No, the reason I'm ending this column is because I finally get it; I understand why Rob Neyer decided to end our conversations
last fall. I didn't understand at the time, because I still had plenty to say about the Royals. But I was seeing our column from
the perspective of a Royals fan, and what was great about "Rob & Rany" was that it didn't appeal to the Royals fan, it
appealed to the baseball fan. It did so because the Royals were a perfect microcosm of all that goes wrong in baseball
management: the once-mighty small-market team that had abandoned the principles that helped it reach the top, and was now paying
This year, the kid is Jeremy Affeldt. On March 3, the southpaw took the mound for his first appearance and put on a
pitching performance so astonishing that it headlined not one, but two separate columns in the Kansas City Star the next
day. Affeldt struck out five of the six hitters he faced, and since these were the Pirates, one or two of them might have even
been threats to put the ball in play. One observer, not normally given to hyperbole, told me that Affeldt's outing was, in a
word, Koufaxesque. (This from someone who saw Sandy Koufax pitch many times.)
Sweeney represents the final chance at redemption for David Glass and the Kansas City Royals. For years, Royals fans have been
fed the party line that the team had no money with which to pursue free agents, and that story washed down easy for a while,
because in its place we were offered the promise of an exciting young ballclub that was built from within, a team that could be
competitive without outside help.
Today, though, I don't want to talk about any of the blunders that Baird has made. Instead, I wanted to concentrate on the very
first meaningful decision that Baird made after he was promoted to GM, one that yielded only a brief mention by the media at the
time, but that has the potential to be among the biggest mistakes Baird will ever make.
If you follow the Royals--or any part of the Kansas City sports scene--you
already know this. Joe Posnanski sees the world through a different shade of
glasses than most people do. Where you and I see the Carolina Panthers, 1-15
on the year, he might see the 1989 Dallas Cowboys. When a midwest
thunderstorm rolls through town and starts dropping hail the size of
watermelons, Posnanski will be thinking how nice it is that he doesn't have
to turn on the sprinklers.
Last year began with a feeling of hopelessness brought on
by trading a
27-year-old outfielder for a 36-year-old reliever. The Royals haven't done
anything nearly so stupid this during this off-season--not yet--but they
haven't done anything to change the impression that they have become
completely irrelevant as a franchise. They're not just a bad team, because
some teams are bad as a necessary first step to becoming good. The Royals
look like they're playing in the American League just as a favor to it for
Billy Beane, who robbed the Royals of Jermaine Dye, who gave us a pet
rock for Jeremy Giambi, who helped the Royals achieve their dream of
owning Roberto Hernandez. Hell, he even took away Kevin
Appier, and never mind that it was the right thing for the Royals, it
still hurt like hell.
The Royals finished the season with just three potential free agents, and
already had the foresight to re-sign the least enticing one, Brent
Mayne. With a midnight deadline looming on December 7, the Royals were
able to come to terms with Luis Alicea, for essentially the same
money as last year: $800,000 with incentives.
So at a time when news about contraction and Bud Selig's latest open-faced
lie rule the day, I'm going to write about the draft. No, not the one in
which teams have a chance to draft Vladimir Guerrero--the one that
gives teams the opportunity to select the next Scott Chiasson.
It was less than four months ago that Allard Baird stood before the baseball
world and announced that
had traded one of the best right fielders in the game for Neifi Perez.
In one of the great non sequiturs of all time,
Baird claimed that because the Royals could not re-sign Rey
Sanchez--Rey Sanchez!--Jermaine Dye had to be sacrificed. He
spoke about how he could not stand to see the Royals unsettled at a