The roster is set. The players who didn’t make it, pack their stuff, move to the other side of the clubhouse and start wearing their baseball pants knee-high. Former teammates shake hands and say good luck. You often hear, “Hey, you’ll be back up here soon” — but nobody really knows for sure. That kid carrying a duffel bag out the door may never walk back through it. A big league ballplayer has a great life, but a precarious one, often defined by good luck, bad luck and twists of fate. Salvador Perez hurts his knee and Humberto Quintero becomes a Royal. Humberto Quintero becomes a Royal and Brayan Pena has to worry about his backup catching job when Salvador Perez returns.
All because a cleat caught in the dirt.
Chris Getz changes his batting stance and Johnny Giavotella goes to Omaha. Jason Bourgeois comes to Kansas City, so Jarrod Dyson leaves. Something tears in Joakim Soria’s elbow and Greg Holland has a shot at closing. Hard work and practice also matter, but no matter how many swings you take, pitches you throw or weights you lift, luck and fate will have their say.
The roster is set.
But not for long:
People around here will tell you people not around here make way too much out of the opening day roster. A baseball team is a fluid thing. Johnny Giavotella is sent down to the minors and some fans go nuts. If Johnny rakes in Omaha and Chris Getz struggles in KC, Gio may be back in a month. Baseball teams do not carve the lineup into a stone tablet. They write it on cardboard and throw it away at the end of the day.
If you can’t change it, don’t think about it:
Ask Mitch Maier about competition for a roster spot and he’ll shrug and say all he can do is go out and play well. Maier says when you’re a big-league baseball player, there’s always someone trying to take your job. Dwelling on it doesn’t help. Same with the media: getting caught up in what’s being said about you doesn’t help and isn’t productive. Worrying about it might even make your performance worse. Maier knows what he needs to do to be successful and concentrates on that. Good advice for young baseball players — and old baseball fans.
The Truth May Not Set You Free:
A long time ago — before I started writing about baseball — I attended a press conference with a manager who was being asked about one of his relief pitchers. Everybody wanted to know if the pitcher was hurt. “Day to day” was all the manager would say. You have to understand that if the media doesn’t like the answer they get, they ask the same question again in a different form. “Day to day” was once again the answer. One reporter would not let it go and kept at it. Finally the manager barked, “DAY TO (BLEEPING) DAY!”
The press conference ended, the manager walked up to me, laughed and said, “He’s hurt.”
Why not say so? Because that information would help the other team. If the other team knows an opposition reliever is hurt, they don’t have to worry about him. It might change who they pinch hit or how they manage the last few innings.
It’s worth noting that the manager did not lie — we’re all day to day. The manager withheld information and that kept his options open. This is a common tactic in baseball and often the right one. For instance: Ned Yost now has a right-handed hitting and a left-handed hitting second baseman. It’s sensible to ask if he’ll platoon them. It’s also sensible for Ned to leave himself some wiggle room. Why should he paint himself into a corner? If Yost says he’s platooning them and then starts Chris Getz against a left-handed pitcher he hits well, then Ned’s created an unnecessary controversy.
Felipe Paulino and Luis Mendoza were competing for a spot in the rotation. The loser would go to the pen as a long reliever. Paulino got hurt, Mendoza went into the rotation and that meant the Royals were short one long reliever. So I asked Ned if that changed Everett Teaford’s chances of making the team — a logical question.
Yost said, “We’ll see” which is the right answer. Why say Teaford’s made the team before you have to? What if something totally unexpected happened in the next 24 hours? Saying “we’ll see” left Ned’s options open. It was smart and I assume Royals fans would like their team to have a smart manager.
So the next time you get frustrated because the manager is facing the microphones and mouthing a bunch of clichés, remember; it’s not always smart to tell the entire truth. Because the truth may not set you free.
Today’s team fundamental:
The Royals worked on cutoffs and relays today. They also practiced scoring from second and the responsibility of the on-deck hitter. If a runner is headed home, the on-deck hitter becomes the third base coach. The runner can’t see the throw if it’s coming from behind him, so the on-deck hitter signals stand up or slide and — if it’s slide — which side of the plate the runner should aim for.
This is a simple one, but it might save a kid a broken nose. When professionals play catch as a group, half of them line up on an outfield foul line, the other half stand in the outfield. Amateurs often play catch in front of the dugout, lined up parallel to the foul line. That makes going in and out of the dugout perilous. A missed catch or bad throw can drill someone walking by. We’ve been using a slogan to promote this web site, “Watch like a pro.”
It’s also good to play catch like one.
A big deal:
You’ve probably already heard Alex Gordon signed a multi-year deal. I got a chance to talk to him after his press conference and told him this was also a very big deal for Royals fans. For a long time it’s felt like the Royals develop players for other teams — the good ones leave. Alex said the same thing to me that he said in his press conference: he wanted to stay in Kansas City because of his teammates. “The way this team is, the way this clubhouse is — that’s why I want to be here.”
So if you’ve ever wondered how much team chemistry matters, remember; team chemistry kept Alex Gordon in Kansas City.