As far as Royals fans go, I am one of the more optimistic.
I retained my family's season tickets while away at college so I wouldn't lose my childhood vantage point when the team finally returned to the postseason.
I attend upwards of 40 games a season since I moved back to the nation's bread basket in 2004.
I was so confident in General Manager Dayton Moore's abilities that I placed a bet with a buddy that Mike Jacobs would hit 30+ HR, and, given the spacious Kauffman Stadium outfield, Coco Crisp would have an OPS north of .790 with 30+ SB.*
* I was drunk with name recognition.
My thinking: Moore's a smart guy and if he brought these guys here at the expense of the bullpen, he must have seen abilities that mirrored my hopes*.
* After all, his tenure—in a nutshell—is basically turning Emil Brown's into Jose Guillen's: slightly better models with whom you still cannot win.
Still, after last season's debacle, I remained optimistic going into the offseason.
We have the best pitcher in baseball (Zack Greinke), an established veteran (Gil Meche), a few great pitching prospects (Aaron Crow, Luke Hochever), and a back of the bullpen stud (Joakim Soria).
We have some trade-bait material (Alberto Callaspo, Mark Teahen, Jose Guillen) and expiring (or bought out) contracts (John Buck, Coco Crisp, Miguel Olivo, Mike Jacobs) alleviating some pressure on an otherwise-tight budget.
Common sense would show that pitching is the team's strong suit and—while it would be nice to add offense—defense and additional arms should be the focus and priority in order to improve immediately.
If the team is able to win two of the three phases of the game—offense, defense, or pitching— their win/loss percentage should improve dramatically.
Given the financial state of the team and where they are talent-wise, it makes sense to address pitching and defense. Offense* will be very expensive to rectify.
*The Royals will be better-suited to address the offense when top draft picks begin to mature in a couple years so they can worry about adding pieces instead of establishing the foundation.
This brings me to what has led me to my tipping point, and an admission that I had to make: This offseason has been completely misguided, and I fear that Dayton Moore may not know what he is doing.
Despite his pedigree, coming up under Atlanta's Jon Scheurholz, maybe his assistant-status meant he was simply riding coattails.
Possible over-investment in upper management signings in Kansas City is becoming quite common, as many are wondering if they have done the same thing across the parking lot at One Arrowhead Drive: Is Scott Pioli the real deal or is he simply the product of a good New England system?
One thing's for sure, Scott Pioli will not last as long as Dayton Moore* if success at Arrowhead becomes as elusive as it has been at Kauffman Stadium.
* Dayton Moore was actually re-signed for another five years this past August...after a 97 loss season!!!
The main focus of the Winter Meetings was deemed to be a catching replacement for John Buck and Miguel Olivo. Despite Brayan Pena's competency , the team felt like a contingency plan was in order.
That makes sense if we are building up pitching and defense; the catcher is the defensive quarterback.
There were several free agent options—all veterans with the same price tags.
Ivan Rodriguez (signed two/$6 million), Rod Barajas (Unsigned), and Jason Kendall (signed two/$6 million) were immediately linked to the Royals.
For various reasons , Kendall was the weak option in the group...at least we thought.
Whether it was a lack of action, instinct or scouting ability, Moore passed on the veteran defensive marvel and the best teaching option for Pena—Ivan Rodriguez—and the cheaper Miguel Olivo model—Rod Barajas—for the over-priced has-been option with diminished playing abilities. Kendall has a .243 batting average since 2007, and has completely lost his base stealing ability (his one-time distinction). His impressive caught-stealing rate in 2008 (41 of 96, 42.7 percent) didn't last long either, as he regressed to his standard sub-20 percent last season.
While the point has been made by a reliable source that, though this move is horrible, it doesn't really matter, Dayton Moore continues to draw attention to it by insisting to the Kansas City Star that, "He’s (Jason Kendall) going to have a tremendous influence on our organization."
In actuality, the moves that have potential to be tremendous influences on the Royals franchise are the deals that bookended this:
The acquisition of Josh Fields and Chris Getz for Mark Teahen showed a commitment to liberating talent we have not been able to win with in favor of youth and one-to-three-year players.
The signing of Brian Anderson for $700,000 . This deal has no risk and has high reward possibilities. Anderson was once a highly regarded White Sox prospect, and, though his star has faded, he is only 27 years old and adds potential while possibly filling huge team voids* at a cheap price.
* Lead off & Centerfield...since Moore bawked at an opportunity for Juan Pierre who the Dodgers ate a lot of contract from when he was dealt to the White Sox who are paying a mere $8 million over the next two years for his services
I am not sure if Dayton Moore downplays these youth signings and touts a signing like Jason Kendall because he is unable to commit to an offseason game plan, or if he really believes Kendall is a name that will put fans in seats.
Either option is discouraging.
After last season's regression, I did not want to see the names Kendall, Anderson, Fields, and Getz as the "big additions" for 2010.
Neither does Zack Greinke, our best player and main building block who is growing more and more frustrated with losing.
There is still time, though, and an Eric Bedard, Jarrod Washburn, or Ryan Church sprinkled in the mix would make us all a bit more confident in our leadership.
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