On Yuni

I’d just like to make a quick point about Yuniesky Betancourt, who was until recently an infielder on the Royals of Kansas City and who was unceremoniously dumped this very day. (I’m writing on Monday even though you’re not reading until Tuesday, so it counts.)

First, a refresher for those who forgot about Yuni: Back in 2006-07, Yuni played a lot for Seattle and put up solid offensive numbers for his position while butchering the defensive side of the ball; in 2008-09, he was a complete cipher on both sides; in 2010, he was good, weirdly, as an everyday player with a little bit of pop; in 2011, he was a bad everyday player; and for 2012, Dayton Moore signed him up to be a backup infielder with the Royals. Yuni promptly hit .228/.256/.400, which is pretty good pop still, but nobody can survive a .256 on-base percentage. Pair that with his usual lackluster defense, the fact that a youth movement is underway in Kansas City, and the most key point of all, that Betancourt was on a cheap one-year deal that leaves Moore eating very little money by releasing him and you’ve got a recipe for DFAin’.

But then! Yuni wasn’t cut for performance! No, Yuni was cut because he was a bad clubhouse guy, a sulker, someone who wanted more playing time than he’d earned rather than sacrificing for the good of the team. About this, I have a few things to say:

  1. It sure does seem like only really crummy players get cut for having bad attitudes, doesn’t it? It’s almost like having a ‘tude is really just a minor thing that can be dealt with in other ways besides firing dudes.

  2. That said, did you see what Yuni was hitting? How is this not a performance-based release? If a team cannot come out and say “he has a .256 OBP, we can’t have that,” then how bad does a player have to be? Shouldn’t this worry Royals fans? That their management feels the need to find character- and clubhouse-based excuses to cut someone who had played his way off the team even if he was the Archbishop of Canterbury himself? Do we think that the Royals know how bad Yuni is? Is this posturing and media-talking and sending messages to the players while secretly just cutting a bad player? Or do they legitimately think they sent a message by releasing someone who has on-field value? Is the possibility that the answer to the last question is “yes” so frightening that you’d rather just not know?

  3. Finally, isn’t this all just a bit tawdry? Fine, maybe Yuni is a malingerer and a bad influence and he doesn’t care about the W column at all. But isn’t it just sort of mean to cut someone with a .256 OBP and then to talk massive amounts of shit about them on their way out the door? Yuni’s unemployable enough. I’ve mentioned his on-base percentage, right? And how horrifying it is? So I don’t really see the point in kicking the dude while he’s down, not publicly. Call a team meeting and say “look, you know how Yuni was. And that’s what happens to players who aren’t focused on the job at hand—they get sent to the big training camp in the sky.” There’s your motivational game-playing. There’s your psychology. There’s your kick-in-the-ass to the players who aren’t trying and focusing hard enough. What’s the purpose of putting it in the press? Are they really that mad at him? The Royals don’t honestly think that their team is as horrendous as it is because of Yuni stomping around petulantly, do they? And if not, I repeat, what’s the point? Betancourt doesn’t have a good name to be dragged through the mud, but they did it anyway.

  4. I wonder if Yuni might be an option for the A’s at short.