Wednesday, July 27, 2005


After a long hiatus, this is what I give you:


Say it out loud.


The "e" sound isn't like "glee"; no, more like "dread".


Now you've got it. And now you now what it feels like to be a Royals fan right about now. For the last two months, I've tried to think of something original and interesting to write about this team, this organization. But all I could come up with was "Pleh". So, I thought, I'll write that. It sums up my feelings succinctly. I've been to only one game in the last month because I couldn't pull myself out of the doldrums this team has put me in.

Don't get me wrong; there has been plenty to comment on since I last put fingers to keyboard. Tony Pena bolted town (and the country) with reports of infidelity nipping at his heels. But few made much of this. I'm not sure why, other than maybe people were dazed by the horrible performances his team was consistently offering and they were just glad to see something break the monotony with little concern for the reason.

Allard Baird conducted a "thorough" managerial search that reminded me of a kid who had just received his birthday money and it was burning the proverbial hole in his pocket. Instead of taking as much time as was necessary (the rest of the season and the majority of the off-season) probing for every possible candidate, whether it was Frank White (good guy, little experience), Art Howe (plenty of experience, little potential for anything beyond mediocrity) or Bobby Valentine (much experience, much volatility), Baird decided to go with "the best fit for our ballclub". How did he know Buddy Bell was the best fit for this ballclub? He interviewed less than 10 guys in less than six weeks. The team was not going to contend and had a serviceable interim manager in Bob Schaefer, affording Baird the luxury of scouting virtually every managerial candidate available, but instead he chose to go with the first thing that caught his eye. The thing with the worst active managerial record of the candidates supposedly in the running. The thing that was sitting on the bench in Cleveland without any other teams knocking down the Indians' door trying to interview him for their managerial post.

Which leads us to the Royals' record since Bell took the helm. Hovering near .500.

"That's respectable," they say. "That's a lot better than what Pena did," another adds. "It could be worse," speculates still another.

This is how high our expectations are supposed to be? David Glass was quoted the other day as saying how excited he is about the young talent we have accumulated. He said yet again that he would be willing to lay down some cash to help fill in the hole that will put us over the top. He listed the wonderful young players in the employ of the Royals organization: David DeJesus, Ruben Gotay, John Buck, Mark Teahen, Justin Huber, Billy Butler, Chris Lubanski, Denny Bautista, Leo Nunez, Andy Sisco, Zack Greinke, Runelvys Hernandez. No question, the talent is there. But will it gel before these guys are eligible for arbitration and we decide to low-ball them in salary negotiations? Will it gel before they are eligible for free agency and we haven't had the vision to sign any of them to a reasonable multi-year contract beforehand? Will it gel before
the players (and their agents) realize that we simply won't spend the market value for their talent, but the other teams will? I'm expected to root for a team whose collective talent level is somewhere between Double-A and Triple-A and has little reasonable chance of staying together long enough for each of them to reach their peak years of productivity?

This is why I say "Pleh."

Sure, it's fun to follow the youngsters as they grow and mature. It's also gut-wrenching to watch them grow and mature. David DeJesus went to Rutgers and seems to be a pretty fast guy. He's seemingly smart and athletic. Has no one taught him how to steal a base? How to pick up on a pitcher's pick-off move? How to take an appropriate lead? Zack Greinke has more talent than any other pitcher I've ever seen, yet he still has a tendency to be a flaky 21-year old. I guess that's because he IS a flaky 21-year old. Mark Teahen has the tall, strong, athletic build any young boy would yearn to have, yet he is content slapping the ball the other way every time rather than trying to occasionally pull and elevate a pitch.

And the confidence I have in Baird to bring in veteran talent has nearly evaporated completely. We got lucky once with Jose Lima; why did we tempt fate twice? How did we allow a pitcher with an ERA near 8.00 to stay on this club for half the year? Oh, you say he's had a couple of strong starts recently? So what!? D.J. Carrasco has been far more productive and cost us barely more than the major league minimum. Remember Eli Marrero? No? I don't blame you. We brought him here on the heels of a career year where he tortured lefties only to overexpose him and then let him rot on the bench until we finally dumped him on the Orioles. How about Terrence Long? You're telling me we couldn't find anybody better than Terrence Long to play left field? Oh, that's right; we unearthed the second coming of Raul Ibanez: Emil Brown. Not
that there's anything wrong with Ibanez or Brown but find me a team who has a legitimate playoff chance that gives 500 at bats per year to corner outfielders the caliber of Long/Ibanez/Brown.

On top of all this, our team captain, Mike Sweeney, is as durable as a Precious Moments figurine. He might be the most unathletic athlete in sports today. He can't seem to get out of the way of inside pitches or base runners. And his salary eats away at least a third of our payroll resources, leaving little hope of being able to sign additional free agents or trade him for cheap, young talent. But he teases us with his incredible skill in the 110 games he plays every year!

Watching this team is like the sensation you get when you've just finished exercising and you go to the sink for a cold glass of water, only to find that when you've brought that first gulp to your mouth, it's luke warm like a glass full of your own saliva. The water seems tantalizing and has the potential to quench your thirst and leave you refreshed. But in reality, you end up spitting it out and pouring the rest of the glass down the drain. This team has the potential to be a cool, refreshing drink of water. But what I'm left with is the word I end up muttering after spitting out that lukewarm gulp: