Upon bumping into local attorney Brennan Fagan — thankfully, not hard enough for him to take action against me — at Dillon’s during the winter, I congratulated him for his blind loyalty based on the cap that rested atop his head, the cool-looking Royal blue one with connecting white “KC” letters.
Fagan was quick and confident in arguing his case for why this year is different. For the first time in a long time, Fagan reasoned, the lineup doesn’t have an easy out.
The circular-lineup defense, which I later heard repeated by others, might stand up in a court of law, where the Royals are innocent until proven guilty, but everywhere else Kansas City’s baseball club is guilty until proven innocent.
True, the lineup doesn’t have an obvious easy out, but it also lacks a traditional leadoff hitter, No. 3 hole hitter and cleanup man. It’s stocked with No. 2 and No. 6 hitters, which qualifies as an upgrade from business as usual.
Any team would be proud to top their rotations with talented right-handers Gil Meche (14-11, 3.98) and Zack Greinke (13-10, 3.47). Kyle Davies went 9-7 with a 4.06 ERA. Nice numbers, though his average of 51⁄3 innings per start must improve. Davies, 25, was magnificent in September, going 4-1 with a 2.27 ERA, which can mean one of two things: 1. He put it all together and is ready for a huge season; 2. Non-contending teams experimented with young hitters in September to determine which were ready for the big leagues.
Royal blue caps off to general manager Dayton Moore for signing Meche, not trading Greinke and trading for Davies.
As for No. 4 starter Sidney Ponson, late, great pitcher/pitching coach/lover of violin music Johnny Podres used to say of such athletes, though not about Ponson, as far as I know: “He couldn’t pitch when he could pitch.” Ponson did win 17 games in 2003, but it otherwise applies. Lefty Horacio Ramirez had a rough spring, but he’s worth a try.
Still, the Royals a contender? Fagan might want to call former Lawrence High coach Lynn Harrod as a witness for the defense. Harrod has been getting funny looks since July, which was when he began telling anyone who would listen the Royals would contend in 2009.
An assistant principal at South Junior High, Harrod said he remembers fondly “going to Municipal Stadium down on Brooklyn Avenue to see the A’s and Royals.”
“I don’t remember the last time I had this much enthusiasm,” Harrod said. “It might have been when George Brett came flying out of the dugout with the pine-tar incident. They finally have the pieces to turn this thing around.”
Harrod regularly visits minor league ballparks of Royals affiliates. He said since Moore became GM, he has noticed “young players playing with more enthusiasm, more heart.”
Harrod loves the Royals’ bullpen, especially closer Joakim Soria.
“And the first baseman (Mike Jacobs) strikes out a lot, but he also has a lot of power,” Harrod said. “And Alex Gordon and Billy Butler have been in the upper part of the lineup. Now they’ve moved down and they’re good hitters.”
Ah, the old circular-lineup defense.