Seeing the Crown for the Jewels

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Brewers:
Records/Playoff Results:
2004: 67-94
2005: 81-81
2006: 75-87
2007: 83-79
2008: 90-72 (Lost in NLDS)

Notable 2008 additions/resigns: Guillermo Mota, Jason Kendall, Salomon Torres, Eric Gagne, Gabe Kapler, Mike Cameron, Russell Branyan, CC Sabathia.
Notable 2008 subtractions: Francisco Cordero, Corey Koskie, Geoff Jenkins, Kevin Mench, Gabe Gross.

No Kenny Lofton here, but the Brewers still made the playoffs anyway.

As a long-time Wisconsin resident who saw many a Brewer game, this five-year stretch was the most exciting I’d had in my lifetime, baseball-wise. The Brewers were a team that had a lot of turnover and flowthrough of old or aging players. Still, the lineup featured Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy, Ryan Braun, Bill Hall, and Corey Hart, all Milwaukee-raised players. Even Alcides Escobar showed up for a few games. Ben Sheets, Manny Parra, and Carlos Villanueva all made sizable contributions on the pitching side. That’s a solid nine farm-raised players in strong contributing roles. Fill in the wholes with guys like Jason Kendall and Mike Cameron and you’ve got a playoff team!

Okay, so they only won one game in the playoffs. That’s when you ask yourself whether that one playoff win in the last 26 years would be worth a frustrating couple of years following that. They still finished second to the Cubs in the NL Central and barely made the playoffs (last game of the season), but that’ll make you start to wonder what might happen in Kansas City. The Milwaukee progress mirrors a lot of what could happen for the Royals, so the sobering fact that long-term success isn’t a guarantee and the Brewers ended up selling the farm to reach the postseason makes me wonder what tough position the Royals will find themselves in when the time comes. Without bringing in the guys they did and getting lucky with some of their production, the Brewers wouldn’t have made it.

Then again, Kendall did hit .246/.327/.324 that year. So that lowers expectations a bit.

Angels:
Records/Playoff Results:
2005: 95-67 (Lost in ALCS)
2006: 89-73
2007: 94-68 (Lost in ALDS)
2008: 100-62 (Lost in ALDS)
2009: 97-65 (Lost in ALCS)

Honestly, I’m not even going to attempt to analyze this one. The Angels won the World Series in 2002. They had a losing record in 2003, but returned to the playoffs in 2004. This isn’t even remotely similar to the Royals in any way. The Angels knew success beforehand and had a strong core built up before the farm system was even ranked so high. It’s not worth the comparison, as the Royals have mostly had a rotating group of players and no success. This one doesn’t apply at all.

Diamondbacks:
Records/Playoff Results:
2006: 76-86
2007: 90-72 (Swept in NLCS)
2008: 82-80
2009: 70-92
2010: 65-97

Notable 2007 additions/resigns: Doug Davis, Randy Johnson.
Notable 2007 subtractions: Luis Gonzalez, Miguel Batista, Craig Counsell, Greg Aquino, Luis Vizcaino.

This is, I think, a fairly similar situation to what the Royals will find themselves in a couple years from now. The Diamondbacks had a solid group of young Diamondback talent in Chris Snyder, Conor Jackson, Stephen Drew, Mark Reynolds, Chris Young, Carlos Quentin, Brandon Webb, Tony Pena, and Jose Valverde, all of whom contributed considerably to the team’s success. They let some older guys walk and traded away some others to bring in a couple pitchers that helped lock down the rotation. The main point of the team, however, was that they relied on strong youthful talent to carry them through the season.

And they were successful. Very successful. That was a great 2007 campaign. Had the Rockies not been unbelievably hot at that point Arizona might have reached the World Series. It’s one of those hard parts of baseball competition. Look at the years headed up to 2007. Sure, they won it all in 2001, reached the playoffs in 2002, and had a winning record in 2003, but from 2004 to 2006 they went a combined 204-282. That included a 51-111 season in 2004. Things were tough, but they stacked the prospects and nailed a great season in 2007. I’m sure it was a fun ride for Diamondbacks fans, but it serves as a notice that even when things go right and you stack your roster with home-grown players, the ending of the story isn’t always truly happy.

The Diamondbacks were just as bad as the Royals last year. That’s just something else to keep in mind.

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Tags: AL Central Arizona Diamondbacks Baseball Chicago Cubs Chicago White Sox Cleveland Indians Danny Duffy Dayton Moore Eric Hosmer John Lamb Kansas City Royals KC Mike Montgomery Mike Moustakas Milwaukee Brewers MLB Royals Tampa Bay Rays Texas Rangers Wil Myers

  • http://motorcitybengals.com Chris

    It seems like the big issue is now going to be ‘the process’ by which prospects are turned into regular contributors. It seems to me that the Royals, in Moore’s tenure, have preferred to give playing time to mediocre veteran retreads while real prospects rot on the bench or in AAA. If the team is going to lose now, win later: exactly how many games is Jeff Francoeur going to play? How many starts are going to go to Jeff Francis?

    • http://www.kingsofkauffman.com Gage Matthews

      You’re absolutely right, Chris. That has been how Moore and Yost have handled things in the past. I want you to look at last season, though. They played Ankiel (when healthy), Podsednik, and Guillen quite a bit. Then, when their value was high enough from that play time, Moore traded them and picked up as least somewhat useful pieces for each of them. This past offseason, they signed Francoeur (as we all thought they would) and then brought in Melky Cabrera, which they’ve admitted was before they thought they’d get Cain in a deal. Both of those guys could potentially be turned for other young guys. If Cabrera doesn’t cut it and no one is interested in him, I wouldn’t be surprised if Moore lets him go.

      Basically, you’re right that that’s how things have been handled. But do you think they’d really play Betemit over Moustakas if Moustakas was showing great ability? They’ve been playing guys with trade value over AAAA and back-up players like Mitch Maier and Kila. While they definitely have use, they’re never going to lead a team to a championship. I think there’s a pointed difference between the past and the future, namely that there will be guys who could absolutely deserve the play time.

      And I don’t understand the problem with Francis? Who’s he blocking? Montgomery, Lamb, and Dwyer, who aren’t ready? Yost himself said they only have three starters who are absolutely locked in right now, so if the young guys that are closer to the majors, like Duffy and Teaford, show that they deserve a chance more than, say, Davies, they could very well get it.

      I get the pessimism. I also have the pessimism. But I think this year will start to define how things are really changing. The beginning will be if Cain shows up in Spring Training, beats out Cabrera, and starts in CF on March 31. That’s the first signal of 2011 that things are different.

      That’s a long-winded reply, but I think that’s everything.

    • http://www.kingsofkauffman.com Gage Matthews

      Okay, I’m going to answer again now that I’m further removed from working out and not amped up like Mike Aviles after shoulder surgery.

      Chris, you’re right. That’s exactly what it’s been. But, like I said before, I want to make clear that the players being blocked before either weren’t ready to contribute or were put at a disadvantage while guys like Pods, AnKiel, and Guillen built trade value. That’s changing now. Francis really isn’t blocking anyone (if anyone blocks young guys, it’ll be Chen) and after watching the Royals get rid of Juan Cruz last seaosn, I have a feeling that they’re more willing to ditch non-producing players.

      You may very well still be right. But when the new guys deserve to play, I think they’ll make room. I just have a feeling. It’s partially inspired by the way Yost and Moore have been talking lately (including at Digital Digest) and partially by my own slowly-growing optimism. I hope you’re wrong and that doesn’t happen, but I guess there’s still probably a 60% chance that it does, at least in 2011.

    • http://kingsofkauffman.com Michael Engel

      I’ll add that Moore is setting up his farm system to 1) be major league ready and 2) to be successful long-term.

      Some of the guys in the minors could probably do just fine, or at least average, in the majors, but service time considerations are enough incentive to keep them in the minors for further refinement. Duffy, Montgomery, Moose et al aren’t going to be difference makers in 2011 and playing them right away just adds days to their service clock. That could mean the difference between moving Moustakas or letting him walk a year earlier than you would need to by delaying him a month or two.

      I’d rather see guys playing every day in Triple A than sitting on the bench (like Kila for his first stint up last year), but once they make it up, they’ll be in the lineup.

      The last few players to make major league debuts for the Royals have been Dusty Hughes, Victor Marte, Kila, Jarrod Dyson, Greg Holland and such. That’s a much different crop of players than the top ten guys we have now.

      It’s frustrating, but at least there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s not 2005 when the cupboard was bare at both the major and minor league levels.