Johnny Giavotella (9) Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

A Predictable Storyline


Sometimes organizations continually push the envelope in terms of their own progression. Players are acquired, and then when a mistake is realized, a different path is taken. That’s how you learn, how you evolve, how you avoid having the same outcome year after year. After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.

Sometimes organizations never get outside of their box. Their schema is ingrained in every aspect of their operations and they are never – out of presumably fear, but possibly ignorance – altered for any reason, despite what evidence there is to do so.

On Sunday the Royals announced that Johnny Giavotella was optioned to Triple A and they plan to start some combination of Chris Getz and Yuniesky Betancourt at second base.

This should come as no real surprise to any fan. The Royals, who have made questionable decisions with the roster over the past five seasons and have already established a loose understanding of how outs work, have elected to field what may be the worst hitting middle infield in baseball.

The idea that a young pitching staff needs to have a quality defense behind it in order to not lose confidence, or whatever reason may be given, is nice. But when a lineup will consist of No. 7, No. 8, and No. 9 (and possibly No. 6 as well) batters that will all struggle to post on-base percentages of just .300, just how important is their defense, really? Hitters that struggle at baseball’s most fundamental skill of not making outs on offense can’t be considered valuable to the team as everyday players. But, in the case of Getz and Betancourt, all of that is ignored because of some indefinable, and statistically disproven, ability to make plays on ground balls.

When all is considered of Betancourt’s inability to get on base or Chris Getz’s inability to bat a ball into the outfield, none of that is nearly as frustrating as it is to know that this decision was made before Spring Training. Because, don’t kid yourself, it was.

Responsible organizations don’t make roster/playing time decisions in a year that they’re supposed to contend or have some “Mission” to attain, based off of what amounts to 40 at-bats in scrimmage games. If so, there would be no greater argument given to the idea of sample sizes.

If Giavotella came into camp with a bad attitude, out of shape, or some other trait detrimental to his production, then sending a player down for a “wake up call” could be warranted. But nothing of the sort has even been hinted at over the past month.

Instead, stories of Getz’s completely revamped offensive game or Betancourt’s transition to second base have littered the Royals narrative. This was never a position that was Giavotella’s to lose, as it should have been, but instead it was his job to win. And the decision of whether the younger, more talented Giavotella had won the job or not, was made before camp ever opened. He doesn’t fit in the box of the type of player the Royals like. He’s not safe enough. He gets on base too much.

As Rob Neyer wrote, this is the status quo for an organization that has continually circled the parking lot around the arena of interesting. There are no surprises; there are no changes. There is only a process in which to operate in the same manner that the operation has always been done.

Just as there are those defending the Phillies for their decision to let go of Ryan Madson while overpaying for Jonathan Papelbon, simply because now Madson is hurt, there will be those that defend the decision to play Getz and Betancourt if, somehow, they out-perform their histories and are at least slightly below league-average. It will be credited to some kind of “human element” and some kind of knowledge that baseball people possess that no one else ever could. It will be defended because the outcome was favorable.

But, just as is the case with the Phillies, favorable outcomes do not excuse bad process. And the process that concludes with Giavotella in Triple A and Getz and Betancourt sharing time at second base, was a predictable one.

 

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Chris Getz Johnny Giavotella Kansas City Royals KC KC Royals MLB Yuniesky Betancourt

  • jim fetterolf

    The job has been Gio’s to lose since he was called up last year and he succeeded, last year apparently due to a hip injury he hadn’t mentioned to the team, perhaps this year because he hasn’t completely healed from off-season surgery, which would be the best reason to send him down for rehab. Perez had the same chance last year and seized it. Gio is this year’s Mike Aviles, the “Great Not-Getz Hope” of some niches in the blogoshere. I hope Gio comes around, otherwise we’ll get to spend several months clamoring for Christian Colon to be brought up.

  • Kevin Scobee

     @jim fetterolf 9 extra-base hits in over 400 PA’s last year – there is no justifiable reason that Chris Getz continues to be a starter in the major leagues. No amount of defense or sacrifice bunting (giving away outs) makes up for his level of complete non-offense.
     
    Though, you’re one of my favorites to debate with and I’m having a slow work day, so let’s have some fun. :)

  • jim fetterolf

    @Kevin Scobee  Kevin, as I’ve mentioned on Kings of Kaufman and Pine Tar Press and Judging the Royals, this isn’t about Getz, who is a replacement level player, it is about the failure of currently Johnny Giavotella to beat him out.
     
    Second is a systemic weakness for the Royals and has been since Mark Grudzelanik (sp?) left. That is why Christian Colon was taken with a high #1 pick. Getz got the concussion in ’10 and 2011 was supposed to be Betemit and Aviles, then Moustakas with Getz on the bench. Then Betemit and Aviles failed in the field and Aviles stunk up the batter’s box, so Getz held on as the blogosphere prayed for Giavotella, who came up against the same September pitching that Sal Perez raked for .331 and put up a .255 with brutal defense. Then we found out Gio was hurt, torn hip labrum, so we could write off Gio’s poor major-league performance. I know I figured him to come back this spring and look more like the kid in Omaha, a poor man’s Dan Uggla, bad glove, good stick. Instead he looked like a poor man’s Mike Aviles while ‘Zo Cain was hitting over .400 against the same pitching and playing a brilliant CF while Johnny G’s range looked a little like Billy Butler’s.
     
    I think that if GMDM had expected Gio to still be hurt, which I think he is, that the team would have traded for a competent 2B. Unfortunately, we didn’t know and still don’t, even as Gio’s performance tells me that he is still limited. Giavotella now has a chance at Omaha to put it back together. Much better players than Gio have gotten a wake-up call in AAA, Billy and Alex among them, and all he has to do is hit .330 again and show some improvement on defense. If he does he’s probably back up by May, if he doesn’t and Christian Colon shows some stick, Gio may become rapidly forgotten.
     
    As for Getzie, supposedly he retooled stance and swing in the off-season, like the Worst Outfield Ever did last winter, so may have a little more stick to go with a decidedly average glove. According to Lee Judge, Getz went to a stand-up, load and stride stance and swing, rather than the previous relaxed crouch and slap, the basic two strike approach. He did it to generate more power. He knew what he needed to do to make the team and gave it his best shot. Will that be enough? That is up to Gio at the moment. Until then Chris’ “little things” will be appreciated by most of us while we quietly pray for Christian Colon to turn into Dustin Pedroia. If Gio produces in Omaha, he’ll get another chance soon and Getz will go to Omaha and likely play a bunch of SS for utility purposes while Colon moves to 2nd, likely the original plan before Gio flopped this spring.
     
    There are half a dozen elite 2nd basemen in the game and they conveniently are on very good teams.

  • Kevin Scobee

     @jim fetterolf  Getz’ OPS this spring was .200 points lower than either of the previous two springs. Sure, spring stats don’t really matter, but this whole “retooling” hasn’t changed anything, so far.
     
    That being said, you’re right. This is more about Giavotella than either of the other two. Regardless of what any of us think about the merits (or lack thereof with Getz because he’s proven to be nothing at the ML level) there must be some underlying factor that has the team deciding to send down Giavotella: a) injury b) defense c) other d) all of the above.
     
    We’re not privy to all the information, obviously, just what we can prove with the stats. The stats say Getz is average at the very best, and struggling to get there. Yuni as well. Perhaps at this time in Giavotella’s evolution of ML’er the team has just decided to go with the devil they know, and force Giavotella to truly earn it. There are worse things, I suppose.