Continuing our geographical examination of the Kansas City roster. (The position players can be found here.) Hopefully, the players themselves can use this analysis, especially if they ever become NFL football players, play in the Super Bowl, and get asked "What country would you be?" by a wisecracking journalist from Italy.
John Bale: He's mostly imaginary at this point (just like Arod's cousin, right...), or at least, a scenario in which he's useful is. Since the Royals acquired him -- a move I liked at the time -- he's been mostly hurt and ineffective/unlucky. He also sent himself to the DL for punching a wall, so he's an effective problem solver. All this makes him the Sealand of the roster: an imaginary "nation" off the coast of England, that's little more than an old military platform and some insane people in weird uniforms. So far Dayton Moore's brought in three guys from East Asia: Bale, Yabuta and manager Trey Hillman. Maybe he should just stick to the US South.
The John Bale of the world.
Brian Bannister: Is there an auto-text generator somewhere on my computer for Bannister? There should be. It's always the same thing: he's smart, he likes stats, he has average stuff, he's a Born Again Christian, his dad was also a ballplayer, JoePo likes him, etc. So what country is he? I've got Finland, which always ranks well on educational charts and has oodles of Scandanavian efficiency, which could be related to handling the numbers well. Finland's also the least blonde, least visited, most vulerable to Russia, and least good at soccer Scandinavian country. They even speak a weird language. So in sum, Bannister/Finland: a mix of good and bad, with a lot going for it, danegrously close to being too expensive at this point, on the precipice of failure, works best as an underdog.
Bruce Chen: Chen's been around forever, lost more battles than he's won, but every so often is sorta ok. He's even been completely off the map for long periods of time. Sounds like Poland.
Juan Cruz: One of the newest Royals, Cruz isn't exactly young or old. He's in the middle of his career, and while everyone seems to have always loved him, he's been on more than a few teams. As a reliever, Cruz's overall impact is going to be somewhat limited, but he's a nice feather in your cap, and a great place to be for a few innings. In all these ways, he's resembles the lovely island of Bermuda. Much like Bermuda, he's also set apart from the other islands of the Carribean (which he truly isn't a part of), much like Cruz isn't really part of Dayton Moore's off-season horribilis.
Kyle Davies: Davies is Georgia. Not Georgia the country, Georgia the state. Davies is just a big ole white boy with a good southern white boy name: Kyle. (There's even the bizarre, Old Testament name of Hiram thrown in for good measure.) If you exclude Florida, which is admittedly kinda a geographic exception, Georgia is the most populous state in the Old South, and Davies is the best former Brave brought in by Moore. Davies may not quite be ready for prime time yet, but you know if something happened, he'd be sure to beat the hell out of Brian Bannister.
Kyle Farnsworth: Yea, there are worse guys out there, just like there are probably a few places worse than the Central African Republic. Like, the Congo (both of them) and... and... well, the Sudan. Probably Chad too. So before we criticize the fact that the Royals are paying a premium for Farnsworth -- he's one of the highest paid non-closers in baseball -- just imagine how expensive it would be to visit the C.A.R. Sometimes, you gotta pay for the privilege. And if it works out? Well, you can strut around your block for years on the story.
It isn't fair if we only talk about the negatives of the Farnsworth signing.
Jimmy Gobble: Somehow lovable, in spite of being nearly entirely pointless at this point, Jimmy Gobble is the Bolivia of the pitching staff. Bolivia is Venezuela without the baseball and oil, Chile without the coastline, Argentina without the cafes, Brazil without Rio or the Amazon and Columbia without the beaches or drug money. Gobble can't start, can't get right-handers out, and wasn't used as a lefty-specialist by his manager last season. Which makes him sorta like the Bolivian Navy... a group of men in out-dated boats in a land-locked country. He's not even cheap anymore, and neither is Bolivia, thanks to their socialist leadership. Still, we love him. I mean, he's Gobble! He's like the last survivor of the 2003 team. In much the same way, Bolivia has an incredibly short guy called "Evo" running the country.
Zack Greinke: Poised to begin a reign of dominance, and in many ways already there, Greinke is like the USA, circa 1945. He's rebounded from some rough patches and a somewhat delayed breakout (hey, joining WWII in late 1941 was no problem at all... England was managing things fine there, it was all good) to world power status. Sure, not everyone quite knows it yet, and some still assign an out-dated dominance to bloated entities like France/CC Sabathia. But Greinke is right there, and still has room to grow. We're hitting the boundless optimism, not too decadent phase now folks, with 2011-12 the Kennedy years.
Luke Hochevar: So imagine you could travel anywhere in the world. You had top choice, and even some price controls in place. The airports won't be crowded, you'll have a nice seat on the plane, and whatever hotel room you want. You survey your options and go with... Argentina. Uh, ok. Sure, Buenas Aires is nice, and the tango is fun, and there's surely a lot of guys walking around with long hair who would probably be considered attractive. Still, that was your top choice? No South Pacific? No real Paris as opposed to "the Paris of South America"? Meh. I can only see it making sense if you wanted to do a hardcore Patagonia/wilderness/edge of the Earth thing, but we all know the Royals aren't into that. So back to Hochevar... Hochevar's rounded into a solid middle of the rotation pitcher, but it looks like that's all he'll ever be. Considering where the Royals selected him, it's hard to complain, yet hard to feel satisfied.
Ron Mahay: Sure, he's a journeyman reliever (seven teams in twelve years) that's currently well-paid and injured (remember when we all thought Moore = mad genius as a bullpen builder). But of that troubled lot, the journeyman middle relievers of the world, he's one of the best. He's even lacking the John Bale self-destruction gene, and has had a modicum of stability, serving all those years in Texas. Add it up, and he's the Montenegro of the staff: the quasi-stable, non-horrible journeyman, just as Montenegro is the rich, peaceful, beautiful jewel of the Balkans. Mahay earning $4 million last season is the equivalent of that hardcore poker tournament in Montenegro that was featured in Casino Royale, his years in Arlington, equalling Monty's time with Yugoslavia.
Gil Meche: He's not the fastest worker and he has a reputation for being inefficient. He's at once a little under-rated, yet also acknowledged, now, to be "solid". Gil Meche is the non-fun parts of Brazil of the Royals. Brazil dominates South America in basically every way, and shows up on a lot of world leaderboards for various things, yet is still kinda that weird country with the funky flag. It's about as powerful as you can be without deserving a spot on the UN Security Council in anyway. Is it even in the G8? All sounds like Meche really, right there as an asset, but not quite a force. Meche has non of Brazil's flair, he's got not an ounce of Rio in his game. Meche might finish his career with the highest ratio in history of money earned or WARP numbers posted in relation to jersey sales. No, he's a modernist office park in Brasilia, staffed with guys who take forever to do anything because they're planning their next weekend trip or watching soccer on TV or because they're surrounded by hot women.
Can you find Gil?
Joel Peralta: Peralta allowed the most homers per nine innings last season of any reliever in baseball, making him the Gaza Strip. As in, he's frequently bombed. zing!
Horacio Ramirez: Hmm... Farnsy is the C.A.R., Bale is a nonexistent micronation, so where does that love lovable old former Brave and pointless Royal retread Horacio Ramirez? Ho-Ram's a proven poor starter, but was actually decent last season, as a Royal at least, out of the 'pen. Of course, doing the same thing with Chicago in the same season, he was then awful again. And he doesn't make the league minimum... You know what? I'm gonna be nice with this one. Ho-Ram is Kyrgyzstan, a nearly entirely unknown nation in Central Asia. Honorable mention for Ho-Ram is Thailand. Can you guess why?
Joakim Soria: Probably the coolest Royals player since Bo Jackson, and easily one of the ten best relievers in baseball, and that's being conservative. Somehow, he's able to look like the guy from Malcolm in the Middle yet legitimately carry the nickname "The Mexicutioner". As a closer, he's not really a heavy lifter, and he isn't placed in a position where he can carry a team. What he can do is, well, finish the job. All in all, this makes him Great Britain in a James Bond Movie. Look, Britain can't win the Cold War for you, and really can't even defend Europe, but if you need to send in one man to execute a bad guy, sleep with three beautiful Romanian women, defuse multiple bombs, survive a poisoning, and climb up the side of a building over one weekend, somehow it just makes sense that a British guy is better suited to pull this off than someone from, oh I dunno, Georgia. Kyle Davies is gonna drink too much beer, punch the wrong person, and screw up the mission, even though you'd think he'd make a better fighter. Corollary: Mike MacDougal is Great Britain during the Spice Girls era.
Robinson Tejeda: I suppose if Ho-Ram is Kyrgyzstan (which actually looks cool as hell, oh well, let's keep it) then that would make Robinson Tejeda... what's left of the Aral Sea. I understand that this is not actually a nation.
Doug Waechter: Really, Waechter has got to be Florida. Have you ever heard of someone pitching for the Devil Rays (as they were at the time) for four straight seasons? He was a longtime Devil Ray! Do you know how many pitchers have passed through the Trop in this decade? And the most amazing part was that he was never even really good. Better still, after washing out in Tampa, he resurfaced with, that's right, the Marlins. So, let's honor this dedicated Florida man. Obviously, he's another great pickup by Moore, as he had an ERA+ in the 70s three out of four seasons (and all of the last three) then one good year in Florida, pitching in a swamp. I think his numbers will translate well to a neutral field in the stronger league!
Yasuhiko Yabuta: Every other team gets to bring in a guy from Japan who, for three months (aka his first time through the league) is completely baffling and unhittable. Not the Royals. Yabuta was, from the start, hittable. But hey, everything else from Japan has worked out: Bale's a team leader and inspirational dynamo and Hillman's the best manager in the game.Yabuta: a concept that has worked out for everyone else, but in this case went disastrously wrong. He's the Clipperton Island of the Royals. Every other tropical island in the world turned out to be a nice place to live, and many even turned into profitable little trade centers or sources of cheap labor making one product. Not Clipperton, which is now uninhabited. In the early twentieth century however, a guano company (make joke here) tried to establish a colony there. Problem was, the relied on ships from Mexico for supplies every few months, only the Mexican ships eventually stopped coming due to, you guessed it, internal strife. The settlement was founded in 1906, and by 1915, nearly everyone was dead. In the end, there was one male left, and fifteen women and children. You can probably figure what happened next: after a reign of terror, the man was finally killed. The last survivors were picked up in 1917. All this is a long way of saying, Yabuta!