Had to get this on the front page before the week ended. Today's Open Thread for Mariners-Royals is over in the diaries. Happy Friday everyone.-RR
Before we begin, let me just say that I realize there have already been a number of negative articles written about Angel Berroa, and writing on the subject is no longer en vogue (or even TLC or Wreckx-N-Effect.)
Let me respond to that by saying that, yes, I realize that writing about Angel Berroa's ineptitude is like beating a dead horse, but: 1. I'm lazy, and have learned to appreciate a dead horse* and 2. Once I came up with the idea for the title, I felt I had no choice but to write a diary. (It was either this, or
Putin's Reporting Putsch: The Devil Clears Pravda ) http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/03/russian_journal.html
Besides, this isn't just another hit piece on Dominican Republic's favorite son - it's an investigation into where Angel ranks historically among all Kansas City shortstops. We know he's bad, but is he worst-shortstop-ever-bad? Is he truly worthy of all of the ink that's been used to sully his name? Will we possibly begin to value Berroa more after this investigation? Not likely, but let's find out.
For the sake of fairness, we're not going to look at players that logged 2 years or less with the Royals, as anyone can manage to put up a bad year or two. (Which means you're lucky this time, Angel Salazar)
Instead, we want to see who has contributed the least to the team during a prolonged stay with the Royals.
Here are our nominees, in chronological order:
Freddie Patek, 1971 to 79
UL Washington, 1977 to 84
Onix Concepcion, 1980 to 85
Buddy Biancalana, 1982 to 87
Kurt Stillwell, 1988 to 91
Greg Gagne, 1993 to 95
Rey Sanchez, 1999 to 2001
Angel "The Devil" Berroa, the-beginning-of-a-seemingly-interminable-nightmare to Present
What's that you say? Freddie Patek? Isn't it heresy to merely mention his name in the same breath as Berroa? Although he's much revered by the Royals faithful, check out his career line:
Yikes. (Imagine me tugging at my collar a bit with my finger.) Here's the rest of the gang:
Two things stand out there. One, Berroa's not half bad comparatively. Two, we've showcased some of the worst offensive talent ever at that position. Call it the Curse of the Balboni, if you like, or, alternatively, the Hope of the Bianchi, but we really, really look abysmal at the plate whenever we've got our shortstop up there. Had Jay Bell (Career OPS .828) not opted for free agency, that data set would have had at least one positive point. But he did, and it didn't.
Of course, that only tells half the story. Some argue that the value of a shortstop should be based more on their defensive ability. Others argue that it should be based entirely on their defensive ability. So, let's look at the list again, this time with their fielding percentage and range factors:
Patek .962 4.67
Washington .957 4.17
Concepcion .960 3.98
Biancalana .952 2.94
Stillwell .961 3.84
Gagne .972 4.21
Sanchez .981 4.40
Berroa .964 4.47
Ah, so that's why Patek is so revered. Very impressive. As for the rest of the list two things jump out once again: One, Berroa's not half bad comparatively. Two, was Buddy Biancalana Ewing Kauffman's nephew or something? Did Dick Howser lose a bet with the rest of Major League baseball, requiring him to carry Buddy on the team for five years? It would seem, without question, Buddy is the worst shortstop ever to don the powder blue.
Or is he? There's three things that we still haven't quite addressed, which leads us to the third act, the big surprise ending, where we pull off the villain's mask and find out that it really HAS been Angel Berroa all along who has been haunting the castle and menacing the peasantry.
Berroa, seen here menacing the peasantry
First of all, we need to remember that prior to the late 1990's the shortstop wasn't considered an offensive position, and that the offense of yesteryear was on a whole much more muted than the HGH/Andro/Steroids/Amphetamine/Red Bull-infested lineup of today-year. Sure, Patek wasn't an offensive stalwart, but then again, nobody was during those days. His defense, at least according to legend, and compared to the rest of the stiffs on this list, was sparkling. Relative to the rest of the league, the rest of the guys were at least average or slightly below average on offense and defense. Berroa, relative to the rest of the shortstops in the game today, is undeniably terrible, ranking in the bottom quartile in most categories.
Second, let's look at how much Berroa is getting paid relative to the rest of the team. Last year, he made a whopping $2 million for essentially replacement-level play. After this past offseason's spending orgy, that may not seem like a bunch of money, but it could have been the difference between signing a Scott Elarton vs an AJ Burnett. And the contract's only going to get worse, as he's signed through 2008 (I believe), and the money due him is only going to keep increasing.
Maybe it's not fair to factor in salary when comparing the players. But it's one thing to get paid a little bit to suck at your job, and quite another to get paid a whole bunch to suck at your job. If you're still worried about Angel being maligned unfairly, just remember that every time Berroa grounds into a game-ending double play or throws a baseball five feet over the first basemen's head, he gets to go home and cry himself to sleep on his million-dollar pillows.
Finally, let's look at the final nail in the coffin. Since 2001, the Royals have had four 100 loss seasons and one season with 97 losses. We've had four different managers during that time, two different GMs, and five or six different opening day starters. The one constant, through all of the losing, all of the embarrasment, and all of the misery, has been Angel Berroa.
Buddy Biancalana? World Series ring. Berroa? Nothing but a legacy of sucking. And none have ever sucked longer or harder** .
* but not in a Catherine the Great sort of way **That's what she said.