He's been a part of more losing teams and games than anyone I can remember, and he's never been to the post-season.
Not as a player (he played 18 seasons four 4 different teams).
Not as a manager (three different teams, three years each, only once having a winning record, going 82-80 in 2000 during his first year managing the Rockies).
Trivia for the Yankee Faithful: Guess who else went his entire playing and managerial careers without reaching the post-season? Until 1996? "Clueless" Joseph Paul Torre.
Yet all the while, Buddy remains an affable fellow, always preferring to add a "y" to the end of his players names when referencing them (Alex Gordon is mentioned as "Gordy", Gil Meche got tagged with "Mechey". You get $55 million, you can deal with being called "Mechey".). I genuinely feel for the guy because he legitimately is stepping down because of family matters, and he had quite a health scare towards the end of last season. And I also feel for him because -- and let's face it, this isn't Buddy's doing, it's mostly because of Dayton Moore -- the Royals seem to have finally turned the corner and are ready to at least be competitive, maybe as much so as an Oakland or Minnesota or God willing St. Louis.
But affability and cheesy nicknames do not a winner make, and I've never been able to get past the fact that Bell's NEVER been a winner. Sure he was an All-Star, but go back and look -- he mainly made teams because those awful Indian and Ranger teams had to have their lone representative. Growing up, he was always the guy who would play 3rd base for the American League after George Brett put in his 4 innings as the starter.
Make no mistake, taking over this team isn't the Ferrari Torre got the keys to when he took over as Yankee skipper. But it is a better job today than when it was when Bell took over for Tony Pena. The Royals now have a competent General Manager in Dayton Moore, a good young nucleus of players who are locked in for a while ("Gordy" et al) a legitimate number 1 starter to build a staff around ("Mechey") and a bullpen that doesn't hand over leads. Moore does need to find or develop a second baseman and shortstop, but for now he's got two solid months of a jump start to go out and get the right guy to take over for Buddy.
The real reason Girardi didn't take the Baltimore job is because that organization is a grease fire. It's not that he thought the Yankee gig would come open (and even if that one does, I still think it's going to Donnie Mattingly anyway). The 2008 Royals would legitimately allow Girardi to do what he did during his one year in Florida and then some. Moore has already shown that he'll go out and spend money on free agents if it solidifies a need. The 2006 Marlins had two players who made over $1 million and a bunch of prospects they got after yet another fire sale. And even for all the credit Girardi got, including winning the National League Manager of the Year, the Marlins finished 78-84, 4th place in the NL East. He won praise for basically not losing 100 games.
The 2007 Royals have a chance to finish in 4th place and NOT lose 100 games under a manager I've called "Clueless" just as the NY tabs did about Torre. The right manager -- Joe Girardi, the white courtesy phone please -- can take the 2008 Royals to above .500, as Moore will continue to find his right pieces for his vision of a team, which is the same vision John Schuerholz has had with the Braves since 1991. Moore learned right under Schuerholz. It's eerie how much he sounds like Schuerholz in interviews. People often refer to Moore as John Jr. That's a good thing if you're a Royals fan.
Moore and the Royals will leave for New York tonight for a weekend series against the Yankees. The team got an unexpected day off on Thursday as a bridge collapsed near the Metrodome in Minnesota and their game against the Twins is already postponed. Which means Moore should be on his black berry right now, texting Girardi and setting up a meeting at a non-chain restaurant in New York for Thursday.
He's got a jump start on everybody, including the Yankees. He has to at least give this his best sales pitch early. Yes, I realize Frank White is waiting in the wings, that he's a Royal legend, that he wants the job, that he's been successful at the minor league level managing. I'm also aware that there are published reports that Moore wants to talk with Braves coach Terry Pendleton, which I think is a horrible idea. What Moore has in front of him right now is the absolute right guy for the job. The guy who's proven he can create a winning attitude amongst a very young team (and even if the Royals somehow bring in a few more "veterans" they'll still be awfully young next season). Buddy Bell will understand if Moore gives the job to Girardi immediately.
After all, he's the nicest guy in baseball.