David Howard – 1992 Donruss Triple Play

May 7, 2011

Is This Where The Royals Lost The Mojo?

Some housekeeping: Thanks to some AWESOME DUDES the Spring Cleaning signup is closed. The want list is open, of course, and will be continually updated, but soon I will ship out the spring cleaning lots. Huzzah to all! Huzzah!

Now to the main event:

When you think of David Howard (if you ever do except when browsing through your baseball card collection) you think of a generic middle infielder that would have been more apt for a team in the 70s than the 90s. He was the ultimate good field (4.4 dWAR) no hit (-2.6 oWAR) player that could help as a defensive replacement and a day-off starter. If he played every day, your team was in trouble.

Howard came up in 1991 and established himself as a major league defender and an offensive millstone. Still, the Royals liked him and he got the lions share of the PT at short in 1992. His competition was Rico Rossy and Curtis Wilkerson. Perhaps that was a reason they went 72-90.

There was an expansion draft for Florida and Colorado in 1992, and each team could protect 15 players at first. After both the first and second round the teams could claw back players. Each teams protected list was ‘secret’. (Hah!)

With the 21st pick in the draft, the Marlins selected Jeff Conine from the Royals. Most every baseball fan of some seasoning knows Conine. He was a good  player for many years. Yes, he held on too long, but he was a good guy with a sweet swing. Conine also beat long odds to make it, being a 58th round draft pick out of UCLA in 1987. That’s about the time where you either did draft-and-follows or drafted friends, neighbors and relatives. But he made the majors in short order and was a top-rated prospect – being the #45 ranked by Baseball America in 1991.

Conine was hurt in 1991, but rebounded in 1992 and got another call-up to the bigs. He would also be 27 in 1993. But the Royals regular outfield contained Kevin McReynolds and Jim Eisenreich, both over 30 and the main backups were Gary Thurman and Kevin Koslofski, both in the same age range as Conine.

It’s not out of the ordinary that Conine would be on the expansion list. Fifteen players throughout the organization isn’t that much of a list (the expansion lists were for majors and minors except for very recent draftees). Looking at the 1992 Royals, there are at least six pitchers the Royals would protect, leaving nine others from other positions, not to mention any players from the minors.

However, when reports came out from the various sites about who was protected, it was reported that the Royals protected Howard.

David Howard over Jeff Conine. A guy who raked all through the minors when he was healthy versus a guy who was called up to the bigs despite hitting just .122 in AAA and whose career OPS in the MINORS was .577.

Never mind the Royals were soon to sign Greg Gagne to play short. (Gagne signed about three weeks after the expansion draft, and you’d be daft if you thought that they hadn’t zeroed in on Gagne before then.)

Now the reports could have been wrong, but the fact that many reported (as I remember) that Howard was protected and Conine was not spells the beginning of the end of the Royals as contenders and beginning of the Royals as also-rans only out-stanked by the Pirates.

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