Taking a look at today’s birthdays in baseball, we find some interesting names. There is Bobby Bonilla, who is still being paid by the Mets. Elston Howard was born on this date back in 1929, and was the first African American member of the Yankees. There are even a couple of former Royals on the list for today. Rondell White may not have been a star, but he was a solid outfielder, made the All-Star game in 2003, and was acquired on August 26th of that year as the Royals continued their improbable push towards the playoffs.
The other former Royals player that was born today is Scott Elarton. He had started off in the Astros bullpen, where he performed relatively well. However, he had shoulder surgery following the 1999 season, and lost a couple of miles per hour off his fastball. Converted to a starter, Elarton put together a deceptive 17-7 record in 2000 despite a 4.81 ERA.
That season was the last time that Elarton even appeared to be a relatively functional major league pitcher. He absorbed innings for the Astros, Rockies and Indians afterwards, compiling a 22-34 record with a 5.78 ERA, which was ‘good’ enough for an ERA+ of 78. Naturally, that enticed the Royals to give Elarton a two year contract worth $8 Million following the 2005 season.
As we all remember, that contract proved to be a disaster. Named the Opening Day starter in 2006, Scott Elarton put together 20 miserable starts for the Royals before being shut down. He lasted only nine more starts in 2007 before being released, giving the Royals a 6-13 record with a 6.59 ERA for their investment. Aside from his Opening Day start, the biggest highlight of his Royals career may have been giving up Derek Jeter‘s 2000th career hit.
To me, Elarton, along with Mark Redman, were poster children for the Royals futility during the mid to late 2000′s. Inevitably, when I was able to catch a Royals game during the 2006 season, Elarton was the pitcher that teh Royals started. Although the Royals were not going anywhere during that time, watching Elarton get hit around just reinforced that reality. For even one night, if the Royals won, I could have imagined that they were turning the corner and were ready to go on a winning streak. Elarton never even gave me that delusional hope.
It is certainly not Scott Elarton’s fault that he received that contract. The Royals needed bodies to fill out the major league roster, and they were biding their time until the first wave of prospects were ready for the majors. Yet, Elarton never really gave any indication that he would be worth that much. For a team that typically did their free agent shopping at Wal-Mart, even the $4 Million per year seemed like an overpayment at the time.
At any rate, Happy Birthday to Scott Elarton. The frustration of watching you pitch will never let me forget that you were a member of the Royals.