Pitcher of the year? In KC?
The Kansas City Star
A few years ago a reporter told me a story I’ve since forgotten. Along the way, though, he mentioned that he had covered the Great Alaska Shootout and he had to vote for a first and second all-star team. This haunted me for weeks — this idea that there was a second-team All-Great Alaska Shootout.
That, I thought, was as low as a sports award could go. I was wrong.
Tuesday, the Royals named Mark Redman as their 2006 Pitcher of the Year.
I’m not here to argue whether or not Redman, with his 5.71 ERA (third-worst in the American League for pitchers with more than 25 starts) is more or less deserving of the award than, say, Luke Hudson, who wowed them with a 7-6 record and a 5.12 ERA (best among Royals starters!) or Joe Nelson, who buttoned down nine of 10 save opportunities and will come to camp next year just hoping to win a major-league job.
No, it’s quite clear that none of them deserved it. The 2006 Royals plainly did not have a pitcher of the year. They did not have a pitcher you could cheer. They did not have a pitcher persevere. They did not have a pitcher worth a beer.
The Royals had their worst pitching staff ever, and that’s saying something. They had a 5.65 ERA, highest in team history. That lovely ERA was also fourth-highest in the American League the last fifty years, not counting seasons shortened by strikes. If you want to count those strike years, the Royals had the sixth-highest ERA in the last 50 years, which doesn’t sound much better.
There are so many horrifying and yet mesmerizing pitching numbers to look at — to repeat my personal favorite, 13 different pitchers started more than five games for these Royals. All 13 had ERAs higher than 5.00. No one will ever break that record. But there are plenty of other glorious stats to consider. For example, the Royals starters allowed hitters a .492 slugging percentage. This was higher than Derek Jeter’s slugging percentage, and he’s probably going to win the American League MVP award.
Then, there was the team’s 6.96 ERA in the daytime. That’s probably a record. In 46 day games — and this is really quite incredible — Royals pitchers allowed 86 home runs. Fortunately, the Royals’ pitches were slightly more difficult to pick up under the lights (the Royals’ night ERA was a more sane 5.17) or else Kansas City might have become the first team in baseball history to give up 300 home runs in a season.
The Royals had an ERA higher than 5.00 every single month of the season. That’s consistency. The relievers blew 31 saves, a new team record. The Royals gave up 10 runs or more 13 times — I’m just going to assume that’s a lot.
Of course, none of this is new. We’ve already done the, “It’s hard to believe how bad the Royals pitching has been” column. So why bring it up now?
Well, that’s the point: We bring it up now because on Tuesday the Royals named Mark Redman as Pitcher of the Year. They sent out a press release and everything. They set up a teleconference with the guy. I mean, no offense to Redman — he was as deserving as anyone — but this is an award just begging to be mocked. You don’t celebrate one of the worst pitching years in baseball history. You don’t give an award to a starter who allowed hitters a .307 batting average. You stay quiet and hope everybody just forgets.
You know the story of how Bill Snyder walked into the Kansas State football offices in 1989 and the first thing he saw was the Wildcats’ runner-up trophy from the 1982 Independence Bowl. The first thing Snyder said was: “Get rid of that thing.” The last thing he wanted was a daily reminder of how awful Kansas State football had been.
The Royals need to follow that path. They need to act like the last 10 years of pitiful pitching never happened. There are many reasons why the Royals have been the worst team in baseball over the least decade or so — money, incompetence, injuries, bad trades, bad luck, bad decisions and Juan Gone come to mind. But the A-No. 1, king-of-the-hill, top-of-the-list reason-for-failure is the Royals’ extreme inability to find, buy, scout, draft, develop, steal, luck into or otherwise secure pitching.
This is the biggest problem facing new general manager Dayton Moore. He couldn’t have been too happy when the Royals spent Tuesday honoring Mark Redman as Pitcher of the Year. That was like the Independence Bowl runner-up trophy staring him in the face. Moore can’t blame me, though. I voted for Bret Saberhagen.