Will the Royals actually play Kila Ka'aihue?

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Back in 2008, when he was 24 years old, Kila Ka’aihue hit .314 with 37 homers, 104 walks, and a 1.085 OPS in 124 games between Double-A and Triple-A. Two years later the Royals may finally be giving him a shot, with Ka’aihue joining the roster yesterday in place of the injured Rick Ankiel after hitting .304 with a 1.086 OPS in 23 games at Triple-A.
Ka’aihue has never projected as a superstar, but as a solid, relatively young hitter with power and patience the Royals’ refusal to give him an extended look has been confusing. And even now, after calling him up, they may not actually have a place for him to play.
Ka’aihue has played exclusively first base in the minors, but the Royals have Billy Butler there for the next decade or so and Jose Guillen is hitting .287 with eight homers and a .902 OPS in 27 games as the primary designated hitter. Asked how he might find at-bats for Ka’aihue, manager Trey Hillman said:

We’ll see where it fits day to day. It depends on what I do with the outfield. It depends on how I use Willie [Bloomquist]. It depends on how productive Mitch [Maier] is. Right now, you can view it as an extra bat off the bench. He might play some first base. If he plays first base, Billy [Butler] might do some DHing. That would necessitate putting Jose [Guillen] back in right. Well mix and match.

Based on Hillman’s history, my guess is that “we’ll mix and match” is code for “he won’t play much.” The easiest solution would be making room for Ka’aihue by trading Guillen, but while the early power numbers are impressive he seems unlikely to draw a whole lot of trade interest following back-to-back awful seasons. Which is why this suggestion from Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star makes sense:

They’d have to cover most or all of Guillen’s contract in a trade, but they should be thrilled for the opportunity, and here is where it gets interesting: If the Royals can’t flip Guillen for a prospect, they should bench or release him. This team isn’t winning the division, Guillen won’t be back next year, and that money is spent anyway. Guillen can help this team’s future in two ways. He can bring a prospect back in a trade, or clear room so Ka’aihue can get regular at-bats.

All of which is far too logical for the Royals to actually do it, of course.

No, New York players do not get an unfair bump in Hall of Fame voting

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Angels owner Arte Moreno said something interesting yesterday. He was talking about the retired former Angel, Garret Anderson, and said “If he would have played in New York, he’d be in the Hall of Fame.”

The initial — and, I would add, the most on-point — response to this is to note that, for however good a player Anderson was at times, no definition of the term “Hall of Famer” really encompasses his legacy. He was OK. Pretty good on occasion. Nowhere near a Hall of Famer, and I don’t think you need me to go over the math to establish that. The only way Anderson would ever sniff the Hall of Fame one day is if we sent Tony La Russa back in time to manage him for several years and then brought him back from the past to strong-arme the Veterans Committee.

The more interesting question to me is the matter implied in Moreno’s comment: that players in New York get an unfair boost when it comes to the Hall of Fame.

I get why he might say that and I get why people might believe it. New York gets all the press. If you can make it there you can make it anywhere and, my God, people in New York will not let you forget it for a second. East Coast Bias™ and all of that.

Except it’s baloney, at least as far as the Hall of Fame goes.

I think it’s fair to say that, yes, if you play in New York, your reputation gets elevated more than if you played elsewhere, but I think there are limits to that what that elevation gets you. You’re more famous if you knock in 100 as the third-best guy on a Yankees team or if you are involved in a notable game or series or controversy as a Met, but it doesn’t mean you get some extra helping hand from the BBWAA five years after you retire.

At least one guy I know, Adam Darowski, has taken a rough look at this on the numbers. He has determined that, by at least his measure, Yankees players are the fourth most underrepresented contingent in Hall of Fame voting. Red Sox are fifth. Mets are in the middle of the pack. It may be more useful to think of this without reference to any numbers, though, and look at it in terms of who is and who isn’t getting some sort of unfair bump.

If there was a New York Premium to Hall of Fame consideration, wouldn’t Bernie Williams, Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry, Elston Howard, Don Mattingly, Roger Maris, Jorge Posada, David Cone, John Franco, Keith Hernandez, Andy Pettitte and a bunch of other guys of that caliber get more support than they’ve historically gotten? I’m not saying all of those guys deserve to be in the Hall, but they all have better cases than Garret Anderson and none of them got in or appear to be getting in any time soon. They are close enough on the merits that, one would think anyway, an aura of New Yorkness surrounding them would have carried them over the line, but it never did.

Meanwhile, almost all of the most borderline Hall of Famers are old, old, old timers who were either poorly assessed by the Veterans Committee or who had the good fortune of being good friends with Frankie Frisch. Again, not a ton of Yankees make that cut. A whole lot of Giants do, but I suppose that’s another conversation. The questionable Hall of Famers of more recent vintage represent guys from all over the big league map. The only Yankee I can think of in relatively recent years who raised eyebrows was Catfish Hunter, and I suspect more of that was based on his legacy with the A’s than with the Yankees, where he really only had one great season.

Here’s what I think happens, practically, with New York players: If you play in New York, merely good and notable performance makes you huge in the moment and in casual remembrance, but your historical legacy is often written down a bit as a function of overall team success. Also — or, maybe, alternatively — it’s a matter of every good Yankees era being defined by such a big meagstar — Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, Reggie, Jeter — that the really good, even Hall of Fame-worthy guys who played with them are overlooked to some degree. Which, when you think about it, kinda sucks even worse for them because their megastar teammate is, thanks to the rings, in some ways getting elevated by team success while the lesser stars are denigrated because of it.

Which is not to say that we should cry for New York players. Paul O’Neill will never have to pay for a steak dinner in Manhattan for the rest of his life and, thanks to all of his friends in the press, Andy Pettitte’s obituary won’t mention his PED use at all while Barry Bonds’ obit will mention it in the first graf. It’s getting to the point where if you can simply avoid infamy and not suck for a five-year stretch you can get your number retired and a place in Monument Park.

But New York players aren’t getting unfair consideration in Hall of Fame voting. Indeed, I think they’re probably getting graded a bit too harshly.