Sunday, November 23, 2008

Time to Face the Truth

Because the Utah v BYU football game is so important to those of us that live in the state of Utah, I am going to take a break from baseball and post my thoughts on the 48-24 pounding the Utes inflicted on BYU yesterday.

It is time for the arrogant, self righteous BYU fans to face the truth; the University of Utah has surpassed their beloved Cougars as the best college football program in the mountain west. BYU fans have trouble facing this reality because in the past the Cougars have won conference titles, a mythical national championship, and have had a Heisman Trophy winner. But many of these accomplishments are distant memories and have no relevance today. As Deseret News columnist Dick Harmon pointed out in a recent column, BYU is "now 1-20 against ranked teams of late." I would encourage all Cougar fans that are having trouble coming to grips with the truth to say it out loud, "1-20 against ranked teams."

Time to face reality Cougar fans; both Utah and Boise State are several notches ahead of BYU. The BYU Cougars are nothing more than a second tier Division I program.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Trade Billy Butler?

I was reading the online Kansas City Star this morning to find out what the Kansas City media's reaction was to the Coco Crisp trade. At the end of his column Joe Posnanski writes this:

"Now, the trade opens up some interesting possibilities — it’s clear Moore is not finished dealing this offseason...There are continuing rumors that Moore is willing to trade 23-year-old Billy Butler."

Before GM Dayton Moore trades Billy Butler he should reflect on the mistake the Minnesota Twins made in giving up on David Ortiz. Hopefully by looking at the career of Ortiz Moore will decide to not trade Billy Butler.

In 1999 I saw the majority of home games David Oritz played for the AAA Salt Lake Buzz. He had monster power and excellent plate discipline. The 23-year-old Ortiz hit 30 homeruns with 100 RBIs while putting up a .315/.413/.590 line. There was no doubt he had the skills to be a hitting force in the Major Leagues.

The problem for Ortiz in the Twins organization was that manager Tom Kelly didn't want him on the Major League club because he couldn't play a defensive position. Kelly wouldn't accept any DH-only players on the Twins roster. Choosing instead to keep Doug Mientkiewicz, the Twins released Ortiz in 2002. All baseball fans know the rest of the Ortiz story. He has been a league leader in homeruns, RBIs, OBP, total bases, and walks. The four time all star has been one of the key players in both of the Red Sox World Series championships. Trading Billy Butler could be a
repeat of the mistake the Twins made when they gave up on David Ortiz.

In his brief time in AAA Billy Butler put up very similar numbers to David Ortiz.

The similarity is even more striking when Butler's numbers are projected to the same number of at bats that Ortiz had.
Butler (projected)47613930.291.412.542

I am not maintaining that Billy Butler will turn out to be the second-coming of David Ortiz but his AAA numbers are very similar to Ortiz. Scouts and other baseball people still like Butler's potential and believe he can develop into a very good Major League hitter. Like Ortiz, Billy Butler is not very accomplished at any defensive position and it is likely his best position will be DH. But it is important to remember that Butler is still a young player and the biggest problem of his development has been hindered because the Royals rushed him to the Major Leagues before he was ready.

Hopefully Dayton Moore will take a step back from the notion of trading Butler and give him the chance to develop. The Royals potentially have a special hitter and it would be foolish to trade him away now.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Current Royals Lineup

The big news today is the Royals have traded relief pitcher Ramon Ramirez to the Red Sox for center fielder Coco Crisp. There is speculation this is only first of several trades GM Dayton Moore will make this off season. Mark Teahen could soon move to the north side of Chicago and will be playing for Lou Piniella and the Cubs in 2009. As of now this is only a rumor. But as a result of the trades for Mike Jacobs and Coco Crisp the Royals 2009 lineup is better than the one the club fielded in 2008.

Miguel OlivoJohn Buck
Mike JacobsRoss Gload
Alberto CallaspoMark Grudzielanek
Alex GordonAlex Gordon
Mike AvilesMike Aviles
David DeJesusMark Teahen
Coco CrispDavid DeJesus
Jose GuillenJose Guillen
Billy BulterBilly Butler

I don't believe Miguel Olivo will be any better at the plate than John Buck but Mike Jacobs will be a huge improvement over Ross Gload. Replacing Mark Teahen with Coco Crisp will also improve the Royals offensive production. It is going to be interesting to see what transpires the next few weeks but the Royals are set up to be a better offensive team in 2009 than they were in 2008.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Honest Answers to the Royals Mailbag Questions

Beat writer Dick Kaegal's mailbag column on the website is nothing more than a forum for Kaegal to attempt to put a positive spin on what is going on with the Royals. So, in the interest of not glossing over what the Royals are doing, Rounding Third and Heading Home presents honest answers to the recent mailbag questions.

Why is there so much negative talk about Kansas City acquiring Mike Jacobs? The move makes sense. Fine, Jacobs' on-base percentage is low, but against right-handers (where KC's record was below-average) his numbers are not terrible (.315 OBP with 25 homers). Where are you going to find that type of production for $3 million? -- Steven A., Toms River, N.J.

Steven, even the harshest critics of the trade admit that Jacobs will add homerun power to the Royals lineup. But homeruns alone do not win games. In your email you mention the Royals poor performance against right-handed pitching. In 2008 the Royals .260 average was 13 out of 14 American League teams. But as poor as the Royals were against right-handed pitching in 2008 Jacobs was worse. He hit .257 against righties. You also mention Jacobs .315 OBP against right-handers as "not terrible." You are wrong Steven, a .315 OBP is terrible. In 2008 the Oakland A's had an OBP of .318 which was last in the American League.

With the White Sox considering trading Jermaine Dye, do you see the Royals making a trade for him? -- Anthony, Kansas City

To be honest, Anthony, I have no idea why Kaegal devoted space to your question. Former GM Allard Baird made one of the worst trades in baseball history when he traded Jermaine Dye for Neifi Perez. But that is water under the bridge and Jermaine Dye is not coming back to the Royals.

With Zack Greinke and Gil Meche at the top of the rotation, who will the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 guys be? -- Ryan V., Lee's Summit, Mo.

Bad news Ryan, the back end of the Royals pitching rotation is horrible. Greinke and Meche give the Royals a respectable 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. But after Greinke and Meche it becomes scary for Kansas City. It is now obvious Brian Bannister's 2007 season was a fluke. The Royals are courting disaster by continuing to believe Bannister has a chance to be even a serviceable Major League pitcher. Davies had some bright spots in 2008 but I don't have a lot of faith he is ever going to be a starting pitcher to be counted on. Luke Hochevar is still young and and has shown enough positives that I believe he could still develop into a Major League pitcher. As things stand now the Royals should pencil him into the #3 spot in 2009 rotation. But if the Royals are going to improve in 2009 they are going to have to find replacements for Bannister and Davies.

Despite his excellent hitting numbers this past year, everything I'm reading says Alberto Callaspo has no chance at being an everyday player. What's your take on his future? -- Drew E., Albany, N.Y.

Drew, I am concerned about what I am reading about Callaspo's role with the Royals in 2009. Alberto Callaspo is exactly the type of player the Royals should be playing everyday. He is not a superstar hitter or a Gold Glove infielder but he is solid in all areas of the game. Callaspo is young and inexpensive and it would be to the Royals advantage to use the 2009 season to see if he could be their everyday second baseman. But Dayton Moore seems intent on finding a veteran middle infielder for 2009. Doesn't make any sense for Moore to do that with a guy like Callaspo already in the organization. But Moore did trade for Mike Jacobs even though Ryan Shealy and Kila Ka'aihue were already part of the Royals organization so I'm not holding out much hope Callaspo will be anymore than a utility player for the Royals in 2009.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What the Royals Should Learn from the Phillies

It is now the hot-stove season for Major League Baseball clubs. During the next several weeks teams will sign free agents and make trades in an effort to improve. It is also the time of year for Royals fans to begin singing the small market blues, whining to anyone that will listen that because of their small market limitations there is no way they can compete with teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels. These folks need to stop crying because the 2008 Phillies proved that a team can build a World Series championship team without throwing big money at free agents.

The following table shows how the 2008 World Series championship team was assembled:

Carlos RuizCSigned by Phillies as a non drafted free agent1998
Ryan Howard1BDrafted by the Phillies-5th round2001
Chase Utley2BDrafted by the Phillies-1st round2000
Pedro Feliz3BSigned as a free agent2008
Jimmy RollinsSSDrafted by the Phillies-2nd round1996
Pat BurrellLFDrafted by the Phillies-1st round1998
Shane VictorinoCFRule 5 draft selection-from the Dodgers2004
Jayson WerthRFSigned as free agent-non tendered by Dodgers2006
Cole HamelsSPDrafted by the Phillies-1st round2002
Jamie MoyerSPTrade from Seattle2006
Joe BlantonSPTrade from Oakland2008
Brad LidgeRPTrade from Houston2008

The Phillies have drafted well, made smart trades, signed reasonably priced free agents, and found a good player in the Rule 5 draft. It should also be noted the Phillies payroll to start the 2008 was only 13th in the Major Leagues.

The Kansas City Royals should be following a path similar to the Phillies. Instead of wasting money on free agents like Jose Guillen and trading for below average players like Mike Jacobs, the Royals need to refocus their efforts and financial resources on the draft, scouting, and player development. This process will require a financial committment from owner David Glass and intelligent decisions by GM Dayton Moore. But with patience and a willingness to stick to the plan the Royals can indeed build a contending team.

Chris De Luca is a Moron!

When I started writing Rounding Third and Heading Home, my goal was to express my view of sports in a straight forward, intelligent fashion. I didn't want to be a an overly emotional blogger that constantly rambled and complained. But I am going to deviate from that style today because of something I read about the 2008 NL Cy Young Award. San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum was the runaway winner of the award, being listed first on 23 of the 32 of the ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Brandon Webb of the Arizona Diamondbacks was second in the voting and Johan Santana of the New York Mets was third. Arguments can be made that either Webb or Santana were the best pitcher in the NL but there is no argument that Lincecum, Webb, and Santana were the three best pitchers in the National League in 2008. (I don't include CC Sabathia because he was not in the NL for the full season).

This brings us to Chicago Sun-Times writer Chris De Luca who didn't put Lincecum anywhere on his ballot. He listed Brandon Webb first, Brad Lidge second, and Johan Santana third. As I said earlier, a case can be made for Webb but it is beyond understanding how De Luca could leave Lincecum completely off his ballot. In an interview with San Francisco Chronicle writer John Shay, De Luca defended his ballot by saying:

"I thought Webb's victories (22) stood out to me more than anything, and Lincecum didn't have the victories. Twenty victories was a big deal. We had a stretch there where no one was hitting 20.

Saying that Webb deserved the award over Lincecum because he was the winning pitcher in more games shows that De Luca has absolutely no clue on how to evaluate the performance of a baseball player. In the same number of innings pitched as Webb, Lincecum allowed fewer homeruns, had more strikeouts, and had a lower ERA and WHIP. The only reson Webb won 22 games to Lincecum's 18 is because the Diamondbacks were a significantly better team than the Giants. I can't imagine any baseball writer not understanding the win statistic alone is not a meaningful tool in evaluating a pitcher's ability or accomplishments. But Chris De Luca demonstrated that understanding the game of baseball is not a requirement for being a member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Why Trade Matt Holliday?

Every baseball writer from Tim Kirkjian to Tracy Ringolsby is reporting the Colorado Rockies are going to trade left fielder Matt Holliday this winter. Even though Colorado would get a fine return of prospects from trading Holliday, it would be a foolish trade for Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd to make. The NL West is a winnable division for the Rockies in 2009 and not having Holliday in the middle of the lineup hurts the Rockies chances. If things do not work out and the Rockies are not in contention Holliday could always be moved mid season. Colorado could also keep Holliday and take the compensation draft picks when he moves on at the end of the 2009 season. The Rockies have a realistic chance to contend in 2009 and they should take advantage of that.

The Rockies do have some weak areas and O'Dowd is going to have to make some moves to shore these up.
The player the Rockies should be looking to move is 3B Garrett Atkins. Atkins is a power bat and he is not eligible to file for free agency until after the 2010 season. This should make him appealing to several Major League teams. The Rockies can afford to trade Atkins because they have Ian Stewart to step in and fill Atkins position. Moving Atkins could return a starting pitcher or free up salary to go shopping for one on the free agent market.

There are some teams like the Kansas City Royals that should look at 2009 as a building year and plan their off season moves with a focus on the future. The Rockies are not in that position. With the right off season moves they could enter 2009 as the favorites to win the NL West. Dan O'Dowd and the Rockies front office needs to realize they are not the Royals and add the pieces that will put the Rockies into the playoffs for the second time in the last three years.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thoughts on the BCS

One of the biggest criticisms of the BCS system is that a championship should be decided on the field and not in the polls and computer rankings. In a recent column writer Ivan Maisell makes the point the college football champion is decided on the field. In response to an email complaining that Florida and USC are currently playing better than anyone and it is unfair they will not have an opportunity to play for the National Championship Maisell responses:

"I happen to agree with this reader that the Gators and the Trojans are playing better than just about anybody else right now. The reader suggested Florida and USC ought to be able to decide it -- all together now -- on the field."

"Back up a minute. Why aren't Florida and USC at the top right now? Each of them lost a game. Where did they lose it? In the polls? The computers? No, both of them lost on the field. Florida lost at home to an Ole Miss team that is 5-4. USC lost on the road to an Oregon State team that is 5-3. Didn't that prove something?"

In these two paragraphs Maisell makes a very good point. Polls and computers are not the reason that Florida and USC or Texas and Oklahoma face huge hurdles if they are going to play for the title. The reason Penn State, Alabama, and Texas Tech sit on top of the rankings is because those teams have taken care of business on the field. Texas has no one but itself to blame for losing to Texas Tech. Ditto for USC at Oregon State and Oklahoma against Texas. The BCS is far from a perfect system but to claim the national title is subjective and not decided on the field is wrong.

There is no doubt the BCS is flawed. Some teams play more difficult schedules than others and some conferences do not have championship games. Only a fan with blind loyalty would not admit the Big XII and SEC are loaded while the PAC 10, Big X, ACC, and Big East are weak. But that doesn't take away from the fact that when the season starts each team controls its own destiny. Win games and be in a position to play for the title.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ron Prince Out at Kansas State

According to, Kansas State head football coach Ron Prince will not return to coach the 'Cats in 2009. Prince leaving creates a good news/bad news situation. The good news is Prince is gone, something Rounding Third and Heading Home suggested several days ago. It has been obvious for sometime that Prince is in over his head trying to be a head coach of a Big XII football team. During Prince's tenure Kansas State showed few signs of progress and continued to be embarrassed in key conferences games. Kansas State's recent football history is one of being a conference champion, nationally ranked, and playing in top tier bowl games. Ron Prince never demonstrated that he was capable of maintaining the program at this high level.

The bad news is Athletic Director Robert Krause is going to be responsible for hiring Prince's successor. Wildcat fans should remember that it was Robert Krause that extended Prince's contract last August. It does not reflect well on Krause's judgment that he believed it necessary to fire a head coach a few months after giving him an extension. The future of Kansas State football is hanging in the balance. The next football coach is going to have to undo the damage done by Ron Prince and connect with the tradition and success of the Bill Snyder era. If Krause makes a mistake and hires the wrong coach it could take years for KSU football to recover

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Going to take a break from the baseball hot stove discussion and talk about college football. The Kansas State Wildcats' 52 - 21 loss to the Kansas Jayhawks today should convince the administration at Kansas State University that head football coach Ron Prince should be fired. This was another embarrassing Big XII Conference loss and 100% of the blame for the continued failures of the football team rests on the shoulders of Ron Prince. I do not know Prince's contract status but something must be done to send him away or the once proud football program will sink to the depths not seen in Manhattan since before Bill Snyder's arrival.

Ron Prince coached teams are 3-12 against Big XII opponents, 3-8 against the Big XII North, 3-11 in road games, and 0-6 against Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. If there are Prince supporters they might point to the 'Cats wins against Texas, but two good wins do not make a good program. Clearly Kansas State football is struggling and a change needs to be made.