MLB.com is running a series where each team’s writer answers 10 questions about the the 2010 season for the team. Dick Kaegel lost all credibility with me by the time I was finished reading his answers.
I want to preface all of this by saying that I envy Dick Kaegel. He gets to cover the Kansas City Royals and gets paid to do so. He followed a path in life that I probably would have taken myself if I had figured things out before I went to college instead of 10 years after I was done with college.
He often writes stuff in his MLB.com articles that makes me chuckle. It’s not through any fault of his own. Considering his position, he has to write and report on the team in a responsible and optimistic manner. He has to tread lightly to preserve positive relationships with the players, front office, and basically anyone involved with the Kansas City Royals organization. Further, what he does provides members of the Royals blogosphere extremely valuable quotes and information they wouldn’t otherwise have. We need guys like Dick Kaegel, Bob Dutton, and Sam Mellinger. In reality we probably need more people on each team’s beat, but sadly that’s not the way things work any more.
I’m not going to break down all his responses, but his responses to the first and last questions grabbed my attention.
1. Will this finally be the year the Royals can get over .500 and possibly even contend?
Absolutely. Of course, that’s what the optimist in me thinks every year. The Royals haven’t won a thing since 1985, and they haven’t been over .500 since 2003. The American League Central is pretty balanced, though Minnesota should have the edge in 2010. I’m looking for another big year from Zack Greinke, with solid support this time from Gil Meche, Brian Bannister and Joakim Soria. The defense should be tighter with Chris Getz at second and Jason Kendall catching. Speed has been added with Chris Getz. It’ll take a breakout year for Alex Gordon, a la Billy Butler in 2009, a career rebirth for Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop and a typical David DeJesus season to get ‘er done.
This is where I chuckle. This is also where I reflect on the fact that he has to cover this team on a regular basis, and again has to try and maintain amiable relationships with everyone in the organization.
Another big year from Greinke? I’m on board with that, but he turned in one of the best seasons by a starter in major league history last year. To expect him to repeat that is absolutely asinine. Maddux and Pedro have managed to pull off such a feat so it’s not impossible, but the probability is that Zack will regress a little in 2010. His “regression” may still earn him the 2010 Cy Young Award. He went from an ERA+ of 124 in 2007 and 126 in 2008 to a whopping 205 in 2009. Turning in a season with an ERA+ above 150 puts you in the conversation for the Cy Young Award, so Zack could wind up in the 170s, have an excellent season, and the team would be a few games worse because of it. Bottom line is that if you are banking on any starting pitcher to throw up an ERA+ season of 200 or better to succeed, that pretty much sums up the rest of your team.
Solid support this time from Meche, Bannister, and Soria? First we have to recognize that the manager had a lot to do with Meche’s collapse after his 132 pitch outing, and Trey showed no indication that he learned from those events as the season went on. As far as Brian Bannister goes, I don’t see what in his history leads anyone to believe he can provide solid support for an entire year. He has shown he can be solid in stretches, but has never had a complete season. Once Trey had burnt out Gil, he turned his sights on BB and he went down too. Bannister has 4 ML seasons under his belt and he hit the DL in (at least) two of them. Soria, like Zack, can be counted on. However, if Joakim has to routinely pitch in the 8th and 9th innings to finish off games, then another DL stint is likely in his future as well.
To top all of that off, what are the odds that Zack, Gil, BB, and Soria all stay completely healthy for the entire season?
The defense should be tighter with Chris Getz at second and Jason Kendall catching? I’m not 100% sold on that fact. In his “prospect” days Alberto Callaspo profiled to be an average to above average defensive player once he reached the majors. We surely haven’t seen that in Kansas City. Chris Getz is in the same boat. He profiles as someone that should be an average to above average defensive player, but he didn’t meet that standard in 2009. Will he be better than Alberto? Maybe, but I’m not going to put money down on that one. Kendall will be better defensively than Buck, Olivo, and Pena. The question is how much worse off the team is offensively with Kendall in the lineup. His signing also put Pena at the back of the DH line with Callaspo, Guillen, and potentially Fields and Ka’aihue in front of him for those at bats. The Royals didn’t lose just the production of the Olivo and Buck tandem, but also the production of Pena on most days, since Dayton has already made it clear Kendall will be the starting catcher.
Chris Getz does add speed, but how much will that be cancelled out by 3B coach Dave Owen? Teahen, DeJesus, and company were all regarded as decent baserunners in their career and then Dave Owen came along. Is Chris Getz immune to Owen’s flaws? I sure hope so, but I doubt it.
We’ve been waiting on the breakout by Gordon for years. While we can hope it will come in 2010, there is no indication that it will happen.
To have a “rebirth” in your career you have to have something viable to return to. The best OPS+ of Betancourt’s career came in 2007 and even then it was only 93. He’s not an offensive force, and he’s not a defensive force. He’s a below average player that if he turned in a career season might end up being average.
A typical season by DeJesus? That depends on where Trey bats him in the lineup. I beat this horse to death during the early part of the 2009 season but it bears repeating here. DJ hit 0.306/.378/.457 in 426 plate appearances last season, most of which came after Coco Crisp was done for the season. Hitting everywhere else in the lineup he amassed 42 hits in 182 at bats for a 0.231 BA. As a leadoff hitter he drew 40 walks and struck out 53 times. Hitting everywhere else in the lineup he drew 11 walks and struck out 34 times. Is anyone going to be surprised if Brian N. Anderson or Chris Getz are hitting leadoff while DJ struggles hitting 2nd? I’m actually going to be surprised if that doesn’t happen.
Then again, while I don’t agree with what he’s saying, I understand why he’s saying it. Then I got to the last question.
10. Where will the Royals finish next season?
First place, with 88 victories (copy, paste and save to read on Oct. 3 on your way to the playoffs).
That’s not optimism or treading lightly to maintain healthy relationships. That’s absolutely insane. With the rotation, bullpen, and lineup the Royals look to be rolling out on a daily basis they’re going to be lucky to win 70 games in 2010, and that’s if a lot of things break in their favor.
The Twins look to be better. They took a lot of hits due to injury last year and still won the division. Don’t even think the move outdoors is going to cause them to lose any sort of home field advantage. Their rotation was in shambles for most of the season and outside of Blackburn who turned in what you’d expect, the rest of the starters largely underperformed. A healthy Mauer, Morneau, and Slowey with the addition of J.J. Hardy and the removal of Carlos Gomez in favor of Denard Span in CF will all cause this team to be better.
The Twins will have stiff competition from the White Sox who could contend even if their lineup and defense was as bad as the Royals. Chicago will run out a rotation of Peavy, Buehrle, Danks, and Floyd which you can stack up against any other top 4 in MLB. Oh yeah their bullpen is pretty good too.
It’s one thing to be overly optimistic, even if it is basically a requirement of your job. It is another thing to look at something that is pitch black and try to sell someone on the fact that it is stark white. This is exactly what Kaegel is doing with his responses and because of it he loses all credibility, regardless of the circumstances of his job, with his response to question #10 and to a lesser degree to question #1.
I can only come to one conclusion.
Dick Kaegel has been sipping Dayton Moore’s delightful elixir of delusion.