"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

The Royals

Baseball is a fickle game. On any given day, the worst team in the major leagues can beat the best team. On any given day the worst hitter in the game can go 4 for 4 and the best 0 for 5, while the best pitcher can take the mound without his stuff and get rocked as the worst finds an unfamiliar feel and pitches a complete game shutout. A large part of this is that baseball, more than any other sport, is a game dependent to a large degree on luck. It’s the line-drive right at a fielder versus the weak grounder that finds a hole, the hanging curve that’s taken for a high strike versus the one with a sharp break and great placement that gets deposited in the seats.

These are all reasons that the two tremendous losses the Yankees suffered at the hands of the Red Sox this weekend (total score, 24-3) don’t really bother me all that much. It was clear that Pavano and Mussina simply didn’t have it and that Clement and Wells (who found that famous curve after the first inning on Sunday) did. In and of itself, that doesn’t really reveal any essential flaws in this Yankee team other than the fact that they were simply off their game two days in a row. Consider the following:

Tuesday through Thursday the Tigers are swept by the Yankees. Friday through Sunday the Orioles are swept by the Tigers. Saturday and Sunday the Red Sox humiliate the Yankees. Monday night, the Red Sox get crushed by the Orioles (8-1).

There’s no logic to that. As of this afternoon, the Orioles are the best of those four teams (.620 winning percentage), the Tigers the worst (.479) and the Red Sox and Yankees are tied, four games behind the O’s in second place in the AL East with .540 winning percentages. One or two, or even three-game sample sizes are simply not enough to determine the relative quality of two or more teams. Heck, take the seven days since Tuesday:

Orioles 5-2
Yankees 4-2
Tigers 3-3
Red Sox 2-5

Then there are these guys:

Royals 0-6

Yeah, they’re that bad. But given the nature of the game, even the Royals, who are indeed the worst team in baseball (.260 winning percentage, even worse than the Colorado Springs Sky So . . . er, Rockies at .286), win a game every now and then (once every four days or so, to be precise). Having been without an official manager since Tony Peña resigned exactly three weeks ago today, the Royals have just hired Buddy Bell, who will manage his first game for Kansas City tonight. With a new skipper in the dugout and their best pitcher on the mound, the exciting young phenom Zach Greinke, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Royals stop that six-game losing streak tonight despite being clearly overmatched by the invading Yankees. That’s just how this game works.

That said, the Yankees should feast on the Royals over the next three days, which would be a nice way to kick off the year’s longest road trip (12 games in four cities).

More on the Royals themselves below the fold.

Kansas City Royals

2004 Record: 58-104 (.358)
2004 Pythagorean Record: 64-98 (.395)

Manager: Buddy Bell
General Manager: Allard Baird

Ballpark (2004 park factors): Kauffman Stadium (95/96)

Who’s replacing whom?

Mark Teahan replaces Joe Randa
Terrence Long replaces Dee Brown, Abraham Nunez and Aaron Guiel
Ruben Gotay inherits Desi Relaford’s playing time
David DeJesus inherits Carlos Beltran’s playing time
Alberto Castilla replaces Benito Santiago
Eli Marrero replaces Juan Gonzalez
Matt Diaz replaces Calvin Pickering (minors)
Joe McEwing replaces spare parts
Jose Lima replaces Darrell May
Runelvys Hernandez (DL) replaces Jimmy Gobble (minors)
Denny Bautista replaces Dennys Reyes
Mike Wood and D.J. Carrasco switch rolls
Andy Sisco replaces Jaime Cerda (minors)
Ambiorix Burgos replaces Scott Sullivan (60-day DL, back)
Leo Nunez replaces Nate Field (minors)
Steve Stemle replaces Shawn Camp (minors)

Current Roster:

1B – Mike Sweeney
2B – Ruben Gotay
SS – Angel Berroa
3B – Mark Teahen
C – John Buck
RF – Emil Brown
CF – David DeJesus
LF – Terrence Long
DH – Matt Stairs


R – Tony Graffanino (IF)
R – Eli Marrero (OF)
R – Alberto Castillo (C)
R – Joe McEwing (UT)
R – Matt Diaz (OF)


R – Zack Greinke
R – Jose Lima
R – D.J. Carrasco
R – Ryan Jensen
R – Runelvys Hernandez


R – Mike MacDougal
R – Mike Wood
L – Andy Scisco
R – Ambiorix Burgos
R – Leo Nunez
R – Steve Stemle

Typical Line-up

R – Angel Berroa (SS)
L – David DeJesus (CF)
R – Mike Sweeney (1B)
L – Matt Stairs (DH)
R – Emil Brown (RF)
L – Terrence Long (LF)
L – Mark Teahen (3B)
R – John Buck (C)
S – Ruben Gotay (2B)


R – Ken Harvey (1B/DH)
L – Brian Anderson
R – Denny Bautista
L – Jeremy Affeldt
L – Kyle Snyder
R – Scott Sullivan (60-day)

Outside of Sweeney, Stairs and Greinke there’s not much to see here. Yes, Matt Stairs is one of the three best players on this team. ‘Nuff said? Perhaps, but why stop there? The Royals are 25th in the majors in runs scored and above only the Angels (!) in on-base percentage (.304). Their team ERA is the worst in baseball (non-Colorado division), thanks in large part to a devastating 6.01 starters mark.

In the bullpen, Rule-5 lefty Andrew Sisco has been a great pick-up (2.83 ERA, 10.99 K/9) and Mikes Wood and MacDougal have managed to stay better than average at the back end, but that “Big” Three is about all that’s worth mentioning there.

The rest of the team is comprised of familiar journeyman veterans or youngsters that Kansas City actually hopes will stick (Buck, Teahan, Gotay, Hernandez, Wood). But there are five current Royals whose identity just might stump even the most committed fans. For those who might find themselves asking, “who are these guys?” . . .

Current right fielder Emil Brown is a journeyman speedster with a career .334 slugging who last played in the majors in 2001 for the Pirates and Padres and is with his seventh organization in five years.

Matt Diaz is a 27-year-old rookie outfielder who was unable to break through with the Devil Rays.

Ambiorix Burgos and Leo Nunez are a 21-year-old Dominicans who pitched in A-ball last year (Burgos in the Royals’ system, Nunez in the Pirates’).

Steve Stemle is a 28-year-old rookie who was converted to relief in the Cardinals organization last year.

Greinke takes on Kevin Brown tonight in the central time zone. Game time 8:10.

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1 rilkefan   ~  May 31, 2005 12:56 pm

1.  I like "once every four days or so, to be precise". Next you'll be channelling Yogi.

On the subject of innumeracy - are there bad teams that do better than their Pythagorean record, and v.v? Somehow I've got the impression that over-0.500 teams do better than predicted and sub-.500 do worse, but maybe I'm just misremembering or maybe it's the obvious selection effect.

2 Alex Belth   ~  May 31, 2005 1:08 pm

2.  Tonight could be a tough one. I remember the Yanks facing Greinke last season. They won the game but he was impressive for the first five or six innings. I see that he hasn't won a game yet this year. This is the kind of thing that makes me nervous. He's due, and Brown is due for a bad outing too.

I wonder if Giambi will be in the line up. Hopefully, the Yankee O gets rolling before they head to Minnie over the weekend. Anyone know if/when Santana is scheduled to pitch?

3 unpopster   ~  May 31, 2005 1:13 pm

3.  Luckily, the Yanks miss Santana. He is scheduled to pitch this Thursday.

4 JohnnyC   ~  May 31, 2005 1:16 pm

4.  Alex,

We just manage to miss Santana but we do get Lohse, Radke, and Silva. I wish I could view the two terrible, terrible losses with as much equanimity as Cliff but it was another instance of the team coming up real small in a big series. But what do you expect when you start a right side of the infield of Rey Sanchez and Russ Johnson in the rubber match? And 3 straight single-digit pitch innings against Wells was unconscionable. Isn't anyone on the Yankee bench in control? Cliff, I hope you're right that it's just two bad games, but oh the foreshadowing sure looks bad.

5 Cliff Corcoran   ~  May 31, 2005 1:16 pm

5.  The over-under on markp's comment # for responding to Alex on Kevin Brown is 8.

Yanks miss both Santana and Radke in Minny, which is a nice trick.

Meanwhile, rilkefan, both bad and good teams both exceed and fall short of their Pythagorean expectations. Finishing above or below Pythagorus actually has little to nothing to do with the quality of a team (from what I've seen). And thanks for catching the precise comment, that was intentional.

6 rsmith51   ~  May 31, 2005 2:47 pm

6.  I am going to the game next Monday in Milwaukee. First time I get to see the Yankees in person in 2 years. I am looking forward to it. Last time was opening weeking in Baltimore.

Al, Cliff,

I have a question for you. My brother-in-law, who is a big ChiSox fan(irrelevant in this case), is going to be in NY for the July 4th game against Baltimore. He didn't want to pay $40+ for an upper deck seat. Do you know the best way for him to get 1 or 2 decent seats for a reasonable price? Would it be best for him to just walk up to the stadium? Any pointers would be helpful.


7 rilkefan   ~  May 31, 2005 3:15 pm

7.  Think I've seen a positive record-record_pyth value given as evidence of good management, but noise is always the first thing to consider. Which brings up the question, What is evidence of good management?

Yeah, I knew the "precise" joke was too subtle to be random.

8 Cliff Corcoran   ~  May 31, 2005 3:57 pm

8.  rsmith, there are no tricks to good seats. I don't mind sitting in the bleachers for $10 a pop, though that puts the facade and the court house etc. to my back and I would avoid wearing Chiox or O's gear there unless he likes to trade x-rated insults with overexcited strangers. Also, the bleachers are about as family friendly as an Andrew "Dice" Clay concert, but otherwise, it's the best deal in the park by far.

Beyond that, he should bear in mind that Tier Box seats (front upper deck) are excellent seats in Yankee Stadium, at least if they're in foul territory.

9 singledd   ~  May 31, 2005 5:19 pm

9.  Historic Question: When's then last time we batted someone 2nd with a .606 OPS?

10 redshift   ~  May 31, 2005 5:30 pm

10.  Whoa - didn't think I'd see Tino batting cleanup this year.

11 Marcus   ~  May 31, 2005 5:55 pm

11.  Does anyone have an explanation for the strange outfield concoction Torre/Girardi cooked up tonight? Matsui in RF?

12 singledd   ~  May 31, 2005 6:14 pm

12.  This KC team has ONLY TWO guys batting over .260, and Brown has given up 3 runs, 6 hits in 3 innings. How embarrassing!

Marcus... Best arm in RF?

13 Cliff Corcoran   ~  May 31, 2005 7:06 pm

13.  Sheff's resting his hand today (he has tendonitis in his left hand from "swinging too hard" as you'll recall from him sitting out the last game of the Mets series), this was a planned off-day for him.

14 singledd   ~  May 31, 2005 7:21 pm

14.  Womack has found a new way to kill a rally

15 JeremyM   ~  May 31, 2005 7:22 pm

15.  Womack really hurts this team in the 2-hole. And how do you get picked off there?

16 Paul   ~  May 31, 2005 7:42 pm

16.  Seemed like the pick-off was the game right there ... sigh. Ironic to have a guy get picked off who is basically playing for his baserunning skills.

I went to Fenway tonight, and Wade Miller was excellent. Double ouch.

17 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  May 31, 2005 9:00 pm

17.  Irrespective of Womack's getting picked off, I was already upset that he didn't bunt. I know you're supposed to play for a win on the road, but I just felt that the team NEEDED to score those two runs, workman-like, just to prove (to themselves and their fans) that they could do it.

Now, with regard to Womack's gettin picked off, enough is bloody enough already. You're right of course, Cliff, about the spectral influence of luck, but it's only legit to invoke luck when the team is otherwise playing tight baseball, mastering everything they actually do have control over.

Time and time again this team has played slop ball (and not just in the field, but on the basepaths, which is just utterly inexcusable), even as they were tearing through the lesser teams. Honestly, I find it alarming and though your points are well-taken, they fail to mollify.

18 brockdc   ~  May 31, 2005 10:48 pm

18.  Womack was garbage.

Brown was garbage.

The lineup was garbage.

I'm too peeved to write complex sentences.

19 singledd   ~  Jun 1, 2005 4:25 am

19.  I'm getting really tired of reading about traded Yankees doing well.... and hearing laughter 2200 miles away in Arizona.

Anybody old enough to remember Munson coming up? (raise your hand). He was fairly highly touted and won ROY his first year with a .302 average. He was not a prototypical catcher, and had a weird throw to 2nd (however with an extremely quick release). His 'sophmore' year, he batted .251, and was still funny looking (with 16 hrs total over 2 years). Wonder if he would have made it to his third year if he was on this Yankee team.

Dandy Don was a good looking, but somewhat average player. Good D, solid guy, but not much pop. In his first 100 games, Mattingly managed 4 hrs and .280/.330/.405. Not bad for a Yankee team that was not good. Wonder if he would have made it to his next year if he was on this Yankee team.

Bernie was a skinny kid, fast on his feet, but not very imposing. In his first 3 years he averaged .261 with 20 hrs combined, and about a .720 OPS. Not bad for a Yankee team that was not good. Wonder if he would have made it to his next year if he was on this Yankee team.

There are some guys who come up dripping with talent, who will obviously be good. Others, under the right tutalage, take time to develope. If you want instant gradification, you are gonna miss out on a lot of potentially good/great players.

It's nice to have RJ around, and I think he will do better. But he cost us:
J. Vazquez, Brad Halsey, D. Navarro and 9 mil. Add that 9 mil to the difference in JV and RJ's salary, and poof, you have Carlos Beltran.

So why did we take RJ over J. Vazquez, Brad Halsey, D. Navarro and Carlos Beltran? Basically to punish JV for losing the 7th game of the LCS and pitching poorly for 1/2 season. JV and Brown (part of a staff that won 101 games) lost that 7th game, but a WHOLE BUNCH of Yankees batted .200 over THREE games... and that's why we lost.

And if you hate paying Brown 15 mil for this year, RJ will be making a lot more in 2007.

For lack of ONE timely hit in game 4 OR 5 OR 6, we could have been looking at a young team of Vazquez, Halsey, Navarro, Beltran, Jetes, ARod, (re-sign) Matsui, Wang, Cano for years to come.

Last night, once again, we saw the lackluster 'Womackian Yankees'.

As shitty as Giambi is this year, he has hit a HR every 30 abs. Womack hits a HR every 135 abs. Giambi's OPS is .120 higher. Giambi can have a bad year and still post an OPS +150 over Womack. Bernies OPS is .080 higher then Womack's.

Yup.... putting Womack in LF certainly shook up this team. I don't know if I can stand an entire season of this.

20 billyfrombelfast   ~  Jun 1, 2005 5:34 am

20.  rsmith51,

Our season tickets are in the tier seats, section 32 row H and you get a fantastic view of the entire stadium, including bullpen and big screen etc. I think the tickets are $19 each for individual games, a little extra will get you tier boxes. You can get stuck with crappy loge seats for that 40 bucks. The bleachers are a fun way to see the game without being ripped off too.

21 rsmith51   ~  Jun 1, 2005 6:38 am

21.  Thanks Cliff and Billy

I will pass on the information.


22 brockdc   ~  Jun 1, 2005 12:04 pm

22.  Worry not, Singledd. We'll no doubt re-acquire at least some of these guys five years from now by overpaying at least 30% for the downsides of their respective careers.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver