In fact, as I'm writing this -- which, by the way, is not a rant about today's decision to part ways with Huber, but rather an examination of the issues behind the anger and frustration -- they're sitting in front of their computers, sipping on a can of Foster's*, and writing red-faced rants about how Dayton Moore is not the great general manager many of us (myself included) believe him to be.
They're angry about how this is yet another example of fizzled trades in which potential Royals stars are shipped off to other teams in exchange for the proverbial PTBNL -- that's Player to be Named Later for all you non-sports types who somehow got lost here, or for those who have had far too much Foster's prior to reading this.
*Huber is Australian, which is why I thought it would be humorous to create the image of angry fans sipping a can of the lager as they compose their rants. But, my brother traveled to the Land Down Under in college, and he reported to me that Australians actually don't drink Foster's at all. It's not even in the bars there, and I know my youngest brother well enough to trust he did an exhaustive study of a majority of the bars on that continent during his one month studying abroad. The company's slogan, "Foster's. Australian for Beer," is simply an American marketing campaign to sell a beer in the United States. Oh, and this is my second-ever Pozterisk.
So, what is it that has caused Justin Huber to be such a lightning rod among Royals fans? There are some very ardent Huber supporters out there, like Jeff of Royally Speaking, who will now be sponsoring the Baseball Reference page of a member of the San Diego Padres until February 28, 2009. In all fairness, Jeff's "rant" about Huber was incredibly under control, which surprised me when I saw that he had sponsored Huber's page.
I expected to check out his blog tonight and see a 5,000-word manifesto about how Dayton Moore sucks. Instead, he simply provided a quote from Moore about why he decided to trade Huber, and then took the liberty to disagree with Moore, calling the quote, "B.S...".
Here's the history. Huber was acquired by the Royals in a trade with the New York Mets on July 30, 2004. Kansas City sent utility player Jose Bautista to the Mets that day, and New York turned around and immediately traded Bautista to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
These days, Bautista is entering his second season as the Pirates' starting third baseman. But he only spent a month with the Royals after having his contract purchased from Tampa Bay, so remarkably, I haven't been able to find many rants about that move. Oh, and Crossing the Clemente, a "Pittsburgh Pirates blog celebrating the heroes of PNC Park," is the sponsor of Bautista's Baseball Reference page.
Back to Huber, who had been a catcher in the Mets organization. However, the day before the trade, he tore cartilage in his left knee. Then-general manager Allard Baird still went through with the trade, but Huber had surgery August 23 to repair the damage, and the Royals converted him to a first baseman in the process. He struggled to play first base, was tried in left field, and didn't fare much better, and the Royals haven't known exactly what to do with him since.
Offensively, Huber has some impressive credentials. He's represented Australia in international play, has been to numerous Minor League all-star games, and has batted .289/.369/.495 with 150 doubles, 12 triples, and 107 home runs during his seven seasons in the minors. The 2005 season was his finest, as he won the Texas League batting title (.343) for Class AA Wichita, and also played in Omaha (AAA), finishing the year with a combined line of .326/.417/.560, with 28 doubles, 23 homers, and 97 RBI.
But he has not been able to carry those numbers over to the Major League level. During that 2005 season, he played in 25 games for the Royals, getting his most extensive opportunity to make an impression. But he batted just .218/.271/.256 in 78 at bats, with only three doubles and 20 strikeouts.
The past two seasons, he's had a mere 20 at bats in a Royals uniform -- one of the biggest points of contention for those angry Foster's drinkers writing the rants -- but he's managed just three hits for a .150 average.
This spring, Huber was out of options, which meant the writing was on the wall. He needed to make the Royals' roster, or it was likely he'd be traded, and he did everything he could to try to make the team. Despite limited playing time, and playing him only in left field, Huber was impressive. He batted .346/.400/.615 in 26 at bats, with six runs scored, five doubles, a triple, and seven runs batted in.
He had finally caught the attention of a team in Major League Baseball, it just happened to be one other than the Kansas City Royals, and he was traded to the Padres for the aforementioned PTBNL.
It's understandable that people are upset with Kansas City for holding up Huber's career. The Royals spent the past few years playing Emil Brown, and giving Huber scant opportunity to make an impression. But I think the Royals' front office looked at Huber's Minor League numbers, versus the numbers he accumulated in his MLB at bats, and just determined that he didn't fit into their future.
It didn't help matters that Huber's defense in left field this spring was butcher-esque -- is that a word? -- perhaps even worse than Emil Brown's horrendous defense, if that's possible. Chalk that up to tough Arizona skies, and windy weather conditions during Spring Training. But I've noticed that the Padres' website has him listed as a first baseman again, which is where he should have been with the Royals if not for the likes of Ryan Shealy, Ross Gload, Billy Butler, and even Mark Teahen standing in his way at that position.
In the end, it just seems like Huber's three-plus years as a member of the Royals organization were wasted, which is where most of the anger stems from. But I trust Dayton Moore, his staff, the scouts, and all the other baseball people around him to make the right decision.
If Huber winds up as one of the top first basemen (or outfielders) in the National League someday, so be it. Dayton Moore isn't going to get every move right over his career. As someone astutely pointed out on a message board tonight, the best GMs are going to make mistakes, but they're going to make far more great decisions, and that's what I fully expect Moore to do.
For now, I think I'll just tip back a Foster's (actually, a Sierra Mist Free), do an "Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!" cheer in honor of the newest member of the San Diego Padres, and enjoy the fact that the Royals are continuing to move in the right direction, even without Justin Huber.
Justin Huber Photo Credit: Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images