I know I need to loosen up a little bit and just enjoy it, but as an adult, I just see snow as an inconvenience. But even with that in mind, I inexplicably love the pictures of a snow-covered Kauffman Stadium. I’m an enigma, what can I say? On a real baseball note, it sure does seem like there’s considerably more action than last season to this point, doesn’t it? Of course, that could just be because last off-season was painfully slow and boring up until around the time spring training started, so maybe it doesn’t take much. But it’s nice. There seem to be some rumors all the time and the winter meetings are coming up, not next week, but the week after. I’ll always remember seeing Arte Moreno running behind the desk set up for MLB Network and then news of Albert Pujols signing with the Angels breaking like an hour later. You never know what you’ll see if you just watch the coverage.
- It’s this time of year that I start to think about the best way to work the Royals lineup even though it is far too early to even really know what the roster is going to look like. Sure, it seems like they won’t make any moves, but this team will surprise you. Even by the time pitchers and catchers reported, we were thinking Cheslor Cuthbert would play every day at first or third, Hunter Dozier the same and Paulo Orlando would be the starting center fielder. Then they signed Lucas Duda, Jon Jay and Mike Moustakas and the team went on to still be horrible. I lost my train of thought. Anyway, it seems as if the Royals have three guys who should and will play every day in Salvador Perez, Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi. From there, if Ned Yost is willing to get creative, they can put out some interesting lineups. You can put together potentially a pretty competent lineup against both lefties and righties with some strategic platoons. Against righties, look for Ryan O’Hearn, Alex Gordon, Brett Phillips and Brian Goodwin in there. Against lefties, they can play Rosell Herrera instead of Goodwin, Jorge Bonifacio/Soler instead of Phillips and Gordon, give Perez a DH day and get Gallagher a game behind the plate. That’s a pretty extreme platoon situation and I think the Royals will likely play Gordon too often against lefties, but they definitely do have some options, even with zero moves from this point forward.
- I believe we’ve now discussed the Mike Matheny hire twice on this here website, but you didn’t think I could let it go without at least a brief comment. I, too, am worried that he is now the next manager of the Royals after Yost leaves. The record with the Cardinals is wonderful and the playoff trips are great, but he was basically fired for losing a clubhouse, and that’s what actually gives me hope that he won’t be the guy. It’s the same reason the Jeff Samardzija rumors from a couple years back didn’t make sense to me. Dayton Moore and the Royals preach a strong clubhouse and great chemistry. A guy who lost a clubhouse would seem to be a bad fit as manager of an up-and-coming team. Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com says not to read too much into the hire, which honestly does make me feel better because he’s so plugged in. And then it goes back to what I’ve been hearing for the better part of six months that Pedro Grifol is a front-runner to take the job when Yost ultimately does retire. I hope that’s still the case. And as a way to make myself not worry too much about the next manager when the current manager is basically on an open-ended contract, I’ll remind everyone that people can change and learn from their previous mistakes. Many managers have been fired from jobs and gone on to have great success elsewhere. People always talk about Joe Torre, but Terry Francona is another who was let go before finding huge success and AJ Hinch as well. Do I think Matheny is one of those guys? No, I don’t, but I can rationalize now to relax about the possibility of a Matheny hire.
- Going back to August or so of last season, the Royals made a big deal about wanting to get back to being a great baserunning team, which I think makes sense. Every little bit helps and focusing on the details was a big help in getting them their title. And it did seem like things were much better after trading guys like Duda, Moustakas and even Jay, who was surprisingly slow and bad on the bases. But given last year’s data, they’re still going to have a little ways to go. Merrifield is a legitimately excellent baserunner with 3.5 BRR last season. For those who don’t know, BRR measures a player’s contributions on the basepaths based on activity during the run of play, on stolen base attempts, tag-up situations and other advancement opportunities. Whit’s 3.5 was 25th in all of baseball. Herrera, Mondesi, Phillips, Goodwin and, surprisingly, Cuthbert were all positive. But they still have some big-time negatives. Perez’s -3.7 was worst on the team, but a mightly -3.6 from O’Hearn was also truly something to write home about. Add in Gordon’s -1.9 (still smart, but super slow now) and Soler and Dozier coming in a tick below zero and it’s easy to see that the Royals still might not be where they want to. Some of the struggles were due to personnel, but I wonder how much of it was due to losing Rusty Kuntz from the big league staff. That’s another story for another day, but it’s something to think about.