Saturday, March 29, 2008

Kaegel's Description of Guillen is Interesting

I was reading the lead story, written by Dick Kaegel of, on the Royals' official website this morning. And, just a few paragraphs into it, there was some wording used in reference to Jose Guillen that caught my attention.

Kaegel wrote: "One guy who is expected to hit home runs, though, is Jose Guillen who signed at considerable expense (three years for $36 million) to put juice into what has been a run-parched attack. He's averaged 26-plus homers and almost 94 RBIs in his past four full seasons."

Did you catch it? He said that Guillen would "put juice" into the attack. Now, in all probability, Kaegel didn't even realize that using the word juice to describe what Guillen will add to the Royals lineup was questionable. But isn't that a poor choice of words to employ when describing someone who's facing a possible suspension for allegedly purchasing PEDs? You almost have to wonder whether that was an intentionally subliminal jab taken at Guillen by an old-school writer like Kaegel.

Personally, I enjoy reading Kaegel's stories about the Royals. I think he does a fine job with his writing, and he's probably been crafting stories for as long as I've been alive -- I'm 38 years old, by the way. I think it would be challenging covering a baseball team over the course of a 162-game season, and trying to avoid having your storylines become stale or redundant.

But this description of Guillen was something that I felt needed to be brought to the attention of Royals fans in the blogosphere, to see whether I'm the only one who seemed to have noticed Kaegel's interesting choice of words. Did others feel it's as obvious and direct as it seems to me?

I'd love to have some feedback from readers to see if you agree. Was this simply a slip up, or do you think Kaegel knew full well what he was doing, and snickered, or sat back with a smirk on his face after typing that little statement? Writers who have lasted as long in the business as Kaegel has are clever, and by even wondering if it was intentional, I'm giving him the credit he deserves for being an intelligent and witty wordsmith.

But did this cross the line?

Jose Guillen Photo Credit: Getty Images

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Huber is Lightning Rod for Royals Fans

Justin Huber is no longer a member of the Kansas City Royals organization, and many Royals fans are not happy, not happy at all.

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

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Introducing, Trey's Triggermen

Most of you would have a hard time believing this, but your's truly is about to embark on my very first season -- yes, I said first -- of fantasy baseball. There. I said it, and it feels good. I admitted the fact that I am a complete fantasy baseball virgin. Not even an almost, as in, "I started to play a season, but withdrew before the season ended." No, this is my first-ever foray as a baseball GM.

I'm going to be taking part in a Yahoo! Sports league called Reversible Nines, with 19 other die-hard Kansas City Royals fanatics like myself. My team? Trey's Triggermen, of course, named after the Royals' fearless new manager, Trey Hillman. My team came into being last Thursday night, in a draft that I was so psyched and ready for. I was incredibly anxious to take part in the draft, and to be able to select my players, round-by-round, and put together an unbelievable lineup. My team would be unstoppable.

Then, Java ruined my night.

About 45 minutes before the draft, I started trying to click on the draft application button in order to open the window that would allow me to make my selections, and watch as all the other managers made theirs. I clicked. Nothing appeared but a window with the Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball '08 banner, and a few question marks. Click again. Nothing.

So I ran a test to see if my computer needed updated software in order to have the draft application work. The test said I needed the most recent Java Plug-In, and directed me to the Java website. Once there, however, it ran a test to see if I had the correct version, and informed me that I was all set. Great!

So I restarted my computer, and went back to the Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball site. I tried again. It failed again. Same blank window. Same message telling me that I need the latest Java Plug-In. Ugh!

I deduced that it must be something with my Firewall and security software, so I temporarily shut off the firewall. Still nothing. This was really starting to irk me. And it's about 10 minutes until the draft is slated to start. The pressure was mounting by the second, and I was stressed out and ready to hurl something at my computer screen.

I shot off a couple frantic messages to Antonio, the league's commissioner, but he really couldn't be expected to help me 10 minutes before the draft, with all the other things he had going on that night. I can't blame him. It was my fault for not having checked out the Yahoo! draft site well before the night of the event.

The only thing that made me feel even remotely comfortable was that I had taken the time to pre-rank my player list, using's fantasy expert recommendations. But I had only done a little over 200 players, and this is a 20-team league with 25-man rosters, meaning the draft would involve 500 players. So, after those initial 200 players were exhausted, who knows what I'd end up with.

To his credit, Antonio updated me through the first few rounds to let me know who I was getting with my selections, but I was just so angry at this snafu, and the fact that I wasn't clever enough to figure it out and join the rest of my new league online for my first-ever fantasy baseball draft.

Well, I bet you're wondering, how did Trey's Triggermen fare? All in all, not too bad for having been on autodraft all night long. I had the second pick, and it was a snake format, so I'd have to wait for it to go all the way down to the 20th pick, and then all the way back to me. But that meant that, every other round, I'd get two picks within four spots of each other. Here is the initial draft for the 2008 Triggermen:

Round 1: (2nd Pick) Hanley Ramirez (FLA), SS; Round 2: (39) C.C. Sabathia (CLE), SP; Round 3: (42) Aramis Ramirez (CHC), 3B; Round 4: (79) Aaron Harang (CIN), SP; Round 5: (82) John Smoltz (ATL), SP; Round 6: (119) Fausto Carmona (CLE), SP; Round 7: (122) Adrian Beltre (SEA), 3B; Round 8: (159) Ryan Garko (CLE), 1B; Round 9: (162) Ian Snell (PIT), SP; Round 10: (199) Jeff Kent (LAD), 2B; Round 11: (202) Zack Greinke (KC), SP, RP; Round 12: (239) Michael Bourn (HOU), CF; Round 13: (242) Ramon Hernandez (BAL), C; Round 14: (279) Greg Maddux (SD), SP; Round 15: (282) Joey Votto (CIN), 1B, OF; Round 16: (319) Moises Alou (NYM), OF; Round 17: (322) Jon Rauch (WAS), RP; Round 18: (359) Juan Cruz (ARI), RP; Round 19: (362) Edinson Volquez (CIN), SP; Round 20: (399) Ryan Doumit (PIT), C, OF; Round 21: (402) Jacque Jones (DET), CF; Round 22: (439) Philip Humber (MIN), P; Round 23: (442) Juan Lara (CLE), RP; Round 24: (479) Brandon Backe (HOU), SP; and Round 25: (482) Marlon Byrd (TEX), CF

I've already made some changes to my roster, which was top-heavy with pitchers. Three players -- Humber, Lara, and Byrd -- are no longer members of the Triggermen, while Carlos Gomez, Marco Scutaro, and Cla Meredith have been added.

I'm also in the process of adding Skip Schumaker, even though he's a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, and that goes against every fundamental bone in my body. However, I was desperate for a corner outfielder with a bit of power, and it came down to Schumaker or Carlos Quentin, and Schumaker's spring numbers -- 21 G, 24-for-64, .375/.412/.563, 15 R, 10 RBI, four doubles, one triple, two home runs, and three stolen bases -- made the decision easy. I'm also working like crazy to swing a trade or two.

I want to be the Dayton Moore of Reversible Nines, scouring the waiver wires and free agent market for undervalued or unnoticed talent that can be a surprise help to my lineup. Scutaro is likely going to have to start the year for me at second base, since Jeff Kent has a bad hamstring that has kept him from playing at all this spring. But Scutaro was a great choice, because he'll start the season in the Blue Jays' starting lineup after Scott Rolen broke his finger.

Yes, this is my first venture into the world of fantasy baseball, but I plan to learn the intricacies of the game quickly, and try to beat other team's managers to the punch. The fact that I'm coming off my first fantasy football championship (in my third year in my league) gives me hope, and confidence. But, just like I'll do with the 2008 Royals, I think I'll try to keep my confidence in check for awhile and see how the start of the season goes.

But come 2010, in my third year in the league (at least, I hope so), I'll be expecting a championship, baby! As long as Java doesn't mess with my draft again.
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