I miss my rivalry

So, the St. Louis Cardinals are traveling across the state for a much-anticipated series with the Kansas City Royals. Even when the series was meaningless, it could always be counted on for at least a few potshots, or something.

Not this year. I was born a Royals fan and I’ll die a Royals fan, but this year, I find myself agreeing with the St. Louis columnist.The Kansas City press has barely even noticed the Cardinals are coming to town. I can’t link directly to the stories because the Kansas City Star requires registration, but they’re all talking about Carlos Beltran.

Carlos Beltran is arguably the most talented human being to ever wear a Royals uniform. George Brett, as great as he was, didn’t have Beltran’s abilities. Bo Jackson did, but he spent less time in a Royals uniform than Beltran, thanks to an injury suffered in his unusual hobby. Maybe Amos Otis had them, but few people outside of Kansas City know much about A. O., and he didn’t have Beltran’s durability. Beltran got better as the season progressed, while A. O. generally got worse.

Now, the Royals deserve credit for getting something for Beltran, which is more than I can say for what they got for Kevin Appier or Jermaine Dye when they sold them off. The Royals pried a starting pitching prospect out of Oakland, who seems to have a knack for developing pitchers without destroying their arms. They also got a line-drive-hitting third baseman who bats left-handed. If he’s half as good as the last one of those the Royals had, they’ll be happy. They also got a catcher who can hit. The last one of those they had was Don Slaught, but Slaught made his name in Pittsburgh. The last one of those they had before Slaught was Darrell Porter.

Getting the first-round draft pick from whoever signed Beltran would have been nice, but this deal gives the Royals the catcher they need now, as well as a starting pitcher they need now, and the third baseman they’re going to need next year.

Only time will tell whether that first-round draft pick would have been another Carlos Beltran or another Jeff Austin, and only time will tell if one of these guys is going to be another Jermaine Dye or if all of them are going to be A. J. Hinch.

I have a hard time not blaming the Royals for not wanting to pay Carlos Beltran $18 million. The Royals would be much better served by six slightly above-average players, each making an average of $3 million. Besides, injuries are a funny thing. The Royals are still stinging from giving Mike Sweeney a lucrative long-term contract, only to see him struggle with injuries the past two years. When you’re the Yankees, you can afford to take that risk. When you’re the Royals, you can’t. Right now, Carlos Beltran looks like Willie Mays. But he’s only an injury or two away from being Andre Dawson. A major injury could turn him into Mark Quinn.

So what’s Jeff Gordon saying here in St. Louis?

He’s lamenting that back in the 1970s, the Royals were baseball’s model franchise while the Cardinals languished. And today, the Royals are able to develop star players but unable to keep them, while the Cardinals field a team of perennial All-Stars. Both teams have their problems, but the Cardinals’ problems don’t push them into last place, and while they disappoint fans, they don’t alienate them.

The sad thing is, the worst thing the Royals could do to the Cardinals this year is trade their best player to one of the Cardinals’ Central Division rivals.

Wait. That’s exactly what they just did.

And maybe, just maybe, after age and media pressure catches up with Carlos Beltran and he turns into more of an Andre Dawson than a Willie Mays, maybe once again, the Royals will be able to afford him, and maybe a little bit of sentiment and nostalgia will kick in, and maybe the more enduring half of dos Carlos who captured the imagination of Royals fans in the late 1990s will decide it would be nice to end his career where he started.

Thanks for the memories, Carlos. I know this doesn’t have to be goodbye.

And I hope you don’t take this personally, but in the meantime, I hope we don’t miss you too much.

4 thoughts on “I miss my rivalry

  • June 25, 2004 at 11:48 pm
    Permalink

    I hear you, Dave. It hasn’t been that long since KC had great teams consistently.

    Amazing that even a city the size of Houston, where I am, is only considered a mid-sized market. Too bad baseball can’t work out better revenue sharing like the NFL and make a somewhat level playing field.

    At least we’ve been able to keep 2 potential hall of famers in Biggio and Bagwell for their whole careers, and have all our teams have a chance to sign name players.

    Unfortunately, after this season Beltran will probably be too expensive for us too. He is very impressive. He beat out a ground ball to deep short tonight and it wasn’t even close. Five tool players are rare.

    The lack of a level playing field in baseball is just a shame, though.


    -Steve

    • June 26, 2004 at 9:15 am
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      Enjoy him while you’ve got him. I used to argue that Jim Edmonds was the second-best center fielder in Missouri. Edmonds is certainly flashier, but I think that’s because he has to work harder. Edmonds catches everything in sight but sometimes he has to reach for it. Carlos Beltran doesn’t have to reach very often.

      I’m sure he’ll end up with the Yankees. With Scott Boras seeking $18 million, Steinbrenner will naturally offer 19. But a lot of people can’t handle New York, and Beltran’s a pretty sensitive guy. A place like Houston or Kansas City is a much better place for him. It’s sad he’s going to learn the hard way.

      So it goes in the life of a Scott Boras client.

      • June 29, 2004 at 2:06 am
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        I sympathize with your situation Dave. Didn’t George Brett recently quit the KC organization because he didn’t like the direction the management/owners were going? It is nice to see sometimes not all ball players are money grubbers. Houston is especially lucky it seems with Biggio and Bagwell and they picked up Clemens and Pettit for much less than those guys could have gotten elsewhere (I know Pettit hasn’t worked out but he still signed for less than he could have gotten) Maybe Beltran will stay. You might have another take being closer to the source, but I’m glad to see Ken Griffey Jr back in play. With all his injuries, it’s been long forgotten that his signing with Cincinnatti was considered a bargain. At the time he was one of the top 5 players in baseball and he definitely could have gotten a lot more elsewhere. Not that any of these guys are underpaid, but at least there are a few who aren’t chasing every last dollar.


        Some things you must love because they’re impossible to like

  • June 29, 2004 at 10:30 am
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    Brett has had some disagreements but no, he didn’t actually leave the organization. I don’t know that he’s a vice president anymore, but they’ve actually sent him to Omaha to instruct the young third baseman they got in the Beltran trade.

    Also, when their hitting coach has to leave the team for an extended period, Brett is usually the one who fills in.

    I know I would have liked to have seen more fire the last couple of days. For example, in the game on Sunday when Ken Harvey got hit and had to leave the game, Jimmy Gobble should have sailed a couple of fastballs high over Albert Pujols’ and Scott Rolen’s heads to send a message. High enough that there’s no danger of hitting them, of course, but it sends a message to the other team and to the umpires that you aren’t going to lay there and play dead.

    On the other hand, I guess you can’t blame a team for losing some fire when they trade someone the caliber of Beltran, and then lose their closer and third baseman to injuries all in the same week.

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