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The Crusade Will Not Stop

I’d feel bad for forcing upon you guys and gals another article about the ongoing battle royale between resident fatties Ken Harvey and Calvin Pickering, but the FREE CALVIN PICKERING! march must go on until everyone’s on board with it. Impossible? Perhaps, but I won’t rest until Harvey’s back home in Nebraska playing some Triple-A baseball (or in Tampa Bay – also Triple-A baseball) and Pickering’s suited up in the blue and white at Kauffman Stadium on an everyday basis.

The latest person who needs to join up with the inevitable is Royals beat writer Dick Kaegel. I’ve read in the past that Kaegel is nothing more than an old-fashioned, stubborn baseball writer who believes in old-school baseball theories – and only old-school baseball theories – but it took me seeing his writing for myself to really believe that. How does this relate to my FCP! cause? Judging from several of his articles and “mailbag” answers on the Royals’ official site this winter, it’s painfully clear that 1) Kaegel likes Ken Harvey way too much and 2) He isn’t really interested in Pickering even getting an opportunity to prove himself this spring. Check it out:

December 5 Mailbag:

Pickering can crush the ball, as his seven home runs in 35 games for the Royals and his 35 homers in 89 games for Triple-A Omaha attest. However, the Royals view him primarily as a designated hitter and not a first baseman. They already have Mike Sweeney and Ken Harvey for those spots, so look for Pickering to be at Omaha as a fallback in case either one of those players is injured again.
Although I disagree with what Kaegel says the Royals view him as, that’s a fair assessment, newsy as it may be.

December 15 Mailbag:

[ . . . ] Pickering, 28, has become something of a journeyman, getting previous chances with the Orioles, Reds and Red Sox. The big guy (6-5 and 260-plus) has always hit a lot of home runs in the minors. He had 35 this year for Triple-A Omaha and then seven more for the Royals. However, Pickering has not yet proven he can hit Major League pitching on a consistent basis. For example, in his last
nine games for the Royals, he was 4-for-29 (.138), although two of the hits were homers. He also strikes out a lot -- 42 times in 112 at-bats for KC. Pickering has Mike Sweeney and Ken Harvey ahead of him as first basemen-designated hitters, although he could get some playing time as a left-handed DH.
This is the point where I began to question Kaegel’s sanity/ability to use common sense. Starting with his first point of interest, it’s a true statement that Pickering, like every other player with 237 career at-bats, hasn’t proven himself capable of hitting “Major League pitching on a consistent basis.” However, using that 4-29 stretch over his last nine games of the season doesn’t really work. Baseball seasons are comprised of streaks, both good and bad for every single player. Slumps and hot streaks are just unavoidable, and a 29 at-bat stretch in late October doesn’t conclusively prove that Pickering can’t hit Major League pitching consistently.

I think it’s also important to note that just because a player hasn’t had a chance to prove himself doesn’t mean that he can’t be an asset to a baseball team. To date, Pickering’s been a member of the Orioles, Reds, and Dan Duquette-era Red Sox, or three organizations not known for their good decisions. Not every general manager is a Billy Beane, who would most definitely recognize and use Pickering’s abilities until he became too expensive. Calvin does strike out a lot, whiffing in 32 percent of his Major League at-bats, but the next time somebody proves that a strikeout is significantly worse than a groundout, flyout, or popout will be the first time. Additionally, Harvey isn’t exactly the face of contact hitting either; he’s struck out in 20 percent of his at-bats.

And how well did Harvey do over his last nine games? Try 7-35 (.200), only with NO home runs, two walks, and one extra-base hit (a double).

February 7 Mailbag:

Looking at it logically, Harvey is less likely than Sweeney to be traded because he fits in with the youth movement. At this point, Pickering wouldn't have much trade value because he has yet to prove himself in the Majors. It's doubtful that any of them will be released.
Again, although Pickering and Harvey are roughly a year apart in age, Harvey “fits in with the youth movement” while Pickering “has yet to prove himself in the Majors.”

Then there was the latest icing on the cake:

March 7 Mailbag:

[ . . . ] Pickering, 28, has appeared in just 88 Major League games with 13 home runs and 42 RBIs. He showed big power last year for Omaha with 35 homers there and seven more for the Royals. He has a good eye at the plate, but strikes out a lot. His defense at first base is limited. General manager Allard Baird says Pickering will compete with Ken Harvey as the first base-designated hitter companion to Mike Sweeney. Yet it's hard to believe the Royals would give up on Harvey, who was one of the American League's top hitters in the first half of 2004 and made the All-Star team.
Once again, Kaegel’s playing the strikeout card like that alone totally negates Pickering’s abilities to get on base and hit the ball out of the ballpark, and if his defense at first base is limited, then Harvey’s is only slightly limited. There isn’t enough of a difference there to justify putting Harvey’s league-average stick in the lineup over Pickering’s above-league-average stick.

I’m assuming that by calling Harvey “one of the American League’s top hitters in the first half of 2004,” Kaegel’s referring to only his first half batting average, which sat at a healthy .305. However, we know there’s always more to the story than just batting average, and Harvey’s OPS at the break was a less-than-top-notch .805. That he made the All-Star team was a technicality, and only a technicality because of the rule that every team has to be represented at the Midsummer Classic. Basically, he didn’t deserve to be there.

Spread the word. Calvin Pickering is practically begging to be freed, but it won’t happen without your help.

Other Royals thoughts...

  • I really don’t want to stay on a somewhat-negative note, but there are other players in the Royals’ camp who I’m actually rooting against, in hopes that they’ll be so bad, the Royals won’t be tempted to break camp with them on the roster. One of those pitchers is righthanded pitcher Ryan Jensen, who signed a minor league deal with the team this winter. I was okay with the signing at the time because I thought somebody has to start games at Omaha, and a veteran guy like Jensen is almost perfect for the job. However, I did NOT think he’d have any chance of winning a job, but his chances of being the fifth starter or a member of the bullpen are apparently all too real.

    This goes back to something I slightly alluded to in yesterday’s entry that discussed Zack Greinke’s struggles. The way teams use spring training – as an open competition to see who “wants it more” when it comes to winning a job – is absolutely ridiculous and counterproductive. Using the race for the fifth starter as an example, it doesn’t matter if Jensen pitches better than Mike Wood or Jimmy Gobble. He’s still the inferior pitcher to both of those guys and should lose the tiebreaker, so to speak. That’d hold true, especially, if Gobble can re-discover the four or five mph he lost off his fastball and get his strikeout rate back up to 5.5 K’s per 9 innings pitched.

    Baseball players are who they are. Some players are just better than others, and a sample size of at-bats in spring training doesn’t change that fact. Many roster mistakes are going to be made this spring because of the stock teams put into spring training performance.

  • Having said that, if Tony Graffanino doesn’t get healthy in a big hurry, he’s probably going to lose his starting job to Ruben Gotay. The kid’s having a heck of a spring so far, and if he keeps hitting, I wouldn’t be surprised if the team broke up their dream infield at Omaha, took Gotay north with them, and sent Chris Clapinski to Triple-A with Graffanino being the utility man.

  • I originally had a picture of Andy Sisco here alongside a comment about how he's really tall, but this one is infinitely better:

    I really wish I could tell you that picture was altered somehow, but it wasn't Photoshopped or edited in any way. It's a real photo of Phil Mickelson's reaction to a crucial missed putt on Sunday. I think I'll just let the picture speak for itself, because nothing I could possibly say would make THAT any funnier than it already is.

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