11 February 2007

Royal legacy #34 -- the 2001 Royals (65-97)

The hits started early and kept coming in the '00s for the Royals. 2001 marked the point where the Royals began to move from down-on-its-luck, once-proud franchise toward out-and-out laughingstock for the mainstream sports media (read that as: ESPN). Coming off a 77-85 2000, this is all you need to know about the '01 Royals: in January '01, OF Johnny Damon and throw-in IF Mark Ellis (now a starter for Oakland) were traded by new GM Allard Baird in a three-team swap that netted KC 36-YEAR-OLD closer Roberto Hernandez, C A.J. Hinch and the curse of SS Angel Berroa; Hernandez was the team's highest paid player at $6 million and pitched OK out of the pen; in July, Baird traded OF Jermaine Dye straight up for the illustrious IF Neifi (f'in') Perez; and Baird slaughtered the June entry draft, taking flamethrowing RP Colt Griffin in the first round (missing out on IF Casey Kotchman, IF Bobby Crosby and P Jeremy Bonderman in that round), flameout OF Roscoe Crosby, who signed in the second round for $475,000 and didn't complete ANY level for the organization (missing out on IF J.J. Hardy and P Dan Haren that round), and IF Mike Herrera in the third round (signed for $465,000), who never played for KC above A ball (the Royals missed out on nobody great that round but 7 players from that round have reached the majors). ONE player from that draft has hit the majors for KC -- IF Angel Sanchez, and he's not ready for prime time yet. Meanwhile, 1B Ryan Howard (Phils round 5), IF Kevin Youkilis (Red Sox rd 8), P Anthony Lerew (Braves rd 11), and OF Chris Young (CWS rd 16) were among others that came off the board that draft.

Baird, as would become his M.O., did do some small things right going into 2001 even though he sc
rewed up the big things. DH/OF Raul Ibanez was signed to KC before 2001 and was productive until Baird foolishly let him walk after '03. Baird also traded for speedy OF Endy Chavez but gave him back to the Mets before he played a game. Baird was also wise enough to draft P Taylor Tankersley late in the horrifying '01 draft but couldn't get him signed so Florida picked him up in a later draft and he has reached the majors. Getting back to the on-the-field stuff for the '01 Royals, Tony Muser guided the team to a 65-97 record and its first last-place finish in the AL Central under his watch. Helping in this cause were a 9-win July and 7-win September. The team's longest losing streak was 9 games. While 1B Mike Sweeney actually played 147 games and produced a .916 OPS and OF Carlos Beltran posted his solid .876 OPS, only Ibanez chipped in much else. SS Rey Sanchez hit over .300 before being made trade fodder, Dye hit .272 before being traded, four other regulars posted sub-.300 OBPs (C Brent Mayne, 2B Carlos Febles and OFs Mark Quinn and Dee Brown) and the aforementioned Neifi Perez hit a massive .241 with a .302 slugging percentage after the trade for Dye while Damon-reaper Hinch hit .157 in 45 games. One bright spot was backup C Gregg Zaun, who hit .320 with a .913 OPS in 39 games.

On another miserable pitching front, Baird picked up P Paul Byrd in a June trade and Byrd pitched all right in pacing the starting staff with a 4.05 ERA in 16 games. The only other passable starter was Jeff Suppan with a 4.37 ERA in 34 starts. Dan Reichart, Kris Wilson and Chris George combined for plus-5 ERAs in a combined 69 games. Aging free-agent signing RP Jason Grimsley posted a 3.02 ERA in 80 IP and RP Cory Bailey posted a 3.48 ERA in 67 IP but there wasn't much else to talk about on the mound. There it is -- the evidence that 2001 was a trip down a very slippery slope for the Royals that, hopefully, new GM Dayton Moore has the Royals getting back on their feet from. Three years later, both Beltran and Ibanez were gone, as were almost the whole pitching staff. Five years later, Allard Baird rightfully joined them.

2001 Pipeline Royals MVP -- Mike Sweeney. Like I said, he could rake once upon a time.

2001 Pipeline Royals LVP -- Allard Baird. 2001 proved he wasn't ready for the job.

Your lowly 2001 Royals are here.

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