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From the Kansas City Royals…

Aaron Crow.

Yes, I’m a day late with reporting this, but I took yesterday off from blogging, so I figured I’d talk about it today. One thing I can tell you that this post will mostly not be about is the flaw in the All-Star system. It’s been overdone. The other thing I didn’t want to write about was the outcome of last night’s game. I feel compelled to talk briefly about it, though. The fact of the matter is that what Crow did in the bottom of the ninth was in fact a balk. That said, he had done it four other times in his almost two inning stint and was not called on it. Typically, if a human being does something multiple times and gets the desired feedback (in this case not being called for a balk), they feel they are safe to do it again. Of course, Ed Rapuano decided to put the game in his hands rather than the hands of the players. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t make a difference, but it’s frustrating when umpires feel the need to become the story.

Now that I have that out of my system, let’s talk about Aaron Crow. What a story he is. You all know that he was drafted in the first round by the Nationals in 2008 and elected not to sign with them. He pitched in the Independent League for a year just like another first round draft pick on the Royals staff. The next season, he fell three spots from his previous draft position and was taken twelfth overall by the Royals. Fans were excited about his ace potential with his fastball and slider combination.  The knock on Crow at the time was that he didn’t really have a third pitch and if he didn’t develop one that he might end up as a reliever in the big leagues. When he was drafted, I was confident he’d be able to learn a changeup and add it to his repertoire in time to become a big league starting pitcher. Of course, when a player is drafted, it’s hard to see anything but the absolute top of the line ceiling for him.

Because he was no longer in college, the August 15 signing deadline did not apply to Crow, and negotiations actually went into September before he finally signed on the 17th of that month. His first professional season was 2010 and to say he was bad would be an understatement. In AA Northwest Arkansas, he put up a 5.66 ERA in 119.1 innings. That was discouraging, but not nearly as much as the fact that he only struck out 90 batters and he walked 56. This was supposed to be a guy who had a chance to be in the big league rotation by August and he couldn’t even get AA hitters out. The Royals shockingly demoted him to A ball where he continued to struggle, but in a much different way.

In Wilmington, Crow found both his strikeout pitch and his control, striking out 53 and walking just six in 44 innings. He still had a miserable ERA of almost six, but it looked like he might have been starting to figure some things out. In 2010, very few things went wrong for the Royals organization in terms of their prospects, but Aaron Crow was most definitely one of them. In an organization where everybody was flying up the prospect charts, Crow was sliding down them like they were a fire pole and he was on his way down. It was disheartening for Royals fans because the sentiment when he was drafted was slight concern based on the way Luke Hochevar had been for the Royals.

Still, he was on the 40 man roster so he was invited to Spring Training this past year. A funny thing happened to him in Spring Training. He was really good. I have no way of knowing this as fact, but my guess is that the Royals expected him to be among the first few cuts. At best he’d make it to March 22 or so and he’d be shipped out to Omaha where they’d hope he could put things together and his problem was just rust from the time off. But he just kept pitching so well that they couldn’t send him down. Finally, the announcement was made that Crow would be one of the many rookies in the Royals Opening Day bullpen. A lot of fans were excited, but it stirred a lot of debate about whether or not he should continue to develop as a starter. At the time, I think it was Bob McClure who did an interview and made the good point that some guys need to develop in the bullpen at the big league level while some guys need to develop in the rotation at the minor league level. I always believed that Crow was one of those guys who would be just fine to develop at the big league level out of the pen. In his side sessions he could continue to work on the changeup. I still believe that he should be tried in the rotation, but I’ll get to that.

So he makes the team, and you guys all know how good he has been throughout the season, yesterday’s hiccup notwithstanding. He’s gotten strikeouts, limited hits and been extremely effective. He’s had occasional issues with his control, but I think that’s pretty normal for a rookie. His selection is pretty controversial because he just hasn’t pitched very many innings, and while they’re highly effective innings, they’re still not many. Though I have to say that in watching the selection show, I’m not sure there are worse analysts than Cal Ripken, Jr., David Wells and Dennis Eckersley. They said something about Crow having the lowest inning total of anybody selected in the last 17 years. I wasn’t paying full attention, so there may have been another qualifier in there, but he has more innings this year alone than any of the other four American League relievers.

Anyway, the controversy over Crow was less about him and more about who should have come from the Royals if they were only going to have one All-Star in 2011. Many believed that Alex Gordon should have been the Royals representative. He’s having a great season, especially when you compare him to American League left fielders where he’s far and away the best. Of course, the All-Star game only designates the position as outfield, so a team could conceivably have three center fielders get voted in and four more get counted as reserves. Ron Washington is an idiot. I’ll get that statement out there right now, but his sheer stupidity is not what left Gordon off the roster. It was the rule that every team must have one representative.

I used to like that rule a lot, when I was a kid. See, I grew up in the shadow of the Royals glory days, so I was used to waiting to find out who the one Royals representative would be. And then I’d watch the game and I couldn’t wait for Kevin Appier or Jeff Montgomery to pitch. They’d get their inning in. Maybe. And then I’d usually go to bed. I’m at the point in my life now, though, where I honestly don’t care if a Royal gets in. I think the rule is stupid. I think it’s even dumber considering the fact that the game counts for which league gets home field advantage in the World Series. So while that rule was the reason that Ken Harvey and Mark Redman were All-Stars, it’s now the reason why Alex Gordon is not because Minnesota had to have a representative and Michael Cuddyer, outfielder, was the choice.

That leads me to my final point. Alex Gordon is in the running for the final spot on the team along with Paul Konerko, Victor Martinez, Adam Jones and Ben Zobrist. He’s currently in third place, so click here and vote for him. It’s unlimited voting, so vote for him all the time. Take a couple of days off work and just continue to vote. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for the children.

If I didn’t make that clear, CLICK HERE TO VOTE FOR ALEX GORDON.

As for Crow, congratulations to him on his All-Star game nod. I fully expect him to not get into the game, but that’s okay. It’ll just be cool to hear his name announced.

  1. Dave
    July 5, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    I’ve grown to hate All Star weekend. The home field advantage for the WS is a joke, the home run derby is mostly Chris Berman yelling back back back back back back back back back back back back back back back back, we rarely have a deserving All Star, and I get jobbed out of baseball for a week.

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