Several years ago I played on a “D” league softball team sponsored by my employer. It was supposed to be a non-competitive recreational league full of guys who play outfield with a glove on one hand and a beer in the other. I thought I was going to be a misfit with this group, because I take my softball seriously. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t the only player who wanted to win and we finished the season undefeated.
The rules stipulated that if you won your league during the regular season you had to move up and play in the post season tournament for the next higher division, in this case, the “C” league. Conversely, if your team finished last, you dropped to the next lower league’s tournament. And wouldn’t you know it, my “D” league team ended up playing in the championship game for the “C” league against the team that had come in last place in the “B” league. Makes your head spin a little bit, doesn’t it?
I know you’re dying to learn the result of the Championship game, aren’t you? We won. The best team in the “D” league handily defeated the worst team in the “B” league, while all the “C” teams sat on the sidelines during their own league Championship game.
During the regular season I knew our softball team was good, but I had no idea just how good we were. How could I? We were never really challenged and we weren’t allowed to live up to our potential until the post season tournament. We were just a “D” team after all, and we thought that surely every “C” and “B” team was much better than us. Well, we were wrong.
Ever heard of a guy named Wil Myers? He plays a variety of outfield positions in the Royals minor league system. He also played catcher a couple of years ago too, but surrendered this position to make room for the rocket-armed Salvador Perez, but that’s another story. Except that it’s proof he’s willing to do whatever the Royals ask him to do, anything necessary to put himself in a position to move up to the majors. He batted .314 this season with an impressive 37 home runs and 109 RBIs in only 134 games. Baseball America just ranked him as the 3rd best prospect in the entire minor leagues, and oh by the way – Baseball America also named Wil as their Minor League Player of the Year for 2012.
Beginning with his head turning performance in the Arizona Fall League a year ago, Myers has been on a tear that has captured the attention of baseball prognosticators nationwide who are all drooling over his potential. For a somewhat scrawny looking 6’5”, 205 lb bean pole, Wil’s homerun prowess is prolific. At the ripe old age of 21, just four other players have hit 36 or more home runs in a minor league season over the past 30 years. Their names are Wil Myers (37), Paul Konerko (37), Jose Canseco (36), and – drum roll please – Mike Moustakas (36).
Paul Konerko has 400+ home runs in his career, over a hundred more than any Royal ever, and at 37 years old he’s still batting over .300 and proving he has many miles left on his talented bat. Jose Canseco has turned into a bit of a joke recently with his weird Twitter rants and embarrassing desire to renew his baseball career at 48 years of age, but back in the day, this half of the Bash Brothers could swing the wood. Jose retired in 2001 with 462 career home runs. I believe this puts Wil Myers in pretty good company and speaks volumes about his potential in the major leagues.
Now, let’s talk about Jeff Francoeur for a moment. If you’ve been paying attention to the Royals this year, you know that Frenchy has a great arm, and a talented, ummm, well, let’s see… I’ll take the politically correct route and just say he hasn’t performed up to expectations this season.
Jeff has been hovering about 30 or 40 notches above the Mendoza line for most of the year, he’s hit 13 home runs and driven in 41. Let me say that again – he’s our Right Fielder, one of the corner positions where the team should expect to derive most of its power, and he’s driven in a pathetic 41 runs. He leads the team in strikeouts per plate appearance, he doesn’t walk much, doesn’t steal many bases, and he covers the outfield like a mule that’s been weighted down with a prospector’s once-in-a-lifetime gold strike.
According to Baseball America’s WAR stat (Wins Against Replacement), Francoeur is having one of the worst seasons in the history of professional baseball. At least he isn’t burdening the Royals with a huge payroll number. Oops – he’s earning $6,000,000 this year for taking up valuable space on our roster. Yes, that’s a 6 with six zeros. And the Royals are contracted to pay him a whopping $7.5 million next season. Can you say “it’s good to be Dayton Moore’s buddy”?
Yes I love Frenchy’s smile, his great attitude, and his team mentality. But at some point (and I reached this point many months ago), you want to win more than you want to root for the nice guy to pull out of his long, lingering, mind-numbing slump.
The concept of watching your team field a historically inept player day-in and day-out, would be almost understandable if there were no other options. But wait – don’t the Royals have that Wil Myers guy down in Omaha, leading his team to another PCL Championship Series last week? The concept becomes inexplicable when you see the big picture and learn that not only do the Royals have a replacement option for the worst player in the majors, but the replacement just happens to be the very best player in the minors!
So, what would you do? Or rather, what would have done a few months ago when this best player vs the worst player scenario became obvious? Would you let Wil Myers pound away on inferior minor league pitching and chase a few more fly balls in the outfield to further perfect his craft? Or, would you bench Frenchy and write Myers name on the Royals lineup card to give him a taste of what is to come next year when he surely, hopefully, we all pray will be playing Right Field for the Royals? I know what I would do. I didn’t even need to think twice about it.