Well, it’s been exactly a month since my last “Over and Out” post.
It wasn’t exactly a well thought-out plan to post exactly a month later, but here I am. I honestly don’t know how much I’ll feel like updating this blog, but today’s post is a long one.
Let me digress from Royals issues directly for a moment to discuss the nature of management—particularly the nature of first-time managers.
First-time managers don’t always succeed, and they don’t always fail. They come in, they make their changes, and either they work or not. If they work, then fine. But if they don’t, the manager usually learns from his or her mistakes—but they do so on the next job.
When managers fail, the moment in time that their failure becomes obvious is not usually followed quickly by their termination. Their employers tend to hang on to them for a while longer so they get a “fair chance” to fix their mistakes and right the ship. Usually, firing ends a long period where everyone around them knows they’re about to get whacked, but management doesn’t do it.
Some managers recognize their failure when it happens, and the take corrective action to fix their mistakes. Those managers have a long and productive career.
For Allard Baird, the moment in time when it was obvious that his vaunted five-year plan wasn’t working came at some point in the 2004 season, when brief competitiveness in 2003 was followed by a 100-loss season. Nearly all of Baird’s moves came a cropper, while his draft picks failed at the MLB level, one by one.
For Dayton Moore, that moment should be occurring right now. Dayton can either take some actions to change his program and save his job, or he can continue on the same pattern and be a lame-duck general manager until he’s fired sometimes in 2011.
Not that Moore would actually read this anonymous missive, but just in case someone sees it, here, as I see it, are the things he will have to do in order to retain his job as anything more than a lame-duck GM:
1. Humble himself
This might be the toughest thing of all for Moore to do.
Moore needs to realize that, when the paying customers are watching their team become a joke yet again, nobody wants to hear the GM talk about how much more he knows than they know, and how great he and the manager are.
There’s an old business maxim: "The only measure of achievement is results." Moore and Hillman, your results suck. Hence, at this very moment in time, you suck.
Perhaps you should acknowledge, and even own, a little bit of your suckery. Throw yourself on the mercy of the fans. Admit that you screwed up in more than one area.
Part of humbling oneself is the act of reversing past bad decisions, even if the act of reversing is painful and amounts to a public admission that you screwed the pooch.
So, how does Moore do this?
Start by getting rid of Jose Guillen. Eat his entire 2010 salary, if necessary, and take nothing in return. I’m talking pure unconditional release. The reason is simple: He’s hurting the team simply by being on it. When you’re a corner outfielder with an OPS of .688, you’re playing below replacement level. So replace him.
Others that should be released, traded for the proverbial bag of baseballs, or non-tendered include John Buck, Miguel Olivo, Mike Jacobs, the recently-acquired Yuniesky Betancourt, Mitch Maier, John Bale, and probably a few others.
Some of these will be painful, since they are highly-publicized Moore acquisitions, but they play below replacement level and hurt the team.
2. Embrace Statistics
Moore is very publicly on record for not understanding, and not paying attention to, advanced statistical analysis.
In 2009, this borders on mental retardation.
Statistical analysis is one area where a smaller market team like the Royals can compete on an even basis with the big-market clubs, and Moore is disregarding it. The problem with a complete scouting approach, as Baird proved before Moore, is that you have virtually zero margin for error on drafts and acquisitions. And the lack of statistical analysis greatly raises the odds of error.
I would propose immediately empaneling a three-person stat staff. The Director of Statistical Player Evaluation would head it up and report directly to Moore. He would be in charge of player evaluation at the MLB level and at the draft level. He would be required to report to Moore with analysis on every proposed trade or free agent signing at the MLB level, and also to participate in draft boarding.
The Director of Statistical Player Evaluation would have two assistants. One would be in charge of player evaluation at the minor league level. Basically, he’d be the stat geek in charge of finding virtually free talent like Emil Brown, Matt Diaz, Alberto Callaspo, Esteban German, etc. And before you laugh at any of these players, remember that all of them gave the Royals some good service at bargain-basement prices—exactly what you want in a small market.
The third person would be in charge of in-game analysis. He’d be somewhere in the stadium with a laptop and a direct wire to the clubhouse so he could give advice on pitching matchups, pinch hitters, etc. Year after year, fans have watched managers play righty/lefty percentages with players and pitchers who have no platoon splits, put in relievers who have horrendous records against particular players, etc. This person would be designed to fix that and provide the manager with another source of decision making data.
The creation of, and heavy use of, this department would be a very public declaration that Moore is willing to use whatever tools available to fix this organization.
3. Fire Trey Hillman
This one will be especially painful, since the most critical hire a GM makes is the field manager, and firing a manager is a very loud public admission that the GM screwed up.
But fire Trey he must.
Hillman’s in-game decisions have ranged from the wacky to the nearly criminal, particularly in his overuse of pitching arms. He’s used his $55 million pitching ace like a rented pack mule, and all three of the Royals' best pitchers have complained of "dead arms" after marathon outings dictated by Hillman.
This alone should be reason to fire him, however, it’s clear that he’s incapable of keeping our players at a high level of intensity throughout a season. The players have, as no less than Joe Posnanski noted, simply quit on Hillman this year.
He needs to go and be replaced with an experienced manager capable of winning.
4. Find a way to use Alberto Callaspo
The more I think about it, Callaspo might be the Rosetta Stone to fixing the Royals’ organization.
The Royals picked him up off for virtually nothing, they pay him peanuts, and he’s the second-best hitter in the organization. He’s also a butcher on defense.
As Billy Beane noted in Moneyball, one big key to success in a small-market organization is finding a way to productively use players that most other teams would reject or bench.
Well, here’s Alberto.
Prior to 2009, he hadn’t a major league homer in nearly 400 at-bats, and most prognosticators predicted that he might never have one. He had a good average, a good on-base percentage, and no power, it was said.
And yet, here he is developing power at 26. In 424 at-bats, Callaspo has seven home runs, three triples, and 30 doubles, and he has looked like the proverbial walking line drive for most of the season. His line is .295/.346/.429 so far this year, and he has more walks (34) than strikeouts (31).
He turns 27 next year—which, for many players, is the breakout year. As he develops power, it’s not inconceivable that he could be your basic .300/.350/.475 hitter who hits 15 homers and 40 doubles a year.
His lack of defensive skills will hold down other teams’ interest in him, which hurts both his trade potential and his open-market earning potential. This means that a Callaspo trade—which some advocate—will likely return little, and certainly nothing at the MLB level.
In my mind, Callaspo is precisely the type of player that the Royals must figure out how to use if they want to succeed. He is low-priced, has low trade value, and has high offensive potential.
But what to do with him?
I see two options: Corner outfield or DH. Don’t laugh—yes, I said DH.
How many Royal DH’s in recent years have been able to consistently carry an OPS of .800? Other than Mike Sweeney, I’m drawing a blank.
I know that Kila is the Great Hawaiian Hope, but the truth is that he’s regressed badly at Omaha this year, and he might not be able to hit like Callaspo can. We should find out, of course, but we need to forget about trading Callaspo and work him in left field, with a DH contest as a backup plan.
Making the most of players that aren’t highly valued by other organizations is a hallmark of good small-market teams. If the Royals truly intend to be such a team, they might as well start with the second-best hitter on the club. It will take work, but it will pay off, and it’s much better than trading him away for jack squat.
Well, there you have it—Dayton Moore’s roadmap toward saving his job and hopefully righting the organization. To be honest, I doubt that any of these things will happen, which is why my enthusiasm for this organization is so low right now.