Judging the Royals

Melky Cabrera: a look beyond the numbers

Kansas City Royals outfielder Melky Cabrera in 2011.
Kansas City Royals outfielder Melky Cabrera in 2011. jsleezer@kcstar.com

On Sunday, the Kansas City Royals acquired Chicago White Sox outfielder Melky Cabrera and Royals fans would probably like to know what he’ll bring to the team.

These days it’s easy for anyone to look up a player’s numbers.

Anyone can find out that Cabrera is a switch-hitter who’s currently hitting .295 overall, hits .294 as a left-handed hitter and .296 as right-handed hitter, that he hits .441 when he puts the first pitch in play or that he hits .179 in two-strike counts.

There are more numbers than ever and everybody has access to those numbers.

But Melky Cabrera brings more to the Royals than a collection of statistics; he’ll also provide team chemistry and competition for playing time.

Kansas City Royals catcher Drew Butera and relief pitcher Peter Moylan went to the Pie Hole food truck in KC to enjoy some food and talk baseball. Here is a preview of the next Dining with Drew episodes.

Cabrera and team chemistry

Sometimes we have to read between the lines to understand what a player brings to a team besides his numbers and here’s an example:

Danny Valencia has been in the big leagues for eight years and has played for seven different teams — what does that tell you?

Melky Cabrera played for the Royals in 2011 and they want him back — what does that tell you?

When teams are considering acquiring a player, smart teams try to find out what kind of person that player is; they call around to get a sense of the player’s reputation.

Players might have one reputation to outsiders and another reputation inside the game; a guy with Hall of Fame numbers might be considered a clubhouse cancer.

Guys who play selfish baseball, complain about the post-game food, the coaching staff and travel schedule, bring everybody down. They sow dissension, create distractions and, even though their own numbers look good, actually make their team worse.

Nobody team wants one of those guys in their clubhouse.

So the fact that the Royals had Melky Cabrera for an entire season, have a very good idea of who he is and still want him back in their clubhouse, speaks volumes.

Cabrera and playing-time competition

One of the things you hear over and over is players and coaches with more than one year left on their contract can get comfortable; no matter how badly they perform, they’re still guaranteed another year.

It’s highly unlikely that a player or coach decides to be lousy, but it is likely the player or coach might skip an extra workout, decline to do some necessary homework or fail to make a needed adjustment.

They’re comfortable.

But the Royals did not acquire Melky Cabrera to sit on the bench and that means he’s going to take somebody’s playing time.

Even comfortable players have egos and being benched is embarrassing.

The Royals are talking about Cabrera playing a corner outfield spot or being used as a DH; that puts pressure on Jorge Bonifacio, Brandon Moss and Alex Gordon. If they don’t want to lose playing time, they’ll need to step up their games and that’s not a bad thing.

The Royals’ newest player is a guy who fits into the clubhouse and, just by being on the roster, will make his teammates more competitive.

Melky Cabrera’s numbers are out there for everybody to see, but you have to look beyond those numbers to understand what he’ll bring to his teammates and his team.