The complicated existence of Yuniesky Betancourt
The Kansas City Star
Yuniesky Betancourt isn’t a bad addition, and if those six words make no sense when strung together like that it’s important to remember the difference between now and last time.
In just a year and a half, from the middle of 2009 to the end of the 2010 season, Yuni established himself as Mike Sweeney’s clear heir to most cussed Royals player with remarkable efficiency.
Yuni came by it all honestly, too, taking a walk as rarely as he made a play to his left. In 2009, when Yuni hit .245/.274/.371 with atrocious defense, he had a a legitimate case as the worst everyday player in baseball.
Yuni was actually much better in 2010. He still didn’t walk much, and his .259/.288/.405 isn’t going to raise the eyebrows of Hall of Fame voters, but he did tie for the team lead with 16 home runs and there was a consensus between scouts and advanced metrics that he vastly improved defensively^.
^ From REALLY bad to merely bad, but still…
By then, though, the narrative had been written and too much put into the Yuni As A Baseball Player Is The Worst Thing Since Homework movement to change course.
Truth is, Yuni was always more collateral damage for Royals fans criticizing GM Dayton Moore. Royals fans — at least a seemingly large and decidedly outspoken segment of them — are sabermetrically inclined so watching their team trade for Yuni^ was something like a fat man hearing his favorite restaurant went vegan.
^ Even though, as I and others at the time tried to point out, the Royals were DESPERATE for anyone even resembling a shortstop and really didn’t give up much. Dan Cortes had off-the-field issues with the Royals and was just cut by the Mariners. The other pitcher, Derrick Saito, is now out of professional baseball as far as I can tell.
But the point is, any outrage over the Royals bringing Yuni back is entirely predictable and mostly understandable.
Even if it’s also misguided.
Because this isn’t 2009 anymore. Yuni — still a bad player, don’t get me wrong — is set to make maybe one start a week, not seven. The Royals want him to give Mike Moustakas a day off against tough lefties, play the one game a month Alcides Escobar sits, and also be the backup second baseman.
I would’ve rather had Edgar Renteria, but he’s five years older than Betancourt, presumably more expensive, and hit just as bad as Yuni last year. Maybe you’d rather have Ryan Theriot, but he made $3.3 million last year and with the way manager Ned Yost uses the bench it’s hard to get players to Kansas City for backup roles.
In other words, signing Yuni makes some sense. The fan outrage on Twitter and on the blogs was predictable enough that I wondered whether people think teams should take such things into consideration.
I can see both sides, honestly, and the responses were interesting and thoughtful. So thank you for that.
In the end, Yuni’s presence on this roster is entirely irrelevant unless Escobar tears his knee and the Royals can’t find someone better to play shortstop.
In a strange way, and maybe this is just the writer in me, it’s sort of an interesting dynamic — Yuni representing the ghosts of Royals past, dressing in the clubhouse, riding the team charters, failing to get to that sharp grounder, while the hopes of Royals future try to make a different ending.
Mostly, though, this is entirely too much energy and emotion spent on a backup infielder. And also, in a very perverse way, hugely hilarious.