September 24, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Kansas City Royals right fielder Jeff Francoeur (21) walks back to dugout after striking out during the ninth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

A Word From The Basement

One of the things that’s amused me this off season is the criticisms leveled at those who aren’t buying the Royals as a playoff contender. These mom’s basement types, as one vocal member of the Kansas City media unimaginatively calls them, aren’t just being negative for negative’s sake. This team has question marks, this team has holes, and as much as people want to believe otherwise, all the sunshine and lollipops in the world aren’t going to make those concerns disappear.

I’m a card carrying member of the basement brigade, and why yes, I do eat pop tarts for breakfast, lunch and dinner (I prefer blueberry). I tend to focus more on what a player does on the field and less what he does in the clubhouse. Jeff Francoeur may be a great teammate, and have a great smile, but he also posted a .287 on-base percentage last year. In my book that trumps all the off the field positives he brings to the team.

Optimism doesn’t come easy for me anymore. Two decades of incompetence will do that to a person. Many people look at the Royals roster and see a potential playoff team but I see a third place team that might win 80 games this year. For the Royals to play meaningful baseball in September this season a lot has to break right. All the team’s what ifs have to fall in place and that’s something I can’t envision happening.

According to more than a few debates I’ve had this winter this viewpoint somehow makes me less a fan than those who have bought in. This is, of course, absurdly untrue. Since I have the platform, I’d like to address four comments thrown my way over and over again.

“You want players to fail.”

It’s a bit of reach to think that complaining about a player’s lack of production equals cheerleading. Expecting a player to fail is not the same as hoping he’ll fail. I expected Yuniesky Betancourt to under perform, and to get far too many plate appearances, and that’s exactly what happened. Was I hoping he’d embarrass himself every time he came to the plate? Of course not. If someone can find an article or a tweet where I was cheering for failure then I’ll retire from the Royals blogosphere to live a life of quiet solitude.

“Games aren’t played on paper.”

Computer is sometimes substituted for paper but the point remains the same. This seems to be the go-to phrase when statistics are mentioned. I know games aren’t played on paper, and I’m glad, because I really do enjoy watching the Royals play. I also know anything can happen and a team can over perform its expectations, it does happen, but I don’t think you should ignore statistical evidence that suggests it won’t.

“Nobody has ever hired you to be a general manager.”

There’s a bit of hypocrisy involved in this statement. A few of the people who told me this spent the entire NFL season complaining about Scott Pioli. I’ve marveled at the way the Kansas City media highlights failures by the Chiefs front office while at the same time ignoring the same failures that are occurring across the street. To get back on topic though, no, I’ve never been a General Manager candidate. Here’s the thing folks, blogging isn’t just throwing a few hundred words onto the internet, there is hours and hours of research involved, some of which that shows Dayton Moore has made mistakes. Just because I’ve never been a GM doesn’t mean I’m incapable of recognizing those mistakes.

“You hate every move Dayton Moore makes.”

If you follow me on twitter or read my blog posts then you know that I’ve praised many of Moore’s moves. It’s intellectually dishonest to claim otherwise. Sure, I criticize more than praise, but the fact is a Moore team has never sniffed .500 or the postseason. That’s not exactly the track record of a GM who’s above criticism. Moves of Moore’s that I’ve endorsed include, among others, the Zack Greinke trade and extensions to Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar

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  • Michael Engel

    Blueberry? That’s absurd. How can I trust anyone’s opinion if they like *blueberry* Pop Tarts?

    • Bob Ellis

      Agreed. Everyone knows brown sugar cinnamon are the best.

    • Jeff Parker

      Blueberry is absurd? On what planet, sir? On what planet?

  • Marcus Meade

    Excellent article! I particularly like the third piece of criticism leveled against online commentators or bloggers. That authority claim, “Well, you’re not a GM.” or “Why’s no one calling you to GM a team?” operates under the assumption that there is a large structure of information asymmetry–that GM’s are blessed with staggeringly superior information and knowledge that the general public is not privy to. And that that information is necessary to evaluating the situation (it’s true front offices have some more data; it’s not true that that data necessarily leads to a better evaluation of players, especially when they don’t know how to use it). Of course, the repeated refutation of that notion doesn’t deter it in anyway. With front offices snatching up people from the basement, people evaluating their players better than they are with the limited information in the public domain, you’d think that critics of the basement crew might start to understand that it’s not all guess work and voo-doo. It’s that illusive thing called logic.

    • Jeff Parker

      It also operates under the assumption that fans shouldn’t have opinions, which is just ridiculous.

      • jimfetterolf

        The primary assumption is that fans lack information and assume that FAs and such work like in Fantasy. A GM, including Dayton Moore, operates under a lot of constraints and in real time. Now we may look at Santana as a bad trade, at the time it looked a serious effort to improve the staff before Guthrie signed and Shields and Davis were traded for. Moves are much easier to make three months later.

        • Jeff Parker

          I’m less critical of moves I disagree with if I can understand why they’re made (Santana falls in this category). Some moves though just defy logic and those are the ones I don’t need to see inside information to know were a mistake. It’s not like the old days, there’s an abundance of information freely available on the internet. And I do my homework. I don’t disagree just to disagree. I feel my reasons are valid, and I don’t have a problem when people disagree with me. As long as they don’t use any of the 4 lines above I in fact enjoy the discussion.

        • Bob Ellis

          Jim – you’re right…a lot of fans do assume FA’s and trades work like fantasy baseball and don’t consider all the factors. We trade for pitchers, they have no choice but to report for duty. We can’t, however, force free agents to come here. People operate under the assumption that “We shouldn’t have traded for X, we could’ve signed Y for cheaper, and kept our prospect.” Well, that’s great in theory, but they have to understand the free agent player might not even consider KC as a viable option.

    • Michael Engel

      Nevermind that there are only 30 GM jobs in the world and they often recycle their own. Not like it’s an entry-level job.

  • Bob Ellis

    I like the “you want players to fail” attack…I don’t want Hochevar to fail. I just point at that he has failed. I’d be ecstatic (and proven wrong) if he came out firing this year…but all signs tell me that’s not going to happen. I’m not rooting for the guy to fail, but I will point out how ridiculous it is for a team to keep believing in a guy that shows now signs of being the player they claim him to be….

    • Michael Engel

      Exactly. I don’t think Hochevar has much left to get by on. I don’t think Mendoza can sustain success, but damn if I’d be thrilled if they could. For all the ego-stroking of Frenchy by the FO about his leadership, if he hits, I’ll be thrilled about that too. I just know that, realistically, the record suggests they won’t veer much further than what they have always been. Trends at work.

  • SomeDevil04

    I actually live in a basement……just thought I’d throw that out there.

  • jimfetterolf

    Joe Po, I think, originated “Mom’s basement” although you can blame Lee Judge for “Pop Tarts”. I crafted “Negative Nancy Niche” for the cadre of Fire Moore, Fire Yost, Fire Glass types.

    As for “Games on paper”, my version is “Careers don’t take the field”. That is a recognition that players can make changes, which is why “The Worst Outfield Ever” became one of the best in ’11, why Bruce Chen was effective for a few years after being written off, and why Luis Mendoza is in the mix for the 5th starter after completely turning his career around by accepting coaching. Even Felipe Paulino was the stupidest signing in the history of whatever, and Jeremy Guthrie was a mistake. Alcides Escobar would never hit was another of my favorites. I’m old enough to remember when Willie Wilson couldn’t steal 1st base.

    Personnel evaluation is the toughest thing in any field, so there will be disagreements. That’s what makes life interesting, not much fun on echo chamber sites where everyone holds the party line. People make adjustments, sometimes they stick, sometimes they don’t, but that’s why they play the game.

    Reminds me, need to renew my sponsorship of Luis Mendoza on Brooks baseball. My year’s almost up.

    • Kevin Scobee

      He didn’t become one of the best in ’11, he was 11th best among right fielders alone.

      • jimfetterolf

        The outfield in gestalt. That was when Gordon was looking like a bust, Melky was a bust, and Frenchy was a bust, according to careers, “The Worst Outfield Ever”, according to one blogger. In the case on Melky and Frenchy, they lost weight, and changed approach and swing under Seitzer. Gordon changed approach and swing. Two successes, one failure.

        Mike, Chen being effective for a team with no pitching after his injuries is high praise, wins leader three straight years. He surpassed his career nicely. Mendoza went through a complete rebuild in the middle of ’10, won PCL Pitcher of the Year in ’11, and was the Royals best starter until Guthrie arrived. Looks like resume stuff to me. As I’ve said elsewhere, with his GB%, if I’m GM in Colorado I’m looking at him real hard, probably have a strong-armed fly ball pitcher who is going to get creamed at Coors that I’ld trade for him. They have Jeff Francis, so Mendoza would be a serious upgrade.

        As for years of performance, ballplayers can change. With health and talent it all gets back to the mental and the mechanics.

        In the case of Guthrie, he also had a shoulder injury in Colorado, which is why I liked the trade. In the K instead of the bandbox of Baltimore he’ll do alright, so didn’t think his new contract was an overpay, although maybe too long. He’ll be traded ASB in ’14 if the TJS brigade yields one good starter.

        As for careers not taking the field, that’s pretty obvious. Luke’s career didn’t face David Price, Luis Mendoza’s career didn’t face Chris Sale three or four times, Frenchy’s career forgot to show up in ’11, Chris Getz’ career wasn’t on the field last year after stance and swing adjustments, Alcides Escobar’s career offense didn’t show up last year. In the case of all but Luke and Hosmer, coaching changes were accepted and produced results contrary to the sacred career. Luke is the one of this group who resisted the changes and performed to career.

        What all that does is make me underweight career and concentrate more on the present for this team. If Luke fixes a problem known of for a couple of years then his career won’t take the field. If Frenchy’s legs get fixed and he goes back to ’11 approach and swing instead of trying to hit a five-run homer every at bat, his career won’t take the field. If Mendoza stays bought-in, his career won’t take the field. In a bigger park and retaining his change of delivery, Guthrie’s career won’t take the field. Paulino’s career must have gotten lost in baggage handling when he came to KC.

        • Michael Engel

          One Hochevar start, three Mendoza starts, one year (of about average production) for Frenchy and one year of below average production but better than he’d ever done for Getz. That’s enough to outweight everything else they’ve done?

          I guess I just have to disagree and leave it at that. You’re seeing incremental improvements or singular performances as significant markers of change when it’s more of a variance that will regress (up or down) to the mean of who that player is and always has been. Maybe that’s leaning too much on the statistical side of things, but with over 150 years and thousands and thousands of other players as data points, I’m comfortable with that. It’s not uncommon for someone to outperform their previous years in one season and snap back to where they were before. It’s very common and all the coaching changes and adjustments and heart-to-hearts can’t escape that. I appreciate the clarification of your point, though. I just don’t agree with it.

          In Gordon’s case, the second half of 07 and all of 2008 was very productive for him and without an injury in 2009 and a mess of 2010, I think he’d have been fine and on a typical progression for a top prospect.

    • Michael Engel

      I don’t remember Paulino being called a stupid signing. Zero risk move. Not like they gave him four years and 10 million a year. The Guthrie move wasn’t really panned either. Most saw that he’d been consistent throughout his career and recognized the context of Coors that screwed up his numbers. His road numbers were pretty good at the time and DM has come out and said that’s a reason why he pursued him.

      Careers don’t take the field? I honestly don’t understand where that comes from. That’s to suggest that every year a player has a strong chance to be as productive as the best players in the game. Albert Pujols hits .300/30/120 for ten straight years so it’s pretty safe to say he’s going to be in the .300/30/120 range. Nobody’s going to project him to fall completely off. Similarly, if a player has been a .300 OBP guy all his life, nobody’s going to truly believe that a change in mindset is going to make him a .360 OBP guy. A player can adjust approach or preparation and make small improvements but they’re not going to deviate far from what they’ve been the whole time. When such a thing happens, like Jose Bautista’s sudden jump, it’s the exception and not the rule. There are more guys who have numbers that look like Bautista’s pre-2010 numbers who continue to look like pre-2010 Bautista than guys who suddenly turn into All-Stars overnight.

      it’s like you said, people make adjustments and sometimes they stick, sometimes they don’t. Most players follow the same kind of path. It’s projectable by age, by what numbers they’ve put up in the past, how that relates to others in similar situations. Sometimes a guy will break the mold. Usually, they don’t. Players don’t change drastically.

      Maybe I’m misinterpreting that statement, but it seems to me like you’re willing to ignore years of performance (good or bad) in favor of the slim potential someone rises out of nowhere or resurrects a career and using the anomalies to prove it.

      Or maybe I’m misinterpreting the scope of improvement? Chen being effective isn’t really heaping praise. Mendoza being in the mix for the fifth starter spot on the Royals isn’t something I’d necessarily put on the resume.

      • Josh Duggan

        No one ever said claiming Paulino off waivers was stupid. No one. Many liked the move a lot. It was reportedly one of the stat guys (I think there are two) who advised Moore to make the claim.

  • Troy

    The only reason you eat pop tarts every meal is because you have too many kids running around! Get out of the basement and help the wife!

  • Michael Engel

    Found this…think it’s pretty similar to what Jeff has said.

  • Joel Wagler

    Jeff, although I would never throw out the accusations or statements listed above, I would like to defend those who criticize you for criticizing the Royals.

    Many of us are hanging on to hope by the thinnest of threads. All the negativity (warranted or not) just frays that delicate thread a little at a time. We battle the truth with a fragile belief that eventually something has to go right for Royals fans. I tend to be overly optimistic (a couple of my friends call me the king of all homers) because I need to look at things as positively as possible. If I look to closely at the truth, the light in my soul for the Royals may be extinguished and I may not be able to rekindle it. We know in our hearts you are right but we have hang on to that hope.

    It’s all we have…

    Great piece, Jeff. I enjoyed it a lot.