Over the years I have obviously spent my fair share of time lampooning this organization for moves they have made and other moves they haven’t made. Some would say that my time spent doing that has been more than my fair share. I pride myself in being a very good armchair general manager – probably not unlike quite a few of you others out there. But I’d like to think that after following – religiously – baseball for years – and not just this team but baseball in general – that at least I’ve earned the right to be a little critical at times and have that criticism met with not just abject disdain but an open mind by my readers.
What that in mind I’d like to bring up JD Martinez again.
JD Martinez is currently a part-time outfielder for the Detroit Tigers. JD Martinez was a right fielder for the Houston Astros last season until for some reason the team just up and released him during spring training. While it’s not uncommon for teams to drop players from their rosters, I think it’s quite strange that a team that’s acquiring young talent to just let a 26-year old go that came up through their minor league system and hit the ball very well for them. In fact in 336 minor league games Martinez hit .330/.390/.550 with 44 home runs. In 252 games in the majors for the Astros he hit .251/.300/.387 with 24 home runs and 44 doubles. That’s not exactly impressive but as a Royals fan we’ve seen far worse and let’s remember that he isn’t exactly ancient either.
Unlike Nori Aoki – the 32-year old that Dayton Moore acquired this off-season to man right field for the Royals this season. Nori was touted as being an Ichiro clone (or at least Ichiro-lite) – I guess because he comes from Japan as well. Unfortunately Nori came over here on the backside of his career and despite putting up decent numbers in Milwaukee he’s never come close to putting up Ichiro numbers here in the US so any comparisons – by my estimation – are made by people trying to make a point without a point being there to be made.
Nori was also touted by the Royals as being the leadoff hitter that they’ve been looking for – the one guy that would put every other offensive piece in place – a superb outfielder and a gifted base-stealer. The problem is Nori hasn’t been any of those things. The Royals should have known since it was widely reported that Nori had already lost a step before we acquired him and that he wasn’t really the defender that we were told he was, nor has he been very successful at base-stealing.
So that brings us back around to Martinez. The same Martinez that this season – in limited play for the Tigers – has hit .317/.347/.612 in 42 games with 9 home runs and 32 driven in. Nori Aoki has hit .263/.326/.324 in 68 games for the Royals. He has stolen 7 bases while being caught 4 times and he’s been a highlight reel out in the field… and not in a good way.
So why does this matter? It matters because as I have said many times over the years that as a small-market club we have to be smarter than other teams – especially larger market teams and even more especially over teams in our own division. The problem is how smart does one have to be to see a 26-year old power hitter just sitting there for the taking and not take him? How does he escape to another club when we are in such desperate need of power hitters here? How does Dayton not pick up the phone the second that he sees him available and take a chance on a guy that put up those numbers in the minors?
There is no answer. But it does matter. It matters because this is our team. It matters because we are tired of losing. We are tired of being laughed at. This once proud franchise has been ridiculed and forgotten. This once proud franchise has gone a generation without winning.
Would JD Martinez have made us great again? Would he by himself have lead us to the playoffs? No. But it sure would have been a step in the right direction.
So it mattered. It will always matter.