Three Different Plans - Introduction
This is the first in a series of posts in which we are going to follow three organizations: Kansas City, Minnesota and Oakland. All three teams can be classified as 'small market teams', all experienced a great deal of success before the landscape of baseball changed dramatically in the 1990s and all had very similar records in both 1996 and 1997. It is the 1997 season that will serve as our starting point for this series. However, before we embark on a season by season analysis, let's first take a quick look at what these franchises did leading up to 1997.
TEAM PERFORMANCE BACKGROUND
Let us begin with our beloved Royals. Although they had not been in the playoffs since winning the 1985 World Series, Kansas City had remained competitive: finishing over .500 six of the next eleven years and winning over 70 games even in the down years. No, they weren't great, but the Royals were decent and at times still in a pennant race late in the season. In fact, before the strike prematurely ended the 1994 season, KC was 64-51 and giving every impression that they could win the division.
Minnesota had experienced greater successes (two World Championships and a 90-72 season in 1992) and also greater failures (1993 71-91, 1994 53-60, 1995 56-88). Oakland had been in three consecutive Series from 1988 through 1990 and won 96 games as late as 1992. Like the Twins, Oakland had fallen on hard times in the mid 90's winning just 68 games in 1993 and posting very average 51-63 and 67-77 marks in 1994 and 1995.
All three teams then made one last gasp at respectability in 1996 and fell back to earth in 1997. Take a look at the records for those two years:
Kansas City 75-86
Kansas City 67-94
Now, let's take a look at how these teams drafted leading up to 1997. One thing that truly stood out as I reveiwed past drafts: if the NFL draft is an inexact science, the NBA draft is all about projecting talent, then the MLB draft is pretty much like playing KENO. As such, I am not going to take time pointing out the spectacular failures all three organizations had, but instead will simply touch on those players that turned into decent to excellent major leaguers. You will be able to tell the success and depth of each year's draft simply by the number of players shown and the careers they had. The numbers in parantheses is the round in which the player was drafted.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
1990 - Phil Hiatt (8)
1991 - Shane Halter (5), Mike Sweeney (10), Joe Randa (11)
1992 - Michael Tucker (1), Johnny Damon (1), Jon Lieber (2)
1993 - Glendon Rusch (17), Sal Fasano (37)
1994 - Jose Rosado (12), Jose Santiago (70)
1995 - Carlos Beltran (2), Mark Quinn (11)
1996 - Jeremy Giambi (6), Jason Simantacchi (21), Kiko Calero (27)
This was not a horrible job of drafting, especially on the offensive side (the core of one of the best offensive teams in the A.L. in 2000 came from the above).
1990 - Todd Ritchie (1), Rich Becker (3), Pat Meares (12), Eddie Guardado (21)
1991 - David McCarty (1), Latroy Hawkins (7), Brad Radke (8), Matt Lawton (13)
1992 - Dan Serafini (1)
1993 - Torii Hunter (1), Jason Varitek (1), Jose Valentin (3), Dan Kolb (11), Alex Cora (12)
1994 - Todd Walker (1), A.J. Pierzynski (3), Corey Koskie (26)
1995 - Mark Redman (1), Doug Mientkiewicz (5)
1996 - Travis Lee (1), Jacque Jones (2)
A lot of names here that formed the basis of the Twins success of the recent years. Imagine if some of these guys (Lee, Kolb, Varitek not to mention a guy named David Ortiz acquired in a minor league trade) had actually matured into the players they are now with the Twins.
1990 - Todd Van Poppel (1), Tanyon Sturtze (23)
1991 - Brent Gates (1), Darrell May (14)
1992 - Jason Giambi (2), Dan Wengert (4), Robert Fick (45)
1993 - John Wasdin (1), Jeff D'Amico (2), Scott Spezio (6)
1994 - Ben Grieve (1) *also drafted Ryan Drese & Tim Hudson as high schoolers but did not sign them this year
1995 - Ariel Prieto (1), Mark Bellhorn (2), David Newhan (17), Jeff Davanon (26)
1996 - Eric Chavez (1), A.J. Hinch (3)
It's kind of hard to disrespect a list that has Giambi and Chavez on it, but clearly Oakland was not outdrafting anyone in the early nineties. Some of these guys, however, (Wengert, Gates, Grieve, Spezio) gave Oakland some decent seasons before their production fell off.
So, that is where these three organizations stood on the eve of the 1997 season. A season in which all three would struggle mightily. In our next installment, we'll take a look at the lineups and the salaries that led to their dismal 1997 records, We'll also take a look at the 1997 drafts of all three teams.
Look at the names