Spring Training is upon us and “hope springs eternal” at this time of the year in every Major League Baseball camp. Everyone had a nice offseason, worked hard to strengthen his core muscles, is in the best shape of his life, completely changed his diet, really got his swing back by going back to what he used to do and working hard in the batting cage all winter on his mechanics, simplified his approach, worked hard on his footwork, and generally did whatever he possibly could to make his farts smell like roses and chocolates before coming to camp. Every player is going to have a great season, and every team is going to make a run at taking “the next step”- whether that means a winning season, the postseason, getting to the World Series, or repeating as champs. Sunshine and rainbows abound.
Here’s some piss in your Spring Training Cheerios: the 2014 Kansas City Royals are going to be more disappointing than Justin Bieber’s last couple of years combined. WHY?!!!! HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT?!!!!! THE ROYALS JUST WON 86 GAMES FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 20+ YEARS!!!!!! THEY’RE READY TO GO TO THE PLAYOFFS THIS YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Really? There are several reasons why this isn’t happening.
ROYAL BLUE IS THE NEW PURPLE
The Beebs burst onto the scene in his purple outfits, long hairstyle, and displayed his incredible singing talent at a very young age. He had nothing but promise ahead but then it started falling apart. The more he was in the limelight, the more stupid things he did to make himself look like an idiot. Now his purple outfits have faded as he makes mistake after mistake that make him look like a doosh.
Similarly, the Royals can’t get out of their own way in the offseason these days after building the greatest minor league system in the history of mankind a few seasons ago. They overshot the free agent market for Ervin Santana. Concluding early that they couldn’t (wouldn’t?) afford Santana, they “moved on” to spend several million dollars per year to sign Jason Vargas and re-sign “Bruce F*@k!ng Chen” to pitch in their starting rotation instead. Well, they misread the market (again) on pitching and they could have gotten Big Erv for roughly the same amount of money per season that they are paying Vargas and Chen combined. Which would you rather have for the same amount of money this season: two #4 starters; or a guy who was (at worst) a #2 in 2013 for KC?
Last season the Royals lived on pitching and defense. Their offense ranked 5th in the American League in Batting Average, but it was pretty empty because the Royals ranked LAST in the AL in Home Runs and 11th out of 15 in Runs Scored. They were also 12th out of 15 in Slugging Percentage, which measures power hitting. In short, the Royals had to hit 4 or 5 singles to score 1-2 runs in an inning. Guess what? That is really hard to do in the major leagues! The Royals spent nearly the entire first half of the season scoring very few runs and putting a HUGE amount of stress on their pitching staff. They also dug themselves a hole in the standings in May that they could not overcome due to poor offense.
Take a look at the projected 2014 Royals from a far distance and they are simple to define: their defense is still good, their pitching got worse, and they made NO moves to add a powerful bat to the lineup.
- Pitching & Defense: The Royals now have #1 starter James Shields and a bunch of 4’s and 5’s. Jeremy Guthrie will likely continue to be MLB average, along with Vargas and Chen (we are all holding our breath on this). Who will be the #2 or 3? A #4 or #5!!!! Alternatively, the team hopes that a young/unproven pitcher (Danny Duffy or Yordano Ventura) will make a breakthrough and that unable-to-stay-healthy stud pitching prospect Kyle Zimmer will join the team later in the season to give them a boost. Also keep in mind that previously failed starters Luke Hochevar and Wade Davis are candidates for one of the spots in the starting rotation as well. WHEEEEEE!!!!!! Fingers are crossed that Greg Holland remains an All-Star closer (history says closers, for the most part, are not consistently dominant from year to year unless your name is Mariano Rivera) and that the other arms in the bullpen are consistently healthy and effective (again, history says this does not happen from year to year with the same group in the ‘pen). Sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.
- Offense: The Royals traded a young pitcher for a Right Fielder (Norichika Aoki) who gets on base at a decent rate and they plan on batting him leadoff. OK. They also signed a free agent Second Baseman (Omar Infante) who doesn’t get on base at that great of a rate or hit for power to be their #2 hitter in the lineup. Huh? So, basically the Royals are expecting their young hitters to improve (and nothing more) in order to improve the offense as a whole. This group includes a Third Baseman who can’t hit for average, get on base, or hit for much power (Mike Moustakas), a Center Fielder who is talented but can’t stay on the field due to injuries (Lorenzo Cain), a Shortstop who just turned in a 2013 season in which he was the worst statistical hitter in all of MLB among those who had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title (Alcides Escobar), and a Catcher who swings at everything thrown between the centerfield wall and the backstop (Salvy Perez). Add this to the fact that nobody knows if Eric Hosmer can repeat the second half of 2013 or whether Alex Gordon and Billy Butler can bounce back from incredibly disappointing seasons. Oh, and the Royals are going to double down on Gordon by putting has bat in the middle of the lineup this season. One last barb: Rookie of the Year and superhitter Wil Myers isn’t playing RF for the Royals this season because he was traded last season to Tampa for James Shields and Wade Davis. Does this sound better to you than the pitching situation?
So the pitching got worse, the offense has no major run-producing additions, and the team is telling everyone that they’ve spent their limit for payroll for 2014. Translation: “This is our team, there will be no major additions going forward.”
At least we’ll have the “Be Royal” slogan to help us all feel better. Prepare yourselves to get beaten over the head with a worn-out song by Lorde at Kauffman Stadium from April to September. There will be no October for the Royals this season and the fans will be left feeling……..purple.