Since Dayton Moore was hired last summer the refrain, from the Affeldt trade to the Meche signing and beyond, has been the same: there's a new sheriff in town who won't put up with losing anymore. All winter, pundits local and national gave the Royals credit for changing the "culture of the clubhouse", and countless spring training puff pieces informed us of the new attitude throughout the organization. Even Rany Jazayerli, in Baseball Prospectus and here on Royals Review promulgated the idea that the tide had turned. The fans, many of whom are now also team subsidizers in Johnson County, wouldn't have to put up with comically bad baseball anymore.
Its time to match the rhetoric to the reality.
We're entering the "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job" moment. Sure, we're all lapdogs to the comforting gruel of spin, actually, we're even lower than the most die-hard political true believer, we're fans. Even from that undignified intellectual register, silence and spin are awfully hard to take when you can actually see people on rooftops, days after the "heckuva job" began. Just like in New Orleans, no matter what is said, alot of nakedly bad baseball is right in front of our eyes.
Buddy, Dayton, "you're doing a heckuva job":
-The Royals are now 10-22, the worst record in the American League by three games.
-The Royals are 11th in the AL in batting average, 8th in OBP and 10th in slugging.
-The Royals are 9th in the AL in ERA (4.63) and have allowed the third most runs in the league (168), in part because they have also fielded one of the worst defenses in baseball. The Royals are allowing opponents to hit .288 against them, 13th "best" in the AL. BP's Defensive Efficiency metric notes that the Royals have turned only 67.8% of balls in play into outs. Again, only the Devil Rays have been worse.
Yesterday, after losing two close games to the Tigers, the Royals fell again, 13-4.
They trailed 13-0 before scoring a run, and were completely dominated by Chad Durbin, arguably one of the worst pitchers of the decade. And no, that is not hyperbole. He's been allowed to throw 370 innings of 6.08-ERA ball since 1999.
On this site, the discussion of Bell has been raging for weeks. No one is quite sure what he's actually good at, other than a vague sense that the guys in the clubhouse like him.
The problem with this line of thinking is that its impossible to hold it to a normative standard. This goes not just for Bell, but for all managers. When the team wins a 4-3 game, someone -- a player, a beat writer, a columnist -- is often apt to attribute it to something the wise old manager did pregame or maybe during the game. Since its all make believe, it really doesn't matter. Sometimes, his advice to "stay relaxed" is cited, other times its a closed door scream fest or a violent attack on a water cooler. These origin stories work much better after wins, but we never quite hear about them after losses.
On Saturday night the Royals blew an 8th inning lead and lost 7-5. The next day (morning really, especially for these guys) the Royals came out and got absolutely destroyed by Chad Durbin and Neifi Perez.
Anyone wanna wonder what the story would have been had they won?
"Buddy just told us to forget about last night and go out there and compete..."
"He let us have it after the game. I can't repeat what he said", said Player X laughing, "but it wasn't real nice".
So, what about Buddy's clear managerial failure this weekend? My point is only partially about Buddy. Whats really at play here is a deeper problem: lazy analysis. When explanations can only be applied half the time (or in the Royals case, about 40% of the time) they probably aren't very useful. Does any of the off-season rhetoric mean anything now? Did any of the stories this morning hold anyone accountable after a winter of good press and totally unverifiable praise?
No, not at all. Check KCROYALS.com for a story on how great Meche has been, and the Star for... well, columns about the Chiefs, NBA refs and... Angel Berroa.
This team is playing horrible, listless, fundamentally poor baseball. Does anyone care? Do any results actually matter?
Can someone with access please ask Dayton Moore if 10-22 -- with a lineup featuring 5 of the least productive players in baseball -- was a part of the plan?