Negative Space


And so begins another off-season of Royals Baseball.

A friend just asked me if I was going to miss writing this weekly article now that the season was over. I think my response was, “are you kidding me?”

To the true baseball fan, there is no offseason.

In art, negative space is defined as the area surrounding the subject of an image. It is the forgotten makeup of the composition, the background. However, great artists (and those who properly critique it) know that the negative space can be the key to balancing the subject and making a good piece a great one.

This is the time that so many teams have been aching for. Those teams whose playoff hopes died in June or July have been waiting for this day. It is a chance to wipe the slate clean and get back to even with those teams who are still mourning over postseason losses.

To me, the negative space in baseball is the offseason. It is when baseball fans turn their full attention to the NFL or (usually) the NBA. Casual fans know that they can check back in April & be ready for the 2012 season. However, the offseason is when teams jockey for position. It’s a time full of rumors and truths, moves and retirements, good news and bad news.

First of all, did anyone take time to bereave the end of the Florida Marlins? They existed from 1993 to yesterday and won two World Series along the way. As of today, they are the Miami Marlins and will move into their new Gazillion dollar stadium during the offseason. With a ballpark that was created specifically for baseball, it will be interesting to see how that shapes the team and affects their success.

In fact, the offseason action began before the playoffs were over. Teams were already making moves to improve the status of their club in order to have a better offseason. Didn’t the Cubs already get better? They hired longtime Boston GM & Wonderboy Theo Epstein to be their President. They hired a new GM – Jed Hoyer, formerly of the San Diego Padres. Those two guys immediately improve the credibility of the Cubs Front Office, and are no doubt ready to make an impact over the winter.

These moves, of course, opened doors for new GMs in Boston and San Diego. Time will tell which direction those teams decide to go. Undoubtedly, there will be more front office moves than we ever hear about. They are all in an attempt to get better as a franchise.

Changes are happening in the dugout too. The Royals have already shaken up their coaching staff, hiring Dave Eiland as the new pitching coach and Chino Cadahia as the new bench coach. They will work tirelessly over the offseason to get integrated into the staff and help improve the team. Heck, Eiland was Kevin Costner’s body double in For Love of the Game, so maybe there’s a spot in the bullpen for him?

It’s already been a month since the Marlins announced that Ozzie Guillen would be their manager next year. He will bring all kinds of excitement to Miami and could be a perfect fit for that fanbase. They’ve had to deal with 150-year old Jack McKeon most recently. To fill Guillen’s spot in Chicago, the White Sox hired 9-year Southsider Robin Ventura. I’m sure that his style will be much different than Ozzie’s, so it will be interesting to see how his team responds. Both managers will have the ears of their GMs when it comes to making offseason moves.

And that’s where the most visible changes will happen. Each year, there is a wide span of players who are up for grabs in the blink of an eye. Some have made it clear they want out, and some are preparing to work out deals with their current clubs. Anxious teams will size them up and make moves which they think will get them over the hump and into October in 2012. There is a wide variety of players available, from young stud pitchers (C.J. Wilson) to crafty veterens (Roy Oswalt) to overpaid superstars (C.C. Sabathia). Albert Pujols‘ Free Agency will be an interesting one to watch. As will Prince Fielder‘s. While Albert is likely to stay in St. Louis, Prince has his eyes set on the bright lights of a big city – and a big payday.

Who will the Royals target? Last off-season sent Zack Greinke and David DeJesus packing, while bringing in Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera. Both of those signings seemed underwhelming for the four months leading up to the season. However, both had great seasons in Kansas City and will likely be a big part of whatever success is to come in 2012. No doubt that the front office will be looking at the available pitchers in this year’s crop of free agents. Who they end up signing will be fun to follow.

Much will be written about all of this.

Not everyone will pay attention to the moves that take place this offseason. To many, it’s uneventful, like the time between innings or the time between pitches. Players know that the negative space during a game is when the next play is staged. The pitches called, defensive alignment shifts, rosin acquired, footing arranged, or sunglasses flipped down can make an incredible impact on the very next pitch. Successful managers, coaches, and players make full use of that negative space.

This winter, let’s hope the Royals do too.

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