Tagged: Royals

The Sunday Scuttlebutt

Normal
0

false
false
false

MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) }

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-ansi-language:#0400;
mso-fareast-language:#0400;
mso-bidi-language:#0400;}

It may be small consolation to their frustrated fan base, but if the Orioles can find someone halfway decent to patrol
left field, they can make an argument for having the best outfield in the game.
Center fielder Adam Jones has blossomed in his second season, adding a robust
bat to his already imposing glove. Right fielder Nick Markakis is now a
legitimate star, having elevated his game each of the last three seasons. Unfortunately, left field remains a problem for the Birds. Felix Pie (.158
batting average and .238 on-base percentage) has hit just as poorly in Baltimore as he did in Chicago, while utilityman Lou Montanez is no
more than a stopgap solution. A more immediate short-term answer might be found at Triple-A, where the
Orioles just assigned Joey Gathright, freshly acquired from the Cubs.
Gathright, who is still one of the three fastest runners in the game (I’ll vote
for Emilio Bonifacio and Brett Gardner as the others) and can handle left field
defensively. As to how much Gathright will hit, that remains the eternal
question…

 

On Saturday night, Steve Stone provided another example of
why he’s one of baseball’s best color analysts. During the broadcast of the
White Sox-Rangers game, Stone listed Josh Fields and Carlos Quentin as the Sox’
two best runners in terms of going hard into second base and breaking up potential double
plays. That’s just great information. How many color announcers even pay
attention to such overlooked aspects of baserunning, especially in an era when
hitting and pitching are so much the focus of on-air discussion? Keep up the
great work, Steve…

 

It’s really no mystery why Zack Greinke has been so
masterfully overpowering for the Royals. He has two phenomenal pitches–an
exploding fastball and a biting overhand curve–and throws everything in his
arsenal for strikes. His start to the season is no fluke; he’s a legitimate No.
1 starter that the Royals can build around for years to come. With Greinke, Gil
Meche, and Brian “The Animal” Bannister now in the rotation, and former No. 1
pick Luke Hochevar on the way, the Royals have the makings of a starting staff
that will contend–if not in 2009, then next summer…

 

Just how low have the Yankees sunk? Fresh off their
disheartening five-game losing streak this week, the front office decided that
answers to their problems could be found in journeyman mediocrities Kevin Cash
and Brett Tomko, recalled from Triple-A Scranton. Cash is the ultimate
good-field, no-hit catcher, a limited player of borderline major league capability.
Tomko pitched horribly for the Padres last season, despite the benefit of
pitching in Petco
Park half of the time. While
it’s undeniable that the Yankees have been hit with a crushing tidal wave of
injuries, it’s inconceivable that such a wealthy franchise has such little
organizational depth. It’s also an indictment of general manager Brian Cashman
and his stunning lack of attention to detail. Remarkably, Cashman failed to put
in a waiver claim on hard-hitting backup catcher Brayan Pena, who was demoted
to Triple-A Omaha by the Royals…

 

I understand that A.J. Hinch is a bright young mind who has
done well in developing Arizona’s
farm system. But wouldn’t it have made more sense for the Diamondbacks to tap
someone with at least some on-field experience in hiring their new manager,
especially in the middle of the season. There are some legitimate managerial
candidates who have track records in running ballclubs. Torey Lovullo is a
terrific young manager who has won two minor league titles in the Indians’
system. Why didn’t the D-Backs at least approach the Indians about the
possibility of hiring Lovullo? Another possibility would have been Davey
Johnson, fresh off his stint as manager of Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.
Or perhaps the D-Backs could have stayed in-house by promoting bench coach Kirk
Gibson, who could have at least managed the team on an interim basis. Gibson
certainly doesn’t lack fire, which was one of the criticisms aimed at fired
skipper Bob Melvin…

 

Rickie Weeks, a notoriously poor fielding second baseman,
has been one of the game’s most improved defenders through the first five weeks
of the season. Much of the credit goes to new Brewers coach Willie Randolph, who
was hired as part of Ken Macha’s new-look staff. Randolph was one of the most
fundamentally sound second baseman of his era, so it’s no surprise that he’s
having such a positive impact on the talented but erratic Weeks…

 

Sandy Alomar, Sr. has been a player, coach, or minor league
instructors for 49 straight years, dating back to 1960, his first year in
professional ball with the Los Angeles Angels’ organization. Yet, Alomar had
never managed even a single game–mostly because he had no such aspirations–until
this weekend.  Alomar’s debut took place
on Saturday, as he managed the Mets during Jerry Manuel’s one-game suspension
for incidental contact with an umpire. The Mets won that game against the
Pirates, 10-1, which means that Alomar will have a perfect record as manager
for awhile, at least until the next time that Manuel is suspended. Good for
Alomar, one of the solid men who have been a life-long servant to the game…

 

Of all the team statistics I’ve heard bandied about, none is
more shocking than this. The Phillies are a meager 3-and-9 at home in games in
which they have faced right-handed starting pitchers. That is simply stunning
for a team that is so heavily loaded with left-handed hitting studs like Ryan
Howard, Chase Utley, the switch-hitting Jimmy Rollins, and new sensation Raul
Ibanez. The Phillies’ poor record against righties is a severe indictment of
their shaky starting pitching, which has too often failed to keep them in
games. None of Philly’s starters–particularly ace Cole Hamels or the
prehistoric Jamie Moyer–have pitched anywhere near their 2008 levels.

The Sunday Scuttlebutt

Normal
0

false
false
false

MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) }

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-ansi-language:#0400;
mso-fareast-language:#0400;
mso-bidi-language:#0400;}

How quickly a player’s value can change. Brandon Inge could
have been had for a song during spring training. The Tigers would have taken a
small amount of talent from any team willing to pick up the bulk of Inge’s
contract for 2009. Just a few weeks later, the Tigers are glad that nobody took
a flyer on their starting third baseman. Through Sunday’s games, Inge has hit
seven home runs and is making an early argument for a berth on the American
League All-Star team, especially with Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list. He’s
also played a stellar level of defense at third base, which is no surprise to some
scouts who consider him capable of winning a Gold Glove…

 

The Royals made a surprising move this weekend when they
designated third-string catcher Brayan Pena for assignment. Pena is a rare
breed in 2009–a backup catcher who can actually hit and carries more than a
modicum of power. He also brings versatility to the table, with his ability to
fill in at third, first, and the outfield corners. Expect the Royals to find a
taker in a trade for Pena. If not, he won’t last long on the waiver wire. There
are at least a dozen major league teams who could use help behind the plate

 

The Yankees just cannot seem to avoid injuries. For the
third straight year, the Bombers have been assaulted by a wave of physical
setbacks to start the season. They have five players slated to be part of their
25-man roster currently on the disabled list. The growing list includes set-up
reliever Brian Bruney (elbow), starter Chien-Ming Wang (hip), and default third
baseman Cody Ransom (torn quad), all of whom have hit the DL during the
Yankees’ disastrous weekend venture to Boston…

 

Speaking of waves of injuries, I thought the A’s would be a
factor in the AL West, but the disabled just isn’t cooperating. Staff ace
Justin Duchscherer remains on the 15-day DL with an elbow that underwent
arthroscopic surgery and won’t be able to return until the middle of May at the
earliest.  The A’s also learned this week
that their No. 1 set-up reliever, Joey Devine, will likely be lost for the
season because of an elbow injury. With Duchscherer and Devine, the A’s would
have made a run for the Western Division with the Angels, who have a ravaged
pitching staff of their own, but without at least one of the “Double D’s,”
Billy Beane may have to conduct another firesale this July…

 

Jeff Francouer has promised repeatedly that he’ll be a new
player in 2009, but we’re still seeing the same strangling level of impatience
at the plate. Through Sunday’s games, Francouer has drawn only three walks in
18 games, which is palatable if you’re a Kirby Puckett type of player, but unacceptable
if you’re not hitting for power and not bringing Gold Glove fielding to right
field. Unfortunately, the Braves are strapped for outfielders. They’ve already
made top prospect Jordan Schafer their starting center fielder and just had to place
the disappointing Garret Anderson on the disabled list…

 

On paper, the signing of Milton Bradley made tons of sense
for the Cubs. They need the kind of left-handed bat that the switch-hitting Bradley
can provide. But Bradley has started out miserably at the plate (one hit in 23
at-bats), has already suffered his first injury, and won’t play again until Lou
Piniella deems him 100 per cent healthy. In the meantime, the Cubs will
continue to play with 24 men. Observers in Chicago are also wondering when Milton and
Sweet Lou will have their first blow-up. Both men have explosive tempers that
tend to erupt when things go badly on the playing field. Watch out in the Windy City…

 

Carlos Beltran is hitting like he did during the 2004
postseason, when he practically carried the Astros to their first berth in the
World Series. By flattening out an already level swing, Beltran has been able
to hit National League pitching at a .406 clip. Beltran won’t hit .400 for the
entire season, but his speed, patience, and ability to switch-hit make him a
contender for his first batting title. I just hope that Beltran doesn’t wear
himself out trying to catch everything in an outfield that will feature Daniel “Bull
in a China Shop” Murphy all too regularly and Gary Sheffield on occasion… Sheffield’s
presence on the roster continues to surprise many of the New York beat writers. With Sheffield in town, Fernando Tatis’ role has been reduced
to almost nothing, while Ryan Church remains a platoon player in the eyes of
Jerry Manuel. Sheffield started Friday night’s game against Washington’s Scott Olsen, the first time the
Mets had faced a left-handed starter all season…

 

Finally, a postscript to Hank Aaron’s visit to the Hall of
Fame on Saturday. In filling out all of the artifacts contained in the new
Aaron exhibit, the former Braves legend has donated more than 50 pieces of
memorabilia to the Hall of Fame and Museum. The large supply of Aaron artifacts
include not only the requisite share of milestone bats, balls and gloves, and
his entire uniform from home run No. 715, but also several bricks and a porch
post from Aaron’s childhood home in Mobile, Alabama. Those surviving pieces
from Aaron’s youth serve as yet another reminder of how “The Hammer” came from
modest beginnings, overcoming a lack of money and a preponderance of racism on
his way to one of the greatest careers in the game’s history. Kudos to Hall of
Fame curators Erik Strohl and Mary Quinn for a job well done in constructing
such an extensive exhibit on Aaron, now on permanent display on the Museum’s
third floor.

Bunts and Boots: Marlins Mania, Brian Barton, and Trey Hillman

Normal
0

false
false
false

MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) }

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-ansi-language:#0400;
mso-fareast-language:#0400;
mso-bidi-language:#0400;}

With their nearly flawless record of 11-2, the Marlins are
playing spectacularly well, but are they for real? The answer is yes–and no.
Let’s make no mistake about it; the Marlins are a very good team. They have
potent starting pitching and an explosive offense, two features that will allow
them to contend with the Phillies and Mets for either a division title or a
wildcard spot. On the other hand, the Marlins aren’t as great as their 13-game
record would indicate. Six of their 11 wins have come at the hands of the
Nationals, who appear to be the odds-on favorites to post the worst record in
either league. The schedule-maker will eventually balance the Marlins’ ledger,
changing their status from great to merely very good.

 

The Marlins lack the big name value of the Phillies and
Mets, but they don’t lack the talent level of those clubs. Florida’s starting rotation of Ricky Nolasco,
Josh Johnson, Chris Volstad, and Anibal Sanchez looks superior to what the Mets
and Phillies have. Offensively, they have a strong nucleus headlined by Hanley
Ramirez, Dan Uggla, Jorge Cantu, and the revitalized Jeremy Hermida. Even the
Marlins’ major weakness of a year ago, their fielding, has undergone a
renovation, spearheaded by the decision to make the rangy Emilio Bonifacio their
starting third baseman and move Cantu to first base. Those moves have made the
Marlins better defensively at two positions; top prospect Cameron Maybin has
upgraded a third position now that he’s been installed as the starting center
fielder.

 

Clearly, the Marlins are a very good club. They may not be
able to beat both the Mets and Phillies, but they aren’t going to disappear
either…

 

One of the Marlins’ rivals, the Braves, made a small deal on
Monday, but it’s one that should be characterized as a steal. Atlanta sent righty reliever Blaine Boyer to
the Cardinals for Brian Barton, who is just the kind of young outfield talent
the Braves need. Caught in a crowded St.
Louis outfield, Barton is joining an organization that
desperately needs young outfield talent. Highly intelligent, Barton will also
bring the Braves some speed and power, and the ability to play all three
outfield spots. If the Braves are smart, they’ll bring Barton up quickly and platoon
him with Garret Anderson in left field, giving some balance to Atlanta’s lineup. If they’re even smarter,
they’ll give Barton a chance to take the job of Anderson, who is off to a
miserable start in Atlanta
and has no RBIs through his first ten games as a Brave.

 

The cost of bringing in Barton looks more than reasonable.
Boyer is a dime-a-dozen middle reliever who pitched well in the first half of
2008, but has been roundly pelted since then. Middle relievers of Boyer’s
talent can always be found, but multi-talented outfielders like Barton are much
harder to locate. Good move for the Braves…

 

Trey Hillman is taking his share of heat from an
increasingly frustrated fan base in Kansas
City, which can’t understand his infatuation with Kyle
Farnsworth. The high-octane reliever cost the Royals a game for the second time
this season, as Farnsworth was brought into the bottom of the ninth inning of a
tie game on Sunday. Farnsworth promptly gave up a game-winning home run.
Strangely, Hillman had the option of pitching his terrific young closer, Joakim
Soria, who was extremely well rested, not having pitched in six days. That’s right, six days. The
Royals also had a day off built into the schedule the following day, but Soria
remained chained to the bullpen. Hillman has apparently become the latest
manager to become intoxicated by Farnsworth’s 97 to 100-mile-per hour fastball
and his off-the-table slider. But the effectiveness of those pitches continues
to be undermined by Farnsworth’s inability to throw strikes, which too often
puts him into hitter’s counts.

 

Hillman is a smart guy who won throughout his minor league
career and his days in the Japanese Leagues. Hopefully, he’ll realize the truth
about Farnsworth before he starts putting his Royals job in jeopardy.

Bunts and Boots: Land of the Giants, Royal Flush, and Birdbathia

Normal
0

false
false
false

MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) }

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-ansi-language:#0400;
mso-fareast-language:#0400;
mso-bidi-language:#0400;}

For the first time in years, the Giants have become a team
of interest in the National League West. The Giants scored ten runs on Tuesday
in handing the Brewers a loss at AT&T Park/Pac Bell, which is an awfully
good sign for a team loaded with offensive question marks. If the Giants can
show any kind of offensive improvement this season, they will make a run at the
Diamondbacks and the Dodgers for a wild card spot that could be coming out of the West. Their
pitching, both in the starting rotation and the bullpen, is talented and deep. With
hard throwers Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez forming the core of
the rotation, and free agents Bob Howry and Jeremy Affeldt providing some
short-term help in the bullpen, the Giants will have a very competitive staff
in ’09.

 

The Giants don’t possess enough of an offensive identity to
realistically win the division, which only makes their unwillingness to spend
big on an Adam Dunn or Manny Ramirez all the more frustrating. San Franciso’s
3-4-5 hitters in Tuesday’s game looked like this: Freddie Lewis, Bengie Molina,
and Pablo Sandoval. In a better world, those three would be batting sixth,
seventh, and eighth for Bruce Bochy, rather than occupying the middle of the Giants’
order. Additionally, their current infield represents one of the great
mysteries in today’s game; quick now, can you name the starting infield,
outside of veteran shortstop Edgar Renteria. Unless you’re a diehard Giants
fan, you’re probably scrambling for a newspaper to find the answer. (It’s
Travis Ishikawa at first, Emmanuel Burriss at second, and Pablo Sandoval at
third.) But at least the Giants are trying to find some long-term answers with
younger players, rather than merely saddling themselves with mediocre veterans
in their early thirties.

 

And for the first time since the early 2000s, the Giants are
worth watching for some other reason than Barry Lamar Bonds…

 

I’m also bullish on the Royals, despite their exasperating
4-2 loss to the White Sox on Tuesday. Kyle Farnsworth continued the highwire
home run act that he fashioned in the Bronx,
blowing a 2-1 lead in the eighth inning by coughing up a three-run homer. (Perhaps
we’ll see Juan Cruz the next time an eighth-inning lead presents itself.)
Farnsworth’s fireworks ruined the day for Gil Meche, who pitched seven innings
of one-run ball. With better relief and a defense that figures to be improved
with Coco Crisp playing center field every day, Meche could be a 15-game winner
this season. He’ll get some help from No. 2 starter Zack Greinke, and perhaps a
mid-season push from former No. 1 pick Luke Hochevar, who’s starting the season
at Triple-A Omaha.

 

The Royals also have the framework for a good offense, built
around homegrown products Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, and Mike Aviles and off-season
pickup Mike Jacobs. The Royals are still lacking in the area of on-base
percentage, and are probably still too young in too many areas, but like the
Giants, they find themselves pointed in the right direction after years of floundering
and flailing in the AL Central…

 

Finally, I have to give the New York Post credit for coming up with the eye-popping headline “BIRDBATHIA”
to describe CC Sabathia’s inauspicious Yankee debut against the Birds of
Baltimore. Just in case he hadn’t already realized it, Sabathia will learn
quickly that the New York
tabloids don’t treat underperforming superstars with big contracts very
sympathetically. If Sabathia struggles in his second start this weekend, I’m
sure the Post will deliver a creative
sequel to its longstanding legacy of harrowing headlines. Welcome to Hell’s
Kitchen, CC…

A St. Patrick’s Day Porridge of Pudge, Ponson, and Godzilla

Normal
0

false
false
false

MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) }

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-ansi-language:#0400;
mso-fareast-language:#0400;
mso-bidi-language:#0400;}

It has made for a nice story this week, but I’m not inclined to
believe that the Astros’ rumored signing of Pudge Rodriguez is directly tied to
his eye-popping performance in the World Baseball Classic. The fact of the matter
is this: the Astros had already made an offer to Rodriguez prior to the WBC, as
part of their winter-long search for a veteran catcher to replace Brad Ausmus.
Now it’s possible that Rodriguez’ uplifting efforts for Team Puerto Rico raised
the Astros’ offer, bringing it up to a level that was more acceptable for the
future Hall of Famer. That I can
believe.

 

Will I-Rod help the Astros? When the alternatives are
unproven catchers of questionable hitting pedigree (J.R. Towles and Humberto
Quintero), the answer is definitively yes. Rodriguez is in better shape than
most 37-year-old receivers, still has the requisite bat speed, and maintains a
better-than-average profile defensively. I’m also convinced that his
late-season struggles with the Yankees had less to do with the complete
breakdown that comes with old age and more to do with the difficult adjustment
that comes with learning an entirely new pitching staff in mid-season. With
nearly two weeks to go in spring training, Rodriguez should receive a needed
jumpstart in learning what he needs to know about Roy Oswalt and Company.

 

Rodriguez won’t be enough to vault the Astros into
contention with the Cubs in the NL Central, but he should make things more
interesting in a division where rivals Milwaukee
and St. Louis
have been hurt by key off-season losses. And in the short term, his signing
will distract some attention from Houston’s
atrocious but nearly meaningless spring training record…

 

I was all ready to jump on the Royals’ mini-bandwagon–a
small wagon that has them looking to improve but not contend in the AL
Central–and then they went and did something inane like sign Sidney Ponson to a
contract. Ponson will now be allowed to compete for one of the last two spots
in Kansas City’s
rotation. When will all of baseball come to the necessary revelation that
Ponson simply cannot pitch at a competitive level? Ponson is no longer a kid;
he’s 32, and years removed from his last decent season. He’s still overweight,
despite constant reminders that he could lose a pound or 15. And he has little
or no endurance, limited to five-inning stints of subpar pitching.

 

Hopefully, the Royals will come to their senses and find
better solutions to the problems at the back end of their rotation. It would be
a shame if they allowed someone like Ponson to torpedo a team that has a chance
to make some upward movements in the central. I like the promise of a rotation
built around veteran Gil Meche and buttressed by younger right-handers Zach
Greinke and Luke Hochevar. The bullpen has a premium closer in Joakim Soria.
Offensively, Jacobs will provide 30-home run power to a lineup that badly needs
punch from both sides of the plate, while perhaps lessening the pressure on
disappointing phenom Alex Gordon. And with Crisp in center field, flanked by
David DeJesus and Jose Guillen, the Royals may have their best defensive
outfield since the days of Willie Wilson, Amos Otis, and Al Cowens…

 

After watching Hideki Matsui play on Tuesday night against
the Pirates, I’m ready to proclaim “Godzilla” the early favorite for AL
Comeback Player of the Year honors. The game marked Matsui’s fourth consecutive
start at DH, an indication that his right knee is nearly ready for the start of
the season. In his first at-bat, Matsui turned on an inside fastball, launching
a tower-scraping drive high over the right field wall at Steinbrenner Field. It
was the kind of swing missing most of last season, as Matsui struggled on balky
knees, one of which was recovering from surgery while the other was anticipating
a similar procedure. While much of Yankee camp has centered on the abilities of
new third baseman Cody Ransom, Matsui will be an especially important Yankee
during the first six weeks of the season. With Alex Rodriguez on the disabled
list, Matsui will serve as the Yankees’ cleanup hitter, making him resident
protection for the newly-signed Mark Teixeira. A good start for Godzilla will
help soften the blow of losing A-Rod for any length of time.

From the Outfield to the Infield

Normal
0

false
false
false

MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-ansi-language:#0400;
mso-fareast-language:#0400;
mso-bidi-language:#0400;}

For about 20 years now, most teams have resisted trying to
move outfielders to infield positions. As Bill James has written, these kinds
of moves generally flop–and flop badly. Most outfielders do not make good third
basemen, or second basemen, or shortstops. The transition to first base is
easier, but I’m really talking about making the shift to the middle infield
positions, or the hot corner, which are positions that require a high degree of
skill. Just ask Hensley Meulens, or
Keith Moreland, or Cory Snyder, or Jim Ray Hart, or Tommy Harper, among the
dozens who have struggled in trying to become infielders. If you have an outfielder that you want to move
somewhere else, try moving him to DH–or maybe to the bench. That’s the safer
bet.

 

Although I am sure they are very aware of the inherent problems,
the Royals and Cardinals are trying to buck the trend in 2009. Both teams have
taken starting outfielders and moved them to second base. In the case of the
Royals, they haven’t committed to Mark Teahen as their everyday second baseman,
but want him to be a versatile backup capable of playing second, third, and the
outfield. With regard to the Cardinals, they’ve decided that Skip Schumaker
(you have to love a player named Skip) will be their regular second baseman, partnering with new shortstop Khalil
Greene. A surplus of outfielders (including the looming presence of super
prospect Colby Rasmus), along with a shortage of middle infielders, convinced
the Cards to make the radical move.

 

In spite of what the baseball history books tell us, I like
what the Cardinals and Royals are doing. Middle infielders are hard to find,
especially ones who can hit with authority. If Teahen and Schumaker, who are OK
offensive players as outfielders go, can make the transition to second base,
they will become that much more valuable. There’s also a larger issue at work
here. Players and teams have become all too rigid about positions in recent
years, to the point where specialization has reached a dangerous extreme.
Versatility, which was once a highly valued skill, has become degraded. This is
a trend that really makes no sense, because with teams now carrying 12 or 13
pitchers on their 25-man rosters, they often have only three or four available
bench players on a given night. Given that reality, teams need a greater supply
of versatile players–now more than ever.

 

In the cases of Teahen and Schumaker, there are some factors
working in their favor. Both are relatively young players–Teahen is 27,
Schumaker is 29–and both are good athletes. Both will have the entirety of
spring training–a full six weeks–to learn the nuances of their new position.
Additionally, neither the Royals nor Cardinals play their home games on
artificial turf, where the increased speed of batted balls would make the transition
to the infield more difficult. Ultimately, if the experiments fail, the teams
can always shift the players back to their original positions. Teahen could
move back to the outfield, making David DeJesus available in trade talks.
Schumaker could play center field, making Rick Ankiel a more viable candidate for
a trade. Both teams clearly have options.

 

The Cardinals and Royals are gambling here, taking a chance
on injury and embarrassment. But if these moves work out, the benefits could be
significant and tangible. And heck, if you can’t experiment with position
changes in spring training, when can you? 

Normal
0

false
false
false

MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

 

Card Corner–Paul Schaal

Schaal.jpgAs kids growing up in Westchester County, we found it both foolishly fun and humorously cruel to repeat the quirky names of certain ballplayers over and over. One of those players was Paul Schaal (pronounced PAWL SHAWL), one of the few big leaguers whose last name rhymed with his first. Along with Don Hahn and Greg Legg, Schaal must have taken his share of verbal abuse about that as a child.

 

A couple of other intriguing facts come to mind when thinking about Paul Schaal. He was the Kansas City Royals’ last regular third baseman before a fellow named George Brett burst onto the major league scene. A certified Hall of Famer and the owner of the most attractive batting swing of the late 20th century–I’ll put him just ahead of Ken Griffey, Jr. in that regard–Brett made most Royals fans forget all about Schaal. Still, Schaal was not a bad ballplayer. Beginning with the California Angels in the mid-1960s, he established a reputation as one of the game’s finest fielding third baseman. One member of the Angels even called Schaal the equal of Brooks Robinson, generally regarded as baseball’s most divine defensive third baseman of all-time. 

 

Offensively, Schaal showed promise as a youngster, until he was hit in the head by a pitched ball during the 1968 season. The injury left the Angels understandably worried about his future, so they left him exposed in the expansion draft that winter. As one of four new teams entering the major leagues, the Royals snapped up Schaal, hoping that he could recover fully from the beanball incident. After initially clashing with Royals skipper Charlie Metro, Schaal settled in nicely as KC’s cornerman. In 1971, he used remarkable patience at the plate, walking 103 times to formulate a .387 on-base percentage, while playing in every Royals game that season. He slumped to a .228 average in 1972 before rebounding to hit .288 with eight home runs the following season. Unfortunately, Schaal’s game fall off badly in 1974, prompting a trade back to California, where he finished out his career with the Halos. In the meantime, Mr. Brett staked permanent claim to Kansas City’s “hot corner.”

 

While Schaal never achieved much more than temporary stardom with the Royals and Angels, he has managed to become one of the most successful of ex-ballplayers in his post-playing days. Schaal is now Dr. Schaal, which sounds an awful lot like Dr. Scholl, the foot doctor. But it’s Dr. Schaal, practicing back specialist. More specifically, the good doctor runs the Schaal Health & Wellness Center in Overland Park, Kansas, and is considered an expert in network spinal analysis. As the doctor’s website points out, “At Schaal Health Center, we use Young Living Essential Oils daily to diffuse the air with their therapeutic aromas.” And that sounds pretty good to me.