All Royals Fans are Losers, but Only in the Literal Sense
It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that the trade of Yuniesky Betancourt from the Mariners to the Royals resulted in more decisive and significant local backlash than any other trade of the past two years. But while the fundamental mistakes on the Royals’ end, specifically GM Dayton Moore were numerous, they weren’t as epic at length as they were at first glance.
Quoth Rany Jazayerli:
Trading for Yuniesky Betancourt didn’t have to be such a disaster. I see the Royals’ line of thinking here: Betancourt is a phenomenally talented player who might benefit from a change of scenery, and his price has never been lower. The fundamental mistake the Royals made was that they didn’t appreciate just how low Betancourt’s stock had fallen. If they had traded Saito alone – and made the Mariners pick up $6 million instead of just $3 million – this would have been a perfectly reasonable trade. And judging from the condolences I received after the team from front office types – no, not anyone who used to work at Baseball Prospectus – they still would have had the best offer on the table.
As a Redskins fan, I could explain to you in-depth how hard it is for executives to learn how to balance ones perception of value with another. I’ve watched a football team miss on a players perceived value by up to two or three rounds in compensation seemingly year after year. A 2nd rounder for Jason Taylor. A third rounder for T.J. Duckett. A first and a third rounder for Lav Coles.
I mean, hell, just this year the K.C. Royals traded fallen/flatlining pitching prospect Tyler Lumsden for OF Jordan Parraz, a legitimate hitter in the low minors. The point is: the issue with reconciling scouting perceptions of players, specifically potential acquisitions, with reality is not a trait found to be inherently lacking in bad personnel people. It’s a legitimately difficult part of the job, perhaps the most difficult part.
Clearly though, as Rany points out, this is what occurred in K.C. this week. The fact that Dayton Moore thinks (thought briefly?) that Betancourt can be a good player, specifically on defense, matters far less than his inability to realize that the Mariners (who just had a regime change last year, btw), did not think that he could be a good player. If you have reason to believe a player is more valuable than his team thinks he is, don’t let any amount of statistical analysis stop you from pulling the trigger. But, certainly, don’t give up MORE than they think he’s worth.
Ultimately though, Dayton Moore is not going to lose his job over a single gamble in the middle of a lost baseball season for a franchise that has enjoyed nothing but lost baseball seasons since the early 1990’s. The worst possible outcome of this trade would pretty much just be the status quo for the Royals. I mean, yes, it would hinder the team from getting better in the short-term, but few except die-hard Royals fans would actually notice.
The losers, in all of this, are those Royals fans. The reason the mainstream media didn’t even bat an eye at this trade is just that: no one cares about the Kansas City Royals. So the team makes a move that, on the surface, reeks of ignorance if not incompetence; the Mariners are winners, everyone moves on with their lives. The local backlash, as strong as it is, measures about a 1.3 on the national sports Richter scale. A few blogs ponder some possible motives for the trade, and then, that’s it, people move on.
Royals fans get to live out this monstrosity, as they follow the team throughout the rest of the summer, into next year, and thanks to arrogance, likely into 2011. The Mariners, as an organization, are winners, the Royals subsidize the losing to their fans, and nothing is really wrong in the baseball world.