The Monday Rant – Sanchez Struggles, Escobar Doesn’t, and A Staggering Statistic


That, was awful.

If there’s one thing that most bloggers and writers should stay away from doing is questioning the effort being put out by any given player. No matter what can be perceived by simply watching a game, whether on the TV or in person, there is no way anyone could ever know what is going through the mind of another person. It’s a reason I hate the “body language” argument so much: you can only interpret what you see, and what you see is full of incomplete information.

But enough is enough with Jonathan Sanchez.

The Royals lost Monday night – effectively trying to ruin the swagger of my posting day – after Sanchez gave up seven runs in 1 1/3 innings.

I’ll have to admit it has been a while since I have sat down and actually watched a complete Royals game. Heck, it’s been a while since I’ve sat down and watched even a couple innings. This season has quickly turned into a replica of the many before it, and the same bad baseball, terrible plate-disciplined offense, and loud contact pitching staff has made me put forth very little effort to watch my favorite team. Apparently, the same has happened to Sanchez with how much effort he’s willing to put into his pitching.

When watching the highlights of the two homeruns hit off of the Royals left hander I was struck by how little effort Sanchez was using to throw. I’ve made the comment before about his outings on Twitter that it just doesn’t look like he’s trying out there. There’s no explosiveness. There’s none of the all-out, back leg flailing effort from him that I was used to seeing when he was one of my favorite pitchers to watch like in this highlight from 2010.

And this is where it gets sticky. No fan knows for sure whether or not Sanchez has been told to slow down his delivery in an effort to improve his command (which is an incredibly flawed way of thinking, as I wrote here). No fan knows whether or not if Sanchez is hurt. No fan knows whether or not Sanchez is truly and absolutely and without any doubt, over-the-top upset with himself over the way he’s pitched. All anyone has to go off of is perception.

The perception, in the case, is a damning reality.

Not every athlete needs to be a fiery personality. Not every athlete needs to wear his or her emotions on their sleeves, showing the joys of victories and the pains of defeat. Not every athlete is built the same that way.

But what the fans see can sometimes unfortunately twist the narrative of how much a player cares. Continuing to get pounded by opposing teams, and then getting blasted by one of the worst offenses in all of baseball, and then not showing even the slightest hint of frustration or pissed-offness, will wear on a fan base.

What’s worse is it has started to turn higher up. Jonathan Sanchez’s 2012 season to this point is no longer about Melky Cabrera and the trade that brought him to town. It’s about his lack of success, his lack of effort, his lack of production, and how the organization keeps going to him to start games.

Basing personnel decisions on a fan reaction is no way to run a franchise. But when the reaction is so perversely negative to a player’s attitude and perceived lack of desire to improve his production, onus is on the organization to act before their lack of desire to improve the team’s production is questioned.

That time may already be here.

The Good

Alcides Escobar.

I was wrong.

Escobar has been great this year; better than expected. The rise he’s taken from noodle-batted (h/t @devilfingers), all glove shortstop to near-elite level bat at the shortstop position is really quite something.

Yes, his batting average is largely a product of an obscenely high BABIP (nearly 100 points higher than a season ago), but that is just as much due to a near 5% increase in line drive percentage, as it is pure luck. And even though he’s never been known or perceived as a patient hitter, his walks are on pace to better last year’s (although still just for over 30, which leaves much to be desired) so there’s improvement in that area as well.

Even though I’m not of the opinion that the Royals “won” the Zack Greinke trade – that’s too much value to lose out of a single spot on the roster to have it not be replaced by four players – having Escobar as the every day shortstop is a nice security blanket to have. And even if this BABIP infused offensive statistics may be even the littlest bit misleading, Escobar is at least filling into more of the player profile he was supposed to have when he was first acquired.

The Bad

When I first started doing this format I thought it would be a good idea to force myself to come up with a “good” category, so I would have to write something positive about the team I am mostly negative about. However when the same movie is being played out on a nightly basis, the same movie that has been played too often over the past two decades, it gets difficult to continue look at the positives when they’re clouded by all the bad things that make the ending scene incredibly predictable.

These couple paragraphs of “bad” could again be spent on how the Royals continue to waste at-bats on Jeff Francoeur (who has turned back into Jeff Francoeur ), the overwhelmingly confusing struggles of Eric Hosmer, or the starting rotation that continues to spin in perpetuity in the sea of mediocrity, but there’s really one very succinct way to sum of the bad, courtesy of Carrington Harrison’s tweet this morning:

The Royals wins and games back totals on July 16th in each of the last six seasons:

2012 – 38 (10.5)

2011 – 38 (12)

2010 – 39 (11)

2009 – 37 (11.5)

2008 – 43 (11.5)

2007 – 39 (16)

That should be knock-you-on-your-heels staggering. It caught me by surprise.

No matter how much talent is in the farm system, no matter how much talent is on the major league roster, no matter how much the perception may be that the organization is headed in the right direction, at some point, that perception needs to lead to reality in the “wins” column.

This is year six of the Dayton Moore regime. And while there are excuses to be made – some with validity, most without – about where the franchise was when he took over and injuries, there is no excuse for a team to be this depleted of starting pitching talent, and there is no excuse for this team to continually freely give away outs on offense whether through terrible strike zone judgment (look at this!) or awful base running.

Even if – if – the overall talent on the major league roster is better at this point than it has been at any point in the last five seasons, this team on the field still can’t get out of it’s own way in terms of the category that matters most. Wins.

And wins are the only thing fans should trust.

The Upcoming

Rather than preview the upcoming Royals schedule, which at this point looks to be pretty meaningless, I’ll just say these two words: Wil Myers.

Hopefully, hopefully soon, he’ll be what’s upcoming.