Eli's Coming

Hopefully you’re familiar with the Aaron Sorkin series Sports Night.  If not, here’s the quick synopsis – it’s a dramatic comedy (or comedic drama or dramedy) about the anchors and producers of a national sports television network.

In one episode, the network is undergoing turmoil about content choices and differences between the owner and Isaac Jaffe, managing editor of the Continental Sports Channel.  The chaos brings on a sense of foreboding doom to Casey McCall, lead anchor:

Dan Rydell: Eli’s Coming.

Casey McCall: Eli?

Dan Rydell: From the Three Dog Night song.

Casey McCall: Yes?

Dan Rydell: Eli is something bad, a darkness.

Casey McCall: “Eli’s coming. Hide your heart, girl.” Eli is a inveterate womanizer. I think you’re getting the song wrong.

Dan Rydell: I know I’m getting the song wrong. But, when I first heard it, that’s what I thought it meant. Things stick with you that way.

What’s this have to do with Royals baseball?

Jason Kendall played in a minor league game today.  After massive tears in his rotator cuff last summer and reconstructive surgery, he’s ahead of schedule and has a target of opening day for his return.

Even worse?  In the minor league game, he batted second.  Now, maybe that’s just a way to get him extra at bats in the game and give him a good test of the shoulder.  Maybe that’s all it is.

But since Ned Yost took over, Kendall found his way into the #2 spot in the batting order way too often for sanity’s sake.  If he does make it back in time for opening day (or even April) and with Mike Aviles most likely to bat leadoff, I do’t think it’s a jump to assume that Kendall will return to his rightful place batting ahead of Billy Butler in 2011.

The Royals overpaid for a bad catcher when they signed Kendall.  It’s done.  Much like last spring, when Jose Guillen‘s contract looked like a sunk cost, so is Kendall’s.  He’s going to play, and there’s no way I can change that from my desk.  But he shouldn’t play as often or bat as high as he did last season.  At this point, it’s about minimizing the damage he can do.

Here’s my solution, then, on the idea that Kendall is all but guaranteed to monopolize the playing time.  Keep Luke May around.  The Royals are looking for the catcher of the future, and maybe May isn’t that, but he’s a fill-in option if Kendall gets hurt again.  Have Manuel Pina catching everyday in Omaha.  While I’d like him to be the starting catcher most of the time, Brayan Pena is probably out the door once Kendall comes back, if not later this spring.  The Astros need a catcher and Pena could get a minor league arm back in a trade at least.

It stinks, because I like Brayan Pena.  Maybe he’s not really any good defensively, but he can hit when given the opportunity.  He’s a likeable guy, always smiling, and even offered to sign a ten year contract with the Royals for the league minimum (reportedly).

Jason Kendall‘s going to make more than $3 million this year.  He has to get his playing time.  There’s probably some Melky-like promise involved here, too.  So somebody has to go, and Pena has the best chance to return something.

This is all shuffling chairs until Salvador Perez is ready for the show anyway.

I’m not so callous as to wish reinjury or aggravation of an injury to another person.  I hope Jason Kendall can recover and go on to lead his life with full use and ability of his right shoulder.

I just wish he’d stay at home while he does so.

I sense a darkness coming.  Something bad.  And a 75 OPS+ since 2005 is pretty bad.

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Brayan Pena Jason Kendall Kansas City Royals KC Manuel Pina MLB Royals Salvador Perez

  • Tom Barkwell

    As depressing as this column is, it does make sense in a perverse way (dammit). If the brain trust insists on inflicting the pain that is Jason Kendall’s game on us six days a week for the next six months — and Lord I hope that isn’t true, please please please make it not be true — we might as well generate some sort of return (any return at all) for our suffering.

  • jim fetterolf

    I think Pena will be fine, backed up by May. Brayan hit well enough in full time duty last year and had, as I remember from one of the Star number crunchers, better results from the pitchers than Kendall did. Put Kendall on IR at the beginning of the year and send him to Surprise and let him use his toughness and leadership for some good, rather than putting him in the line up to kill rallies. Then if someone makes a good offer for Pena or Kendall at the All-Star break, ship them out and bring Pina up, the best defender of the group. Pena has earned a shot, Kendall has earned being out of KC. That simple, to me.

  • http://twitter.com/T_R_Armstrong Tim Armstrong

    It’s easy to be hard on Kendall. Sure as I’m sittin’ here he’s gonna bat 2nd at some point this year, thus causing the crowd at the K to wish someone (maybe Mama) had told them not to come. Really though, whether he starts the season in Kansas City or Arizona, what does it matter? Kendall’s light will never shine in the Halls of Cooperstown.

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