Jason Marquis got released by the Twins in May after pitching about as poorly as a big leaguer could possibly pitch, starting seven games with an 8.47 ERA, .371 opponents’ batting average, and more walks (14) than strikeouts (12) in 34 innings.
He quickly signed a minor-league deal with the Padres and joined their rotation after just one Double-A start. And after out-dueling Tim Lincecum last night Marquis now has a 3.48 ERA in 10 starts for the Padres.
And before you go attributing all that success to Petco Park, consider that last night’s win over the Giants came on the road and Marquis actually has a better ERA on the road (3.38) than at home (3.60) as a member of the Padres.
Perhaps the most startling aspect of Marquis’ turnaround is that he’s racking up strikeouts for the first time since … well, ever. Marquis has always had one of the lowest strikeout rates in baseball, never whiffing even 7.0 batters per nine innings in a season, yet since joining the Padres he has 56 strikeouts in 62 innings.
How does a 33-year-old with a 4.60 career ERA go from posting an 8.47 ERA and 12/14 K/BB ratio in 34 innings for the Twins to immediately posting a 3.48 ERA and 56/17 K/BB ratio in 62 innings for the Padres? Having watched all seven of Marquis’ starts for the Twins it literally doesn’t seem possible.
Over the past several weeks we’ve heard a lot of news about teams furloughing front office and scouting staff, leveling pay cuts for those who remain and, most recently, ceasing stipends to minor league players and releasing them en masse. The message being sent, intentionally or otherwise, is that baseball teams are feeling the pinch.
The Kansas City Royals, however, are a different story.
Jon Heyman reported this afternoon that the Royals are paying their minor leaguers through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended, and unlike so many other teams, they are not releasing players either. Jeff Passan, meanwhile, reports that the Royals will not lay any team employees off or furlough anyone. “Nearly 150 employees will not take pay cuts,” he says, though “higher-level employees will take tiered cuts.” Passan adds that the organization intends to restore the lost pay due to those higher-level employees in the future when revenue ramps back up, making them whole.
While baseball finances are murky at best and opaque in most instances, most people agree that the Royals are one of the lower-revenue franchises in the game. They are also near the bottom as far as franchise value goes. Finally, they have the newest ownership group in all of baseball, which means that the group almost certainly has a lot of debt and very little if any equity in the franchise. Any way you slice it, cashflow is likely tighter in Kansas City than almost anywhere else.
Yet the Royals are paying minor leaguers and front office employees while a great number of other teams are not. What’s their excuse?