Well, the wait is over for Mike Sweeney fans. We know where he's going, and that's to Oakland.
I'm happy he gets to be closer to home. I'm happy that a somewhat likeable team is getting all the things I love about my best friend Michael John Sweeney. I'm happy that he is no longer in limbo, I'm happy that he doesn't have to slip quietly into retirement.
He has spent half his life as a Royal, and now he's not a Royal anymore. Predictably, I am still quite sad despite all the times I used the word "happy" in the preceding paragraph. Kansas City is losing a family who has done an incredible amount of good. Mike never quit being generous and selfless toward the people of KC, even when his seasons started to become severely shortened by injuries and the boos started pouring in from all corners of The K. He never said a negative word about those fans, but kept giving and giving wherever he saw need.
I wrote this open letter on the day Sweeney filed for free agency, with the words "Just in case" scrawled at the top of the page. I was still hoping that Sweeney would be around with that familiar letter 'C' on his uniform, and I wouldn't have to consider anyone else being the Royals' captain. Here we go:
A little dramatic? Yes it is, I know, but obviously Sweeney meant a lot to me. He gave my faith a jump-start this summer, and followed that up in January by checking up on me at the FOCUS national conference. Were it not for Mike, I might still be a lukewarm Catholic (at best) like I was before. It might not be smart for me, readership-wise to wave that flag here (you know, the whole "don't bring up religion or politics in polite company" thing), but I don't care. One of my biggest personal influences is going to be far away from me now, so I'm a bit upset.
Dear new Royals captain,
You have really big cleats to fill. Michael John Sweeney was known to be a fantastic captain. Are you prepared to follow suit? He liked to take freshly-promoted rookies and other new teammates out to dinner to make sure they felt welcome; in fact, it's likely that he did it for you. Are you ready to do the same for your teammates?
Sweeney showed a fierce loyalty to his team and his city. He knew that the 'C' on his shoulder meant he had to lead more than just his fellow Royals. This year alone, he did things for the KC for which he deserves - but would be reluctant to accept - some great reward. Everything that happened to him, good or bad, was an opportunity to lead, and never to complain.
In the end, it was all about spaces on the roster, and Mike didn't make the cut this time. It's your turn now, so congratulations and good luck.
Back to some less emotionally-charged business:
Will the Royals name a new captain this season? If so, who would it be? My guesses:
- David DeJesus: He has a few full seasons under his belt, and has been known to lead by example. He works hard, can play adequately well, and has a few years left on his long-term deal with the team.
- Mark Teahen: He's a good model for never complaining about where the team puts him, even when he was demoted to Omaha in 2006 (kind of an anti-Guillen*). He is coming off a less-than-great season, but will almost certainly be better this season.
- Gil Mehce: I know, a pitcher as captain? I don't see why not in Meche's case. He was such a big piece of the improvements made last year, and even if he ends up not being the staff ace, he still seems to be a good leader.
And the bigger question, does a team even need an official captain? I mean, look at what David Riske contributed to the bullpen without having a title. Meche and DeJesus have both had things written about them relating to their leadership abilities. Does it matter if the title is made official? No matter; moving on:
Miguel Olivo will join Guillen in the naughty corner. On one hand, I tend to celebrate players who keep a cool head (see Sweeney, Mike), but I also kind of like players who have the fire in them to defend themselves when someone offends them in the heat of baseball battle (see Sweeney, Mike). As long as forgiveness is granted when it needs to be (see again Sweeney, Mike and Weaver, Jeff), all is well. But...it looks bad for the Royals, who are generally thought of as a Midwesternly-polite team, to have two players miss a chunk of April's games because of naughty behavior. Oh, I had a Guillen-relted asterisk like 13 paragraphs ago, and now would be a good time to cover that.
* Jose Guillen had better have a monster season for all the negative press he has managed to cook up for himself. The steroids thing and the subsequent suspension that will follow were kind of a bad thing on which to start his KC career, but I was ready to forgive. But then, he used FanFest as an excuse to whine about where Trey Hillman was tentatively thinking about playing him. If he has an issue with Hillman's plans, that is fine, but something like FanFest is supposed to be a happy and optimistic time: photos, autographs, feel-good soundbytes, upbeat forecasts, and nothing else. The more I've thought about Guillen's FF whine party (which was sadly devoid of fine cheeses), the more I think he's going to have to have a ridiculous season to make up for his bitchiness. Cursed be the man who makes me wish for Emil Brown back! On the other hand, Teahen is brilliantly making himself look like the better man and the more adaptable player in response to Guillen's immaturity.
- I have another excuse to write about Matt Wright. (In the same Royals Notes as the Olivo mess) This all makes me miss my O-Royals days madly.
- Check out Part I of JoePo's assessment of the upcoming season. I particularly liked his assessment of Teahen, and even the idea of Teahen leading off.