Toa Baja is a small city with a population of less than 100,000 located in north central Puerto Rico. Known for its sugar mills and dairy farms, it is a quiet whistle stop some thirty miles from the bustling metropolis of San Juan. During the Beach Festival of July, and the Pee Wee Reese World Series in August though, the city comes alive with chatter about the hamlets former wunderkind. Residents speak with mist in their eyes of the boy with golden hands, the one they call 'Chico'. The boy the habitants proudly allude to, is none other than former Royal Jose Lind.
Lind, arguably one of the greatest defensive second baseman in baseball history, was born in Toa Baja in 1964. His parents quickly saw what amazing agility he possessed, and pushed him to play baseball. Luckily for young Chico, he had a slightly older cousin named Onix living in the nearby town of Durado who was something of a baseball phenom himself. Onix spent long hours teaching his younger cousin how to play the game the right way. Days were spent on dusty diamonds in the barrios of Toa Baja and Durado with Onix drilling home the fundamentals of the game to young Chico.
In 1976, Onix was signed as an amateur by the Kansas City Royals. Chico was happy for the cousin he idiolized, but he was also saddened to be losing his mentor. While Onix had spent endless hours teaching him the intricacies of middle infield defense, it dawned on Chico that the two of them had never spent much time, if any at all, on the basics of hitting. This worried young Chico some, but the strange methods seemed to have been rewarded as his cousin was now a professional baseball player.
Unfortunately for the Royals, their scouting department knew nothing about the training methods of this Puerto Rican family, and would go on to see both perform at laughably bad levels at the plate during their careers in Kansas City.
Onix Concepcion, seeing as he was six years older, would be the first member of the family to appear in a Royals uniform. From 1982 to 1986, Concepcion would see progressively larger chunks of playing time in Kansas City. He had his best year in 1984 when he hit 282/319/338 and played a sterling shortstop. Outside of that season, Concepcion was largely a disaster at the plate, the classic "no hit, all field" man at shortstop. The recipe worked out for the Royals in 1985 when they won a World Series, but alas, due to the absence of any presence at the plate, Concepcion was let go by the Royals after the 1986 season, and fully out of baseball by the middle of 1987.
By the time Concepcion was shuffling out of baseball, Lind was arriving onto the scene in the baseball hot bed of Pittsburgh. Signed by the Pirates organization as an amateur in 1982, Lind had slowly moved his way through their minor league system. Much like his cousin before him, Lind relied on superlative defense in order to compensate for his performance at the plate. The Pirates were alarmed by his struggles in the box, but his defense ensured a place for him in the organizations plans.
Once arriving in Pittsburgh, Lind did little to dispel the notion that, much like his cousin, he would only be an asset in the field for his major league team. Lind must've done something different training wise once his cousin left for America, because he wasn't quite as bad at the plate as Concepcion. While that isn't saying much seeing how much of a non factor Concepcion really was at the plate, at least it was something.
By 1992, even with a Gold Glove on his resume, the Pirates decided they had had enough of Lind as their second baseman. At this juncture in time, the Pirates seemed to be in a state of shock. With Bobby Bonilla leaving after the 1991 season, and now both Barry Bonds and Doug Drabek leaving town, the Pirates decided to recover from these stomach punch level casualties by placing Lind on the trading block.
The man that decided to swoop in, was then Royals general manager Herk Robinson. Unimpressed with incumbent second baseman Keith Miller, who he had acquired in the Bret Saberhagen trade the previous offseason, Robinson was on the prowl for a more typical second baseman. Even though Miller had posted a very respectable for a second baseman 2.4 WAR and 342 wOBA in his first season in Kansas City, Robinson was not enthused by Miller's lackluster defense at the position. So, on the 19th of November in 1992, Robinson swung a deal with Pittsburgh for the defense first Lind.
Lind wasn't alone as the only new player on the 1993 Royals roster, as Robinson had also swung deals for Greg Gagne, Gary Gaetti, and Felix Jose. It was to be Ewing Kauffman's last stand, one last shot at the top. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be for Kauffman and the Royals. The team started flat, sitting at 500 as late as May 22nd. But, tides turned when Kauffman, three months before his passing, made his final public appearance at the stadium that would go on to be named after him on May 23rd of that year. Seemingly buoyed by the appearance of their ailing owner, the Royals won thirteen of their next sixteen games and found themselves in 1st place as late as July 6th. The fairy tale died during the dog days of summer though, as the Royals finished at 84-78 in third place. 1993 would end up being the last non strike shortened winning season the Royals and their fanbase would see for a decade.
As for Lind, he can't be counted as a factor in the magic of the 1993 season. He was a negative WAR player for the Royals during his two years with the team, posting memorable -0.6 and -0.2 seasons. His glove was still adequate, but it was to the point where it didn't make up for his failings at the plate. Lind wasn't a particularly loathable guy, not unless one could predict his future off the field troubles, he just wasn't a very good baseball player. The problem with Lind was the question of why he was brought to Kansas City at all. There was no sound logic to bump Keith Miller's bat from the lineup for the declining defense and invisible bat that Lind possessed. If Lind wasn't given 464 plate appearances by manager Hal McRae at the request of Robinson, one wonders what could've been. A question one asks a lot when thinking about the history of the Royals.