This off-season just keeps getting better. Well-timed too. It's always good to turn in a clunker right when the Royals look to be closer to competition than they've been in years.
With Horacio Ramirez getting bombed again -- although it was just Spring Training, so he was probably just working on his horrible, extremely hittable pitches -- and the fact that Brian Bannister has really been no better, it's looking more and more likely, at least to this casual, mother's basement dwelling observer, that we will see Sir Sidney at some point this season.
And so, with the sincerest happiness and excitement, I would like to announce the 2009 Sidney Ponson Innings Pitched Prediction Contest!
The winner gets a free Royals Review T-Shirt. (These shirts have roughly the same effect on the opposite sex as a 30% pay raise. It's been tested. Honestly, you have no reason not to buy one. Light gray is the new black.)
Last week, Dayton Moore told Bob Dutton that had had recieved a strong recommendation from his scouts to sign Ponson:
“We saw him as the best available guy based on our scouts’ assessment,” general manager Dayton Moore said. “Our scouts saw him in the WBC and were very aggressive in their recommendation that we need to bring him in here so we could evaluate him ourselves.”
To be fair, perhaps they did see something that just screams, he's a brand new Sidney! (Although this happens how often with guys in their thirties?) And the statement fully includes the need for further observation and lots of appropriately vague GM-speak about having a competition and the rest. Dayton isn't going to say, "he's AAA insurance and a no-risk flier that will neverthless probably suck." I get that.
Still, he pitched nine innings in the WBC, spread out over two starts. He didn't even pitch deep into a game, which is a major issue in evaluating a starter's potential for effectiveness. Again, nine innings. In those nine innings, he struck out a Banny-esque four batters, also walked four, and allowed seven hits.
We know who Sidney Ponson is however. That's been well-established since the first Bush Administration. This is a guy who has not been good since the start of the Iraq War.
I suppose I could say something really witty like, this guy's declined just like the stock market, although it's really quite like that. he didn't fall off a cliff eighteen months ago. No, he's turned in a solid five year run of bad play. Ponson's post-2003 career has been a slow, yet extremely steady march further and further from the reaches of averageness. Since 2003, he's thrown 600.2 bad innings. I'm not sure if he'd struck out 30 players and allowed no hits in those glorious nine innings in the WBC if it would have warranted signing him.
Everyone wants to be the team that turns a guy like Sidney Ponson around. Why, I don't know. It must be intensely pleasurable to tell a reporter, "our people saw something, and we knew that he still had good baseball left." That must be the GM-speak equivalent of ripping off your shirt and running around pumping your chest. I don't know. Anyway, the Orioles were wrong when they brought him back. Then the Cardinals were wrong. The the Twins were wrong. Then the Rangers were wrong. Then the Yankees were wrong.
The Royals have put themselves in this situation in two ways. First, you can only get 5.50 ERA inninsg from Sidney if you bring him onto your team, which they've done, voluntarily. (Or at least, he's in the organization now.) Secondly, despite, again this is the annoying thing, despite doing so much to build a good staff, Dayton has gotten lazy or stupid on the details, and currently seems to be left with either Brian Bannister, Horacio Ramirez, or Sir Sidney as the fifth starter. Maybe one of the six guys named Wright and Bruce Chen is also in the mix. I don't know.
You don't get into this situation by accident. Bannister looked like a rotation guy until the Spring, and while I'm willing to say mostly his ST stats (like Ho-Ram's) don't really matter, its hard to be positive either. Eventually, as we've seen with similar pickups, you acquire Sidney Ponson because you actually think it is a good idea.
So let me know how many innings you think Sidney Ponson will throw for the Royals in 2009. The first to post each inning guess claims that total, and should there be a tie, I'll break it based on who posted first.