Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

1B ∙ 1997—99

After eight up and down years with Pittsburgh, Jeff King was traded to the Royals prior to the 1997 season. The Royals also got Jay Bell, while Pittsburgh picked up Joe Randa, Jeff Granger, Jeff Wallace, and Jeff Martin. It was the Jeffiest trade in history. King and his Fu Manchu took over first base in ’97 and put together a strong season. Rate-wise, his bat was barely better than average, but he managed to stay healthy enough to play 155 games, and his offensive value added up. He belted 28 homers and drove in a team-leading 112 runs. King piled on more value with smart base running and smooth defense. He managed to be a small bright spot while the team floundered their way to a 94-loss season. June was an especially hot month, when he bashed 10 homers, a 1.209 OPS, and was named AL player of the month.

The Royals and King agreed to a two year contract to keep him in KC for ’98 and ’99. Unfortunately King never did recapture his ’97 form. ’98 was decent, but all aspects of his game dropped off slightly, potentially due to health struggles with his back that started early in the year and never let up. The Sporting News reported that King’s back pain started after he felt a “twinge” picking up one of his kids.[i] He battled through it to still get into 133 games and knock 24 dingers.

The back problem was much more than just a twinge, and was still dogging him as the 1999 season started. But there was a bigger problem for King: His heart was no longer in the game. At the end of May, he stunned everyone by suddenly retiring, walking away from around three million dollars left on his contract. Joe Posnanski has intimated that King never liked baseball and retired the day after qualifying for his pension.[ii] Maybe, but I’m not sure it was that simple. King was “fighting back tears” when he told reporters, “My head is here, my heart is not. I played the game with integrity, played hard, and played hurt. I’m ready to turn the page, close the chapter and begin a new one. It comes down to integrity. The struggle I’ve had with it, I think it’s affected the way I’ve played.”[iii] His heart was with his wife and kids on their ranch in Montana. So that’s where he went.[iv]

[i] Luciana Chavez, “Kansas City,” The Sporting News, April 27, 1998, 28.

[ii] Joe Posnanski, “Reluctant King,” http://pitchersandpoets.com/2011/05/11/reluctant-king-by-joe-posnanski/, May 11, 2011.

[iii] AP, “Jeff King Calls It Quits,” May 23, 1999.

[iv] Steve Riach, Life Lessons From Baseball (Honor Books, 2004), 65.

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By any metric you want to imagine, the series with the Detroit Tigers is the most important series the Royals have played since 1985. The season won’t resolve itself over these three games, but make no mistake, the stakes are massive.

So this one hurt. Just a little bit.

Jeremy Guthrie couldn’t get out of the third inning. Eric Hosmer made two errors on one play. And that’s pretty much all you need to know about this one.

Guthrie turned in his worst start as a Royal, throwing 2.2 innings, allowing 10 hits and eight runs. (Only six of those runs were earned thanks to Hosmer.) His Game Score for the start was a 10, which is his lowest Game Score ever. Ever. In 245 major league starts, he’s never posted a worse Game Score. Go big or go home I guess. Guthrie has flirted with disaster for most of his tenure with the Royals anyway. And we know the Tigers have some big bats in their lineup. The third featured a pair of infield singles, three singles to the outfield and three doubles. Bam. Six runs. It’s like they ripped a page from the Royals playbook. String together some hits and run like hell. Except they didn’t really have a productive out. Oh, well.

The Hosmer error… Let’s just leave that alone. Although I will take the opportunity to continue to make the case the Royals strongest lineup going forward is Billy Butler at first and Josh Willingham at DH. I know Butler has cooled off since a torrid August. And I know Willingham has been hurt. Just my opinion. Although as long as Ned Yost insists on batting Omar Infante second, all this really doesn’t matter much. Unless Yost is trying to put his weakest lineup possible out there. Which is some mighty fine managerial performance art.

So the Royals score more than four runs in a game for the first time since August 28. And they lost.

Now the Royals task for the rest of the series got a little more difficult. On Tuesday, they face Max Scherzer. Wednesday, it’s Rick Porcello. The Royals will counter with Jason Vargas and James Shields, respectively. Hopefully, the two Royals starters can cool off the Detroit bats, but you can’t help but think this was their best chance to take a game and give themselves a little breathing room.

Vargas has been nothing short of brilliant since his appendix was removed around the All-Star Break. In seven starts, he has a 2.66 ERA, a 6:1 strikeout to walk ratio and has allowed just a single home run in 44 innings.

If Monday was the start of the biggest series of the year, Tuesday represents the biggest game of the year. So far.

 

The Royals scored five runs all weekend. Yet they won twice.

Welcome to the Ned Yost September Baseballing Experience.

It keeps happening. I’m dizzy. Confused. Maybe a little dehydrated. But most of all, I’m kind of happy.

Let’s just recap the insanity of the weekend in the Bronx.

Friday

James Shields. And some James Shields. With a dash of James Shields.

The Royals starter went 8.1 strong innings. It was as sharp as he has looked all year. The change-up was a thing of beauty. He threw it 32 times in his 97 pitches. I mean, everything was working for him on that Friday, but that change… Damn. His second most effective pitch was a cut fastball he offered 20 times. The Yankees put only four of those in play, never for a hit.

While Shields was doing his thing, the Royals bats remained in cold storage. Three hits against Michael Pineda. Sure, sometimes you have to tip your cap when the opposing starter goes out and dominates. But these are the Royals at the plate, so let’s just say they tend to help a starting pitcher along from time to time. Pineda certainly had his pitches working on Friday, thought. Location and sequencing were top notch and kept the already off balance Royals bats even more off balance.

The lone Royals run scored in the third when Alcides Escobar hit one under Chase Headley’s glove at third and hustled into second base. Smart, aggressive base running. The next batter, Nori Aoki lined one back up the middle to score Escobar and that was it for the scoring.

Wade Davis appears in the ninth for Greg Holland, who is still battling tricep soreness, and nails down the final two outs. Outstanding starting pitching, taking advantage of an error, one timely hit, and the Wade Davis Experience and the Royals have their win.

Lost in the zaniness of Friday’s game was Escobar’s plate appearance in the third that led to the error. He had an 11 pitch at bat.

From Brooks Baseball, here’s how it looked with PitchF/X:

Escobar_95PA

Escobar takes a fastball for a called strike one. Then, swings at a pitch low and out of the zone for strike two. I’m going to pick on Escobar for a bit, but this is exactly the kind of plate appearance we’ve been seeing with regularity from the Royals batters. Take strike one, then swing at whatever the hell is thrown for strike two. It’s frustrating. Escobar isn’t the worst – or highest profile – culprit. But he does this regularly it seems.

At least in this instance, he’s disciplined enough to lay off pitches three and four, thrown way low by design in hopes that he chases. Then, Pineda attacks the zone. Escobar fouls off fastballs, sliders and change-ups in an effort to stay alive. Obviously, the seventh and the ninth pitches are out of the zone, too. Those are pitches that are close enough that Escobar has to be swinging. Besides, it’s good to foul those pitches off in that situation.

Anyway, 11 pitches into the plate appearance, Escobar gets a low change up, puts it in play and hustles to second. If that doesn’t happen, for all we know the game could still be going.

Saturday

At least if the game was still going, Danny Duffy doesn’t make his start. And if Duffy doesn’t make his start, his shoulder isn’t tight. And if Duffy’s shoulder isn’t tight, he leaves after just one pitch and throws the entire Royals Universe into a collective panic.

I’ve never really seen anything quite like it. One pitch. And done.

I will admit I haven’t been Duffy’s biggest fan. I didn’t think he had what it takes to be a major league starter. Not stuff. That’s always been apparent. I thought he lacked a certain mental fortitude necessary to put hitters away on a consistent basis. I’m really glad I was wrong. His transformation to top-notch starter has been, for me, one of the stories of the season. His development and emergence has been exciting and necessary for the Royals in 2014. That it’s not his elbow that flared up is good news, but on the other hand the shoulder could be even more serious. The Royals sent Duffy back to KC for an MRI and we won’t know those results until later Monday. But I’ll just say that if the Royals don’t have Duffy in the rotation in September, their chances are less than optimal.

Liam Hendriks stepped in and gave up four runs in four innings. If the Royals were a team that could score on a consistent basis, I wouldn’t be too bothered with Hendriks making a few spot starts. But this is September. And the Royals struggle to score runs. This is the wrong pitcher at the wrong time for the Royals. And not to put the horse before the proverbial cart, a playoff rotation without Danny Duffy puts the Royals at a massive disadvantage.

Sunday

Derek Jeter Day.

But let’s make this about Yordano Ventura. Ventura had just one clean inning, but worked around walks and singles in the other five. Then the Yost bullpen took over. Yet instead of the Three Relievers of the Apocolypse, it was two relievers with a special guest star. With Greg Holland out with a strained tricep Kelvin Herrera moves to the eighth and Wade Davis goes to the ninth. The bullpen gave the Royals three innings and the Yankees were shutout for the second  time in three games.

The Duffy injury deservedly got the attention, but should we be worried about Holland? If not now, when? I understand the Royals have the Wade Davis Experience as a luxury – a reliever so dominant he can close without problem – but how long should we expect Holland to remain on the sideline? The Royals have a luxury few teams possess in three late inning, lockdown relievers. If one is subtracted from the three, it’s not like the bullpen suddenly becomes the Detroit Tiger bullpen, but still.

So right now, we don’t worry about the Holland injury. Get him some rest and have him ready for the stretch run. And in the meantime, hope the bats find their early August magic.

The magic number stands at 19.

The Royals won on Tuesday, 2-1 over the scuffling Texas Rangers. The Tigers won as well, rallying in the ninth over the Cleveland Indians. As such, the Royals were able to maintain their 0.5 game lead over Detroit in the race of the AL Central.

For all that has gone right for the Royals since the All-Star Break, the storm clouds have been hovering. Some may accuse me of ignoring those clouds. I haven’t because they’ve been impossible to ignore. Nobody want to hear that when the good times are rolling. Yet here’s the truth: This offense isn’t that good. Over their last 13 games, the Royals are 6-7. They are hitting .240/.297/.360 in those games. They are scoring 3.1 runs per game.

They are barely hanging on. The bubble has burst.

I’m not telling you something you don’t already know.

Since the All-Star Break, the Royals have won 28 games against 16 losses. An incredible streak that has them 12 games over .500 in that span.

Some sobering numbers accumulated since the All-Star Break that were obscured by the recent hot streak:

— The Royals are dead last in the majors in walk percentage at 5.8 percent.

— Their wRC+ – which is a measure of weighted runs created, which is a measure of total team production – is 94. The metric is set to where 100 is league average.

— Only three everyday players have a wRC+ over 100. Alex Gordon is at 146. Billy Butler is at 115. And Aoki is at 103.

(A quick aside. As good as Gordon has been, his wRC+ is tied for the 19th best in baseball since the break. He’s

This is where we are at this point of the season. The Royals had their run. They had their hot streak. It was marvelous. It netted 24 wins in 30 games, a remarkable stretch no matter what happens from here on out. But regression was always just around the corner. The Royals now throw their lot behind the pitching staff, hopeful James Shields, Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie can hold things together for a minimum of six innings. Then, hope turns to a bullpen that figures to be worked to the bone down the stretch. At least the big three of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland.

We saw the formula at work on Tuesday. The Royals scored one run in the third on a pair of doubles by Alcides Escobar and Nori Aoki. Overall, the Royals clubbed six doubles. Four times one of those doubles started an inning. The Royals scored a total of two runs. Guthrie pitched deep into the game, allowing a single run before turning the ball over to the bullpen. Yost’s “B” bullpen of Bueno, Frasor and Crow shut down the meek Rangers offense to preserve the win. But the offense…

Six doubles. Two runs.

Unreal.

For perspective, before Tuesday, no team had hit more than six doubles in a game and scored fewer than four runs. The Royals scored two. Such is the depths of the Royals offensive ineptitude. Every night is an adventure. Every night has the potential to reach new lows. This is the Royals offense.

This post isn’t about negativity. It’s about honesty. The Royals rode a hot streak to the top of the AL Central. Now they are tasked with hanging on to their lead, no matter how narrow. The pitching is good. The bullpen is taxed and tired, but on most nights, it’s good, too. The defense is good. The base running is generally good as well. Yet the next 24 games are going to be nerve-wracking and that’s thanks to the offense.

This is why every lineup Ned Yost rolls out going forward is absolutely critical. He must find the way to put his best bats at the top and minimize the damage caused by the free swingers and hackers that populate the majority of the offense. That means sitting Eric Hosmer in favor of Billy Butler in the field so they can get Josh Willingham in the game. That means moving Perez down in the order. That means moving Omar Infante out of the second spot in the order for crying out loud. It’s September. October is on the line and everything is magnified. Every move has the potential to impact the Royals post season chances.

With runs at a premium for this team and with time running out on a season, we are about to see if Yost truly did learn from the last time he was in a pennant race. It will be the difference between success and failure in this, the most important month in the franchise since October 1985.

 

With the return of Aaron Crow, Christian Colon and Liam Hendriks from Northwest Arkansas today, plus the introduction of Terrance Gore from there as well, the Royals have a dugout full of players.  More options for the manager who loves to ‘mix and match’.  If that last sentence didn’t make your stomach a little queasy, then you haven’t been watching Ned Yost manage.

That said, here is a quick guide to all the many options now at the fingertips of the Ned.

CATCHER

  • Salvador Perez
  • Eric Kratz
  • Francisco Pena

Yost has played Perez just about as close to everyday as one can for a catcher and there is no reason it won’t continue in September.  Kratz is a nice back-up, who has some quality at-bats from time to time.  The addition of Pena, who hit 27 home runs in Omaha this year  (but also posted a .280 OBP), allows the Royals to pinch-run for the heavy footed Perez and not worry (and listen, Ned does worry) about being down to no back-up catchers on the bench.  Yost could also use Kratz, if so desired to pinch-hit, but just a heads up:  Kratz actually hits right handed pitching better than left.

INFIELD

  • Eric Hosmer (L)
  • Billy Butler
  • Jayson Nix
  • Omar Infante
  • Johnny Giavotella
  • Christian Colon
  • Alcides Escobar
  • Mike Moustakas (L)

Escobar is going to play short everyday and Infante is going to play second most days and bat second, just because.  What happens at first base and designated hitter is going to be interesting.  If you were asking me – and no one has, shockingly – I would play Hosmer at first and Butler at DH against right-handed pitching and Butler at first and Willingham (bad back willing) at DH versus lefties.  My assumption, jaded as it may be, is that Yost will find a myriad of other options to employ as well, many of which are based on a) keeping Eric Hosmer’s dome all rosy and b) a given batter’s performance in five at-bats against the starting pitcher.

One would like to think that with Nix and Colon on the roster that pinch-hitting for Mike Moustakas would become almost a nightly occurrence, but I am skeptical of that as well.  Also, as mentioned above, Omar Infante is going to play most nights, which I don’t hate as I have given up on Johnny Giavotella and not sold on Christian Colon in the heat of a pennant race.  That said, could we please, please, please NOT bat Omar second?!!!!

 

OUTFIELD

  • Alex Gordon (L)
  • Lorenzo Cain
  • Nori Aoki (L)
  • Jarrod Dyson (L)
  • Josh Willingham
  • Raul Ibanez (L)
  • Terrance Gore
  • Lane Adams
  • Carlos Pegeuro (L)

That is a whole bunch of guys, but we already discussed the Ibanez/Willingham situation.  Other than to add that neither should set foot in the outfield grass this month.   It is no secret that Gore was called up exclusively to be a pinch-runner and that is mostly Adams’ role as well.  Pegeuro, who got a start last night, really should not take at-bats away from any of the top four guys on this list.  Pinch-hitting against a right-hander now and then?  Sure, I’ll take a few of those from Pegeuro – he just might ‘Justin Maxwell’ one over the wall, but no more than that.

Gordon, obviously, plays everyday.  The odd and often unpredictable rotation of Dyson, Cain and Aoki is likely to continue and I don’t hate it.   Submitted without further comment:  Aoki’s on-base percentage versus LHP this season is .410, but his OBP versus RHP is just .300.

All these shiny new toys are going to tempt Yost to be extra-creative.  Truthfully, he should settle on a first base/designated hitter rotation and do the same for center and right and limit the creativity to pinch-running for Butler and Perez and pinch-hitting for Moustakas and Infante.   Anything more is likely to do as much harm as it does good.

LF 1985—87

Heading into 1985, the St. Louis Cardinals found themselves with one of those good baseball problems: They had too many outfielders. In addition to Lonnie Smith, Andy Van Slyke, and Tito Landrum, top prospect Vince Coleman was ready for prime time. Smith had been an excellent hitter between 1980—83 before having an off-year in ’84 that he admitted was the result of several personal problems he was facing at the time, including trying to come clean after years of cocaine abuse. 1985 was not starting off great either after Smith bumped and shoved an umpire during a spring training game. Smith became the odd man out when he was dealt to KC in mid-May. (The Royals gave up minor league outfielder John Morris, a well-regarded prospect at the time who never found success in the majors.)

Smith immediately became the everyday left fielder in KC, though manager Dick Howser liked to replace him with Lynn Jones late in games when the Royals had the lead. Though Smith was speedy, his defense was notorious. He was stuck with the nickname “Skates” due to his adventures in the outfield. Smith’s hitting did not recover from the dip that started in 1984, but he managed to be one of the leading run scorers on the team thanks to taking the occasional walk, stealing 40 bases in 47 attempts, and batting in front of George Brett and Hal McRae. Overall though, it was a fairly disappointing regular season. “I haven’t played the way I’m capable of,” he said after his first couple months with the team. “I’ve struggled a great deal.” He was impressed by his teammates though: “I’m really amazed at the talent. It’s a finer team than the one I left, really.”[i]

Smith hit second in the lineup almost all year, but Howser made him the lead-off man for the last few games of the season and left him there for all 14 playoff games too. Whatever disappointments there were in the regular season were more than made up for in that charmed championship run. Smith provided an excellent .361 OBP against tough pitching in those 14 games. Probably his best moment came in game three of the World Series when he knocked a two-RBI double to give the Royals a lead they maintained. Smith was the first player to ever face a team he started the season with in the World Series.

Though a sprained ankle bothered him almost all season, Smith remained the everyday left fielder in 1986, and his hitting improved to better than league average. In a reversal of the ’85 regular season, Smith was individually pretty good, but the team had a disappointing year. Usually hitting first or second in the order, Smith led the team with 80 runs scored. Smith had to donate 10% of his 1986 salary to anti-drug causes, perform community service, and was subject to random drug tests to avoid suspension related to his earlier cocaine use.

Despite the decent year, the Royals declined to exercise their option to bring Smith back at a salary of $950,000 for 1987, even though they had to buy him out for $200,000. GM John Schuerholz still hoped to keep Smith and offered him a contract in the neighborhood of $450,000. “We don’t consider it a viable offer,” said Smith’s agent Jim Bunning.[ii] But Smith found no interest on the free agent market, and came back with his tail between his legs to accept a minor league deal with KC in late May for around $375,000. “There were times I felt bitter that I was sitting out not making money…At times, I felt bitter towards management, but every player goes through that.”[iii] (It came out later that owners were guilty of some collusion in the ’86-’87 off-season.)

After beating up AAA pitching for five weeks, Smith was called back up to Kansas City, where he got into just 48 games and did not do so hot. Kevin Seitzer has shared at least one good memory from a mostly miserable ’87 for Smith: Seitzer had hit 5-for-5 so far in an early August game. With two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning and the Royals with a big lead, Smith, hitting one spot in front of Seitzer, told Seitzer, “I’ve never seen anybody get six hits before. You’re going to get a chance.” Seitzer: “I didn’t think anything about it until that sucker got a base hit to left field. I got goose bumps. I walked to the plate thinking, ‘This dude’s giving me a chance to get another AB.’…It’s like Babe Ruth calling his shot.”[iv] (Seitzer doubled.)

But frustrations for Smith boiled over on the last day of the ’87 season. Not in the starting lineup, Smith headed to the locker room after pregame warm-ups, showered, packed his bags, and put on his street clothes. As Smith told it, “About the second inning, one of the coaches came in and said, ‘John (Wathan) wants you to come and step in for (Gary) Thurman’…I told him no. He said, ‘What do you want me to tell him?’ I said, ‘Well, tell him I got non-playingitis and I’m out of here.’ That was it for Kansas City.”[v]

Smith already carried a grudge against the Royals front office, but that grudge turned to rage once Smith started looking for a new team to sign with for 1988. No team was interested, and Smith believed Schuerholz had blackballed him (which Schuerholz has denied[vi]). Smith’s thinking got so twisted that he purchased a gun for the purpose of possibly murdering Schuerholz. Smith himself does not seem to know how serious he was, but it was much more than just a fantasy: “If I couldn’t get back into baseball,” Smith later said, “I was going to take him with me. I was going to wait for him in the parking lot of the stadium and pop him. If I got caught, I got caught. If not, I’d come on back home. If I did, you know, the thing, at least I took somebody out who was to blame.”[vii] Thankfully, the Braves came to him with a minor league offer a few days after he purchased the gun, and the volatile career of Lonnie Smith moved on.

[i] Mike Fish, “Adjusting to A.L. Difficult for Smith,” The Sporting News, July 8, 1985.

[ii] “Royals,” The Sporting News, December 8, 1986.

[iii] “Royals,” The Sporting News, July 20, 1987.

[iv] Denny Matthews, Hi, Anybody! (Ascend Books, June 15, 2009), 57-58.

[v] Mike Fish, “Bittersweet memories of ’85 for Smith,” http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/otl/news/story?id=5572278, September 16, 2010.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Kent Babb, “Battle Scars,” The State, November 5, 2005, C1.

I have been watching.  I have been cheering.  I have been agonizing.  I just haven’t been written.  I am sure many of your lives were greatly diminished due to my lack of sage input……or not.

There is not much to offer about last night’s game, other than the rather obvious observation that if the Royals continue to win two of every three games, they will make the playoffs.   That said, Ned Yost – always paranoid about being short arms in the bullpen – will now be forever super-ultra paranoid from here on out after finding himself with only Bruce Chen, Scott Downs and an unavailable Wade Davis to start the 10th inning last night.  You watch, Yost and the Royals will break camp in 2015 with a NINE man bullpen coupled with a back-up catcher and Jayson Nix as the only bench players.

Ah, Jayson Nix.  Acquired off waivers yesterday, Nix can pretty much play any position but catcher and has never really hit playing anywhere.  I don’t mind him for a September stretch run when the Royals might well employ two pinch-runners and two pinch-hitters when the rosters expand to 40 in three days.  Since Kansas City is in first place, I will not, for now, wonder if giving Ned Yost multiple options is a good thing.

When Eric Hosmer returns, for better or worse, the Royals will have one of Hosmer, Butler or Josh Willingham on the bench every night, along with Raul Ibanez, Christian Colon and whomever is the fourth outfielder is that night.  There is the thought that speedy Terrance Gore might get a September call-up specifically to be just a pinch-runner and almost certainly Francisco Pena to be a third catcher.  Having a guy like Nix who can field any position allows Yost, whether we trust him or not, to pinch-hit and pinch-run multiple times late in a close game.  Now, if Nix is ever allowed to pick up a bat, then we’ll have something to complain about.

What does the acquisition of Nix mean for a potential playoff roster?  That’s right, I just went there and said it: playoffs.

The rules are pretty simple:  any player on the 25 man active roster OR the disabled list on August 31st is eligible to be on the 25 man post-season roster.  If a player is on the disabled list on August 31st AND still there at the end of the season, he can be replaced by anyone that was in the organization prior to August 31st.

What that means for Kansas City is that Luke Hochevar and Michael Mariot, both on the 60 day disabled list right now, are eligible for the post-season roster and, more importantly, can be replaced by anyone as they won’t be pitching in the post-season.

Eric Hosmer is on the 15 man disabled list and eligible for the post-season as well and, of course, WILL be on the post-season roster.  In the end, Kansas City has 28 post-season roster spots to turn into a 25 man roster, with two of those spots (Hochevar and Mariot) capable of being filled by anyone.

So, when Jayson Nix joins the team today or tomorrow and Christian Colon (as speculated) is sent to the minors, it does not necessarily mean that Nix is your playoff utility guy and Colon is out.  Kansas City could simply elect to put Luke Hochevar on their 25 man post-season roster and then immediately replace him with Colon or Aaron Crow or Tim Collins or Brandon Finnegan or whomever.   Obviously, that would mean that someone on the 25 man active roster on August 31st (kind of looking in your direction Scott Downs and Bruce Chen) won’t be allowed to join in the post-season fun.

In the end, adding Jayson Nix today only makes him eligible for the post-season, not a lock for it.  He’ll be handy to have around in September when one can, if so desired and not dead set on the idea that Mike Moustakas will hit something other than .200 and that Omar Infante is clutch, maximize the flexibility of expanded rosters to get favorable match-ups at the plate and on the basepaths.

Used properly and in conjunction with other players, Jayson Nix is a handy little pick-up and does not have any earth shattering consequences when looking at the post-season composition of the Royals.

 

Another night, another way to win. One day after Alex Gordon clobbered an epic walk off home run, the Royals bats slumbered for seven innings before the great awakening in the eighth.

Twins starter Phil Hughes had the Royals hacking. I mean, he’s a good pitcher, having a good year after signing with the Twins. But, damn if the Royals didn’t help him out. Here are the number of pitches he threw by inning prior to the big eighth:

1st inning – 11 pitches

2nd inning – 11 pitches

3rd inning – 9 pitches

4th inning – 16 pitches

5th inning – 7 pitches

6th inning – 8 pitches

7th inning – 8 pitches

Then, in the eighth, the Royals came alive. Six singles (including a beautiful bunt from Jarrod Dyson), one walk (from Alex Gordon) and a triple (from Salvador Perez!) and the Royals chase Hughes and hang a six spot on the board. Just another night at The K. Just another night in the Baseball Capital of the AL Central.

Should we worry about a flawed process? Should we care the Royals offense goes long stretches where the bats go completely hacktastic? It’s a question I struggle with. Then I just end up shaking my head and signing up for another night.

Sometimes, things just go right. Sometimes, you get the breaks. Two years ago, the Baltimore Orioles made the playoffs for the first time in nearly 15 years when they started winning one-run games at an amazing clip. They were 29-9 in one-run games. And they were 16-2 in extra inning games. Just crazy what they were able to do in close games. Unsustainable, sure, but I don’t think their fans were in a hurry to return their wild card spot.

The Royals scored 4.1 runs per game before the All-Star Break when they were two games over .500. They are scoring 4.2 per game after the All-Star Break and their record is 26-12. I don’t know what to tell you other than strange things are happening.

Back to my original question about the flawed process. Which is kind of foolish because I don’t know the answer. If the Royals make the postseason, then Dayton Moore’s Process will be validated. Sure it took eight-plus years but in this case playoffs equals validation. But here’s a secret: Dayton Moore was never going to change his style anyway. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but he’s kind of stubborn dude. It’s not like he was ever going to wake up and decide he was employing the wrong hitters or that his player development system is flawed. Never going to happen. So in that case, any on field success really changes nothing. Moore is who he is.

Second, there’s a portion of the fan base that wants Moore gone. The fear is this team has somehow overcome it’s shortcomings that Moore fails to see and he’s going to get rewarded with a contract extension and the Royals will slowly slide back into irrelevance. This is akin to worrying about the fourth year of Omar Infante’s contract. Man, I don’t even know what’s going to happen in one week, so I don’t know that I can get all worked up about a hypothetical contract extension. Yeah, it will probably happen. And yeah, I’m not sure Moore can figure out how to recapture success that on the surface boggles the mind. I’d like to see what would happen if the Royals could find a true visionary GM. But I also know David Glass is loyal to his people and if things keep going the way they are, a contract extension is all but inevitable.

If the Royals somehow pull this off, don’t we have to give Moore some credit? Even though I still don’t like him as a General Manager, I’ll absolutely tip my cap to him if the Royals are playing in October. Not to acknowledge his role in this or to say the Royals won despite Moore seems a little vindictive. You can’t dispute things are going his way, too. Look at the close to the deadline deal of Danny Valencia for Erik Kratz and Liam Hendriks. All Kratz does is come off the bench and hit two bombs to give the Royals a win. Then Hendriks throws seven incredible innings in his Royals debut, allowing just four base runners and one run in an emergency start in place of Yordano Ventura.

One seemingly minor trade. Two wins. The Royals lead the division by 2.5 games.

No matter how many questions you may ask, sometimes there’s just no explanation.

In a season of signature wins, the Royals just recorded the best of the bunch. If you’re Ned Yost, what do you do?

You talk about the fans.

Here’s the entire Yost comment as excerpted from Mellinger’s column:

“We’re in a pennant race, yeah. We’ve been working on trying to build this team for the last three or four years to put ourselves in a position where we can contend for a championship. And not only the division, but we want to contend for a world championship. It’s really, really important we have our fans behind us at the stadium.

“I know it’s a school night. But I’ve been through this before in Atlanta (when the Braves first made the playoffs) in ‘91, where it didn’t matter what night it was, that place was packed at the end of August and September. The fans really got into it.

“I know there’s different things you can do. You can watch it on the Internet. You can watch it on TV. But there’s a real need for our fans to be a part of this. We had a great crowd last night, and I was kind of hoping we’d have another great crowd tonight, and we really didn’t.

“They’re a big part of our success, especially at home. Because the electricity they provide, the energy they provide, helps you get through games like this. You know? We’ve been working hard to make our fans happy and make our fans proud for a lot of years, and we’d like them out here to enjoy a night like this with us. Because this was a special night. This was a fun night. I just wish there could’ve been more out here to enjoy it with us.”

Now, because I’ve been told that hearing Yost comments is just as important, here’s the audio.
I don’t know I needed to read and hear the quote. It comes across the same to me either way I consume it. It’s a measured response to a question Yost begged to be asked. And make no mistake. Yost wanted that question asked. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have opened his press conference with a “casual” remark about the fans who were there.
We can parse Yost’s statements a thousand different ways. They’ve been trying to “build this team for the last three or four years?” Hilariously tone deaf to what’s happened the last three decades. The Atlanta attendance comparison? Laughable. The team feeds off electricity? Eh, maybe I can give you that one.
An analogy: You have a restaurant in your neighborhood. It’s been there for a long time. It used to be known for fine dining. You used to eat their weekly. But over the last thirty years, it’s gone downhill. Yet, it’s a neighborhood establishment and you really want to like it, so you keep going back – just not as often – even though the food is a little bit shit. So you find other ways to spend your money. Other diversions. Then, one night, you have a great meal. Like once in the last 30 years great. Now you have a quandary. Is the restaurant back? Does one great meal erase decades of poor meals? You’ve been going a couple times a year. Now, do you go a couple of times a week? Just based on one great meal?
OK. Maybe I’m not the best at analogies, but I don’t think you talk attendance when you have a fan base that has gone through what Royals fans have experienced the last 29 years. This team has spent the last three decades specializing in shit. And someone wants to talk attendance just weeks after the team has become relevant for the first time in that span? Come on. Trust doesn’t happen on the back of two good months of baseball. Not after what we’ve seen as Royals fans. Not after what we’ve collectively gone through.
Crowds are going to build through the rest of the season. Attendance is going to be crazy this weekend. After this home stand, there’s one home stand left. That will be crazy, too. Especially with the Tigers coming for the final home series of the year. Make no mistake, The K is going to start rocking. In fact, it has been rocking. The fans have responded. Just like we knew they would. To ignore that support and focus on a Tuesday in late August is selling the fans a bit short. Especially after the last 29 years and all that.
My take: You never question the motivation of the fans. Like ever. If they don’t show up for your game, look at yourself and your performance as manager. Maybe they want to see Alex Gordon hit higher than third. Maybe they don’t like seeing Mike Moustakas. Maybe they’ve seen this story before and are worried about being burned again. The point is, everyone has different motivation and feelings about the situation. I didn’t go to the game last night. I had other stuff going on that I had to deal with. Does that mean I’m a bad fan? Disclosure: I don’t own a Royals jersey. Because I’m too old to play the game and I think wearing a jersey is kind of dumb. But you may own and wear a jersey. Even though I may feel a certain way, I don’t judge. Fans celebrate their teams all different ways. Some guys wear a costume and go to every game. Others listen to the radio while they enjoy an adult beverage in their garage. No fan is better than the other. I firmly believe that. We’re fans together. It’s a collective. That’s why it’s so great. Television ratings are through the roof. I bet radio ratings are similarly on the uptick. My unscientific finding shows I see more fans wearing Royals shirts and hats around town. Fans are tuned in to this team and this season. Despite not turning out on Tuesday.
Yost didn’t rip the fans. That’s just a convenient headline. But he did give a measured response to something that was obviously on his mind. I don’t think he owes an apology for speaking his mind. I just think he should be more careful about what he says about his team’s support going forward. His team is in a pennant race. His words will come with a little more scrutiny. It’s added pressure. Hopefully, he can handle it better than he did last night.
It’s too bad this happened. Last night, several amazing things happened.
– Danny Duffy pitched really well, flashing what Denny called, “no-hit stuff.”
– Billy Butler made a great catch, running with his back to the plate.
– Butler made the catch and then fell over Christian Colon. And then didn’t help Colon to his feet. (I don’t know why, but that seems like a very Butler thing to do. Which made me laugh.)
– Alcides Escobar made an amazing play deep in the hole at shortstop in the seventh. A huge play as it came with no outs, a runner on first and a run already across. You cannot underestimate this. It was massive.
– And of course the Alex Gordon walk off.
I’d rather talk about any of these over the attendance. So consider this my final word on this subject.
Until you rotten fans do something rotten again.
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