Leftridge: Spring Has Sprung, Grass Has Riz, Here Comes Jonathan Sanch…iz?

Cue the effed-out Don Henley song that seemingly has NOTHING to do with baseball, yet is played incessantly at major league ballparks around the country and on highlight clip-shows, ad nauseam. You know—the one about Dead Head stickers on a Cadillac, don’t look back, you can never look back. Yeah, that one.

Or you can go with John Fogerty’s “Centerfield,” the baseball song with the deceptively difficult hand-clapping rhythm that makes 30,000 white people look even whiter than they actually are.

Whatever your poison, it’s baseball time, boys and girls. All around the league, pitchers, catchers, coaches and overachievers will be reporting to either Florida or Arizona today, to shake off the rust, lose their Chipotle-guts and start the wheels a’turnin for the next 6 months where we’ll be consistently reminded that, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Boy howdy.

The fresh-faced, eager beavers of the Kansas City Royals are a compelling team for a number of reasons.

First, they’re young. Hungry. Strapping. It’s a different feeling when you’ve got a team full of young guys who aren’t used to losing. Without doing any research I can assure you that Eric Hosmer’s little league teams DOMINATED. That’s what happens at the lower levels. One stud can make such a difference that he changes the complexion of his entire surroundings. Mike Moustakas helped his high school baseball team to a 124-11 record in his four years as a starter.

These guys don’t know how to lose. THEY(‘ll hopefully) REFUSE TO LOSE.

Second, they’re made entirely of beavers. Have you ever seen beavers play baseball?  Talk about heart and hustle. Huh? Disregard.

Finally, the AL Central is weak. The once-and-forever-mighty Twins are a mess. The Indians seem to be rebounding from futility, but they’re not as stacked as the Royals. The White Sox are in this weird, transmorphic limbo, and it’s not really clear if they’re on the precipice of rebuilding, or on the doorstep of South-side sadness.

The Tigerswell, the Tigers are trouble. Barring injury, the Tigers are the easy favorite to take the division. But come on, isn’t their recently signed, devilishly rich, gelatinous blob of a first baseman (Prince Fielder) due for an injury? How healthy can a 600-pound cake-monster actually be? Couple this with an also-obese third baseman with a penchant for booze and spousal abuse, and you could have a house of cards built in a wind tunnel.

So it’s obvious that the Royals can’t compete from a monetary standpoint—at least not on a free-agent, take-no-prisoners, by-any-means-necessary level, so it’s important to supplement these highly-touted youngsters with key pieces who can be obtained for a nickel and shined like a dime. So channeling my inner Minor Threat, I ask the Glass and the Moore (though perhaps with a bit less venom than Ian MacKaye), “what the fuck have you done?

Jonathan Sanchez:

Sanchez was easily the most interesting acquisition of the offseason.  The left-handed pitcher—who could be a number 3 starter most places, but is probably our ace-by-default—was acquired in November from the San Francisco Giants (along with LHP Ryan Verdugo) for dispensable outfielder Melky Cabrera, a move that both added a nice piece to the Royals’ rotation, AND cleared an outfield spot for promising talent Lorenzo Cain.

The numbers on Sanchez speak for themselves. 3.75 ERA over the past three seasons. 9.355 strikeouts per 9 innings as a starter, good for third best in baseball since 2006. A no-hitter. A division-clinching victory in the final game of the 2010 season, which led the Giants to not only the playoffs, but a World Series Championship, as well.

And he’s 29—hallelujah, he’s 29. That’s typically when a pitcher is reaching their optimal success level. Like a teenaged-boy with an unrestricted, unsupervised internet connection, Sanchez will never be more potent than he is at this very moment. Let us enjoy this magical moment (Sanchez’s 2012 campaign, not the kid who can’t stop pawing at himself).

Jonathan Broxton:

The former Los Angeles Dodger was a curious signing. Not because he’s not a solid bullpen piece—he most certainly is—but because he was a somewhat pricy addition to a unit that seemed to need the least amount of bolstering. When you realize that his addition clears the way for Aaron Crow to audition for the rotation, however, or perhaps casts some doubt on closer Joakim Soria’s continued abilities after last year’s struggles, the picture begins to come into better focus. Broxton is an insurance policy on your kick-ass Fiat.

The mountainous right-handed reliever is capable of striking the shit out of opponents (11.55 K/9), and being the anchor of your tug-of-war team at the company picnic (6’4”, 295 lbs). He was mostly ineffective last year, however, after having surgery to remove bone-spurs. Is this cause for concern? Well, yeah… maybe.

But if it’s not a persistent issue, and he’s really, truly as healthy as can be, this could be a really solid signing.

Bruce Chen:

Look, this signing didn’t set the world on fire. In fact, I heard that it actually made some random ass-hat blogger’s Top 10 Worst Free Agent Signings for 2012. To that random blogger, I say, “you sir, are a Fuckusaurus.” There’s NOTHING wrong with this signing.

The well-traveled lefty has been—and this isn’t saying a ton, but it still warrants some sort of credit—the most consistent starting pitcher the Royals have had since Greinke jumped ship.

He’s endearing. He’s a hard worker. He’s a terrific clubhouse guy, by all accounts. Oh sure, he’s not CJ Wilson or Mark Buehrle, or anyone else who signed a big contract as a starting pitcher this past offseason, but you know what? CJ WILSON AND MARK BUEHRLE AREN’T COMING HERE.

We’re simple folk here in Kansas City, and we make due with what we can. We peek through the window of the adjacent trailer instead of paying to ogle strippers at the Shady Lady, we use deer meat in our Hamburger Helper and we sign guys like Bruce Chen to cost-effective two-year contracts. Deal with it.

Yuniesky Betancourt:

Bruce Chen’s deal was an adorable baby lamb compared to the shitstorm of outrage spawned by the re-signing of much maligned shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt. But yet again, I’d like everyone who freaked out about this one to take a deep breath, put down the pipe you were smoking bath salts out of, and relax. THIS WAS NOT THE WORST SIGNING EVER. This wasn’t Juan Gonzalez or Jose Guillen or Chuck Knoblauch. It wasn’t Reggie Sanders or Benito Santiago and it certainly wasn’t either one of the Davis boys, Storm’N’Mark.

This was the kind of signing—utility infielder with a teensy bit of bat who comes off of the bench for $2 million—that playoff caliber teams make. And no, $2 million isn’t a lot of money. Not today, in this ridiculous fiduciary environment. If that’s your primary concern, you’re not paying close enough attention. Furthermore, if you think he’s blocking somebody, or taking away playing time from someone younger, wrong again.

He’s Willie Bloomquist with a tan. There’s nothing wrong with this. 

And that’s all she wrote, ladles and jelly-spoons. The 2012 additions (and retreads) or YOUR Kansas City Royals!!! It’s not romantic, and it’s not very sexy—though Bruce Chen DOES have a nice smile, now that I think about it—but it’s not supposed to be.

A youth movement—where the team has been living in perpetuity, it seems—isn’t about big name stars coming into our dusty little town riding atop the muscled back of a palomino; it’s about being smart, about making wise decisions and spending your money with purpose, like a poor kid at an arcade.

That poor kid learns early on that he shouldn’t run from game to game, pumping in quarter after quarter and never quite mastering the nuances of any one machine. To be successful and poor, he needs to pick his spots—you know, get really unbeatable at Double Dragon or better yet, Mortal Kombat—and survive off of free-plays.

Plus, Eric Hosmer can totally turn into a dragon and bite other dudes in half. Seriously.


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2 Responses to Leftridge: Spring Has Sprung, Grass Has Riz, Here Comes Jonathan Sanch…iz?

  1. chuck says:

    Nice work Lefty
    I am pullin for the boys, it would be nice to hit 500.

    The Vegas over under is 78.

  2. Orphan of the Road says:

    Do they still play the blues in Kansas City?
    When I was a lad, they were my pride and joy
    But now they only bring fatigue
    To the land of the brave and the home of the free
    And the doormat of the American League
    (with apologies to Steve Goodman)

    My last day of hs was the day the Royals were born. As a sidenote, the #1 with a bullet name from the fans was the Monarchs. Alas, the front office did not listen to the fans.

    In 73 I moved to Philadelphia and both teams took a dramatic upswing. Then the bottom fell out of both teams. Bill Giles told us the Phillies were a small market team, like the Royals. He had taken over from the Carpenter family. Then Mr. Kaufman’s team became a blue-light special. There was talk of redaction in baseball. KC was always on the list.

    But today the sun shines and it looks like we have built a path to success, if we follow it and Mr Glass doesn’t start counting pennies and turnstiles.

    But hope springs eternal. And sometime in the next month or so It Happens Every Spring will be on in the late hours. Maybe somebody will mix up some wood repellent for our bull pen.

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