The Monday Rant: Moving the Goalposts

This is year six.

The Royals lost on Sunday in a fashion that bad teams make a habit of losing: with the same formula they always do. A team came into Kauffman Stadium over the weekend losers of five of their last seven and last in the division standings, only to outplay, out hit, and out execute the home Royals.

Sam Deduno, who might be the only player in baseball whose Baseball Reference page does not come up on the first page of a Google search, anonymously took the mound Sunday with just 21 career innings to his name, and no career victories. He is also 29 years old.

A career journeyman minor leaguer if there ever was one, Deduno is the quintessential “all arm, no feel” pitcher as evident by 15 walks in his 21 career innings in the major leagues, and a 5.1 BB/9 in 780 minor league innings.

He is everything that a Royals offense can’t defeat.

Even though Deduno did walk 3 in his 6 1/3 innings of work, 8 of the 27 batters he faced saw three pitches or less, and 17 of his total pitch count was thrown to Alcides Escobar alone. The Royals offensive approach of “swing first and ask questions later” struck again, and to no shock to anyone, they could only muster a single run against a pitcher who, in eight seasons of professional baseball, had only pitched 15 major league innings.

Every player is entitled to have a bad game. Every team is entitled to have a bad game. It’s when those bad games pile up, when the bad at-bats string together, when the bad seasons stack on top of each without any discernment of where one ended and the next began, that questions need to be asked.

This is year six of the Dayton Moore regime and while all Royals fans can disagree about the how long it takes to get a major league team up and running and playing at least .500 baseball, there should be no argument to the contrary that it shouldn’t take this long. Bad personnel decisions aside – each probably defensible when looked at on their own, but not collectively – after seven drafts, six off seasons, and six trading deadlines, an organization should have at least lucked into a few difference-making players at this point to help push the team’s record to respectability.

But where are they? Joakim Soria was taken in the Rule V draft, and for as much credit as the Royals deserve for drafting him, they deserve just as much credit for not cashing in and selling-high on a borderline useless player for a losing team at the peak of his value. Melky Cabrera performed well but was then traded to San Francisco (a trade I wholeheartedly agreed with), only to perform even better.

There are other solid personnel moves, sure. Mark Teahen for Chris Getz at this point looks like a “win” simply because Getz is still playing baseball (and playing well) and Teahen is not. Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, and Zack Greinke all signed extensions at one point because they wanted to stay with the organization, but those signings felt a little more like effects of circumstance because they were already in uniform.

The Royals are 40-54 and mere percentage points are all that keep them out of last place in one of the worst divisions in baseball. For all negative comments directed at blog posts such as this one, and those on other Royals blog sites, for the piling on the Royals organization for all their wrong turns and missteps, shouldn’t there at some point be an equal amount of negativity directed at the organization that gives us the mountains of material? Shouldn’t there be some responsibility and accountability taken from the organization that, in year six, has yet to play within at least ten games of average?

No. The fans that are upset and desire success for a change are called condescending names like “critical spirit”.

The line of success has been drawn, erased, and drawn again for what must be the third time now. Continually reestablishing the goal line is either the best job security ploy in the history of success, or the greatest sign of futility in the history of business. Either way, it isn’t working.

It shouldn’t be about blame. The time for blame has passed. At this point it is about getting it right. Unfortunately for those currently running the Royals they’ve been saddled with the disappointment and disgust of a franchise that spent two decades in irrelevance before they took their positions. They’re both blessed and burdened for having one of the most engaged fan bases in baseball, so the amount of scrutiny they’re under can border on the ridiculous. But that’s not an excuse.

This, is year six, and while other perennially losing organizations have built and lost, and built again in the same time frame that it’s taken the Royals to not quite build, fans are being told that it’s still going to take just a few more years until the results will actually be tangible. Oof.

This is year six. It is time for results.

The Good

Well, I guess we need to start looking towards the future again, huh?

I don’t often get caught up in the hoopla over draft picks. Perhaps I’m a cynic (don’t roll your eyes) but I’d like to see a young player have at least a year of success before I start to concern myself with whether or not he’s going to be an impact big leaguer.

But when Kyle Zimmer was drafted I was incredibly happy (which for me is saying something) and downright giddy to see how he would translate into pro ball.

Attempts to actually sit down and write something substantial about what it is I like about him have proved fruitless, but Kyle Boddy of Driveline Baseball summed up all kinds of good stuff at The Hardball Times. In short: oh my.

Arm speed isn’t simply the natural gift that baseball people want you to believe (you can improve and change arm action, significantly), but Zimmer has it in abundance. And the ease with which he creates torque with his trunk by getting down the mound into his kick is beyond impressive.

Zimmer fits the profile: hard thrower and a good athlete with projectable movement skills and body sequencing. He’s everything that could make my pitching heart swoon.

The Bad

For the month of July the Royals are 5-13. Yeah, that’s bad.

Echoing the sentiments from above: teams are allowed to have bad stretches and even bad months. I’m sure there’s a stat out there that gives the number of losing months playoff teams have had in any given year over the past decade, and surely there’s going to be a few on that list. But it’s when the losing months continue to happen without a change in the roster that’s the most concerning. Specifically: right field.

Jeff Francoeur is last in all of baseball among outfielders in wOBA, OBP, RC+, and fWAR.

Read that sentence again.

By almost every objective measure Jeff Francoeur is playing like the worst outfielder in baseball this year. The worst. Meanwhile, Wil Myers slugs his way from ballpark to ballpark in the minor leagues, and the big-league Royals sit 14 games under .500.

This isn’t about leadership anymore with Francoeur, it’s about production. It was a bad mistake to lock up a historically average-at-best player before the market established. It’s an even worse mistake to continue play a player every day that is having such a negative effect on the rest of the team, while a clear replacement is available at no cost.

The idea that there is nowhere to play Myers in Kansas City right now is preposterous. There is a place for him to play, and it’s a pretty obvious one.

The Upcoming

Each of the next four series the Royals play will be against teams that are better than them. Of course, that isn’t saying much when you’re talking about one of the worst records in baseball, but a West Coast road trip scorching hot Anaheim and Seattle, followed by a home stand against Cleveland and Texas, would only seem to make things worse in the win-loss column for Kansas City.

And things can always get worse.

Topics: Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Chris Getz, Jeff Francoeur, Joakim Soria, KC Royals, Kyle Zimmer, Rant, Sam Deduno, The Rant

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