Hello everyone. For my inaugural post here I thought I would offer an in-depth analysis of my trip to Rosenblatt stadium.
Ah, Omaha's Rosenblatt Stadium. The Blatt. Largely it looms on the Omaha Skyline, as largely, surely, as it looms in America's collective baseball consciousness. Riding on the southern Nebraska breeze are whispered tales of the heroic deeds performed by the players who played there. Littleton Fowler. Rod Boxberger. I did not hear any whispered tales of Alex Gordon, but he cannot hit outside offspeed pitches...
As you have no doubt heard, the moneygrubbing fatcats have determined that The Blatt will be torn down at the end of the season. We have clung to this holy place as we have watched Shea become Citi and Comiskey become U.S. Cellular; soon, the bulldozers and wrecking balls will claim The Blatt, too. What will be left to us? A renovated Fenway Park? Gross. For now, though, we can watch these boys of summer patrol the same outfield grass that their baseball forefathers did; for now, a player might ply his skills not for the promise of a big free agent contract, but simply for the cheers of an admiring crowd. For now, we have The Blatt.
Even in its farewell season, one should not expect to pay a premium to watch a baseball game at The Blatt. Seats a mere three rows behind the O Royals' dugout can be had for as little as ten dollars, and the obligatory souvenir cup, Super Pretzel, and nacho cheese purchases do not drive the price any higher than twenty.
As the players emerged to begin warming up, the mascots took the field to entertain the few groups of sweating fans that had arrived early. The Omaha Royals have three mascots: Casey the lion, Spike the bear (or bulldog?), and inexplicably, Herman the Nut, who represents the local Omaha nuttery Herman's Nut House. I was a little overwhelmed by this. It wasn't clear, between Casey and Spike, exactly who was supposed to embody my O Royals fandom; moreover, the fact that Herman, who just represents a local business and isn't at all connected with the O Royals organization, is included in the pantheon of Omaha Royals mascots is kind of disheartening. At Omaha's Rosenblatt Stadium, one is nearly always being advertised something. The Blatt even has its own version of Kauffman Stadium's Fucking Tim. He seemed to appear almost every half inning to shepherd us all through some new sponsored game.
Moustakas was one of the first players to come out and begin stretching. Note the Thick Lower Half, Doom for his career at third (more on this later).
He was joined shortly by Ed Lucas. Looking at Lucas's numbers this year, I wondered why he isn't more of a prospect, and then I saw that he is almost 30 years old. Mike and Lucas shared a joke together. I hope it will be easy for Mike to make friends with the older players. After all, Jason Kendall, whom I have never seen smile, will still be the clubhouse leader in 2011, and his endorsement could go a long way towards making Mike's transition to the big leagues a comfortable one.
The starters for this game were Luis Hernandez for the O Royals and Radhames Liz for the Portland Beavers. I accidentally took a picture of Hernandez as he was warming up, but don't worry, I won't put it on here. I seemed to recall Liz pitching at one point for the Orioles, and I was right. Apparently, he is now in the Padres' organization. He would give up three home runs, two to Jai Miller, before it was over.
Dayton can talk all he wants about accountability for each individual player, but as the image above evinces, Mike is being groomed as a star. He is the only player who has a shirt available for purchase in the O Royals' store. Along with Hosmer, he was profiled in the Kansas City Star in their spring training feature before the 2009 season. A lot of pressure for a young man.
I'm not at all a scout, so perhaps someone with a keener eye would be able to glean some positives from his performance, but I came away feeling disappointed. In his first at bat, he struck out on three pitches, and threw his bat and helmet down. He would see just ten pitches by the time the game would finish, and swing at nine of them. He never hit a ball particularly hard. Do not be fooled by his double in the boxscore, as it was really a very high bloop single that happened to land at the exact midpoint between the shortstop, second baseman, and center fielder.
His defensive game was similarly uninspiring. He got to every ball that was hit at him, but then again, his range wasn't ever really tested. He made two wild throws - one very low, and one that forced first baseman Scott Thorman to jump off the bag and tag the runner on the way down.
Everyone has a miserable day sometimes, but his lack of plate discipline was plain. Can we think of any other highly touted prospects who have struggled mightily at the major league level because of a lack of plate discipline? I've heard murmurings that he could begin the 2011 season in Kansas City, but when you're being chewed up and spit out by a castoff from the Orioles system, you probably need some more seasoning.
Jai Miller had an excellent game, hitting two home runs. As I am a relatively new Royals fan, it's hard for me to not get excited about someone with power potential who can play center field, even if they are 25 years old. I'm sure I'll be disappointed when he gets called up this September and strikes out in five of his 10 plate appearances, though. Also, I'm pretty sure I sat next to his girlfriend.
Others: Dyson, Lough, Lucas May. Dyson never got on base but did manage to throw someone out at home from center, though he was playing pretty shallow and the throw came in on a bounce. He looked to be about 16 years old, body-wise. Lough had a single and a double. May had a long home run, and threw out someone trying to steal second. His throw was pretty perfect - just to the right of the base and maybe a foot above the ground. He didn't look very good behind the plate, however. Two balls got behind him, and neither of them were in the dirt - it was as though he just wasn't getting his glove down low enough in time. He also blocked one ball in such a way that it went about five feet up the first base line - maybe long enough for a runner to advance if there had been anyone on at the time. He was exactly as advertised: bad defensively (with an admittedly nice throwout) and good power.
I spent a good portion of the game staring at the scoreboard and counting down the plate appearances until Moustakas was due up again, which gave me a thought. The minor leagues today basically exist so that top prospects can try to play their way up a graduated scale of talent to the majors. Most of the players are filler - practice dummies, essentially - who haven't got a chance at a major league career, and yet it is the optimism of these players that fuels the system as a whole. They hear about a Mike Aviles and read his I've always known I can play sort of profile in The Star, and it might keep him going for another season. Occasionally, you'll get an aberration that manages to force himself into the discussion for the big league club (Kila, for example), but the majority are there to take up space until their arms or knees give out or until the dream finally dies. This is the sense I got with Radhames Liz, and really, a lot of the players I saw. He's striking out around 8 batters per 9 this year for the Beavers, so maybe he's got a future as a reliever or something, but I doubt he felt that way when he was giving up his three home runs. If he's going to throw in the towel one day anyway, I hope he decides to sooner rather than later.