The Royals and Confirmation Bias

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If you’d like to rip the Royals for this pathetic backwards plummet they’re on in which they’ve gone from 17-10 to 21-27 in the span of three weeks, then fine. Their horrific run however doesn’t automatically confirm the doom and gloom that was predicted the second GM Dayton Moore made the decision to send a package to the Rays led by top prospect Wil Myers, pitcher Jake Odorizzi and others for pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis. Before starting the “I was right” brigade as if the record and stumble somehow interlocks with their retreat into familiarly rudderless territory and the only hope being that their young players will eventually develop and produce, looking at the real reason the team has played so badly is required.

Manager Ned Yost has received the bulk of the blame for the way the Royals have played since their 17-10 start and his decision to pull Shields out of the game that started the slide on May 6th at 102 pitches can be seen as the impetus to the fall. The whole purpose of acquiring Shields was to have the horse at the top of the rotation who would tell the other players—most of whom are young and inexperienced and have no history with a winner—this is how it’s done; I’ll carry you and show you the way. Yost didn’t accord Shields the opportunity to pitch that complete game against the White Sox after he’d allowed 2 hits and no runs, striking out 9 in eight innings. The game was handed over to closer Greg Holland by rote more than well-thought-out baseball maneuver and Holland blew the game. Then the Royals’ world came undone.

You can say that we wouldn’t be discussing this had Holland had a 1-2-3 ninth inning and the Royals went to 18-10 that day. You can say that Shields might have blown the game in the ninth as well. You can say that the team might’ve come apart anyway and instead of being 21-27, they’d be 22-26. And that type of woulda, shoulda, coulda only hammers home the point that whether they had made the trade of Myers for Shields or not, there’s no connection between them losing 17 of 21 and that the fall is being presented as Exhibit X as to why Moore needs to be fired or, at the very least, they need a new manager.

So what’s wrong with the Royals? The bullpen has been inconsistent; the back of the rotation (including Davis) has been shaky; and they’re not getting any offense from Mike Moustakas or enough offense from Eric Hosmer. That could be due to the two hitting coaches; it could be due to Yost’s familiar overwhelming intensity and strategic gaffes; or it could be due to bad luck. Myers isn’t exactly killing the ball in Triple A for the Rays (.263/.344/.441 slash line with 7 homers in 209 plate appearances) and Odorizzi was recently recalled to the majors. Would the Royals be in better position with those players in their lineup? Maybe, maybe not.

There are assertions to be made that the Royals weren’t ready to take that leap into going for it by trading youth like Myers and Odorizzi for veterans like Shields and Davis; that the front office jumped the gun by making that move now before the likes of Moustakas, Hosmer and Salvador Perez proved they needed veteran supplementation to become contenders; that they should’ve given Myers the right field job, kept Odorizzi and given their homegrown group a chance to win prior to doing something so drastic. But to imply the Shields trade is the “why” the Royals are staggering or that had it not been made they’d be in much better shape than they’re in now as if it has been “proven” to be a mistake is confirmation bias for those who hated the trade, hate the GM and hate the manager and are using it as a cudgel to batter their own desires into the public consciousness as if they “knew” it would happen.

I didn’t hear them complaining at 17-10.

It’s as if they were hiding and waiting to boost their own egos and would prefer to be right than be happy, to have their team lose and start the rebuilding process all over again with a new GM, one who will do what they want as if the strategies they prefer are unassailable and guaranteed to work any better than what Moore’s done. The trade was savaged and now the team is playing poorly, but there’s really not a link between the two. When ego and self-justification are involved, though, the reality doesn’t matter and instead of looking for solutions the Royals are getting “I told you sos.” And that rarely helps. In fact, it doesn’t help at all.

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Keys to 2013: Kansas City Royals

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Starting Pitching Key: Wade Davis

The Royals can write down what they’ll get from the majority of their starting pitchers. That goes for the good (James Shields), the bad (Bruce Chen, Luke Hochevar), and the sometimes good/sometimes not so good (Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana). The season and the decried trade the Royals made with the Rays in which they surrendered Wil Myers and other young players to get Shields and Davis will go a long way in determining their 2013 fate and the job status of GM Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost.

Davis was a serviceable starter for the Rays in 2010-2011. He was moved to the bullpen in 2012 due to the depth the Rays had in their rotation and now he’s going to start again for the Royals. He has to be more than serviceable. If they can cobble him into a 190-210 inning arm, Davis can be a long-term, inexpensive solution because he’s signed with contract options that make him super cheap through 2017. If he falters, the trade will boil down to getting a top-tier starter in Shields and a swingman in Davis for one of baseball’s best prospects, Myers, and other talented youngsters.

Relief Pitching Key: Greg Holland

Holland takes over as the fulltime closer. He struck out 91 in 67 innings last season and saved 16 games after Jonathan Broxton was traded. He has a mid-90s fastball, a sharp curve and only surrendered 2 homers last season. If he improves his command, Holland can dominate.

Offensive Key: Eric Hosmer

Hosmer endured a sophomore slump in 2012. He failed to adjust to the way pitchers were approaching him and he must lay off the breaking balls in the dirt. As a young hitter who had it come easy to him as a rookie, there’s a resistance to taking advice from anyone. The next logical progression is taking advice from everyone. Neither is wise.

Hosmer can be an offensive force with power and speed. He doesn’t strike out and if he can be just a bit more selective while maintaining his aggressiveness, he’s an MVP candidate.

Defensive Key: Alcides Escobar

The Royals starting rotation is loaded with contact, groundball pitchers. Shields and Davis were reared in the Rays organization where they’re taught to pitch to contact and rely on defensive positioning and heavy slabs of data. The Royals are a more old-school organization in that they put the shortstop at shortstop, the second baseman at second base, etc.

The shortstop is the key to the infield. Mike Moutstakas has good range at third base which will allow Escobar to cheat a bit more toward the middle. If the Royals don’t catch the ball behind their starters, they’re in for a rough time.

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American League Central—2012 Present and 2013 Future

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I recently looked at the AL East, how they’re faring now and their prospects for the future. Now let’s look at the AL Central.

Chicago White Sox

There are few baseball executives for whom their statements should be taken at face value, but White Sox GM Ken Williams is one. Because of that, when he says he misspoke about blowing the whole thing up at the conclusion of the 2011 season, then didn’t blow the whole thing up and instead made moves to try and win while getting younger and more flexible, I believe him.

The White Sox success can be chalked up to: manager Robin Ventura’s calm demeanor in stark contrast to the raving lunacy of Ozzie Guillen; Jake Peavy coming back from injury and pitching like a top tier starter; Chris Sale’s development as a starting pitcher; Adam Dunn’s and Alex Rios’s comebacks; and the parity around the American League.

Ventura and Mike Matheny have become a regular “example” that managers don’t need to have managerial experience to be successful. Of course it’s nonsense and taken greatly out of context. Ventura’s done a good job and his cachet as a former All Star player and popular person in Chicago has helped him greatly, but anyone other than Guillen would’ve been taken as a welcome respite from the daily haranguing and controversy that surrounded the former manager’s big mouth and followed him—with disastrous results—to Miami.

As long as Williams is the GM, the White Sox have a chance to be competitive because he has no patience for long rebuilds and makes aggressive maneuvers accordingly.

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers have been inconsistent in every facet. Their defense, while not being as bad as predicted, still isn’t good; the offense is 7th in the AL in runs scored despite having two MVP candidates Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, plus Austin Jackson having a fantastic year; the bullpen has been shaky; and Justin Verlander has been excellent and is still a Cy Young Award candidate, but has taken enough of a step back from his CYA/MVP of 2011 back to humanity to account for the Tigers fighting for a playoff spot.

There’s been talk that manager Jim Leyland, in the final year of his contract, could be in trouble if the Tigers don’t make the playoffs. It’s silly. Leyland can still handle the egos in that clubhouse and the very last thing the Tigers need to do and, tying in with the concept of a manager with zero experience, is to hire someone young just to make a change.

The Tigers dealt away several prospects including Jacob Turner to get Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez, but they’ve held onto Avisail Garcia and Nick Castellanos. The farm system is not barren and as long as they have Fielder, Cabrera, and Verlander, they’ll be competitive. Changing managers for the sake of it makes zero sense.

Kansas City Royals

It’s ludicrous how those who felt the Royals were going to parlay their loaded farm system into a leap to legitimate contention jump off the train as soon as a rebuild doesn’t adhere to the “plan”. Young players sometimes hit speedbumps on the way up. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are still two players around whom to build; Alex Gordon is a solid presence at the plate and in the field; Billy Butler is emerging as an unknown star; and Salvador Perez and several young pitchers got hurt.

The talent is still there. As long as they don’t panic, there’s no reason they can’t contend in 2013.

They do need to show improvement for manager Ned Yost to keep his job past next May/June; and GM Dayton Moore will probably get one more managerial hire if Yost has to be replaced, then the onus will be on him.

Cleveland Indians

2012 went completely wrong with 2013 not looking much better. They got off to a good start and were hovering around contention through mid-season until they collapsed completely and, since being 50-50 on July 27th, have gone 10-36. Manny Acta has a contract for next season, but since the Indians don’t have much money to spend and are openly ready to listen to offers for one of their few marketable players Shin-Soo Choo, there’s no point in sending Acta back out there as a lame duck when they have a managerial prospect in the popular former Indians’ hero Sandy Alomar Jr. on the coaching staff.

Closer Chris Perez ripped the organization from top to bottom recently and will presumably be shipped out of town for his candor. Considering that Perez is a slightly better-than-average closer, it’s not his place to be opening his mouth. The Indians are short on foundational talent. Asdrubal Cabrera is a very good player; Carlos Santana doesn’t appear to be an everyday catcher and his skills are less impressive as a first baseman; and their supposed top two starters, Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson, haven’t pitched well.

The Indians have a long road ahead of them and may have to restart their rebuild.

Minnesota Twins

The Twins were competitive for a decade after a decade of being so terrible that they were a target of contraction. Now instead of being a target, they built Target Field and spent money to try and win in 2010. To that end, they traded away a top prospect Wilson Ramos for a mediocre reliever Matt Capps; they signed Tsuyoshi Nishioka and repeated the Mets’ mistake with Kazuo Matsui, except Nishioka isn’t as talented as Matsui was; and they brought back their old GM Terry Ryan who still hasn’t had the interim label taken from his title.

Ownership has said that they want Ryan to take the job on a permanent basis. We’ll see. If Ryan isn’t fully committed or ownership wants to go in a new direction with an outsider, manager Ron Gardenhire could be in trouble as well.

Offensively, they’ve rebounded from an injury-plagued 2011 with Joe Mauer back to being Joe Mauer; a tremendous year from Josh Willingham; and Justin Morneau finally returning to form after his concussion problems.

They’re still severely short in the pitching department and are running into identical issues as the Mets did when they moved into their new park after contending for several years and building a canyon instead of a ballpark. The Mets moved the fences in and started a full-blown rebuild. The Twins have yet to do that, but they’re going to have to infuse the organization with more talent to get back to competitiveness.

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Joe Girardi Channels His Inner Billy Martin

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Joe Girardi turned into Billy Martin, but he did it at the wrong time and in the wrong way.

Girardi was said to have blown up at Joel Sherman of the New York Post after his post-game press conference. It’s unknown whether the catalyst was a misunderstanding that Sherman couldn’t hear Girardi’s response as to whether CC Sabathia is healthy or not; if Sherman was intentionally antagonizing Girardi; or if it was simply a matter of frustration boiling over in the midst of an unexpected pennant race and increasingly dire circumstances. Perhaps it was all three.

Details of what was said in Girardi’s office between him and Sherman are unknown. The media circled the wagons around Sherman and, en masse, attacked Girardi.

Unless Sherman or Girardi say what happened, no one can know how much truth there is to the likes of Andrew Marchand saying they were “nose-to-nose”. As disturbing as that image is in and of itself, I seriously doubt that Girardi pulled Marchand aside and said, “Listen Andrew, Joel and I were nose-to-nose.” So the Marchand side of the story is coming from Sherman and Sherman’s not exactly credible when it comes to his supposed dogged reporter tough-guy persona. I think Lara Logan of 60 Minutes could beat him up.

As for the Yankees, here are the facts:

Mark Teixeira was safe

Teixeira was safe in the play at first. It was an atrocious call. But the Yankees can’t complain about a blown call ending a game when part of their historic lore—against the Orioles no less—is that in the 1996 ALCS, a young fan named Jeffrey Maier reached over the fence and snatched a Derek Jeter long fly ball away from right fielder Tony Tarasco.

The Yankees eventually won that game, that series and the World Series, and it’s seen as a seminal moment of their dynasty.

Is there a connection?

No one play wins or loses a game and you can’t have it both ways. There’s no celebrating one play when it goes your way and lamenting a call when it doesn’t.

Umpire Jerry Meals blew the call, but that wasn’t why the Yankees lost.

Should Girardi have argued the call?

He had gotten thrown out of a game in Tampa partially because he thought the pitch in question was not a strike; partially because he was looking to spark his team; and partially because he had a problem with the umpire Tony Randazzo going back to August.

Did it work?

The Yankees are still in a sleepwalk and they lost the game in which he got ejected. Last night’s game was over, so if he’d gone over and started a screaming session with Meals, he’d have gotten kicked out after the game was over, maybe gotten suspended, or the umpires would’ve simply walked away after letting him have his say. As Girardi implied after the game, what good would it have done?

The idea that Girardi is melting down in the pressure of the pennant race would’ve been bolstered by another screaming session with an umpire. As it turned out, that perception was bolstered by his confrontation with Sherman, but he couldn’t have known that was coming at the time of the Teixeira call.

There’s a difference between a manager imploding and acting out and getting ejected to help the team. Lou Piniella, his face the color of an eggplant, wasn’t always that angry when arguing a call. As managers and coaches sometimes need to be, Piniella is an actor. Many times a made-for-TV Piniella base-tossing show was done to loosen up his team, get them laughing in the dugout at what a raving lunatic he is, and possibly relax them to play better.

Then there’s the Billy Martin-style nervous breakdown type argument. A recent example of a manager coming undone with his team in contention in two consecutive years is Ned Yost with the 2007-2008 Brewers. In both seasons, Yost was so tight as the season wound down that a guitar could’ve been strummed on his chest. In 2007, he was ejected from 3 games in six days as the Brewers fell out of contention. In 2008, the team was staggering to the finish and blowing a playoff spot after trading for CC Sabathia at mid-season. Yost was fired with 12 games left and the Brewers did the right thing in pulling the trigger.

The confrontation with Sherman

As of this writing this morning, the aforementioned Sherman had been called into Girardi’s office in Baltimore. Presumably they’re going to come to a détente to end lingering bad blood and stop the story from festering.

Sherman had a right to ask the question. Girardi had reason to be annoyed and, given the scrutiny he’s under, was probably going to snap at anyone who asked what he felt was a loaded question designed to get a rise from him. This wasn’t Martin threatening to toss Henry Hecht of the Post into the team whirlpool in 1983. The idea that Girardi and Sherman had to be “separated” is ludicrous. The security personnel probably heard the yelling and stopped Girardi before he got angry enough to hit Sherman, which he 99.9% wouldn’t have done anyway.

The final analysis

The Yankees are not playing well. They’re old. They’re beaten up. They’re collapsing.

These are facts.

Can they save the season? Absolutely. Will they? Not if they keep playing—and especially pitching—like this. It’s not Jerry Meals’s fault; it’s not Joel Sherman’s fault; it’s really not Girardi’s fault. They’re not very good right now. And unless they get any better, they’ll have a mess to clean up on and off the field. As the Mets and Red Sox have proven, it’s not so easy to repair the damage from a collapse. If this continues, the Yankees will learn soon enough.

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Dog Days Manager/GM Hotseat Grows Hotter

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Let’s look at the managers and GMs whose hot seats have gotten hotter as the season’s shaken out.

Bobby Valentine, Boston Red Sox

If I were to place a percentage on how much of what’s gone wrong with the Red Sox is the fault of Valentine, I’d say about 30%. The team was overrated and patched together; the front office has interfered with many of the things he wanted to do such as using Daniel Bard as a reliever; and they saddled him with a pitching coach in Bob McClure with whom he’s not on the same page.

Valentine has damaged himself with the ill-advised—and mostly innocuous—challenge he issued to Kevin Youkilis and it’s becoming abundantly clear that the cauldron of Boston probably wasn’t the best spot for him to return after a 10-year hiatus from managing in the big leagues. Valentine’s reputation put him on shaky footing as soon as he was hired. If he said “hello” the wrong way, the players and media would’ve pounced on it. He only received a 2-year contract and with the way this season is going to end, his reputation and that players are going to avoid signing with the Red Sox specifically because of him, they won’t have a choice but to make a change.

Barring any spending spree and a major infusion of better luck, the Red Sox will learn in 2013 that it wasn’t the manager’s fault. The team isn’t very good and is entering a new phase that will take time to recover from. Chasing the past with desperation moves that were diametrically opposed to what built the Red Sox powerhouse has done little more than stagnate that inevitable process.

They’re a mess and Valentine or not, that won’t change anytime soon.

Manny Acta, Cleveland Indians

I’m getting the Rene Lachemann feeling from Acta.

Lachemann was a well-respected baseball man who paid his dues. The players liked him and liked playing for him and, for the most part, he made the correct strategic decisions. But year-after-year, he was stuck with teams that had very little talent with records that reflected it. He managed the woebegone Mariners of the early-1980s; the Brewers for one season; and was the first manager of the Marlins. His managerial career ended with a .433 winning percentage.

Acta is much the same. He has a contract for 2013, but that won’t matter. The Indians had some expectations this season and, after hovering around contention, have come undone. It’s not his fault, but the Indians might bring in someone else. Sandy Alomar Jr. is on the coaching staff and has been on several managerial short-lists, plus is still revered in Cleveland. He’d take the pressure off the front office’s reluctance to spend money…for a time, anyway.

Acta’s young and competent enough to get another chance to manage somewhere.

Ron Gardenhire/Terry Ryan, Minnesota Twins

Ryan still hasn’t had the “interim” label removed from his job title and with the Twins’ struggles over the past two seasons, it’s not hard to think they’re going to bring in a younger, more stat-savvy GM and start a full-bore rebuild. If Ryan is out and the structure of the team is dramatically altered, the respected Gardenhire might choose to move on as well. He’d get another managerial job.

Ned Yost/Dayton Moore, Kansas City Royals

This team was expected to, at the very least, be around .500 or show progress with their young players. Injuries have decimated them and the trade of Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez—completely sensible and understandable—was a disaster. Jeff Francoeur has reverted to being Jeff Francoeur after a very good 2011 season resulted in a contract extension. Moore has a contract through 2014 and ownership won’t fire him now. Yost’s contract option for 2013 was exercised and he’ll get the start of 2013 to see how things go.

Jack Zduriencik, Seattle Mariners

I discussed Zduriencik when talking about the Ichiro Suzuki trade.

I think he’s safe for now.

Ozzie Guillen, Miami Marlins

With any other team employing a “name” manager with a 4-year contract, a change would be absurd. But this is the Marlins and the Marlins are not a bastion of logic and sanity. Guillen invited the ire of the Cuban community in Miami with his statement in support of Fidel Castro and was suspended; the team is a nightmare on and off the field and is ready and willing to do anything.

He’ll survive 2012, but if this continues into mid-season 2013, he’s going to get fired.

Dusty Baker, Cincinnati Reds

He’s not on the hotseat, but why has Baker’s contract status not been addressed? Unless there have been quiet assurances made to him that the public doesn’t know about, his deal expires at the end of this season. Say what you want about him, but if he’s got the talent on his roster, he wins. The Reds are in first place and rolling. He deserves a bit more security than he has.

Brad Mills, Houston Asros

Mills has done as good a job as he possibly could with a team that doesn’t have much talent, is in a major rebuild and is moving to the American League next season. GM Jeff Luhnow inherited Mills and it made little sense to fire the manager and pay someone else to run a team that would lose 95-100 games if John McGraw was managing it. Luhnow is going to hire his own man to manage the team and Mills will get another shot somewhere else eventually.

Bud Black, San Diego Padres

Black has never been a particularly strong strategic manager and his contract is only guaranteed through 2013 with club options for 2014-2015. There’s a new regime in place with GM Josh Byrnes and a new ownership coming in and they might want to make a change. I doubt it, but it’s possible.

Jim Tracy, Colorado Rockies

Dan O’Dowd was recently demoted from running to the team to overseeing the minor league system. Assistant GM Bill Geivett will run the big league club.

This is an odd set-up for an oddly run organization. O’Dowd’s contract status is unknown, but manager Jim Tracy has a “handshake agreement” to manage the team for an “indefinite” amount of time, whatever that means. One would assume that O’Dowd has a similarly bizarre deal.

I get the impression that O’Dowd is relieved to not have to run the team anymore. Perhaps he himself suggested this new arrangement. It’s hard to see Tracy surviving this season even though he’s a good manager and man and this isn’t his fault. Things went downhill for the Rockies when Troy Tulowitzki got hurt, but that won’t stop them from making a managerial change.

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Cardinals Hiring Of Matheny And The Plans Of Francona

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Mike Matheny, with no managerial experience but widely respected as a cerebral, defensively-oriented catcher on the field and a leader off the field, was hired to replace Tony LaRussa as the new manager of the world champion Cardinals.

It’s a gutsy hire, but he’s known in the clubhouse, will handle the media and, as a former catcher, will know what to do with the pitchers; the only question I’d have concerns with are his offensive strategies. Will he be a proponent of inside baseball and prefer the bunt and stolen base? Or will he rely on the power bats Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman and (presumably) Albert Pujols?

There will be instances of Matheny pulling a Joe Girardi and “managing” to make it look like he’s doing something when he should just let the players play.

Letting the players play is managing too. There’s no need to do “stuff” for the sake of it.

An overlooked positive with the Matheny hiring is his and pitching coach Dave Duncan‘s familiarity with one another from having worked together for so many years and each knowing how the other thinks—with Matheny, there’s a great chance Duncan stays on; given Duncan’s miracle-worker status, that’s far more important than the man who’s managing the team.

Terry Francona was passed over in favor of Matheny; it sounds unlikely that he’s going to join Theo Epstein with the Cubs.

So what should he do with no jobs left available?

He should wait.

Francona acquitted himself well as a broadcaster filling in for Tim McCarver in the ALCS and broadcasting would provide a way to stay around the game while allowing him to recharge his batteries; it would spare him of the substantial mental and physical exertion from the rigors of managing and will only do him good for his next opportunity.

Jobs could open during 2012—good jobs.

The Braves collapse was obscured by the one that cost Francona his job with the Red Sox. If they get off to a poor start, would they lose patience with Fredi Gonzalez in an “it wasn’t working” kind of way?

Francona would be great for Atlanta.

Reds manager Dusty Baker‘s contract is up after 2012; he and GM Walt Jocketty don’t see eye-to-eye.

Ned Yost grates on his players with his temper and he’s not a strategic wizard. Francona and the innocently climbing Royals—packed with young players and supposedly ready to spend to improve quickly—are a match.

The easiest thing to do when having done something for so long is to continue doing it, but that’s not always the best course of action. Burnout could extend to the interview process and if Francona’s continually going in for jobs that appear his to lose and he doesn’t get them, it adds more fuel to the fire that he was a product of the Red Sox substantial talent more than a two-time World Series winning manager on his own merits.

It could be a blessing in disguise and put Francona is a much better circumstance if he sits back and waits for another shot.

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Riggleman’s Not Dead, He Just Killed His Career

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Doug Glanville writes an interesting piece about Jim Riggleman on ESPN.com entitled, Remembering Riggs.

“Remembering Riggs” is something one would use to headline an obituary or a eulogy.

In a way, it’s accurate.

Glanville’s impassioned and believable defense of Riggleman notwithstanding, as I said right after the resignation was announced, there’s really no way for Riggleman to rebound from this and get another managerial job in the big leagues.

Club will forgive about anything.

Joe Girardi was called insubordinate by the Marlins and somehow got himself fired after winning Manager of the Year; Terry Collins endured two mutinies and was hired by the Mets, in part, because he doesn’t tolerate any nonsense; Jack McKeon‘s 80; Davey Johnson hasn’t managed in 11 years; Ned Yost got the axe with 2 weeks left in the 2008 season and his Brewers in playoff position; and managers who plainly and simply aren’t good at their jobs like Bud Black receive contract extensions.

Going back into history, you see other managers who received chance after undeserved chance because they’d accumulated friends in baseball or because they won.

Political patronage and nepotism keeps on employed in baseball. Winning nullifies personal issues which would exclude people from jobs in the workaday world.

Don Zimmer got the Cubs job because he was close with GM Jim Frey; Jeff Torborg was friends with Jeffrey Loria; and Billy Martin was George Steinbrenner’s quick-fix option despite his unreliability and self-destructive nature.

Riggleman is a better manager than many of the names listed; according to Glanville’s account, he’s also a better human being.

But he quit.

This accountability and loyalty line is great, but no one had a gun to Riggleman’s head when he signed the contract to manage the Nationals; he’s not stupid despite doing one overtly stupid thing in resigning. Had he played it out, waited and even gotten fired, there was the chance that he’d be hired as a manager again. Now he can forget it.

He’s not dead as the Glanville title implies, but his managerial career certainly is and it’s not coming back as a zombie either.

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Precision Strikes 5.17.2011

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Time for short bursts of stuff.

Let’s take a look.

Rafael Soriano, oh boy…Rafael Soriano.

Rafael Soriano’s comments regarding his elbow pain are laughable.

Actually, they’re not laughable; they’re indicative of the personality issues about which the Yankees were warned before signing him.

You can read the madness here on the LoHud blog.

There’s not much to say about a player who has exhibited the selfishness that Soriano has; the stupidity; the disinterest in team dynamics or living up to his contract and doing his job. It hearkens back to the days of the Yankees mercenaries in the 1980s with the likes of Mel Hall and Pascual Perez skulking and soiling the clubhouse.

Soriano is violating the team concept and cohesiveness that was one of the main attributes of the championship Yankees teams of the late 90s and it’s getting worse with every new incident, comment or self-serving act.

The Vin Mazzaro debacle.

In the grand scheme, it’s one game and is relatively meaningless in every context other than to make a young pitcher the butt of jokes; but I haven’t the faintest idea as to why Royals manager Ned Yost left Mazzaro in the game to absorb that kind of beating.

In case you missed it, Mazzaro allowed 14 earned runs in 2 1/3 innings.

You can make the case for letting him finish the 4th inning, but to send him out for the 5th was inexcusable.

There’s having a pitcher take one for the team and there’s idiotic abuse. That was idiotic abuse.

Mazzaro was sent to the minors after the game.

If this was anyone but LaRussa…

Tony LaRussa gets away with things because he’s Tony LaRussa. If it were any other manager who decides to bat the pitcher 8th; alter the entire way he uses his pitching staff; acts as condescending and thin-skinned as LaRussa sometimes does, they’d never, ever get away with it.

But because he’s rightfully considered one of the best managers in baseball history, he can do things others can’t.

Case in point was putting Albert Pujols at third base last night.

Pujols played third base when he first came to the big leagues, but hasn’t manned the position since 2002 when he appeared in 41 games there. He’s had elbow problems and the last thing the Cardinals need is for Pujols to blow out his arm making a throw from third base.

It’s too great a risk. But LaRussa did it and gets away with it whereas other managers wouldn’t. 2661 wins gives a fair amount of leeway.

A lot of leeway.

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The Art Of Presumption

Hot Stove

Does a loaded farm system preclude ineptitude at the highest levels?

Can talent overcome history?

What goes into developing a prospect and why do they fail?

These are all questions that have to be answered as young players inch their way into big league duty and they have to be addressed one way or the other before crediting an organization before the fact.

The Kansas City Royals are one such organization.

All I keep hearing—ad nauseam—is how the Royals have the “best” farm system in baseball; that they’re bursting with young players on the way up and will be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.

Whether or not that assertion is accurate remains to be seen—we won’t know until we know—but to automatically anoint a moribund franchise like the Royals as a team to be watched is ignoring the wretched history of both their current management team on and off the field and their poor history of building with young players.

GM Dayton Moore has been nothing short of awful in his time as Royals GM. Amid the muck of horrific maneuvers in both trades and free agent signings in his 4 1/2 years on the job are the egregious signings of Kyle Farnsworth, Willie Bloomquist, Jason Kendall, Horacio Ramirez and Jose Guillen and his trades for Mike Jacobs and Odalis Perez. He also dumped Jorge de la Rosa for essentially nothing.

The product at the big league level has been embarrassing. There’s no other word for it. Moore is on his third manager after the retirement of Buddy Bell and the firing of Trey Hillman; it’s Ned Yost and Moore now, joined at the hip—either they’ll take the step into prominence or go over the cliff like Wile E. Coyote in a puff of smoke…together.

This winter alone, he’s made two decisions that don’t fit into any category other than ridiculous. Signing Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera as anything more than cheap roster filler made no sense; it makes even less sense to sign them and expect them to play regularly.

He traded Zack Greinke for a large haul of the Brewers top prospects and got them to take Yuniesky Betancourt‘s contract off his hands as well. The Greinke trade has the potential to be a win for the Royals.

A few of his other calls have panned out. He acquired Joakim Soria in the 2006 Rule 5 draft and, as alluded to earlier, has built a farm system that is said to be among baseball’s best.Getting Brian Bannister for Ambiorix Burgos worked well enough; Gil Meche—despite criticism for the $55 million contract Moore bestowed upon him—was terrific for the first two years of the contract (record aside) and it was only overwork at the hands of the clueless Hillman that undid Meche and resulted in the pitcher getting injured. This too falls at the feet of Moore for not taking a stronger hand in keeping his player healthy.

But nothing short of a 2008 Rays-like leap into contention can rehabilitate Moore’s floundering reputation as a baseball boss.

Can it happen?

I have my doubts and not only because of Moore’s history. I have my doubts because of the myriad of factors that go into developing a young player into a competent big league contributor.

Having not read any of the “experts” regarding the Royals hot prospects, I can look through their statistics and reasonably determine exactly whom they’re expecting to arrive and immediately lead a renaissance in Kansas City.

Here’s a primer on how to do this if you’re looking to similarly examine any team’s minor league system: First, almost entirely ignore Triple A. Triple A is a moneymaker for their ownership and they want to win as many games as they can with somewhat marketable and recognizable borderline big league players. In general, it’s a mill for veterans who can fill in briefly at the big league level and is packed with players in their late 20s-early 30s—most of whom won’t contribute in the majors unless there’s a fluke or epiphany (or a nicely corked bat or cleverly scuffed ball).

Second, look at the numbers and the ages. For Triple A Omaha, the Royals did have a couple of names that might help them in the coming years—LHP Tim Collins and RHP Louis Coleman are two such prospects. After that, go down the line and look at the numbers of the players with the minor league affiliates from Double A on down. Check the ages first—if they’re in Double A and are 25 years old, it’s a red flag; then look at the numbers. If a hitter can do something like get on base, hit the ball out of the park, walk or steal bases, he may have some use down the line. For pitchers, look at their strikeouts, walks and hits to innings pitched ratios and how many homers they allow. ERA can be misleading, but it’s part of the puzzle.

Based on these aspects, here are the players I’d suspect are among the “hot” prospects the Royals supposedly have: 2B Johnny Giavotella; 1B Eric Hosmer; 3B Mike Moustakas. In the lower minors there are bats William Myers and lefty arms Buddy Baumann and John Lamb.

Talent-wise, the Royals future is bright.

But….

But can the major league staff develop these players? Will they be given a legitimate chance to play? Will Moore do something stupid like trade them for a useless and misjudged veteran player along the lines of Francoeur or Farnsworth?

It takes more than talent to succeed.

Manager Ned Yost‘s history is spotty in terms of developing youngsters. Intense to the point of over-the-edge, Yost was well on the way to steering his young Brewers team into a brick wall late in the 2008 season before he was fired. Had Yost been allowed to stay on the job, I don’t believe they would’ve righted the ship as they did under Dale Sveum and made the playoffs.

How many young and promising prospects did Yost have under his command in his six years as Brewers manager and how many made it? Rickie Weeks was up-and-down under Yost before coming into his own this season with a large amount of nurturing from Brewers former bench coach Willie Randolph. Prince Fielder isn’t the type to let any manager bother him one way or the other. J.J. Hardy was a solid bat and glove for a couple of years. Ryan Braun became a star. And Yovani Gallardo pitched well for Yost.

There weren’t any players for whom it could be said that Yost was a problem. As the 2008 season wound down, it was Yost’s explosiveness under pressure that laid the foundation for his necessary ouster.

The Royals have some top prospects that stagnated under Hillman. Alex Gordon has been injury-prone and, so far, a bust after being the second pick in the 2005 draft by the prior regime. I love Luke Hochevar‘s stuff, but he’s gotten blasted; he did show marked improvement under Yost. Kyle Davies may be one of those pitchers whose talent causes people’s mouths to water, but never puts it all together. Kila Ka’aihue has put up ridiculous numbers in the minors but, for some unfathomable reason, has never gotten a true chance to play every day in the big leagues. When he did get a shot late in 2010, he struggled.

Some prospects can’t be denied regardless of developmental incompetence.

Some can.

There’s no template for teaching youngsters to play in the big leagues, but there has to be a certain amount of inherent maturity. This has been evident in clubs that have had youngsters arrive seemingly from nowhere and take over their respective clubhouses in leading their teams to prominence. The Yankees with Derek Jeter; the Rockies with Troy Tulowitzki; the Rays with Evan Longoria; and the Giants with Tim Lincecum are examples of this.

Can this happen with Hosmer? With Moustakas?

For all the borderline libelous allegations levied against former Athletics manager Art Howe in the ridiculous Moneyball, one thing Howe was never credited for with the Athletics was how he didn’t screw up the young players by scaring the life out of them.

In all of Howe’s managerial stops with the Astros, A’s and Mets, there were young players who made their debuts and went on to have All Star careers and more. Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, David Wright, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and Jose Reyes among others all broke in with Howe as their manager.

You know their names.

They weren’t busts.

This is a subtle, notable and unappreciated accomplishment for a manager to have on his resume.

We’ve also seen the stifling of young talent until they’re petrified to make a mistake; to get hurt; to ruin the club’s faith. Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy were supposed to be cornerstones of the Yankees growing their own pitchers rather than flinging money at the free agents.

For all the babying, rules and overprotectiveness, Chamberlain’s stock is non-existent as they’ve ruined what once looked to be the heir apparent to Roger Clemens with the nursemaid routine and jerking him between starting and relieving, pitch counts and special treatment.

Kennedy was traded away because no one in the clubhouse could stand him, he didn’t listen and he was awful.

Can the Royals avoid this?

Is it safe to assume that because they have all that youthful exuberance on the way to the big leagues that they’ll begin to improve and win in the next 3-5 years?

I don’t know.

Judging from the way they’ve run their organization up to now under the current regime, there are more questions than simple ability and opportunity can answer; judging from Moore’s history, I’d be concerned he’s going to do something very, very stupid with the young players.

It’s not as if there’s no basis for this belief.

The evidence is overwhelming and all the talent in the world is no match for rampant stupidity. Will the talent the Royals have accumulated in their minor league system account for the repeated gaffes by their GM?

We’ll see.