Here’s a sentence you probably won’t read anywhere else: Signing Kyle Farnsworth was not a mistake. Let me explain. Signing CC Sabathia to a 3 billion dollar 40-year contract may prove to be a mistake. If CC falls apart within a year or two, we could reasonably call it a mistake in retrospect because there was some logic to signing him in the first place. And yet there was also a compelling warning sign: he’s thrown over 1600 innings at age 28. An error in judgment, to me, presupposes that the option you chose had at least some argument, however flawed.
Suppose you handed a young minor leaguer with potential, say Carlos Rosa, the job as your primary setup man coming out of spring training and he had his confidence forever shattered by Jim Thome the first week of the season. You could say that was a mistake, with hindsight, because you could maybe see the logic of the move. Rosa, in a strange way, seems like he was made to be a setup man (not a closer, not a middle reliever, not a starter, but a setup guy. He fits the tall, lanky 8th inning stereotype, but lacks the weird quasi-psychopath facial hair of a closer, and the tree trunk legs of a starter). He’s got a bit of a track record of being good, you could see where they were going had they decided to try him out in the role. But you could also see the stupidity of it. If he failed, you’d say “The Royals are always rushing kids to the big leagues! When are they ever going to learn??” You’d write it off as a mistake. And you’d be strangely satisfied to leave it at that.
That’s the funny thing about mistakes; we accept them. We even call them ‘honest’. Dayton Moore is a man, he’s allowed to make mistakes. Michael Jordon became great because he learned from his mistakes, etc. You can make your peace with a mistake.
Hear me now, believe me later, signing Farnsworth was not a mistake. And that’s why he’s so maddening. This explains why he creates rage…not just rage, but froth among Royals fans. He wasn’t a mistake so we can’t make our peace with him. If you signed David Eckstein as your clean-up hitter, bat him fourth, and start him at first base, you couldn’t say in retrospect that it was a mistake. You couldn’t say it because there was no logic to it in the first place. None. Eckstein has never hit for any kind of power, has never shown an ability to drive in runners, took a lineup spot away from some power hitter who could only play first, etc, ad infinitum. You could turn it over and over in your hands like an extra terrestrial object, analyze it from all angles, and you’d never find the logic. It’s just not in there. It’s like this art exhibit I saw once in a museum. It was a folding chair. That’s all it was, just a chair. Anything else to it? An explanation of some kind? Nope, just a chair.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I’ve been pretty harsh toward Dayton Moore in this space since somewhere around January, or whenever he signed the Farns, but the truth is, now that I’ve ‘thought it over’…no, now that I’ve seen Davies blossom, I’ve understood that Moore has done some really savvy things. Signing Davies was just brilliant, even if Moore’s motivation there was Davies’ Braveness. It was especially smart because Moore set up the Davies trade a few moves in advance, like a good chess player. Trying to figure a way to quickly restock the Royals, he grabbed Octavio Dotel knowing Dotel would succeed (there were subtle indications that Dotel would bounce back…just like there were subtle indications Meche was about to break out). He read those indications and knew that by signing Dotel he was essentially signing a young prospect (which he would obtain at the trading deadline). He may well have already had Davies in his sights. Knowing the Braves’ bullpen situation, the types of pitchers they like (Rafael Soriano reminds me an awful lot of Dotel) he may well have known the Braves might need Dotel by the deadline and might be willing to flip Davies for him. I think Moore set about acquiring Davies from the moment he got here. And it looks in the early going this year like Moore might have been exactly right about this kid. We’ve already talked about Meche. We’ve gotten to know him so well we almost forget what a bold move that was. Jon Heyman mocked the Royals for the Meche signing with a front page article at Sports Illustrated online.
So credit where credit is due here.
But all that does is make this Farnsworth signing even more baffling. Like I say, it wasn’t a mistake. There is no logic anyone can come up with that will justify that move to me. No logic. I’ve spent so much time thinking about this and coming up empty, that I’m going to just throw something out there:
Moore is a gambler. Not just a gambler, a wild gambler. Maybe after Meche and what he was seeing in Davies, he got a little cocky. He probably thought he could see things in pitchers that other people just can’t, the same way a gambler wins a few big black jack hands and suddenly feels like he has an uncommon knack. Ask my brother, who was a black jack dealer; he would see it all the time. Guys would get the taste for it and start betting hundreds, thousands.
As much as I try to tell myself that the money aspect of the Farnsworth signing doesn’t matter, it’s not my money, etc., we all know it does matter. We all know one man’s Farnsworth is another man’s Orlando Hudson. Dayton went all in on Farnsworth, which is to say he went all in and hit on a hard thirteen. At a poker table: he went all in with a 3 and a 2, off suit. At a roulette wheel: he went all in on a two-number combination. At a Russian roulette table: alright let’s not go overboard with this.
What’s even weirder still, is that he didn’t even have to go all in. Farnsworth would have played for us for less than half of that contract. So there must have been another player at the table. There must have been. Unless Farnsworth’s agent bluffed Dayton into believing there was another player. In my fantasy league this year, which is an auction league, I got into a pissing contest with another guy over Chase Utley. Now, Utley is no Farnsworth, or vice versa, but the philosophy still applies. The guy had decided he was going to get Utley before the auction ever started. He decided his whole strategy for this season depended on getting Utley. Going into to the auction with that knowledge, there was no chance he was going to get outbid. And he didn’t. I bid him all the way up to $45, which is pretty absurd for one player in our league, partly because I sensed during the bidding that he was going to beat me no matter what. Well, Dayton went into the offseason the same way I suppose. At some point he spied Farnsworth. And like a gambler in cowboy boots at 4 a.m., he just wrote the check.
Going all in on a two-number combination at the roulette wheel is not a mistake. It’s not a mistake because, to a certain kind of gambler at a familiar moment, it makes sense.