Monday, September 28, 2009

Game 157: Ship Of Fools

When the A's moved from Kansas City after the 1967 season, following 13 seasons of losing records and second division finishes, the city was left without a Major League franchise for the first time since 1954. Just as they had done with Washington, D.C. during the 1961 expansion, the American League moved quickly to place a new team there, with the expansion Royals starting play in 1969 under the guidance of former Yankee Joe Gordon.

Before the Marlins won the World Series in their fifth year of existence, before the Diamondbacks did in their fourth season, before the Blue Jays became the first expansion team to win back-to-back championships, before the Rockies made the post-season in just their third year, the Kansas City Royals were the gold standard of MLB expansion franchises. They had a winning record by their third season. In their eighth, they won the first of three consecutive division titles (losing to the Yankees in the ALCS each time). In their twelfth season, the won their first pennant, ousting the Yankees - who had baseball's best regular season record - in the ALCS. After another division title in 1984, they won the World Series in 1985, their seventeenth season, albeit with the aid of a controversial (and incorrect) call from umpire Don Denkinger in Game 6 that many say cost the Cardinals the Series.

Since then, it's been all down hill for the franchise. In the 25 seasons since that championship, the Royals have had a winning record just seven times, and only once since the 1994 strike ended. Their run of consecutive seasons of futility is not as bad as the Pirates, and their record this year is not as bad as the Nats, O's, or Bucs, but perhaps no MLB franchise offers the trifecta of futility, incompetency, and hopelessness better than the Royals.

Part of this perception may be due to the fact that three prominent and excellent baseball writers: Joe Posnanski, Rob Neyer, and Rany Jazayerli, are all fans of the team to some extent, and all have written at length as to the gross stupidity with which the organization has been run under the stewardship of General Manager Dayton Moore. We've had some fun at Moore's expense this season, and rightfully so, yet at the end of August he was undeservedly, inexplicabl,y and indefensibly rewarded with a four year contract extension running through 2014. That was the straw that broke Jazayerli's back.

The tragic irony of it all is that in addition to the three writers above, there are at least two players within the Royals' organization who are infinitely better qualified to be running the club than Moore. While Moore virtually bragged about his ignorance regarding defensive metrics in the wake of surrendering a top ranked prospect for Yuniesky Betancourt (the least valuable player in all of baseball with at least 300 plate appearances, followed closely by teammates Jose Guillen and Mike Jacobs), Royals pitcher Brian Bannister and intriguing prospect Chris "Disco" Hayes, are two of the most sabremetrically attuned players in all of baseball. Yet Moore, despite a littany of mistakes and virtually no success stories, gets a four year contract extension.

One of those mistakes takes to the hill for the Royals tonight. Moore's predecessor, Allard Baird was fired on 5/31/2006. Moore had been brought into the organization the previous day, but was not given the GM responsibilities until June 8th. In between, the 2006 amateur draft was held, a draft in which the Royals had the top pick, but no one at the helm of their sinking ship. The organization selected pitcher Luke Hochevar, a Scott Boras client who refused to sign with the Dodgers after they took him in the first round the previous year. In selecting Hochevar the Royals passed on the likes of Evan Longoria, Clayton Kershaw, and Tim Lincecum.

While the draft certainly isn't an exact science, no one would suggest that entering it without a discernible plan is a good idea, particular when having the choice of any player in the nation. The Royals were forced to cave to the demands of Boras and Hochevar, signing him to a Major League deal that guaranteed him a 40 man roster spot and $5.3M. He made his Big League debut the following September, and has since pitched to a 5.58 ERA through 275 innings.

Chad Gaudin goes for the Yanks tonight in what is an important start for him. Depending upon how many pitchers the Yankees carry, Gaudin is on the cusp of making the post-season roster. With Joba Chamberlain and Brian Bruney both pitching well in their last apperances, Gaudin needs to perform tonight. Another avenue for Gaudin to make the post-season roster is if David Robertson cannot sufficiently rebound from the elbow issue that has sidelined him for nearly all of September. Reports over the weekend had D-Rob available again starting tonight, but Peter Abraham reports that the Yanks will hold him out until tomorrow.

A day after clinching the Yanks trot out mostly reserves tonight. Johnny Damon, Brett Gardner, and Melky Cabrera man the outfield. Jorge Posada will DH after missing the last two games with a stiff neck. Robinson Cano, who leads the AL and is tied for second in MLB in games played, is the only other regular in the line-up. Eric Hinske, Juan Miranda, Francisco Cervelli, and Ramiro Pena round out the order. Interestingly, Jerry Hairston Jr. is not in the line up and has yet to play since leaving last Wendesday's game with a wrist injury.

The Yankees last saw the Royals in the second series of the season, before heading off to Tampa. Now, they meet again in the second-to-last series of the season, before heading off to Tampa to for the weekend. Since they last met, life has been very good for the Yankees. For the Royals, outside of Zack Greinke and Billy Butler, life has been much of the same futility that's marked the franchise for a number of years now. But it's hard to set a winning course when sailing a ship of fools.

Saw your first ship sink and drown from rocking of the boat,
And all that could not sink of swim were just left there to float,
I won't leave you drifting down but whoa it makes me wild,
With thirty years upon my head to have you call me child.

Ship of fools on a cruel sea,
Ship of fools sail away from me,
It was later than I thought when I first believed you,
But now I cannot share your laughter, ship of fools.

The bottles stand as empty now, as they were filled before,
Time there was and plenty, but from that cup no more,
Though I could not caution all, I still might warn a few,
Don't lend your hand to raise no flag atop no ship of fools.


  1. Aww I was really hoping for another obscure Doors song, love their song of the same name. Anyways, good win tonight for 1/3 of our starting lineup.

  2. I considered that one as well, but felt that the Dead lyrics were more in tune with the story I was trying to tell.

    Two games left this series, we may still see it.