In baseball there are two words to describe a ball-club: team and organization. While they are often used interchangeable, they typically refer to different things. The team consists of the players at the Major League level in the span of one season. The organization is every player at every level of baseball under the franchise banner, the front office, the management, the future and everything that goes along with it. The goal of a team is to win as many games as possible this year. The goal of an organization is to put together teams that can win as many games as possible.
Typically the goals of a team and an organization are identical, but often they are at odds. For example, in 2010 the Royals traded Scott Podsednik to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Elisaul Pimentel and Luke May. Podsednik was a productive player for the Royals in 2010. While he made the team better and could have helped them win more games in 2010, his best value to the organization was as trade bait. Adding young, cost-controlled Minor League talent was a boost to the organization in the long-run at the expense of the team in the short run.
The vast majority of baseball fans are fans of the team, not necessarily the organization. They obviously want the organization to do well and to create winning teams, but for them the forest can be lost for the trees. There is nothing inherently wrong with these kinds of fans.
Keeping up with an organization is not easy. It requires knowledge of the Minor League system, the draft, options, waivers, arbitration, salaries and a million other things. I like keeping up and understanding all of that, but I can certainly understand the viewpoint of someone who doesn’t. Most people just want to watch some baseball games and root on the home team. For them, trying to figure out whether Elisaul Pimentel was a decent return for Scott Podsednik is a waste of time and energy. They know that Podsednik was valuable, he’s gone and therefore it’s a bad move. And they are 100% correct in terms of their own baseball perspective.
All of this brings me to Kila Ka’aihue. To say he’s hitting poorly is the understatement of the year. The topic of what to do with him is on everybody’s mind. It’s exacerbated by the fact that the Royals are currently in contention for the American League Central.
Here, we have another situation where the best interest of the team is possibly at odds with the best interest of the organization. If Kila continues to struggle, his lack of offense hurts the team’s chances of winning games. Fans see his lack of production and they see guys like Clint Robinson and Eric Hosmer playing well at AAA. In a simple 1+1=2 scenario, you replace the guy hitting poorly with the guy who is hitting well. It’s a knee-jerk reaction based on trying to win more games this week, and in that context it’s absolutely correct.
I think it’s certainly possible that promoting Clint Robinson or Eric Hosmer has a decent chance of helping this team win more games in the short term. On the flip-side, I think it’s the wrong decision from an organizational standpoint. The fact that the Royals keep running him out there leads me to believe they agree with me.
Kila has nothing to prove at AAA anymore. All that’s left is for him to prove that he belongs at the Major League level, and it’s in the Royals best interest for that to happen. His track record in the Minors shows a guy who has prodigious power and an uncanny ability to get on base. Those are hard skills to come by and if they can surface at the highest level, he will be valuable to the organization. That value can come as depth or in trade, but make no mistake it’s extremely valuable.
Now, the goal of the Organization is to have winning teams. So if this team continues winning and there is a greater chance that they can become division champions, things will change. Then the goals of the team will coincide with the goals of the franchise. It’s at that time where benching a struggling player like KIla and promoting a guy like Eric Hosmer is more likely to happen. In statistical terms, the length of Kila’s leash is inversely proportional to the expectations the team has of winning the division.
As fans, we get to over-react, second-guess and believe that our team is going to the playoffs. It’s exactly what makes being a fan so much fun. However, there are times where the needs of the organization out-weigh the needs of a team. Allowing Kila a few more months to figure things out might be one of those times. The payoff in the end just might be a better team in the future.