By CHRIS RASMUSSEN
Luckily it's a short walk.
Today is traditionally the last day of the Royals’ season for most local sports fans.
Sure, the Royals muddle through for another five weeks, but tomorrow begins Chiefs Pretend Football, and local fans need to obsess over assessing the relative qualities of players they won’t watch in September.
What have we learned this Royals season?
Well, we found out about our young players. Unfortunately, we have less to work with than we initially thought.
Dayton Moore can fix some of the offensive deficiencies. Although the organization might think Aviles is not the long-term solution at short, it is also clear that the historically bad Tony Peña will not, or at least, should not play next season for the Royals. Ditto for Ross Gload – although he provides competent defense at first, we need a player at first base who can hit and hit well.
Another more disturbing problem involves two players, both of whom have disappointed. First, Alex Gordon is a decent hitter at the big-league level. After logging 914 at bats in the majors, it is clear that at this point he is not that good of a hitter and certainly less than advertised. Yes, he might improve in coming years, but that’s a hope and not a plan. Second, we knew before the season that Billy Butler was indifferent on the basepaths and incompetent in the field. Nevertheless, he was supposed to offset that by being a terrific designated hitter – and he was not this year or last.
The long-term problem is Moore himself. I’m not going into the Jose Guillen drama again, but one thing is clear about Moore’s acquisition of Guillen, Pea and Miguel Olivo. Dayton Moore signed three tools-based players who do not draw walks. That’s fine, I guess, but if you guess wrong on a player (Peña) or a player somehow deteriorates (Guillen, in his low stretches), those players become incredibly unproductive. Drawing walks is an offensive skill, one as important as power or speed and not likely to be taught to an older player.
There were positive signs. Dayton Moore knows pitching. Gil Meche is still worth the money, to every other baseball executive’s surprise. Zach Greinke is a solid pitcher and Luke Hochevar appears to be a competent major league pitcher, if not one deserving of the No. 1 overall pick. Joakim Soria is awesome and Ron Mahay close to it.
An old cliché states that pitching is the commodity of baseball. Soon, the Royals might need to use that commodity to buy hitting.