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Stupid is …

Posted: July 2nd, 2009 | Filed under: Baseball | 53 Comments »

More Kansas City Royals. I keep meaning to write about some other teams … but the Royals just keep doing amazing things. Amazing things.

Here’s the thing — and, I’ll admit, this might be a bit of a flaw — but I tend to believe that there aren’t many stupid people running sports teams. Maybe it’s because I see how hard they work. Maybe it’s because I know how much they went through to get to their jobs. Maybe it’s because I do get to talk to many of them, and in the comfort of conversation most people in sports sound reasonable and most explanations are at least plausible. Maybe it’s because — probably it is largely because — I want to see the best in people. I hope that is my personality.

But every so often I see something that seems so blindingly stupid that, in all honestly, I find myself wondering if I’m wrong about all that, wondering if it is possible that, yes, the people who make sports decisions can simply lose their bleepin’ minds.

This was the thought going through my mind as I watched the sixth inning Wednesday between the Royals and Twins. Of course, a day earlier I wrote here about the sheer wonder I had felt watching Royals manager Trey Hillman pinch hit Luis Hernandez for Tony Pena and then Tug Hulett for Luis Hernandez. A couple of brilliant readers pointed out that the trio at this point is slugging .370 COMBINED, which might be the most remarkable statistic in the history of the world. I didn’t understand the deck-chairs-on-the-Titanic pinch-hitting strategy and it felt silly, but I thought it was mostly harmless fun by a manager who frankly doesn’t seem to have any idea what to do anymore.

Wednesday’s jaw-dropper, though, was much more ominous. Start here: If you’re a Royals fan, you have probably read Rany Jazayerli’s screed about Royals trainer Nick Swartz. It’s pretty strong — I don’t happen to believe Swartz is the problem, I believe that at the end of the day the trainer only advises and it’s the team decision makers that make calls. But I would not argue with Rany’s basic points … or his three main examples:

1. Joakim Soria apparently had some shoulder trouble. The Royals decided to keep it quiet — no, more than quiet, manager Trey Hillman decided to LIE about it — to gain some sort of illusive competitive advantage that, frankly, I never understood. They didn’t pitch him in a couple of key games, which made HIllman look like he had no idea what he was doing, and then the Royals pitched him, and then they admitted Soria was hurt and rested him, and then they pitched him AGAIN and THEN they put him on the DL. And this is one of the Royals’ CORNERSTONE PLAYERS. Bad, bad, bad.

2. Shortstop Mike Aviles was apparently hurting, the Royals kept that quiet too. He was preposterously bad, and then they admitted he might be hurt, and then they rested him, and then they played him, and then they put him on the DL and now it appears his right elbow is destroyed. He needs Tommy John surgery, which — let’s be honest — puts his whole career at risk.

3. Coco Crisp’s shoulder was apparently hurting, the Royals kept downplaying it. That’s a key word here: Downplay. You know, most baseball players will downplay their own injuries … it has been that way for a hundred years. Teams have to take responsibility. Crisp said his shoulder was fine and the Royals said his shoulder was fine but there was room for doubt. Even during spring training, some of Crisp’s throws were so preposterously weak that, as we often said, he made Johnny Damon look like Roberto Clemente. Seriously, he was four hopping cutoff men on SLOW ROLLERS UP THE MIDDLE. It was absolutely clear that he could throw the ball farther with his left arm … he HAD to be hurt. But then he would uncork a merely way-below-average throw and you thought, “OK, well, maybe he’s not hurt too bad, maybe he’s just getting his arm warmed up for the season.”

I tend to think now that Crisp was badly hurt all year. People point out that he was playing quite well in the first month, but I think that’s kind of revisionist history. He was pretty effective but it was mostly because he was (surprisingly) walking quite a bit. His batting average was still lousy. He was chasing down fly balls brilliantly but his arm was a huge liability. He was using his speed better — stealing bases more effectively — but let’s not go making him out to be Rickey Henderson. I think his shoulder was hurt all along. But whatever the case, the shoulder apparently kept getting worse and worse and Crisp started playing worse and worse. The Royals (are you catching the trend?) would rest him for a little bit, put him back in, say things were OK, rest him a bit more, say he couldn’t bat left-handed and finally they put him on the DL where they found (voila!) that he had a torn labrum. Out for the year. Rany suggests that there was some SERIOUS malfeasance here … and it’s hard to argue the point.

So that’s where we are … this organization has shown a consistent pattern this year of the “rub some dirt on it” medical approach. In a certain book that is coming out on 09/09/09, I write at length about a pitcher, Gary Nolan, who was a GREAT young pitcher. He started feeling terrible pain in his arm, and he told the Reds about it, and the Reds management did not believe he was hurt. They believed he was soft. They believed he should toughen up. Not to stray too far off track here, but at one point the Reds actually sent him to a DENTIST to have an tooth removed — they said this would relieve the pain in Nolan’s shoulder. This was the sort of witch doctor medicine of 1975. Nolan missed almost two full years and eventually he went to Dr. Frank Jobe — right around the same time that Tommy John went to see Jobe — and they found there was a one inch bone spur in his shoulder. Jobe said that he could not even imagine how much pain Nolan had to be going through to pitch with that thing in his shoulder.

That’s how it was in 1975. And the Royals seem to be from the 1975 school of medicine.

All of which takes us back (finally) to Wednesday. Gil Meche was pitching, and you may or may not know that Meche has been battling with a balky back and a dead arm this year. Even so, he has made 17 starts — he leads the American League in starts — because he has become what baseball people like to call a warrior.

Unfortunately, the warrior had been terrible his previous two outings — terrible, in fact, ever since Trey Hillman left him in to throw 132 pitches in a shutout against Arizona. I want to make clear here that this is NOT about pitch counts. Bill James and I wrote some about pitch counts already, and we both said that we are skeptical about the way teams use pitch counts now and we’re open to Nolan Ryan’s plan to extend pitchers. You could argue — pretty persuasively, I imagine — that having a pitcher who has been dealing with a stiff back throw 132 pitch might not be the wisest move ever. But hey, Meche is a grown-up, he insisted on staying in there, he finished the job, I would not second guess it.

BUT then that familiar pattern emerged one more time. Meche struggled badly his next start. And he struggled badly again his next time out. His velocity was down. He felt lousy on the mound. The Royals said he had a bit of “dead arm,” which I’m pretty sure is not a modern medical term. To be blunt, that sounds like something John McGraw would have said. You had to wonder if the Royals planned to treat the “dead arm” with leeches and by drowning a witch.

But OK, hey, dead arm, and Meche (who also downplayed things — guy’s a WARRIOR) said that maybe there was a little “built up tendinitis” and some “fatigue.” He decided to take a couple of days off — not even pick up a baseball. Sounded like a wise thing to do. At first, there was some doubt if he would even make his Wednesday start, and frankly I have NO IDEA why the Royals would even let him make his Wednesday start. Skip a start, make sure he’s OK, I mean it’s not like the Royals are in the heat of a pennant race here.

But OK, Meche said he felt good after his two days off. And as Hillman said: “He’ll know with his experience.” Meche said he wanted to go Wednesday … OK, let him go. “No reservations,” Trey Hillman said. Pitching coach Bob McClure, a sensible soul, was a bit more cautious.

“I would say we’ll probably monitor how many pitches we’re going to let him throw,” McClure said.

Well, sure. Of course. I mean, you wouldn’t let a guy with a dead arm and bad back throw a lot of pitches. That’s OBVIOUS, no? Meche went out and, good to see, his stuff looked pretty good. He was throwing in the low-to-mid 90s again. His curveball looked pretty sharp. He did walk five guys in five innings, and he did labor, and he did throw 99 pitches in those five innings which I think is probably a few more than you would want him to throw. But hey, he only allowed one earned run and the Royals were in the game and Meche seemed to be back on track … Mission accomplished.

Only then … Gil Meche walked out the mound to start the sixth inning.

I wanted to rub my eyes, you know, the way they do in the movies when they see a ghost or really beautiful woman. I looked back at my computer — yep, he’d thrown 99 pitches. I retraced my steps: Yes, Meche did say he had a dead arm, yes there was some stiff back issues, yes everyone said the Royals were going to be cautious, yes, check … and then I looked back on the screen and there was Meche, or at least some guy with Meche’s name on his jersey, on the mound. What? Gil Meche has two-and-a-half years left on his $55 million contract. Gil Meche was the Royals opening day starter. Gil Meche is absolutely one of the critical players if the Royals are EVER going to dig out of this hole …

It couldn’t be. Nobody would send Gil Meche out there. Nobody would do that. Nobody would do that. Nobody would do …

On the second pitch of the inning (101st pitch overall) Carlos Gomez cracked a vicious double down the left-field line. Well, in a way, that was good. Carlos Gomez does not hit many vicious doubles … surely now Hillman would come and take Meche out and end this preposterous …

No. Meche stayed out there. He struck out Nick Punto*. He got Denard Span to fly out on the first pitch of an at-bat (yay Denard!). So Meche had 105 pitches and might get out of this without it being a total disaster.

*So, is Nick Punto the new odd/even guy? I mean, Punto is not an especially good offensive player at any point, but in even years he seems to be passable, especially for a versatile guy who can play numerous positions. In odd years, not so much:

2006: .290 average, .352 on-base percentage, 17 stolen bases.
2007: .210 average, .271 slugging, 52 OPS+.
2008: .284 average, 99 OPS+.
2009: .212 average, 51 OPS+.

No sir. Matt Tolbert then worked Meche for an eight-pitch at-bat which led to a walk. Meche was now up to 113 pitches with two of the best lefty hitters in the American League — Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau — coming up. Well, yes, that was a disaster, but at least now Meche would get taken out of the game and …

No. Meche stayed in to face Joe Mauer. It leads to one of the great questions of philosophy: At what point does idiotic become criminal? Jamie Quirk, who was color commentator on television, talked about how Meche wanted to stay out there. Well OF COURSE Meche wanted to stay out there, but that’s why you have a MANAGER, someone who MANAGES to walk out to the mound and say, “Great effort Gil, but you know, I had to be insane to let you pitch the sixth inning in the first place, I have to get you out of here now.”

But Meche stayed out there. He got ahead of Mauer 0-2, then threw a ball, then Mauer singled, scoring a run. Meche was up to 117 pitches now. Hillman finally went to the mound. We had driven past the lunacy exit about four miles back … we were now in lawsuit territory. Could there be any explanation — ANY explanation — for pitching your wounded Opening Day starter 117 pitches?

Wait for it.

No, wait for it.

Hillman walked back to the dugout and left Meche in the game to face Morneau.

I don’t know. Maybe at some point, when you’re SO FAR down the wrong road, you just go: “What the hell, might as well keep going and hope we run into something good.” Maybe it would have been more damaging to have Meche throw 117 pitches and then pull him before the inning was done. I don’t know. I really don’t know. We are in such la-la land here, there can be no logical questions … these are like “How would you wash a unicorn?” questions. I do know that Meche threw four more pitches and did get Morneau to fly out to right.

And the final tally: Gil Meche, who four days earlier was not sure he was going to start, who three days earlier was going to be watched closely, who one day earlier was talking about how he hoped he had his velocity back … threw 121 pitches. The explanation afterward seemed to be that Meche wanted to … and his stuff was good. Or something.

And look: Meche may be fine. As my friend Bob Dutton likes to say when he sees something that seems beyond any and all logic — “Well, hey, it COULD work.” Covering the Royals for years will do that to a man.

The weirdest part of all might have been a camera shot of Hillman sitting next to trainer Nick Swartz in the dugout while Meche was on the mound. They were not talking … they were both looking out at the field, manager and trainer, side by side in concentration. I could not help but wonder what they were looking at.

Were they looking out there and thinking, “Hmm, you know, it might not be the world’s best idea to let this guy throw 121 pitches?”

Were they thinking, “Hmm, hey, you know, someone might want to actually count this guy’s pitches so we could know how many he has thrown?”

Were they thinking, “Boy, I hope this works and doctors don’t find out tomorrow that Gil has a serious injury because that would mean both our butts?”

Were they thinking … at all?


53 Comments on “Stupid is …”

  1. 1: Bill C. said at 9:23 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    It’s pretty clear they need to fire Trey Hillman at this point. I realize he has little to work with, but the guy really just does not seem to have a clue. Possibly Moore should go as well.

  2. 2: Jeremy said at 9:25 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    I have been a Royals fan since 97. I have been watching what seemed like the height on insanity the year before get trumped the next year every time. What do they have to do to look like even just an average baseball team?

  3. 3: London said at 9:26 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    I’ve stopped watching the Royals…almost stopped caring if they win or lose. Never stopped caring for the guys. This is brutal to read. So many people had to be watching this game not knowing, no clue at all, what was going on. Thank you, Joe. You always let us know what’s going on behind the scenes and within the players’ hearts and minds.

  4. 4: wdb said at 9:26 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    Must make sure Trey is up for “baseball questions” when he’s asked about this.

  5. 5: devil_fingers said at 9:30 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    Trey just wanted to let Gil “control the game” so he doesn’t end up in another horrific Nolan-Ryan-in-1987 situation, where he had his best season in about 10 years, but DIDN’T GET ENOUGH PITCHER WINS. OH THE HUMANITY.

    It’s just too bad Dayton Moore’s hands are completely tied in this situation. You know, because he’s just done a heckuva job with this team.

  6. 6: Matt in Toledo said at 9:32 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    It is remarkably frustrating to follow a team closely enough to where you know all the little injuries and concerns that are made public, all the little roster decisions that could be made, all the options the manager has before him, only to see him continually do the exact opposite of what you expect him to do.

    Not only that, once it’s all finished, you watch the press conference or read the paper the next day. You do that hoping there is an explanation that illuminates some detail or point you had overlooked, so you can say, “Ohhhh, well that makes sense.” But it never comes and what’s worse, when the exact question you wanted to ask comes up, you get a BS answer that can be dismissed as just that with a second’s thought.

    It is truly a painful situation to go through when you invest so much time, energy and attention on a team. It forces you to realize you are truly addicted as a fan, because you think, “If I could, I would quit caring about this stupid team.”

  7. 7: Justyo said at 9:40 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    At what point do you begin to believe the Royals see some cache in being awful? From your recent posts it’s beginning to come clear that the Royals do not really expect to contend. The marketing equation may be – (in a world where any pub is good pub) Are you more interesting as one of the worst franchises? Or a middle of the road club like the Blue Jays or Seattle? I’m not being quite serious here but the thought does cross your mind.

    Put it another way – If you’re in a beauty contest against – pick someone – Megan Fox or Charlize Theron and you know you’re cute but way out of their league what can you do? You can move deck chairs like the Royals – Get a collagen injection – (Guillen), a breast augmentation (Jacobs)… But you’re still not that hot and will never be. So, what do you do? Really.

    You smile and pose and talk about how you never really had a chance and hope that empathy carries enough weight to keep you on the stage?

    Unfortunately the answer may not be “Get a smarter Doctor, or Agent”. But instead, you need to find another contestant.

  8. 8: Jeff M said at 9:42 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    Frank White should be manager. I am not putting up with this nonsense anymore. I don’t care if Hillman has nothing to work with, he has had a chance and hasn’t done anything. At some point Frank White will become manager. Hopefully it is sooner rather than later.

  9. 9: Paul said at 9:55 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    Thanks for the “warrior” angle. I am so tired of hearing that phrase applied to people who play games for a living. The term was forever ruined, by the way, by that wild man Tona Pena Sr. in reference to Kevin Appier a few years back. “That man is a warrior.” Yeah, right.

  10. 10: Brad said at 9:58 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    A few posts ago Joe wrote something to the effect of “Trey Hillman and Dayton Moore have more access to baseball related information, have been around and played baseball for most of their lives, and have forgot more than I could know about baseball”. This sounds wonderful and it’s not that I disagree. I don’t these guys at all. But it stands to reason that many “baseball guys” aren’t the brightest bulbs. Intellect isn’t generally what brings a man into the game, it’s talent. Being a player of any level obviously allows for excellent networking. Many players of all levels filter into coaching and management positions through networking.

    Obviously, talented baseball players and intelligence aren’t mutually exclusive and there were smart men in baseball 100+ years ago and there is an even greater percentage now; however, there are a lot of guys that filtered into coaching and management just because they played the game, had some diligence, and knew the right people (that are probably just like them). Those guys can have all the baseball experience and surround themselves with all the information possible, but if they don’t have that much going on up there, they won’t use all that experience and info in the best way possible. Combine that with the short life span of the manager and GM position, there is an implicit (and probably explicit) pressure to win in the short term. Thus, some/many decisions are made in the best interest of the manager/GM and not the team (e.g., A GM acquires a player who is terrible, but continues to play him or a manager continues with a philosophy instead of making adjustments).

  11. 11: Kevin said at 10:07 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    Oh yes Frank White for manager! Brilliant! Followed by George Brett and Willie Wilson and Jamie Quirk and on and on and on. They will teach hustle and grit and Royal pride! They will rub dirt in wounds and spit in the opponents eye and that will NO DOUBT turn Luis Hernandez into Derek Jeter. The current Royals just “don’t want to win bad enough.”

    This is the most tired and annoying storyline of living in KC. Hire a Royals player from the 70’s or 80’s and ‘HE won’t put with losing because he was a winner!’….just like Frank Robinson taught winning ‘grit’ to the Nationals.

  12. 12: Algonad said at 10:07 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    Did your favorite manager bat a .180 hitter in front of the best two hitters on the Twins again?

  13. 13: Algonad said at 10:09 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    The situation you referred to with Hillman at the “what the hell” stage has a name. That stage is the “no point in steering now” stage.

    “No point in steering now” is what Bob MacKenzie says to his brother, Dave, as they realize they have no brakes while they’re heading down hill towards a lake in the movie “Strange Brew.” I think it is a pretty appropriate analogy for the 2009 Royals.

  14. 14: Glanzer said at 10:11 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    The Twins have never been a great power-hitting team since I’ve started following them, and it seems no matter who puts on a Twins uniform automatically goes into a power drought. Then, when they leave Minnesota, they magically find this power stroke (i.e. David Ortiz). Until Morneau and Hunter did it in 2006, it had been 19 years in between 30-HR hitters.

    I wonder if the Royals and Pirates experience something similar to this, only to an all-around greater extent that encompasses their entire game—offense, defense, pitching, baserunning, coaching. Could it be that any player, whether Pujols or Santana, who puts on a Royals uniform automatically becomes worse? Is it a state of mind that once you become a Royal, you become a failure? Could a team’s long run of unsuccessful play actually trigger a new player into believing that he will fail and then actually does?

    There’s some weak philosophy I just came up with that makes more sense in my head than it does written down.

  15. 15: Gate said at 10:12 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    @Justyo

    Although to make the analogy more apt, you would have to go into the beauty contest saying: “I really need to lose weight and then I have a shot” and then your strategy for doing this would be to eat a lot of crappy food and not exercise (Jacobs).

    I’m a big believer in the role of managers being:
    1. To keep players happy/playing hard
    2. Not endanger the health/safety of important players.

    I really think that’s about it. The strategy stuff is nice, but in all honesty the difference between sacrifice bunting all the time and never doing it is probably less than a games worth of runs. Really, it’s just a “keep everyone happy and do no harm” job. Another reason why Moore is an obstacle to the Royals success is his inability to hire a manager who abides by these 2 rules.

  16. 16: Red said at 10:15 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    This comment goes back to yesterday’s post on the pinch-hitting fiasco. Hernandez has pinch-hit for Pena a few times this season. Since Hernandez is also considered a good fielding shortstop, and is obviously a better hitter than Pena (why else would he be pinch-hitting), then why doesn’t Hernandez START? I don’t have the stats in front of me, but it seems like it’s always either Pena or Bloomquist that starts at short.

    Another point…as a small-market team, why don’t the Royals make sure they have the absolute best people for the relatively inexpensive pieces of the puzzle (manager, 3rd base coach, trainer / S&C coach, etc), rather than Mickey Mousing around with people that have never managed (Hillman, Pena, Muser), managed with a terrible record (Bell) and never coached 3rd base (Owen)?

  17. 17: andrew said at 10:19 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    Earth to Dayton…. Earth to Dayton…. Come in Dayton.

  18. 18: AxDxMx said at 10:32 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    #14 Glanzer:

    That is exactly what happens. That’s how bad this team has been for 20 years now.

  19. 19: Neuty said at 10:50 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    Joe, back and better than ever. “How would you wash a unicorn?” Brilliant! Thanks for the laugh heading into the weekend.

  20. 20: Paul White said at 11:12 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    Theo Epstein gave J.D. Drew $70 million. Terry Ryan outright released David Ortiz. Billy Beane traded Andre Ethier for Milton “Crazybones” Bradley. In other words, even smart people do incredibly stupid things. It’s relatively infrequent, but it happens.

    With the Royals, it’s not relatively infrequent. It’s downright frequent. In fact, it’s nearly a constant. And that means that it’s a far greater likelihood that these aren’t smart people who keeping doing stupid things, but are instead just not that bright to begin with.

  21. 21: JJSKCK said at 11:42 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    I quit. I’m done. I can’t take it anymore.

  22. 22: JD said at 11:55 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    I still say Hillman is twice the manager that Bob Geren is.

    Geren may have ruined Sean Gallagher’s career last season by leaving Gallagher out there when he SAID HE WAS HURTING. That doesn’t even count all the stupid things he’s done this year (batting Orlando Cabrera first/second is about as egregious as batting Matt Holliday ninth, playing Ryan Sweeney so much against lefties, not playing Travis Buck, using Nomar against righties, using his bullpen like they’re all robots who don’t suffer fatigue, keeping Giambi in the heart of the order even though it’s clear he can’t really play anymore, etc.). I’m starting to think that Geren is either A) throwing the games or B) doing whatever he wants because he knows Beane won’t fire him since they’re such good friends.

  23. 23: Mark W said at 11:59 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    Boy, reading this piece by Joe and then many of the comments makes me wonder how long before there isn’t another huge problem with the Royals…How can they keep Zach Greinke reasonably sane given what appears to be a complete mess? I’m really not meaning to joke about Zach’s past here but I’d soon have an anxiety disorder bubbling to the surface if I was seen as the star and “savior” of this once proud franchise.

  24. 24: Tampa Mike said at 11:59 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    “You had to wonder if the Royals planned to treat the “dead arm” with leeches and by drowning a witch”

    That is hilarious!

    Wow, I’m glad Wednesday was a day game, cause I would have broken my TV had I seen them leave Meche in that long. It’s hard to blame a trainer for injuries, but with they way they have been handling them this year you have to wonder. Him and Hillman. I don’t think they were thinking Joe. I don’t think Hillman thinks most of the time. He doesn’t look at lefty/righty matchups when using the bullpen, but will turn the batting order upside down if there is a lefty on the mound. I don’t get this guy at all!! The irrational things Hillman does drives me crazy.

  25. 25: Siberian Khatru said at 12:09 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    “You had to wonder if the Royals planned to treat the ‘dead arm’ with leeches and by drowning a witch.”

    Heh, the Royals have Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber as their trainer.

  26. 26: BH said at 12:26 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    Tony Pena Jr batting in the 11th with the bases loaded and a broken hand thinks that all this whining about the Royals injury management is a bit much.

    Yes, Trey really batted TPJ with the bases loaded in the 11th despite TPJ having a broken hand. Sure, we were up. BUT HE HAD A BROKEN HAND AND TREY KEPT HIM IN THE GAME. WHAT THE HELL.

  27. 27: Lance said at 12:29 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    Write this stuff in the paper. It’s time. Don’t apologize for doing your job either.

  28. 28: Goetzo said at 12:32 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    Joe, I wish you would go ahead a write this stuff for the Star instead of only in your blog. I know your blog is worth bizillions, but I’m Royals’ fans more people would see it there. I really want to believe in Trey and DM. Sometimes when I listen to Trey talk, he sounds like a solid baseball guy that takes into consideration things that don’t occur to me. Whitey Herzog was that way. There were times when he would do things that I wouldn’t understand (of course, I was a lot younger then), but sometimes he would later explain it, and then it would make sense and I’d have learned something. With Trey, it’s sometimes like that, but more often, it feels like when Dick Howser explained why he was batting Kirby Puckett leadoff instead of Rickey Henderson in the ‘86 All-Star Game. It sounded Twilight Zone-like absurd. Of course Dick was shortly afterward diagnosed with a brain tumor.

  29. 29: Steve Buffum said at 12:46 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    Joe, you have your work cut out for you: Rany Jazayerli has actually been BLACKLISTED by the Royals.

    http://www.ranyontheroyals.com/2009/07/banned.html

    As someone who has been yelling at the Indians for four years, this simultaneously impresses me while causing a certain degree of (non)professional jealousy.

  30. 30: paul said at 12:52 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    So Crisp walked more early in the season and you think he’s been hurt all year:

    Was he walking more because it hurt to swing? Even a little bit of unconscious doubt or anxiety about the pain might make him more likely to take pitches.

    Oh and the Royals appear to have banned Rany. Maybe that will clear the stupid hurdle for the day and they can be smart in their game.

  31. 31: Jonah Gillespie said at 1:01 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    I am extremely disappointed in the Royals’ response to Rany Jazayerli’s blog post of June 24, 2009. Blacklisting Rany Jazayerli from Kauffman Stadium is fundamentally upsetting to me. This shows a lack of class and lack of respect for the basic right of free speech, and the Royals’ response should be protested.

    I would have been able to tolerate, even understand, a response of blacklisting someone if Rany Jazayerli were employed or associated with the Royals in any professional capacity. But he’s not. Rany identifies himself on his blog as a dermatologist, blogger, and Royals fan. For years he’s been extremely articulate, incisive, and at times, critical of the Kansas City Royals organization from an outsider’s perspective, and my personal fandom of the Royals has been made all the better by his independent contributions to discussions of my most beloved sports franchise. It is very sad to hear that as a result of his love for the Royals (admittedly, sometimes a “tough love” as in his 6/24/2009), the powers that be have deemed him a pariah.

    I’ve been a Royals fan all my life, but this lack of acceptance of freedom of speech by the Royals offends me as a person and citizen of this country. It’s not about whether Nick Swartz should be fired or not. At this point, I could care less, because freedom of speech comes first for me, before fandom. In result, it pains me to say this but I am no longer a fan of the Royals until they issue Rany a public apology. As such, I will no longer provide any support to the Royals – whether that be be monetary or emotionally.

    The Royals’ front office response to Rany fundamentally offended my sense of right and wrong, and I will not sacrifice that for anyone, even the franchise that I have loved for so long. It’s time to move on. I wish the Royals all the best, and I extend a warm thank you to the other Royals fans I’ve met who keep me going. The Royals have such a wealth of intelligent and thougtful fans, it amazes me that so many bright people have been able to tolerate so many years of managerial and company executive ineptitude. But alas, that’s part of being a fan, and I have such a deep respect for you all. It really saddens me to leave this behind. Hopefully, this will not be a permanent self-imposed exile.

  32. 32: Jeff said at 1:03 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    The sad thing is that in a month we will go through this all over again after Alex Gordon is rushed back from his injury and suffers another setback. For what? To improve to 15 games out of first place instead of 20.

  33. 33: BH said at 1:09 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    “Was he walking more because it hurt to swing?”

    Well, that would explain Guillen’s walk rate this year

  34. 34: Jerry said at 1:10 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    You could replace all of these names with those of Mets players and personnel and tell the same story. Bright people are supposed to learn from their mistakes.

  35. 35: Gate said at 1:27 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    I read Rany’s post…what does “banned” mean? I understand they canceled the BP event, but do they also refuse to sell him tickets or something?

    It’s good to see that the Royals are as strong on the importance of good PR as they are on the importance of OBP.

  36. 36: Steve Buffum said at 1:49 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    I think “banned” in this case means among other things that no employee of the Royals will participate in Rany’s weekly radio show (in addition to the cancellation of the BP event).

  37. 37: Dex Morgan said at 1:54 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    There is a stinky wind blowing out at Kaufmann Stadium and the blacklisting of Rany has just skunked it up even more. Whomever the exec in the front office is who decided this wold be a good move should have his head examined and his next paycheck held back.

    For a team in their situation, for an organization struggling so mightily not to completely implode, for a manager so helplessly and recklessly and blindly attempting to manage with no idea of how to go about it, for a GM who is now on the hot seat for putting together an overhyped, under-talented roster that is saved only by a couple of good pitchers every five days…for an organization dealing with all these calamities you would think SOMEBODY out there at One Kaufmann Drive would have the self awareness to speak up at their most recent staff meeting and say,

    “Look, now this latest blog entry from Jazayerli is pretty damning. It makes Nick look incompetent and it makes us look foolish at best for retaining him as an employee for this long. But might I suggest that if we give this blog entry any publicity, any recognition, any life what-so-ever that it may not only give the piece some credence, it may also make us look incredibly petty and insecure at a time when the last thing we need to do is invite unwanted bad publicity right to our doorstep. I submit that perhaps we should bite our tongues, leave this be and let it fade away into the ether. In another couple of weeks it will have passed. I feel as though everyone in this room should strongly consider this before making any ill-advised premature decisions out of anger or frustration brought on by media opinion.”

    And then you’d think SOMEBODY in the room would say, “He’s right. Let’s not give this thing any wheels. Let it go. Let’s focus on what’s going on in-house. Next order of business…?”

    But noooooooooo. Not this organization. Not our Kansas City Royals.

    There have been some low points this season, there were plenty of low points last season and plenty more the season before that and the season before that…but this particular low point for some reason has a whole new special quality of lousy, woeful futility to it. This move has, in one instant, taken me right back to where I was with this team two years ago when they were still a laughingstock. I have been transported backwards in time to feeling once again that openly admitting you are a Royals fan is a shameful and embarrassing thing to hear yourself say out loud.

    This almost takes the shine off the new stadium for me and the sour feeling in my gut right now has me thinking bad baseball is now a secondary reason for why it may be a long time before I walk through the turnstiles at Kaufmann again.

  38. 38: VoiceOfUnreason said at 2:09 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    “That’s how it was in 1975. And the Royals seem to be from the 1975 school of medicine.”

    Hard to argue with that strategy – 1975 was the beginning of a great run of Royals teams.

  39. 39: Bob McWilliams said at 3:07 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    I am so glad I didn’t watch yesterday, as I am sure my screams at Hillman might have upset neighborhood pets and small children.

    Even more stunning was the Royal’s “banning” of Rany. Are they going to ban you next, Joe? Or heck, why not just have no media allowed into the K at all, since those darn reporters and writers just tend to report on and write about what the Royals are doing. And, if said reporters have their eyes even halfway open, about all they can see is ludicrous.

  40. 40: Unbelievable said at 3:26 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    Should the Royals consider changing their name to the “ostriches”?

    Keep up the good work, Joe (and Rany).

  41. 41: Spud said at 3:52 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    The Royals are just going through a “dead brain” stage. No problem.

  42. 42: Ben said at 4:19 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    @Spud: The Royals plan on taking a few days off before going back to thinking again. Expect an extended stint on the DL a couple days later.

  43. 43: Dark Side of the Mood said at 5:10 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    I’ve been a Cardinals fan since I was nine and came of age really in the 70s, when the Cards sucked and the Royals were good. The ‘85 Series (or Don D, more precisely) almost killed me. Subsequently, I took great joy in the Royals fall from grace in the late 80s and the 90s. At this point, however, they have been so freakin’ bad for so freakin’ long (and I have some transplanted friends from KC who have suffered so much) that their continuing ineptitude isn’t fun anymore. They are too pathetic to despise and amazingly (to me) I’d really like to see them get better. I think Dayton will get it turned around eventually.

    On the other hand, the Cubs are never too lousy to despise.

  44. 44: RedRoyal said at 5:12 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    Not a fan of Hillman or the front office of KC. I don’t get to see many games here in SoCal, but what I do see makes me cringe. I honestly can’t remember the Royals doing anything that makes any sense since Dick Howser died.

    I do think that Jamie Quirk should be the next manager, as he has a good track record as a coach, and he had a great rep as player/coach in Oakland and Baltimore (I remember listening to Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer rave about him).

    Here’s hoping the team wises up.

  45. 45: Chuck said at 5:15 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    Is it really impossible to fire everybody?
    Seriously, is there anybody aside from Greinke, maybe Butler, Gordon and Teahen, who shouldn’t be summarily dismissed?
    This is not rhetorical excess. I’m asking, seriously.

  46. 46: The Royals said at 5:35 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    Joe,

    You are officially banned.

  47. 47: Royals Front Office said at 7:03 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    Message to Season Ticket Holders and Walk-Up Ticket Buyers Seen at the Ticket Window:

    Any fans seen or heard booing the Royals at Kauffman Stadium will be escorted out, photographed, finger printed and banned from any and all future Royals games for life. This is a strict no tolerance policy and is in effect immediately.

    Sincerely,
    Kansas City Royals Baseball Club

  48. 48: mike said at 7:15 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    All the Red Sox fans reading about Meche’s outing thank you for exacerbating our post-2003-ALCS stress syndrome.

  49. 49: Snowman said at 10:08 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    I’ve always thought of Philadelphia doing things like this. I can’t remember most of the instances now, but there was a period in the late nineties or early oughts where it seemed like once a year there was a crazy injury story out of one of the Philly sports teams.

    One of them was a hockey player who had broken ribs and a punctured lung. The team doctor told him he was okay, he ignored him and went to the ER, and they found it there. Apparently the team was supposed to be getting on a plane at the time of he was in the ER, and going up with a punctured lung could have potentially endangered his life.

    But the one I remember best is Garrett Stephenson. Stephenson had had a decent year for the Phils, and then the very next season he suddenly fell apart after an ankle injury. He kept saying something was wrong, that his ankle was still hurting, and the Phillies docs kept saying he was fine. Eventually Curt Schilling called him out in the press, the comments were played and printed everywhere (with the word ‘pussy’ edited out, of course), and next thing you knew the Phils traded him to the Cards to placate Schilling. And the Cards’ docs found (if memory serves) two torn tendons in the ankle he had been saying was hurt the entire time. A quick offseason surgery, and the Cards got a couple more average-ish years out of him before his career ended.

    This is not a club you want to join, Kansas City.

  50. 50: Mark W said at 10:35 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    Perhaps some people in the Royals’ front office took notice how the Obama Admin is beginning to handle those members of the media that have the audacity to question the Supreme Leader…. If/When Moore, Hillman and the gang hold a Town Hall Meeting in the near future out in Blue Springs and the only acceptable questions are from texting nine year olds wishing to add another sno-cone flavor at the snack bar or from snail-mail letter writing grandmothers worried about the price of said sno-cones – Then I’ll know for sure that things around the KC stadium aren’t on the up and up.

    Is it true that the pigeon from Cleveland was seen working out with a glove in CF next to Coco earlier this week? Word is he has a pretty strong wing, especially as compared to Coco’s. Reportedly, he also can really fly….

  51. 51: Richard Aronson said at 11:24 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    About pitch counts and Gil Meche: unless you’re a sidewinder like Quiz or Tekulve, there is nothing in nature that prepared you to throw a baseball. If you are in a human body that evolved to eat some meat, and you get meat by throwing rocks at smaller critters, you’re not going to take a big windup and leg kick. In the time it takes you to do that, the rabbit has ducked down a hole, the squirrel has hidden in the Mississippi revival tent. You might gain an extra 10 mph on your fast ball, but your family is going hungry tonight. It’s only in the artificial constructs of baseball, where the wily batter is forced by the rules to stand at a fixed position, that doing whatever is possible to get that extra 10 mph is worthwhile. And we haven’t been playing baseball long enough for it to have an evolutionary effect on the human shoulder.

    The reason why almost every team uses pitch counts is because for most pitchers, they work. And most pitchers are not what I’d call kinesthesiological geniuses. They know that getting another contract depends on pitching a lot in this contract. They have only their own knowledge of their arm to distinguish between a slightly tired arm or slightly strained shoulder than can be pitched through, and a ligament or labrum on the edge of rest versus surgery.

    In all the time I’ve followed baseball, there are only two pitchers that really impressed me with their knowledge of how the body works, impressed me as much as my father (a doctor) did. Mike Marshall, who won a Cy Young award in relief pitching every day (and IIRC is still mostly ignored by baseball orthodoxy for outlandish theories, advanced degree or no advanced degree) and Greg Maddux. That’s not meant to criticize guys like Mike Maddux and Rick Honeycutt, or even Sandy Koufax, who arguably got a higher percentage out of his talent than any other pitcher, and did it with near constant pain of an arthritic elbow. But only MM and GM impressed me (as an outsider) to the point where I’d believe they really understand how somebody else’s pitching arm is working.

    What happened to Gil Meche was wrong. Nolan Ryan is wrong. How many pitchers have the all time record in strikeouts? That would be one. Ryan is an expert on Ryan, but nobody else ever pitched like Ryan. He’s too good, too conditioned by being Nolan Ryan, to fully understand the normal major league pitcher. Even Ryan’s workout regimen, IIRC, was rather outlandish, and involved a LOT of heavy leg lifting on the ranch in the off season. Steve Carlton also had a crazy workout regimen. But you know, I don’t think working out is enough. If it was, there are plenty of AAA pitchers who would like to have financial security who would work out insanely much. I think that most pitchers try to get in shape, and only the very best can withstand that much effort.

    There has been no team that that adhered so diligently to pitch counts than the Bobby Cox Braves. They are also the closest thing to a pitching dynasty in a lot of years. Maybe they could have let Maddux and Glavine throw more pitches. But when they first became really good, they had Avery, who was pretty well washed up by the time he reached 30, and Smoltz has had his injuries (and a stint in the bullpen). Aside from knuckle ballers, I’d stick to a strict pitch count.

    It’s worse with the Royals. You’d have to be blind to think they are going to hit enough to make the playoffs, barring the sudden arrival of Ted Williams as their hitting coach. They’re 10 games out of first, their shortstop may be out for the season if not his career, and one of my top starters has been achy, I’m not giving him two days off and then throwing him 121 pitches. Of course he’s a warrior: how many zeroes were in the last contract he signed? So the manager has to be smart for him. I’m skipping his spot in the rotation, and if he doesn’t feel 100% next time out BEFORE the game, I’ll put him on the 15 day DL knowing I have the All Star Break coming up to give him a chance to fully heal without costing us an extra start.
    The Royals seem to be a team with a mandate: make the playoffs of the manager gets fired. And the manager is thus managing to the assumptions that there is in this team enough talent to get him to the playoffs, and is managing to the assumptions, not to the roster. This is why I’ll never agree that Pete Rose belongs in the HOF; a biased manager can ruin pitcher’s careers. I *think* Hillman is acting like a biased manager.

  52. 52: Dave said at 11:47 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    Good lord, did people seriously think Rany was banned from the stadium?

    Like they were going put up posters of him at all the entrances that said “NO ADMITTANCE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES”?

  53. 53: Updates on Robertson, Guillen and Bondo - MotownSports.com Message Board said at 11:04 am on July 3rd, 2009:

    [...] [...]


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