The World's Most Famous Royals Scribes are back, as a scalding new edition of "Rob N Rany on the Royals" hit the internet today. Neyer's history with Baird is well known, going back to those halcyon days when you could actually read dude for free at espn.com. Back then, I even knew the days each week Rob would write, just typing in the URL from memory... something like "mlb/columns/neyer_rob" or somesuch. Anyways, Rob spent a solid couple years blasting Baird for a series of rightly uninspiried or just plain dumb moves. The drafts were bad, the trades were bad, the free agent signings were often nakedly nonseniscal. Slowly however, Baird seemed to come around, and can be counted as one of the first Beane-copiers, starting the wave towards the new orthodoxy. Given that by all accounts Baird is a good guy who's approachable and down to earth, Neyer began to warm to him, eventually consistently semi-praising him by the time of the Beltran trade.
Since then, Baird seems to have regressed. Culiminating in this off-season's surreal barrage of FA signings: Bako, Minky, Grudz, Sanders, Elarton, etc. If you're a C-level FA, we're your new destination: that final fat paycheck before you move on to minor-league instructordom or bad ex-jock journalism.
Neyer hasn't taken this turn well, nor should he. The latest straw is the dire state of the farm system.
Even with two of the best hitters in the minors -- Alex Gordon and Billy Butler -- the Royals are No. 23 in the 2006 talent ratings. There is, by all accounts, only one legitimate pitching prospect (Luis Cota) in the entire system . . . and considering his inexperience, he's probably got something like a 1-in-5 chance of turning into a decent major-league pitcher.
So when you're short on talent and your job's hanging by a thin piece of string, what do you do? If you're Allard Baird, you blow a goodly chunk of the owner's money, I guess.
Regarding this year's team, Neyer writes:
I know what you mean. I'm not going to pretend that I won't pay attention, that I won't flip to check the score a few times every evening. But honestly, it's hard to imagine a team less interesting than this one's going to be. I can see watching the Royals, even though they'll still be awful, in 2007, because by then Alex Gordon and Billy Butler probably will be in the lineup. But watching an awful team whose best players are Reggie Sanders and Mark Grudzielanek?
It's not that Sanders and Grudzielanek are bad players, or uninteresting. When they're playing for the Cardinals -- as both did last season -- they're plenty interesting. And I have to wonder if somebody in the Royals' front office didn't look to the other side of Missouri and say to himself, "Gosh, those two guys played key roles for the Cardinals, and the Cardinals won 100 games." The problem, of course, is that the Cardinals didn't win because of Sanders and Grudzielanek; they won because of Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds and a bunch of starting pitchers, any of whom would immediately become the Royals' No. 1 starter if transplanted to Kansas City.
Of course, he's sworn off the Royals before, only to get sucked back in. For most of 2003 Neyer was living the dream, starting posts with words like "I'm in love with this team" and praising the comical magic of Ken Harvey and all the rest. Still, its clear that we're -- as fans -- more or less being had. We're being taken for fools.
The real problem with the front office this winter is that somebody apparently believed that if the Royals could somehow sign a few free agents and maybe -- if everything goes just right -- win 70 games, the fans will come back. Except of course they won't. The Royals should have done what the Marlins are doing: husband their resources until a better day arrives. Instead, they've done something that will acutely delay that better day. Which may never arrive.Will that day ever come?