The Royals will be fortunate should Luke Hochevar and Kyle Davies suffer from no lingering after effects from pitching in Hillman’s Starting Rotation Chainsaw Massacre.
Unfortunately, Dayton Moore can’t fire Hillman again. I suppose that would be some kind of managerial double jeopardy. Too bad. I wonder if those tears GMDM shed at the postmortem press conference was for SABR Trey or for realizing he acted too late and cost his team a decent starting pitcher.
Hillman had no business being in a major league dugout – especially as a manager. He had no clue how to handle players on a day to day basis, had bizarre ideas about management in general and was absolutely lost making in-game decisions. The Meche Mistake falls under the latter. We’ve been over this before, but it’s the manager’s job to take the ball from his pitcher. We’ve come so far when it comes to handling a pitching staff, that to let a starter who has thrown over 120 pitches dictate how long he should stay in the game is absolutely, unequivocally criminal. It never should have happened.
Meche had a history of arm and shoulder troubles before he signed with the Royals. Because of that, a five year contract was a risky proposition for the club. Hillman managed Meche like he had no clue about his medical past. How else can he explain why he left his starter in to throw a 132 pitch complete game? Or how he allowed him to top 120 pitches just two days after throwing a bullpen session to test a dead arm? The warning signs were there. Everyone saw them. How could you not? Turns out everyone saw them but Trey Hillman.
It’s all water under the bridge as Meche walks away from over $12 million guaranteed because he’s too much of a standup guy to take that kind of money and struggle in the bullpen or to go ahead and have surgery and miss the year rehabbing. I talked to Meche a couple of times while he was with the team and he always struck me as a thoughtful, conscientious kind of guy. Not a brainiac like Brian Bannister and not quirky like Zack Greinke… Just smart. But not too smart. A normal guy.
I enjoyed watching Meche pitch because when he was healthy, he gave the Royals a great chance to win. We scoff at the term, but he really was a “gamer.” He always went out and gave it his best. I suppose that’s ultimately why he’s walking away. He’s not at his best anymore and he realizes this. He may not have the most talent, but he was all about maximizing what he had. I respect that.
I hope that Meche eventually gets the surgery because it’s no fun not being 100 percent… Even if you’re no longer competing at the highest level. Maybe he can find a job in baseball as a pitching coach. He seems like an ideal candidate to work with young pitchers. And he can tell them first hand why starters need to take care of themselves.
In the meantime, Hillman has moved on to LA. The Trey and Donnie Baseball show should be sitcom worthy. Since I started writing about the Royals, they’ve had four managers. Who would have thought my favorite at this point would be Buddy Bell?
A couple other notes…
— Bob Dutton Tweeted that Billy Butler is seeking $4.3 million while the Royals have countered with $3.4 million. Dayton Moore has never been to arbitration and he’s not about to start. I bet they’ll split the difference.
— There was some noise on Tuesday that the Meche retirement would free up the Royals ability to ink Butler to a long term deal. While that sounds great, these are two completely separate issues.
For starters, if the Royals and Butler do sign a long-term deal, it would be one with escalating salaries to take care of his three arbitration seasons. Something along the lines of $4 million in ’11, $6 million in ’12 and $8 million in ’13. (Those are rough numbers, but you get my point.) The Royals had already budgeted a certain amount for Butler for ’11 and Meche and his situation have nothing to do with how they will treat Butler.
Second, Meche’s salary was coming off the books following this season. GMDM has made this point several times recently that the team has virtually no money committed to contracts beyond this season. The payroll flexibility was already there. Meche leaving doesn’t give the Royals any extra room to manuever.
And finally, I know there’s some ambivalence about giving Butler an extension with the imminent arrival of Eric Hosmer and Kila Ka’aihue already on the roster. I get that… But Hosmer isn’t a sure thing and we have yet to see Ka’aihue for a full season. We know what we’re getting in Butler. I think you need to lock him in to a contract… Basically live for today. If it turns out there’s a logjam at DH, then the Royals can deal him. As long as his contract is done right.
— What the Meche retirement does now is it gives GMDM some money to spend. This scares me. Anyone think he’ll make a charge at Kevin Millwood? Supposedly, Millwood is a leader-type of player… Exactly the kind GMDM covets. Then there’s the fact he can overpay to bring him to KC. Or how about the Royals signed two starting pitchers last week and seemingly have their rotation candidates fairly set for 2011. GMDM has always failed at roster construction. Now seems like an ideal time to overpay to create a logjam on a team that’s not expected to contend.
And let’s not forget… Former Brave.
— Speaking of arbitration, Kyle Davies avoids arbitration and gets a raise to $3.2 million.
Seriously, how the hell did the Royals come to the conclusion that Davies should get a raise? I know that everyone always gets more money, but Hochevar signed for the same amount he made in ’10. And there’s no way you can tell me Davies is the better pitcher.
In fact, there’s a ton of evidence that Davies doesn’t belong in the majors. Few pitchers have been as futile for as long as Davies.
Enjoy it, Kyle. That’s a helluva reward.