It's easy to forget Allard Baird was the one two drafted Zack Greinke, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler. When you think of Baird, you probably don't associate him with that trio of names. Instead, Baird's name is more likely to conjure up memories of Angel Berroa, Neifi Perez and Mark Teahen.
How quickly Royals fans lost sight of what Baird did with limited draft budgets, but dwell on the meager returns from trades he was handcuffed into making. I'm not judging. To this day I fixate on the trades of Royals seasons past. I now fear what the Royals of this decade will be remembered for. Due to my masochistic tendencies, I must first recap the downfall of Mr. Baird.
As the Royals entered the 2001 season, it became clear the club wouldn't be able to afford but one of their four premiere talents: Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, Carlos Beltran and Mike Sweeney. There were only two questions: 1. Who would the franchise choose to build around and what would the club get in exchange for the other three?
If you're reading this, you already know the answer to those questions.
Damon was the first to go in January of 2001, netting a return of Angel Berroa and A.J. Hinch from the Athletics and Roberto Hernandez from the Devil Rays (that's right, kids, they weren't always the Rays). Dye went next in July of the same year in exchange for Neifi Perez. Then in June of 2004, Beltran was sent to the Astros for John Buck and the Athletics pitched in Mark Teahen and Mike Wood. It's hard to decide which trade hurt most.
Damon was probably a fan favorite and he signed the most reasonable post-trade contract at 4 years, $31 million ($7.75 million per) with the Red Sox. And he was sent to Oakland with Mark Ellis, who was a plucky enough second baseman. Meanwhile Hernandez was useless, closing on a team going nowhere, Berroa was a one-year wonder and Hinch never amounted to anything.
The Dye deal hurt me the most because I was never a big Damon fan. That and I always thought the Royals robbed the Braves, getting Dye and Jamie Walker for Keith Lockhart and Michael Tucker. His next contract wasn't outrageous, either, signing a 3-year, $32 million contract with the A's ($10.7 million per). Dye, of course, went on to hit at least 23 home runs in seven of his final eight seasons, including years with 31, 34 and 44. Can you even imagine a hitter with 44 home runs in the Royals lineup? The only solace I could find from the Dye trade was the Rockies, who technically traded for Dye before shipping him off to Oakland immediately, received a sad package of Todd Belitz, Mario Encarnacion and Jose Ortiz for Dye. Then again, at least none of those three players punished Rockies fans to the tune of a -2.8 WAR like Perez did with the Royals in 2002.
Beltran was easily the most talented of the bunch. Had he stayed with the Royals for his entire career, he could have challenged George Brett for the honor of best player in franchise history. But that kind of undeniable talent was what priced him out of Kansas City. He signed with the Mets to a 7-year, $119 million deal ($17 million per). His departure was inevitable unless he would have been willing to offer the Royals a generous hometown discount. It did sting a little, though, to see him traded seven — SEVEN! — years later to the Giants for phenom pitching prospect Zack Wheeler.
Instead, the Royals made their bed with Mike Sweeney, who fell apart almost the instant the dust settled from the Beltran trade.
Sweeney signed a 5-year, $55 million extension ($11 million per), which ran from 2003-2007. His WAR the first three years of that contract was 1.7, 0.6 and 1.6. He hit 15 total home runs over the final two years of his contract. His combined WAR during that contract was 3.8.
Damon had two seasons with a WAR above 3.8 after departing the Royals. Dye's high post-Royals WAR was 3.0 in 2006 and he never matched his 4.3 and 4.2 WARs in 1999 and 2000 with the Royals, but his home runs sure would have been fun to watch in Kauffman Stadium. Beltran, of course, topped 3.8 four times post-Royals, doubling it in 2006 at 7.6 and nearly doubling it again in 2008 at 7.2.
That's the Royals' self-imposed luck. Four stars to choose from. A 75 percent chance of picking the right one to build around and they still couldn't get it right.
Now fast forward to the 2013 Royals.
Eric Hosmer is in his third season and he's slashing .275/.331/.377 and just hit his fourth home run as I write this, nearly 300 plate appearances into the season. Mike Moustakas is in his third season and entered today with four home runs, but his slash line is an atrocious .207/.266/.305. And eight home runs between your corner infielders with a week left in June is almost vomit-inducing when you realize Chris Davis crushed his 28th home run tonight.
On the flip side, just 10 games into his Major League career, Wil Myers has already produced a quarter of Hosmer and Moustakas' home run total with two in the last four days. It's early, sure. Even a full season of production from Myers won't produce a final verdict based on how Hosmer teased Royals fans as a rookie.
To be fair, despite Myers' eight-game hitting streak, he still hasn't walked and he struck out for the 11th time tonight. You'd certainly like to see that ratio tightened up a bit. Although, a strikeout-to-walk rate like that has to have Dayton Moore kicking himself.
But in all seriousness, I can't help but assume the Royals bet on the wrong horse once again. The odds of picking the best player among Hosmer-Moustakas-Myers may have been considerably longer than Damon-Dye-Beltran-Sweeney, but what makes this rendition of Royals roulette so bad is they didn't have to pick. Myers wasn't going anywhere at the end of the season. His impending promotion from Triple-A wasn't going to impede Hosmer or Moustakas. If anything, his presence from the right side of the plate could have helped the lefties.
Then again, anything would be more beneficial to Hosmer and Moustakas in the way of lineup support than Jeff Francoeur's slash line of .212/.254/.330. How was Moore to know the card he would pick would be a joker?
Fire Dayton Moore
(please click to voice your opinion and bring forward thinking back to Kansas City)