SURPRISE AZ - FEBRUARY 23: Kila Ka'aihue #30 of the Kansas City Royals poses for a portrait during Spring Training Media Day on February 23 2011 at Surprise Stadium in Surprise Arizona.. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
I've really got nothing to say. So if you came here expecting the stat-head to rant and rave and wail against injustice one last time, well... not this one at least. I said my piece months ago when the Royals demoted Kila and promoted Hosmer.
Mostly, I'm happy that the deed is done. Kila Ka'aihue has indeed been sent to Oakland in exchange for Ethan Hollandsworth. Kila had no future with the Royals (which has been true since the beginning, but whatever) and now all parties can move on. And hey, Hollandsworth! Let's all talk ourselves into him being awesome for a few days, then immediately forget about it and add him to the pile of arms we'll wait and see about.
The truth is that baseball players make lousy causes. Nobody quite believes me, but 90% of my problem with Jeff Francoeur is simply how Francoeur is talked about. He's a cause for a huge set of fans and media members and... evidently, people in the Royals front office. Sure, the bloggers bash him, but our collective influence is eclipsed by what Ryan and Frank say in one single game broadcast. I guess what I'm trying weakly to say is, "they started it." Believe me if you want.
But baseball players make bad causes. We made Kila a cause as well, setting him up as a symbol for the failures of the Royals braintrust. And then, when Kila had a bad 100 PAs, the counter-revolutionaires chimed in: our cause had been defeated, exposed, and humiliated.
Or... maybe he was just a AAA prospect trying to hit a baseball, which really, means very little.
I think it was Matt Klassen who made the point somewhere that the image that us statheads and bloggers are somehow elitist is the precisely wrong criticism. We're passionate amateurs trying to make sense of a game we love, with the tools we have. Scouting meanwhile... scouting is the religion of the initiated. There's something hermetic about it. A few people can see what others can't see. And if you aren't so trained, well... you don't know and you never will.
Once the scouting elect have so judged ye, there is little you can do to redeem yourself. This is at once depressing and terrifying, but that's precisely how it played out. It literally did not matter what Kila did at AA and AAA all those years. The die was cast, the verdict read, the fate sealed. For years the unspoken message from the Royals was simple, "Look, we don't believe in this guy, he's going to fail, so move on." One wonders, is that how life works for us? Does all the hustling we do really not matter if we don't have the seal of approval?
I'd like to believe that the judgments cast about someone in the beginning can be overcome. Admittedly, however, baseball is a terrible avenue for playing out this philosophical point. Were the Royals right about Kila? Or was it a self-fulfilling prophecy?
But we round back to Francoeur. Ultimately, I go to sleep thinking that, in the end, Francoeur is still, for me at least, a symbol of nothing. He imparts no true lessons about anything important because, finally, he's a baseball card and someone I watch on TV. If a Royal beat writer who actually spends months and months around him wants to believe something about someone they know, more power to them. For me however, I just can't live in a universe that hollow. Francoeur plays baseball and I watch him do so on evenings and afternoons on my computer. He's not someone I actually know and I never will. If Francoeur or Kila can really mean anything, then I'm guilty of transforming my own private religion out of the random scatterings that lie round.