KC = TB? Seriously??

I’ll be honest, folks, I haven’t been able to get enough of MLB TV. I love the instructional demonstrations the analysts provide, and when nothing but Rock of Love Bus or whatever barely heard of National Lampoon’s movie on Comedy Central is playing, nothing beats some good ‘ole fashioned baseball television. Unfortunately, something has bothered me quite a bit recently: the cast and crew seemingly have it in their heads that the Kansas City Royals are vastly improved and have a shot at competing for the division next season.

The analysts have been praising Dayton Moore’s offseason moves, stating that Mike Jacobs and his 32 HR, Kyle Farnsworth and his blazing fastball, and Coco Crisp will all help turn the team around. Jacobs was replacement level last season after steadily declining in value since 2005. Farnsworth is not a bullpen savior and no explanation on my part should be needed to back that up. And Crisp, while he may be a nice player, is not going to turn any team around. This is before even discussing the additions of Horacio Ramirez and Willie Bloomquist.

The show ‘Hot Stove’ even had a discussion last night pertaining to whether or not the 2009 Royals can be the 2008 Rays. Seriously? Their reasoning dealt with both being small market teams with plenty of young talent. I can unequivocally say that the 2009 Royals will not be the 2008 Rays. The 2008 Rays were a well-oiled machine with incredible defense, great starting pitching, and a solid, interchangeable bullpen. The 2009 Royals have little in their bullpen outside of Joakim Soria, are going to be dependent on another solid season from Gil Meche and a breakout campaign from Zack Greinke to make even their 1-2 pitchers effective, and despite a solid defensive output last season, are well behind the Rays in that category.

The interviewer talking to Dayton Moore and Trey Hillman asked both if they watched the Rays, another small market team, and thought, “why not us?” Both said yes, but the major difference is that the Rays farm system was constructed in much better fashion. And, their GM, in a short amount of time, has shown a knack for acquiring the right veterans and role players. Dayton Moore has not.

Royals fans, I am not writing this to bash your team or drown your hopes. It just really bugs me when analysts who get paid a heck of a lot more than I do, who simultaneously receive a ton of national recognition, mistake acquiring new players with acquiring good players. Dayton Moore has been very active this offseason but he realistically has not done anything to seriously improve his team.

Colleague Matthew Carruth said it best: The 2009 Royals may actually be the Rays… the 1998-2007 Rays.




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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.


40 Responses to “KC = TB? Seriously??”

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  1. Ron says:

    It’s okay, go ahead and bash the Royals. They need it. Dayton Moore and Trey Hillman are the worst things that could happen to baseball in Kansas City, outside of David Glass.

    For some reason, too many Royals fans these guys are actually accomplishing something, but they’re not. Ther Royals will never get above .500 with the current managment team in place. It won’t happen.

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    • kcscoliny says:

      Seems like sound analysis especially when you look at the fact that KC is investing hugely in the draft and doing decent work in the Dominican. FA players will never be able to put this team above .500 no matter if Epstein, JC or anyone else is the GM. The real positive work GMDM is doing won’t be felt for a few years. These offseason moves are nothing more than trying to strengthen an extremely weak 25 man roster that GM inherited.

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  2. Rob says:

    The problem comes down to the myth that “no one saw the Rays coming!” when in truth those paying close attention did. But since its now “common knowledge” that the Rays just came out of nowhere other crappy teams are certain to do so too!

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  3. This is reason #1 why I haven’t cared to watch any of the shows on the MLB Network. I already stopped watched Baseball Tonight because of terrible “analysis” and read enough crap in newspapers and online, so I don’t need yet another show or entire channel to be devoted to more terrible analysis! When do we get to the point where baseball writers/broadcasters/on-air “analysts” actually have a clue what they are talking about and understand how to evaluate baseball players?

    Everyone seems so thrilled with the MLB Network, yet when I see Jon Heyman talking about why Jim Rice is [wrongly] a Hall Of Famer and then another guy say how Rice “wasn’t an on base guy” as if it was okay that his OBP wasn’t anything special, I quickly switch the channel.

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    • b_rider says:

      From my experience, sports analysis on TV is always terrible. The analysts are usually retired players or bad GMs that couldn’t hold on to their jobs, and they are hired for their name value and not what they actually know. Most of what they say is either echo-chamber talking points or meaningless cliches.

      I often watch hockey with the sound turned off. If you can’t say something useful, then shut up!

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  4. Matt B. says:

    We are saying Greinke wasn’t effective last season? I thought that was a breakout campaign? 3.56 FIP, 200+ IP, 8.1 K/9, 3.3 K/BB, 0.9 HR/9 + improved GB rate (.427) seems pretty effective to me….

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    • Eric Seidman says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      I should have rephrased that to say they are depending on another solid season from Meche and Greinke to prove his breakout season in 08 is the real deal.

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  5. Dan says:

    So What r u saying wid no reasonal Base?????

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  6. Rich says:

    It’s great to have a network devoted to baseball, but its analysts lack any understanding of statistical principles. That alone may not explain why anyone with a working brain would compare the 2009 Royals to the 2008 Rays, but it does seem that some people who are averse to statistics tend to overvalue scrappiness and hustle.

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    • Evan says:

      It doesn’t matter if the MLB Network analysts understand statistical principles.

      Their job is to promote the game and say positive, exciting things. We’ve already seen them ignore collusion, and now they’re determined to give each team’s fan hope & faith, even if it isn’t at all warranted.

      The MLB Network’s goal is to get viewers excited about baseball. Educating viewers will have the opposite effect, so they will actively try to avoid doing it.

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      • FanGraphs Supporting Member

        Why in the world would educating viewers cause them to be less excited about baseball? I see no reason MLBTV couldn’t have someone(s) on their shows that understood analysis and could better educate fans while staying on track with the MLB hype directive.

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      • Evan says:

        Because educated viewers know when their team isn’t going to contend.

        Not every team has a chance every year, but MLB wants the fans to think they do (or rather, that their team in particular does, regardless of whether that’s the case).

        Plus, in order to teach fans that some moves are bad, you need to show them bad moves, and MLB isn’t going to criticize Dayton Moore, or Jim Bowden, or even Bill Bavasi. Ever.

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  7. Kevin says:

    It’s TV, its a station that is 24/7 baseball and it is the middle of winter. They have to talk about something and they actually accomplished their goal, their network is being talked about right now and in turn will gain viewers. I don’t think those guys actually believe what they are saying but they have to say something or no one would watch…..

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  8. Don’t worry, Seidman, those of us who are rational Royals fans have no problem with the attacks…

    The sad thing is that, while maybe not the 2008 Rays, that if Moore had a clue about the FA market, or even just picked up the F.A.T. (or close to it) like Ryan Langerhans, Chris Burke, etc., and avoided Jacobs, Farns, et. al., or even made no moves at all, the Royals would be as good, or if they picked up Burke, et. al., better, and much cheaper. Then maybe they could pick up on of he free agents whose price is dropping now and maybe made a run for 83-84 games and perhaps even pseudo-contention in 2010, with all the right breaks.

    But that won’t happen. If Gordon, Butler, and Hochevar all improve, that will be what gets the Royals close to .500…. and then the subservient KC press will talk about what a great job Dayton Moore did putting the roster together (even though all those guys and Greinke were on the team before Moore came to KC), and he’ll have carte blanche to have another stupid offseason.

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  9. Eric Seidman says:
    FanGraphs Supporting Member

    Yeah, I understand the argument that the analysts are just trying to say something, but the station is already incorporating ERA+ into their shows so they understand a bit about stats.

    If they already have these in-house demonstrations, why not hire someone to talk for 10 minutes a day about sabermetrics, teaching fans about this stuff.

    It isn’t taboo anymore.

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    • Eric Seidman says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      It doesn’t need to be me or Dave sitting there debating everything Harold Reynolds says, but why not get someone like Rob Neyer to merely explain some stuff, etc? Call it Saber-Corner.

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  10. Tony says:

    You don’t need sabermetrics to show that what the Royals did this off-season was pretty bad. Sheer logic will do.

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  11. Christo P. Ney says:

    True all dat.

    But…as it’s constructed right now, sniffing .500 isn’t unreasonable, especially since nobody in the division has improved their rotations.

    Now that doesn’t excuse the oddball plan to revamp the minor league system and the utter lack of reason w/r/t their free agent signings, but there are things to like.

    They seem to be inching, ever so slightly, toward a properly developed lineup. With Crisp at the top, a healthy DeJesus in the two hole and Aviles (if he showed even a modicum of carryover from last year) turning over the lineup from the nine spot, that could set the table for the slew of #6 hitters they currently have.

    It’s going to take a lot of guys making significant leaps to go over .500. Butler is yet another prospect displaying the Brandon Wood Effect, a prospect who absolutely tears up the superlatively hitter-friendly California League and then shoots back down to Earth after hitting Double-A. Gordon? Take a walk! Shealy? Take a walk times 8,000! Both have beach ball-sized holes in their swings.

    But a healthy Guillen and even moderate progression from the previous three could make for a competent, if too whiffy lineup (Which begs the question – why don’t they sign Dunn and go all they way. Heck, trade for Cust, factor in Teahen and they would have the most prodigious strikeout machine in the history of history).

    Form-fitting Meche and Greinke into a #1/#2 when they’re both #3s isn’t good. But Davies seemed to figure something out late in the second half last year and taking a flyer on the astoundingly average, yet huge innings-eater Jon Garland could be a good idea.

    Essentially, since everyone seems to be going young with the economy in the tank, sniffing .500 is a reasonable expectation, 85 wins with everything falling their way. And it will be 2003 all over again – a strangely constructed team built on a shaky foundation that caught a hot streak.

    NOT the 2008 Rays, sure. But I’ve always had a soft spot for the Royals.

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    • Eric Seidman says:

      Christo,

      Devil_Fingers said it best: if they succeed in 2009, it will be because of players improving who were on the roster prior to Moore even joining. Yet, because it would be difficult for most prominent sportswriters to understand this, Moore will be lauded for such an active offseason. This is the problem, in my eyes. There is a HUGE difference between acquiring NEW players and acquiring PRODUCTIVE players.

      Just because 6 new players may join the team and shake up the roster doesn’t mean they add anything, and this is what bugs me.

      Can they sniff .500? Sure, why not, true talent 75 win teams can win 81 games every now and then. But all the hoopla simply because new players join the team is ridiculous.

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    • KingKirkpatrick says:

      You say Gordon needs to learn to take a walk??? Gordon had a .351 OBP last year, 91 points higher than his batting average…and over the 2nd half of the season had an OBP close to .400 (going off of memory on that one..pretty sure of it). I don’t know how that leads you to think that he needs to learn how to “take a walk!”

      Also, I don’t have any earthly idea how Greinke is being described as a #3 pitcher. 3.47 ERA, over a 3:1 K/BB ratio, 183 Ks in 200+ innings…as a 24 year old..and all the advanced stats in the world point to it being anything but a fluke (see link….from an article from this very site…)

      http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/index.php/meet-baseballs-most-unheralded-ace

      KC has a solid rotation heading into next year, especially compared to the question marks that the Indians, ChiSox, and Tigers all have in that department. They have an elite closer. The lineup will still be below average, but it’ll improve from last year and can potentially creep towards average if Butler and Gordon can keep progressing and Aviles doesn’t regress too much…..all of that is very reasonable. .500 is a reasonable expectation for the 2009 club and there is no reason why things can’t keep getting better as the strong A-ball and below prospects start creeping their way up the organization.

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      • NYRoyal says:

        FWIW, the numbers say that the Royals will likely win about 78 games. A few things break right and they could hit .500. That’s about it. And Moore’s acquisitions this offseason add up to a minimal improvement. Standing pat would have given rise to a similar run/win total. Using that money to sign actually good players would have been even better.

        Investing many millions in below average and replacement level players is about the worst thing a GM can do. Well, I guess he could have given Greinke his unconditional release. That would have been worse.

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  12. Mat says:

    I honestly think the Jacobs addition was a very bad move. The Royals don’t seem to have any desire to give Kila K a chance and Jacobs roadblocks him. I think their pen may prove to be serviceable like the Rays’ was, but the key difference is starting pitching, and that was the main reason the Rays were and probably are still the best team in the AL. Saying the top 2 starters are comparable to the Rays’ is very generous(actually just not true), but lets give them the benefit of the doubt. The key difference and no argument can be made with starters 3-5. Davies may make strides, but Bannister and Ramirez are just bad.

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    • Trevor says:

      I’d be careful what I say about Bannister here. He might be reading this.

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    • KingKirkpatrick says:

      I don’t even know why HoRam is being talked about as a starter. The rotation, barring injury, will be Meche, Greinke, Davies, Hochevar and Bannister. Their FIPs from ’08 were 3.68, 3.65, 4.32, 4.51, and 5.11. That’s a pretty solid rotation. Not remarkable, but look at the other rotations in the division….they look a lot better right now than the Indians and Tigers rotation for sure..and probably even the ChiSox rotation (Floyd is a fluke, Vazquez is gone). Now..a lot can change heading into the actual season..but right now..the Royals rotation looks pretty decent.

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      • NYRoyal says:

        Moore actually thinks having a lefty starter is important. So important that he might push HoRam into a role where he is virtually certain to be an epic failure.

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  13. Christo P. Ney says:

    Oh, yes, absolutely. Totally agree.

    It’s the Phil Rogers Law of Stupid Baseball Analysis:

    http://bigredegg.blogspot.com/2008/01/phil-watch-more-stupid-stupidness.html

    I was mostly just speaking into the void, hardly related to your post, more to the comments.

    Moore’s a bit of a media darling, the kind of guy that dippy talking heads like to schmooze with and therefore give him the benefit of the doubt despite all the evidence to the contrary.

    It’s what they do.

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  14. Tim says:

    People seem to be looking at the aquisitions this off-season in a vacuum, looking only at the players aquired instead of the situation around which they’ve been aquired. Don’t forget, often the best way to win isnt to sign great players, but to get rid of bad ones.
    So lets run through the aquisitions:
    Crisp: The best one this off-season. Improves the defense at 2 positions, CF and LF, and his bat at worst is about where Mark Teahen is. At best, he could return to his former glory and basically be Dejesus 2.0. If hes healthy, then for a likely overacheiving middle releiver, the royals improved two positions considerably.

    Jacobs: #1. He defense is underrated. I’m not saying hes good, I’m just saying that Dan Uggla went from well below average 2B this year to average, while Jacobs dropped from just below average to horrible. #2 He brings something this team hasn’t had before in a power hitter. #3 HE REPLACES ROSS FREAKING GLOAD…ROSS GLOAD!!!!

    Farnsworth: Aquired 2 years ago for an apparently well above market value contract, he was a pitcher with great stuff, but major control problems, but dayton moore saw something he thought he could fix, since then he has performed at an ace level….oh wait that was Meche…. My point here is that GMDM has brought in 6 pitchers he’s liked, Meche, Soria, Ramram, Horam, Davies and Bannister. The only bad spot out of those is bannisters last season. So if GMDM says that they can fix farnsworth… I’ll assume hes right.

    Horam is a decent aquisition as long as he stays in the bullpen
    Bloomquist got overpaid but fulfills the vital role of possibly allowing Shealy to remain on the roster.

    Finally Christo do you even bother to watch the royals? You specifically bag on Gordon, Shealy and Teahen to draw more walks, despite all of them being average or better at doing so (Gordon in particular, you do realize he posted a near .400 OBP after the all star break right?), Ignore Guillen, Aviles and Olivo who are all atrocious at walking(none have an OBP more than .035 higher than their average) You promote Aviles batting ninth, when he is obviously better suited for 2nd, you have Dejesus batting 2nd, when right now he is likely a better #3 or #5, you say this is a team that K’s alot when in fact the royals had the 6th FEWEST K’s last year.

    Then there is your most grevious error, calling Meche and Greinke #3’s. Which is patently ridiculous. What about them exactly makes them #3’s? was it Gil’s sub 3.30 ERA after april last year? or Zach’s 3.6 ERA? or what about gil’s 7th overall ERA in the AL 2 years ago? Is it the large number of innings they eat or their excellant peripherals? I’m just curious because you seem to think that two guys who would be either Aces or #2’s for almost every team in the league, are closer to guys with 4.3 ERA’s who are pretty interchangeable.

    Personally I see this team sitting at 85 wins right now, with no improvement from butler or Shealy or Hoch or Kila. I can see only 1 player on the roster that could do worse than last year(Aviles) and a bunch that could be better(Meche, Greinke, Davies, Bannister, Gordon, Callaspo, DDJ, Crisp, Guillen)

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    • Eric Seidman says:

      The only thing I really agree with, Tim, is that Greinke/Meche are better than #3’s. Though of course it depends on the team. Put either of them on the Red Sox, et al, and they are #3 or #4 pitchers. Jacobs may be an upgrade over Gload but not a huge upgrade, all told. Jacobs was worth exactly 0 wins last year, a replacement player. Gload was worth -0.9, almost a win below replacement. Assuming Jacobs projection of +0.7 wins and Gload’s of -0.1 holds true, then Jacobs is a +0.8 win upgrade. Definitely better but nowhere near as much of an upgrade as KC fans seem to think… unless he develops more patience and shows tremendous fielding. Keep in mind, though, his highest win total the last four years is +1.3… so he has been below average his whole career.

      HoRam, unless his mechanics are fixed, is not solid anywhere. Farnsworth is fine as a middle-inning guy but he is not an 8th inning guy anymore.

      The Royals will not win 85 games unless their young guys really step up, the performances of Meche, Greinke, and Soria can be sustained, and other teams in their division decline… the latter of which is there best bet, in my eyes.

      I’m not going to argue with you, though, since neither of us will change our minds. The team may be stronger this year than last, but by like +0.2 wins, not an 8-9 win improvement like some people claim.

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  15. Jason T says:

    I’m just happy we can have a discussion about the Royals without name calling.

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  16. Jeff B says:

    I watch Hot Stove every night and my jaw dropped when they began to make the comparison. However, in the end, they all agreed that the Royals would not improve that drastically, but that they would be an improved club. It was a ‘worst to first’ hypothetical. I guess that doing a segment on KC would make more sense than attempting it with Baltimore or Seattle.

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  17. Christo P. Ney says:

    I should have been more specific.

    If you add Shealy and Jacobs to the lineup and Olivo sees 500 abs, they will not have the ‘6th fewest strikeouts’ again this year.

    And good #3s are not interchangeable. They’re quite valuable. I guess I would need a list of teams where Meche and Greinke are #1 or #2, because those are probably not unquestionably playoff-bound teams. Taking Meche and Greinke’s stats from this or that shows real signs of improvement and something to offer hope but do you bank on it with the back end of the rotation so weak?

    And unless Gordon and Teahen develop more raw power, a league-average walk rate is just not desirable, especially since they struck out 270 between them. And Gordon’s in danger of being platooned against lefties due to his absolutely atrocious production against them.

    Aviles had a good year, sure. I wasn’t promoting anything, just saying that given he played a bit above expectations, a year-two placement in the low-pressure nine hole might be beneficial. Seems prudent. DeJesus has great bat control to succeed in the two hole while putting more traditional power hitters in the 3-4-5 spots. It’s a better lineup that way in my opinion. Just an opinion and not ridiculously stupid.

    Seems like we have a similar view of the team to me. You say 85 wins with no improvement, I say 85 with things falling their way. Splitting hairs to me.

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    • KingKirkpatrick says:

      I think you should take a look at the back end of more rotations if you think the Royals back end is “so weak.” 4.51 and 5.11 FIPs from the #4/5 guys, both of whom are young enough to improve..as well as a 4.32 FIP from the #3…who could also get better…that’s not bad at all. The Royals have five potentially solid or better starting pitchers. What actually will happen? I don’t know..but the way things look on paper, I don’t see how you can say the Royals rotation is weak in any way. It’s not a playoff quality rotation, perhaps, but it’s far from a bad one…which seems to be what you are implying.

      Gordon has a ton of raw power. He had an OPS+ of 110 last year and had 20+ HR power last year, along with a 91 point difference between batting average and OBP. I don’t see what among his numbers indicates that he is or was struggling last season…and given his 2nd half numbers..a breakout seems very possible. He even got better against LHPs towards the latter part of last season. Gordon is in no danger whatsoever of being platooned and will almost certainly be a solid 3B next year, potentiall a pretty good one. He improved in literally every single category last year..especially in the 2nd half of the year, where the improvment was dramatic and clearly visible. He’ll be fine. He may never live up to the insane George Brett hype, but he’s already a decent hitter and will only be 25 next year.

      I don’t think they are an 85 win team with “no improvement.” I think they are about a .500 team right now. Some players need to continue to develop to get there, but I don’t think they need an extraordinary amount of “breaks” or things going right to get there. Take away the ABs of Gload, Tony Pena Jr. and Joey Gathright. There’s a little improvement. Gordon gets a little better perhaps. Butler (showing up to ST in good shape for the first time, by all accounts) gets a little better. Aviles for a full season. Callaspo (.361 OBP last year) perhaps for a full season. Hochevar and Davies improve. All of those things are realistic. I don’t expect every single thing to happen, but I think you can count on some of them happening….and I think that projects to a fairly decent team..and given the weakness of the division…who knows.

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  18. Eric Seidman says:

    Guys, it’s great that you can all engage in a baseball discussion, but it seems a lot of you are off topic. I didn’t write this post to discuss whether or not the Royals would be .500 or not this season. I wrote it because of how irritating it is that certain high-profile analysts so easily confuse acquiring NEW players with acquiring GOOD players.

    The Royals may very well be .500 next season but they WILL NOT be the 2008 Rays, and the moves they made in the off-season will not help their improvement as much as the individual improvements of people like Hochevar, Butler, Gordon, etc.

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  19. HuskerBadgerCav says:

    I agree with the initial concept of this thread, and second the notion of puzzlement about how certain GM’s, club officials, and those in the media who should know better continue to shine us on, drumming up support for ‘new’, but not appreciably ‘better’ players.

    It is amazingly puzzling when looking at the Mike Jacobs trade. GM’s, at least today in the modern game, SHOULD have a clear understanding of statistics, or at least know enough to surround themselves with those who DO understand them.

    Mike Jacobs is a bad first baseman. There’s really no other way to sugar coat this. With his strikeouts, and % of balls put in play leading to outs, if he has a good year like last year and hits 30HR’s he nets you ZERO wins. Last year, by most projections, was a good year for Jacobs and it is not even clear he can repeat those numbers, in fact he is not expected to according to most projections. If this happens it means he will COST your team wins above replacement. Yes, Ross Gload was also bad, but actually, believe it or not, he was only like .8 games worse. So what does this all mean?

    I’ll tell you what it means. It means that the Royals traded a serviceable reliever, (a reliever who have been kept or traded for something else useful) for a player so bad that on a good year he’s worth +ZERO wins to your team, a player who must be paid money for several years, a player who could actually be worth negative wins next year if he can’t repeat. The type of player who blocks anything serviceable that could be picked up from the minors or a trade or engineered between Gordon or Butler.

    So I’m just trying to comprehend this move. Is it out of sheer statistical ignorance? Is it about Moore thinking he needs a token power hitter to sell tickets? If so could we just bring Bo Jackson or Steve Balboni back instead?

    And we are told this is a good move for the Royals. Now they have a power hitter, and established first baseman. Hooray! A new player!

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  20. HuskerBadgerCav says:

    Oh, silly me. I forgot mention defense. How bad are you defensively when you are replaced for defensive purposes by Jorge Cantu? Simple. Mike Jacobs bad.

    I’m thinking that bringing back Bo Jackson or Steve Balboni at first base instead of Jacobs could be a defensive step up depending on how well Bo gets around on that artificial hip, and how well Balboni gets around in his wheelchair.

    The Royals will even sell more tickets with the move! Just think of the human drama! George Brett attending games cheering on Bo or Balboni vying to be the first man to win a strikeout title in three separate decades!

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  21. Joe R says:

    Hey Eric, think this post should be sent to Harold Reynolds, Jon Heyman, and the rest of the MLB Network talking heads.

    +1 for nerds

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  22. RaysBaseball says:

    wow did you hit the nail on the head with this one or what?

    Good call.

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