquire Vernon Wells and stay under the luxury tax threshold would also be in effect with a Mauer trade, the timing may never be better.

American League West
1. Texas Rangers: This division is the toughest for me to predict. I did not like the Rangers offseason, whatsoever. But I do trust GM Jon Daniels, so I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt. Because he's held onto his elite prospects, he is still in position to make a major trade should the opportunity arise.

2. Oakland Athletics (WC): Billy Beane. Nothing more. Nothing less.

3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: The Angels do have more firepower than the Rangers on offense, but their pitching is likely to be worse. Perhaps much worse. It will be interesting to see how Mike Trout performs with his added weight, how Albert Pujols performs as age continues to gain ground on him, and how Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo perform with their struggles in the second half of last season.

4. Seattle Mariners: The Mariners tried to make strides this offseason, but a supposed trade refusal by Justin Upton put the kibosh on that. Like the Royals, a franchise that for some reason is forced to try too hard to land top tier talent.

5. Houston Astros: As hard as it was to remember the Rays were no longer the "Devil Rays," it will be even more difficult to remember the Astros are now an American League team. It's a nice fit to have both Texas teams in the same division, but why weren't the Brewers forced to switch back, Bud Selig?

National League East
1. Washington Nationals: No innings limit for Stephen Strasburg equals no chance for the rest of the National League.

2. Atlanta Braves (WC): I was incredibly impressed by the Braves' offseason and can only believe combining B.J. and Justin Upton can only better both of their careers.

3. Philadelphia Phillies: As much as I liked the Braves' offseason, I despised the Phillies'. Michael Young and Delmon Young did nothing to improve their chances and if Domonic Brown busts for good, I wouldn't be surprised if Ruben Amaro Jr. trades for Jeff Francoeur.

4. Miami Marlins: Despite all the young talent the Marlins received for selling off their best players, if they trade Giancarlo Stanton, they might as well move the team because no self-respecting baseball fan would enter their stadium again.

5. New York Mets: Marlon Byrd is penciled in as their starting right fielder.

National League Central
1. Cincinnati Reds: The starting rotation is a concern, but the Reds have the most checkers of any team in the division.

2. Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun is fully capable of carrying this club to a division title, but he has to avoid suspension first.

3. St. Louis Cardinals: It goes against my nature to doubt the Cardinals' ability to win, but the infield is a disaster and injuries are already popping up across the diamond.

4. Pittsburgh Pirates: I've adopted the Pirates as my National League team to pull for but there just isn't enough around Andrew McCutchen. I just hope they can reach .500. If not help should be on the way soon.

5. Chicago Cubs: Compared to the Royals' attempts to land pitching, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer put on a clinic. And they can still trade Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Marmol and Matt Garza to build for next year.

National League West
1. San Francisco Giants: They're not as sexy as their neighbors in Los Angeles, but they're built solid from top to bottom. There's a reason they've won two of the last three World Series titles.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers (WC): All the spending they've done in the last year should get them into the postseason, but so many question marks remain, barring another big move (or three), they likely won't advance past the Wild Card round.

3. San Diego Padres: This is more a vote against the Diamondbacks and Rockies than a vote for the Padres. It will be interesting to see how the new outfield dimensions affect Padres hitters and pitchers.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks: As much as I disliked the Royals' offseason, I was offended by the Diamondbacks'. I give them credit for choosing a path and committing to it, but if it leads anywhere but a 72-90 season it will set baseball back ages.

5. Colorado Rockies: The only storyline I'm interested in with this team is whether or not Troy Tulowitzki gets traded. Or whether he stays healthy long enough to get traded.

American League Championship Series
Tampa Bay Rays def. Detroit Tigers in 7 games

National League Championship Series
Washington Nationals def. Atlanta Braves in 6 games

World Series
Washington Nationals def. Tampa Bay Rays in 6 games

Fire Dayton Moore

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Not exactly easy listening Part VI

This week's episode of The Baseball Show with Rany and Joe is their National League and American League Central Division preview.

As you might expect, the Royals were the main event of the episode and Rany Jazayerli took a look back at the James Shields trade and how it impacts this season. He worded it perfectly and in a way I haven't managed to put it.

In so many words, Jazayerli said the Shields trade put the Royals in position for a "moral victory" in 2013. And that's really exactly what the trade accomplished. The Royals will be decent this year. They'll be respectable. They won't be a laughing stock (I don't think).

But there's virtually no chance the Royals make a postseason appearance in 2013. And looking ahead to 2014, they will rely almost exclusively on the development of their own players to hope to make a playoff run in 2014. (If you thought this past offseason was devoid of impact free agents, next offseason appears even more bleak and there are still months between now and then for would-be free agents to sign with their current clubs.)

So, in short, Royals fans realistically can only look forward to two years of admirable baseball. Maybe they eclipse the .500 mark and that's pretty much it. A pure moral victory. There won't be any shiny new banners flying in the outfield. But years from now, fans can say to one another, "Hey, remember when we traded for James Shields and finished above .500?"

"Yeah, kind of. But how about that Wil Myers of the Rays? Man, it'd be nice to have a franchise player like that here in Kansas City."

Fire Dayton Moore

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Luke, Dayton is your father

It's time. To write a post about Luke Hochevar, that is.

I've spent too much of the offseason focused on filling the Royals' void in right field, a result of the fact its current occupant fills the void in Dayton Moore's heart. I've dwelled for too long on Moore's hastily and poorly assembled starting rotation. The fact Hochevar is still a member of the Royals, albeit hidden in a bullpen role, is an atrocity of it's own that I haven't given enough attention.

I've said from the moment Moore traded Wil Myers for James Shields in hopes of passing the Royals off as a contender that they're a third place team in the American League Central, at best, and they will finish below .500 this season. ESPN the Magazine's 2013 MLB season preview issue came in the mail this week and backed me up, projecting the Royals to finish fourth behind the Tigers, Indians and White Sox.

I bring this up because, when the Royals prove me right and Moore wrong, fans will probably still turn to their usual goat: David Glass. However, according to, Glass has committed $79.8 million to this year's edition of the Royals. More than enough to challenge for a Wild Card, if not a pennant. If it had been spent wisely, that is.

Of that $79.8 million, $4.56 million is devoted to Hochevar. To be a middle reliever. Maybe a closer in the wildest of imaginations. The only possible scenario that would be worse is if Hochevar were earning $4.56 million to fill a rotation spot.

So, the same franchise that probably has only one starting pitcher who will post a WAR above 2.0 in 2013 (James Shields) will have a No. 1 overall draft pick and a No. 12 overall draft pick (Aaron Crow) serving in relief roles. Had Dayton Moore not blown those two draft picks, the Royals would be legitimate contenders this season.

OK, time for me to get sidetracked. Everyone (including me), focuses on the 2006 MLB Draft. That's the year the Royals could have drafted Evan Longoria, Brandon Morrow, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum or Max Scherzer. But instead Moore* elected to go with a pitcher who felt spending a year in Independent League baseball would advance his career.

*I've said it before, I'll say it again: Either the Royals were generous enough to let Moore unofficially run the 2006 MLB draft so he couldn't be blamed if it went bad and he foolishly used that freedom to draft Hochevar or he was foolish enough to work for a team that wouldn't let him have a say in what was ostensibly his first draft and they took Hochevar against his wishes. Either way, Moore looks like a fool.

Now let's look at the 2009 MLB Draft. That's the year the Royals could have drafted Shelby Miller, Kyle Gibson or some outfielder named Mike Trout. You could even glance at the supplemental round and notice gems like James Paxton and Tyler Skaggs. But instead Moore elected to go with a pitcher who felt spending a year in Independent League baseball would advance his career.

There's no debating Moore was in charge of drafting Crow and seeing to it years later that he would be reduced to a reliever. Every time I think I've run out of reasons for Moore to be fired, I find a new one.

Back to Hochevar. On Friday's episode of the Effectively Wild Podcast, Hochevar was a topic of discussion. I don't even remember how he came up, but the hosts began to discuss why he was brought back for the sum of $4.56 when he's clearly shown in six season to be nothing more than a sub-replacement level arm.

One of their thoughts was perhaps Moore was paralyzed by the fear of Hochevar (a former No. 1 overall pick) having success with another organization and couldn't risk letting him go. That sounded reasonable enough. You never want to give up on a relationship too soon in case she (or he) could be "the one."

However, it makes no sense to me the same GM that would cling to a failed No. 1 pick (one he isn't officially responsible for drafting, at that) would also cast off his Minor League Player of the Year in the same offseason. That's like going back to the girl who continuously cheats on you while snubbing the girl who has done nothing but try to earn your affection. And is younger with more years of control and fills a bigger position of need. I'm so good with analogies.

It's one thing to question Moore's ability to think analytically in a day and age when analytics are everything in baseball outside of Arizona and Philadelphia. It's another to question Moore's ability to simply think logically, yet I think it's a question that deserves to be asked.

Had Moore earmarked that $4.56 along with the $13 million he's paying Ervin Santana or the $5 million he's paying Jeremy Guthrie, maybe he could have gotten a Kyle Lohse or Edwin Jackson or Shaun Marcum instead. Maybe that would have given Glass enough wiggle room, even with Santana and Guthrie, to commit to a Giancarlo Stanton or Justin Upton if Moore could find the right package of prospects to land one of those stud right fielders. Instead, Moore carried that $4.56 million into the bullpen, dumped gasoline on it and set fire to it.

What did he possibly think the Royals had to gain by retaining Hochevar's services? Going back to, if you're unaware, on a player's page the website lists a group of players he is most similar to. On Hochevar's page, his professional doppelgangers are (to name a few): Kyle Davies, Brian Bannister, Tim Redding, Casey Fossum, Chris Volstad, Scott Elarton, Brian Meadows, Ian Snell, Shawn Chacon and Joe Mays. Fitting that Moore acquired three of these (Davies, Bannister, Volstad) and allowed a fourth one overstay his welcome (Elarton).

Ties to Moore aside, what else do these pitcher have in common? None of them resurrected their careers after years of performing at Hochevar's level. As Ben Lindbergh (I believe) pointed out on the Effectively Wild Podcast, only Phil Nevin was drafted first overall, changed teams and wound up having some modicum of success in recent memory (if it wasn't Lindbergh, it was co-host Sam Miller).

It's as if Moore lives in this magical universe where neither age nor past performance factor into decision making. That or he lives in a galaxy far, far away where he can't use the force of analytics for good but he can't do what is asked of him and eliminate Luke, either. In this case, though, if he could do the former it would lead to the latter.

Fire Dayton Moore

Monday, March 18, 2013

Not exactly easy listening Part V

Another of the many podcasts I listen to is The Baseball Show with Rany and Joe, featuring Rany Jazayerli and Joe Sheehan.

On the March 18 episode, the two mainly discuss the American League East and National League East, but at about the 1 hour, 20 minute mark, they do touch on the Royals. Rany brings up the possibility of the Royals selling the farm for the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton. Sound familiar? It should.

Rany's price tag for Stanton is actually cheaper than the one I hinted at while Sheehan falls more in line with mine, citing the Mark Teixeira trade from Texas to Atlanta.

This obviously doesn't mean a hypothetical Stanton trade to the Royals is even a gleam in Dayton Moore's eye. But it should be.

Fire Dayton Moore

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Spring is in the air

The World Baseball Classic is headed to San Francisco for the Championship Round. Sporting Kansas City held its home opener. Kansas and Kansas State are set for the Big 12 Championship game and Selection Sunday will soon follow. However, all that's on my mind is the start of the Major League season.

With two weeks to go until Opening Night, the Royals are 16-3 in Cactus League play. That doesn't mean much to me and I'm not even trying to poo poo the great Spring the club is having. It's just the way it is. I have no doubt a higher percentage of fans know what the Royals' Spring Training record is compared to the players in the clubhouse.

Nevertheless, now is the time to start projecting forward what the season holds. American League Central Champions? American League Wild Card? Above .500? Catastrophic meltdown? No matter your opinion of Dayton Moore, your expectations for the 2013 Royals likely fall into one of those categories. However, mine fall into another: Better than the Yankees.

As someone who grew up despising the Yankees (I once attended three games of a four-game Yankees vs. Royals series — the Royals lost all three games I attended and won the one I missed), those might be my hopes more than my expectations, but for the Royals, I think those are the most realistic expectations.

As far as I'm concerned, a wild card is a pipe dream and a pennant is an impossibility. The Tigers are head and shoulders better and whether or not the Indians are better, as well, they've certainly had a better offseason. And the White Sox are still a club for the Royals to reckon with. So winning the division is out of the question. But even if they manage to climb to second place, that leaves teams like the Rangers, Athletics, Angels, Blue Jays, Rays and Orioles that either reached the postseason in 2012 or are legitimate contenders to do so in 2013. A multitude of things would have to go wrong for those teams to fall behind the Royals in the Wild Card standings.

But, a year after finishing ahead of the Red Sox, I do think the Royals are in position to outpace an even greater AL East monolith in the Yankees.

The Royals have their holes, for sure (even David Lough never imagined a fan base might one day view him as a savior — especially not at the same age with the same measurements as this lowly writer). But right now they are healthy. They have experienced youth. They have very few distractions. And they might actually have some pitching depth.

Meanwhile, the Yankees have lost the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira to injury. That trio combined for 85 home runs in 2012 compared to the Royals' team total of 131. Rodriguez will miss at least half the season with only the drastically declining Kevin Youkilis to replace him. Granderson will miss the first month of the season with newly-acquired Ben Francisco filling in. Teixeira will be out until at least May, leaving Juan Rivera as the team's best option at first base. While all three are upgrades from their replacements, Granderson is the only one of the three who hasn't regressed significantly over the last season or two.

Speaking of regression, Derek Jeter is still taking up space between second and third base and Travis Hafner is somehow slated to be the club's regular DH. Ichiro Suzuki can't play forever (I don't think). Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda are entering probably their last productive seasons, if not their final seasons, period.

The biggest star left in his prime is second baseman Robinson Cano. It's hard to poke any holes in Cano's resumé (unless you want to bring up his performance in last year's Home Run Derby). However, he happens to be in the final year of his contract and until a new contract is signed, the New York media will turn the situation into a distraction. Even if they don't, Yankees brass will have to feel some anxiety that he will depart for a club with endless funds (Dodgers, Angels) or a team seeking a franchise player with money to burn (Astros).

As for the Yankee's staff, you can't find a more sturdy (literally) Opening Day starter than CC Sabathia or dependable stopper in the bullpen than Rivera. But you can't help but wonder when/if Sabathia's weight or Rivera's age and surgery will catch up to them, allowing hitters to catch up to them. If Sabathia and Rivera don't retain their form, there isn't a whole lot of support between them. I've already mentioned Kuroda and Pettitte's age. Behind them are younger but more erratic pitchers in Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova. Should anyone in the rotation go down, David Phelps is basically the last line of defense. As for the rest of the bullpen, it should be as good as any other bullpen, but a strong bullpen doesn't mean much if the rest of the team is broken — as the Royals learned in 2012.

Now, back to the Royals.

At some point, someone is sure to go down to injury. But it can't hurt that they are halfway through Spring Training in good health. Even if someone does succumb to injury, the Royals' reserves are at least on the same level as a Youkilis, Francisco or Juan Rivera.

When it comes to career arcs, most of the Royals' lineup is comprised of players headed in the right direction. Only Jeff Francoeur is falling off and Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella are just flat-lining. Because of the team's youth, there aren't any looming contract concerns to distract the team. There aren't even any divisive position battles. Everyone seems to know their role and if Francoeur occupying a starting spot can't unravel a clubhouse, perhaps nothing can.

Against all odds, a tiny seed of optimism is growing within me regarding the pitching staff. Albeit in small samples, Will Smith, Luis Mendoza and Yordano Ventura have auditioned well for the back of the rotation. Ervin Santana hasn't imploded yet. James Shields is likely tinkering with things, so I can't put much stock in his performance. I can only hope Jeremy Guthrie is doing the same. Bruce Chen is going to do what Bruce Chen does. And Luke Hochevar is mercifully out of the picture. Like I said, it's a tiny seed.

Will anyone dance in the streets over a 79-83 record if the Yankees finish 78-84? I doubt it (and hope not). But from my perspective, that's the most logical goal for the season and the most realistically attainable. Sadly, it was likely equally as attainable with Wil Myers making a mid-season appearance for the Royals as it is with James Shields starting on Opening Day.

Fire Dayton Moore

Sunday, March 3, 2013

WWJS do?

From what I've read and heard, if I didn't know any better, the Bible got it wrong and JC was actually JS -- James Shields.

Story after story after story heap nothing but praise upon Shields as Opening Day nears. (HE AND JEFF FRANCOEUR TRICKED TEAMMATES INTO GOLFING WITH EXPLODING GOLF BALLS! HILARIOUS! LOL!). Even ESPN's rebranded Baseball Tonight Podcast has touched on Shields and the impact of his leadership on the Royals and how much the Rays miss their would-be No. 4 starter. (If you do have some free time, I encourage you to go back and listen to last week's episodes. I think Thursday and Friday's episodes make mention of Wil Myers as he nears stardom.)

I get it. James Shields is an accomplished Major League pitcher. He'd be a luxury as a No. 4 starter on a playoff contender. But what grinds my gears is Shields was not traded to a playoff contender. He was dealt to a team desperate not to finish with a losing record because jobs are on the line. Even if Shields' "aura" lasts from now to October, think of everything else that will need to fall the Royals' way.

Salvador Perez must come close to delivering on the MVP-candidate expectations writers are probably unfairly branding him with. Eric Hosmer must bounce back from a horrendous 2012. The Royals must get some kind of production from second base. Mike Moustakas must take another step forward. Alcides Escobar must not take a step backward. Alex Gordon must put up with being jerked around the lineup and still produce. Lorenzo Cain must stay healthy and be a productive everyday player. Jeff Francoeur must pretend he isn't Jeff Francoeur over a full season. The rest of the Royals rotation -- Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana, Wade Davis, Bruce Chen, whoever else -- must stay healthy all season and put forth the kind of performance that merits being in a Major League rotation all season. That might sound simple enough, but if you'd been asked before the 2012 season what a rotation rounded out by Guthrie, Santana, Davis and Chen was capable of, I can't imagine you would have predicted a playoff appearace. What has changed in a year? Finally, the bullpen must carry over its strong 2012 campaign.

So while I'm glad Royals fans have a pitcher they can rally behind, the enthusiasm is simply misplaced as far as I'm concerned. In reality, Shields' only value to the Royals should be as a summer trade chip. Maybe he will be, but I don't have that much faith in Dayton Moore. And even if he does wind up trading Shields before he leaves via free agency, he'll likely blunder such a trade just as he did the deal to bring Shields to Kansas City.

I know, the trade was back in early December. It's early March. I should be over it by now. Maybe I would be, except for the dubious "Player to be named later" -- Elliot Johnson. A replacement-level player if there ever was one. He's older than me and I'm already at the age I'm in awe when I see a player like Mike Trout and think about how much younger than me he is. And, as desperate as the Royals are for a regular second baseman, Johnson is not an every day regular beyond the Triple A level.

For two months, I held out hope that maybe the PTBNL might be one of the Rays' top draft picks in 2012 (because players must be with an organization for at least a year before they can be traded). I thought maybe that would make losing Myers and three other prospects worthwhile. Maybe. I thought that might redeem Dayton Moore in my eyes. Maybe.

Instead, I've never thought lower of an executive. Of what use is Elliot Johnson to a team supposedly in playoff contention? He's not just a poor man's version of Jed Lowrie. He might be a dead man's version of Jed Lowrie.

But if fans' enthusiasm for Shields is misplaced, as far as I'm concerned, because the Royals are counterfeit contenders, I guess my frustrations over Johnson in a Royals uniform are misplaced, as well, because he's just the kind of player a losing team targets.

Fire Dayton Moore