Wednesday, March 09, 2005

A Painful Memory

Today's Kansas City Star features an article entitled "Gone - and forgotten."

The story is about the defining event in the Royals' disasterous 104 loss season last year. It was May 1. The Royals needed a stop-gap starter to make a start at Yankee Stadium. Many folks were hoping that young Zack Grienke would get the call. The Royals had gotten off to a disappointing start after expecting to win the AL Central. Most felt there was still time to right the ship, and injecting some excitement by promoting Grienke, who was at AAA Omaha, seemed like it might work. There was a lot of buzz around Grienke. Pena and Baird had both agreed his stuff was ready for the big leagues, but Baird wanted him to spend more time at Omaha to mature mentally. Baird said (I'm paraphrasing here) "Eating at Mortons is a lot different that eating at Taco Bell." So, Grienke stayed in Omaha while Villacis made the trip to New York.

The Royals promoted Eduardo Villacis from AA Wichita. Royals GM Allard Baird insisted he was ready; more ready than Grienke or any other pitcher at Omaha. (at the time, Jamie Wright and Kris Wilson were both at Omaha. Both had had previous Major League experience). Villacis reported to the Royals in New York, and his own players were asking "who's this?" Villacis was quoted: "I deserved it more than anybody else."

Says Baird: "It was the right move. I believed that then, and I believe that now."

At the time, Villacis had a total 18 2/3 innings above the Class A level.

Villacis didn't last 3 innings, the Royals got shelled, Villacis was demoted back to Wichita and eventually released, and the Royals went on to their worst season in history. It was after that game that Tony Pena guaranteed the Royals would win the division.

That one day defined the season for the Royals. Baird still believes he made the right decision. But did he? I believe it was one of the worst days in the history of the franchise. An embarrassment for the club.

Villacis is now in the White Sox system (although I thought I had read last fall that they had released him). Both he and the Royals are looking for a fresh start.

No comments: