On Tuesday, we were treated to the folly of a Trey Hillman meltdown. He came out to argue a successful double steal where there was a play on Grady Sizemore at third. Jason Kendall’s throw beat Sizemore, but it was on the wrong side of the bag and Alberto Callaspo couldn’t get the tag down in time. This was all obvious to everyone in the stadium but Hillman. However, being a manager is often about image, and Hillman’s has taken a pounding the last week or so, so he felt the need to debate the call with the third base umpire. Watching SABR Trey leave the dugout, the outcome of this confrontation was obvious even before it started – Hillman was there to show some fire (and grit, I suppose) and get kicked out. It was his time to send a message.
The zaniness extended to the ninth when the Royals cleared their bench. After using nine pinch hitters in their first 32 games, the Royals sent three to the plate in the bottom of the ninth: Brayan Pena, Wee Willie Bloomquist and Chris Getz. Seriously? No Kila Ka’aihue?
Just the latest in a bizarre week for SABR Trey.
It was a few days ago, but I’m still steaming over the Hillman managerial tour de force in Arlington last weekend. I’m going to recap these for posterity.
So Hillman saw fit to fine his shortstop and undisclosed sum because of the way he failed to catch a pop-up. Really? That seems… Old fashioned. Then again, we are dealing with a manager who called a meeting at home plate after a spring training game to make a point. Whatever point he was trying to make was lost because he was gathering his major league team together like they were high schoolers.
If you want to punish a player, why wouldn’t you take away his playing time. Put him on the bench for a few games (or in Betancourt’s case, forever would be fine) because fining a millionaire $500 dollars is like any one of us losing a quarter in the cushions of our couch.
The Kila Monster
Who knew having Ka’aihue on the roster would create this kind of a problem. Here’s the deal: On Saturday, Hillman decided the new guy would bat cleanup and play first with Butler at DH.
Now the issue: You knew if the game was close, that Hillman would remove Ka’aihue for a pinch hitter. By playing him at first (with Butler as the DH) this severely limited his options, should he decide to remove Ka’aihue.
Which is exactly what happened.
Guillen pinch hits for the Kila Monster and then the circus music begins… Maier moves from center to first and now Guillen has to stay in the game at right field. All this could have been avoided had Hillman simply filled out the lineup card with Kila at DH.
I harp all the time about Hillman not putting his players in a position to succeed. He did it to himself on Saturday.
I’ve documented the mishandling of Meche from the beginning… The complete game where he threw against the Diamondbacks last June 16 wasn’t the real killer. It was how Meche was handled after he developed the subsequent dead arm that has drawn my focus.
Now, there’s another issue. Who is calling the shots?
In that game last June, Hillman asked Meche how he was doing. Meche answered that he wanted to finish the game and Hillman let him – despite the elevated pitch count. Now, through all the arm troubles and control issues that have transpired since that afternoon almost a year ago, a similar scenario played out in Texas on Saturday. Meche had thrown 103 pitches and walked five batters. His control wasn’t there, but he gutted his way through seven. His day should have been finished. Somehow, he got back out on the mound. He walked the first batter. Then, he walked the second batter. How much more do you need to see? Hillman made a visit, asked how he felt. Meche said he was fine and Hillman’s response? “Quit walking guys.” Unreal.
If Hillman is in charge, he needs to man up and get his starter. I don’t care about Meche being a veteran or whatever kind of unwritten B.S. we’re following. Removing him from the game is the right thing to do for Meche and for the team. It was a 2-2 game and his starter was gassed. Everyone watching knew it. I’m pretty sure Meche knew it, but was too stubborn. I’m pretty sure Hillman knew it, but he didn’t have the stones to stand up to the guy.
In the end, Meche threw 128 pitches. That’s the most in the majors this year. For a guy less than a year removed from arm troubles. And the Royals lost.
The missed appeal
This one isn’t as dramatic as two outfielders jogging off the field while the third out lands between them. It’s actually much worse.
Here’s the situation, just in case you haven’t heard: Bottom of the third with runners on first and third and one out. Vladi Guerrero up and he lifts a fly to short left. Podsednik has a play at the plate, but the throw is offline and Kendall can’t catch it. On the play, Josh Hamilton (who was on first) goes halfway, but when the throw comes home, brain cramps and moves up to second instead of back to first. He didn’t tag up.
The attentive baseball team would make an appeal at first. The Royals are fundamentally unsound and it turns out, they fall asleep during games. It cost the Royals two runs.
After the game, Hillman took the opportunity to point the finger at his first baseman. It’s amazing we can see Butler’s number on his back given the frequency his manager and GM throw him under the bus.
You would hope your first baseman would catch that.”
Actually, I agree with this. It was Butler’s fault. To his credit, he stepped up following the game.
“That’s my priority,” Butler said. “You can put that one on me.
Butler is a bigger man than his manager. The manager who is about protecting his players would step in front and assume responsibility. Besides, teams usually assign someone on the bench to watch for things like this where you can basically steal an out. (Although you have to value outs on defense and there’s plenty of evidence that the Royals don’t.) Yes, Butler should have noticed this, but it just points to further fundamental breakdowns.
And why couldn’t Hillman have spoken in general terms? Something like, “We have 25 guys not including our coaching staff. You would hope someone would catch that.”
Third base coach
Dave Owen is a FOT (Friend of Trey) which is the only reason he’s employed by this team. His antics on Thursday where he played stop and go with Mike Aviles is simply a microcosm of how ill-suited he is at his job.
According to Bill James, the Royals are already at -23 on base running gain. Dave Owen’s Kill Count stands at 13 on the year. And rising.
This missteps were just a single weekend of folly. To document all the boneheaded moves from SABR Trey over the last two years would require so much bandwidth, it could shut down the internet.
Remember when the Royals felt the need to act quickly on Hillman because the Yankees were in the market for a manager? God, what I wouldn’t give to turn back time to see how that would have worked.
This brings the following question: Is Hillman coming to the end of his time in KC? Hillman has had two years and change to show he understands the game and how to manage. Dayton Moore has had two years and change to assess his hire. You tell me.
Unfortunately, I’m of the school that subscribes to the theory that Moore is loyal to his guys. Hillman is Moore’s hire. Plus, Moore is big on continuity. To fire the manager midseason would be disruptive to the team and to The Process. Therefore, Hillman finishes his contract.
Last weekend was a disaster, but we’ve seen this kind of stuff before. Eventually, it will all add up and GMDM will be forced to act. Although I have a feeling it will take until at least September before we have the kind of action we’re looking for in this situation.