I don't want this to be personal, but as a fan, I have to say, I didn't start this fight.
Trey Hillman and Dayton Moore have lectured us all season. Their mistakes, we've been repeatedly told, are actually our mistakes. Their failings, we've been repeatedly told, are really just our failings. See, the fans and the media have both a moral and an intellectual shortcoming: we're too impatient and we're too dumb. Since this summer, the Royals have consistently pushed a bizarre social criticism on the public, claiming that Americans are too into instant gratification, which has poisoned our abilities to fully appreciate all the great progress they've made with the Royals.
Most recently, Ken Davidoff at Newsday passed along this:
"It’s challenging because most of the time, our local media and even our fan base, they don’t want to hear about the process. They don’t want to be educated on the process. But it is a process. ...People don’t want to take the time to learn, because we’re not bred that way, culturally. It was an easier sell in the other culture, in
, because they’re very used to processes. And they don’t care how long it takes, as long as you get it set to last." Japan (Hillman managed the Nippon Ham Fighters from 2003 through 2007)
Hillman hit all the talking points here: fans don't want to learn (he's the man who famously said, "I can't educate" when questioned) and they can't, or won't, because of American culture. He also used the now infamous phrase, "process" to describe the supposedly impossible to understand and appreciate method employed by Dayton Moore and Hillman and everybody else to rebuild the Royals.
We've seen the phrase "instant gratification" from both men. And obviously, anyone walking down the placid, slow-moving, mostly silent and dark, streets of Tokyo would instantly conclude that Americans alone like to have their desires quickly sated.
Despite blogging on baseball for a number of years now, there's actually quite a lot of jock culture that I don't agree with, don't celebrate, don't endorse, and just plain don't believe in. This is, parenthetically, why many of us turned to the internet in the first place, to give voice to different points of view within the sports we love. That being said, if there's one locker room or sports radio code that I do think has merit, it's this: if you haven't done anything, shut up. This snippet of jock code is valuable because we can see its merits across life. It touches on issues of experience and authority, which should be important in evaluating someone's statement. If it's your first day in the office, don't tell your boss about your great new idea, if you've never been a parent, tread lightly on giving your buddy parenting advice, if you're a grad student, it's not your place to stand up at the Department-wide meeting and propose a major curriculum change. And, if you're a rookie, don't walk into the clubhouse and start asserting yourself. Prove it on the field, over time, and earn respect.
Dayton Moore and Trey Hillman are both, essentially, rookies. They are rookies at their current level of employment. This is not to say that they may not be great General Managers and Managers someday, but it is to acknowledge that, at present, they have not, as they say, done anything at their current level. They need to hold the Alex Gordon mirror up to themselves. The unfounded arrogance of team management in the past year has been absolutely stunning, and I'm not the only one to notice it. On and off the record, just about anyone close to the team has remarked about the siege mentality that's taken over, and that mentality is driven by an unwillingness to take criticism or even acknowledge slight mistakes.
Since 2007, the Royals under Dayton Moore are 209-277. Trey Hillman is 140-184 as a manager. After supposedly making long and short-term progress in 2007-8, the Royals took a major step back in 2009, losing 97 games. That's when the story changed. Suddenly, nothing short-term mattered, and it was all about the long-term plan.
Here's the problem: the Royals weren't saying this in 2008 and they weren't saying this in the Spring of 2009. They thought they could win now, only, as it turned out, Dayton Moore's hit rate on Major League acquisitions is somewhere south of the percentage of Victorian novels that have a sex scene. So after they failed we got to hear about how, somehow, we were the ones who don't understand baseball.
Here's what Moore said back in February, to give you just one example:
"We've had a 13-game improvement over the last two years," Moore said. "We expect not only to improve, but to compete within our division. You say the same thing every year, but this year I think it has much more of a meaning when we say that."
Moore said Kansas City needs two things to contend: cohesive starting pitching and the entire team staying healthy.
"I'm very optimistic," said Trey Hillman, who is beginning his second season as the Royals manager. "I think we were able to do some very, very productive things going into this year. I look at where we were at on the same date last year and it's a different roster with different guys that can be difference makers for us both offensively and defensively."
If Dayton and Trey want to play the PR game, if they want to defend themselves, if they want to lecture someone, lecture their bosses. That's really all that should matter to them. Stay employed.
And really, Mr. Moore and Mr. Hillman, spare us your brilliant analysis of American culture. Frankly, you don't know a damn thing about American culture, and you should be happy that you don't. Your careers in baseball have been extremely unique compared to the lives of most Americans, in just about every way. Your level of compensation, your hours, your schedule, your amount of travel, your employment expectations, the way you dress for work, the people you work with, the places you work, the places you vacation, all of these things are extremely unusual.
Wow, Americans are into the short-term. Smashing analysis. I'll have to borrow your copy of Megatrends 1982 to read more about it.
Outside of baseball stuff, here's what I would take your advice regarding: best methods for sleeping on a charter plane, cool places to eat in Georgia or Japan, things I shouldn't ask Jose Guillen, stuff about the Bible. That's it. Because here's the thing you don't seem to understand, just how you don't like us civilians telling you about baseball, we don't especially appreciate being told about the state of American life from guys who generally know more about spitting etiquette.
You know baseball, as you constantly tell us, so stick to baseball.
Moreover, in the case of Royals fans, this argument is simply incorrect. Have you looked at the almanacs recently? The Royals have not been good for decades. There are adults walking around KC that can remember maybe one above .500 Royals team in their lifetime. We're still going to games, we're still getting excited about players, hell, we're still watching baseball, which is not known as a favorite of the short-attention-span set. In a few months, a handful of B-list Royals will show up somewhere in rural Kansas to "meet the public" in an extremely managed fashion, and people will be there. In January, when you have the next Fan Fest, the place will be packed. Furthermore, many Royals fans are among those taxpayers who voted to give your boss more money, which has had a direct impact on your ability to do your jobs (mostly poorly) since you both came in.
You are lecturing the precisely wrong set of people about patience. Patience is not the issue. Competence is the issue.
Perhaps the most amazing element of the Moore/Hillman talking points is the continued implication that their method of rebuilding a baseball team is somehow really really really difficult to understand. I'm going to avoid any jokes about "The Process" and bad OBP players or terrible defenders or idiotic contracts and simply state what it actually is: the Royals are spending heavily in the draft, have hired many new people, and hope to draft many good baseball players who will help them win in years to come. I know that may be absurdly complex, so I'll try to clarifiy it again, after speaking to a wise man, the Royals are trying to build a good team by drafting good pitchers (guys who throw the white ball thing) and hitters (guys who swing the bat).
Really guys, we actually understand what you are doing. We also understand that you've established yourself as the most intellectually close-minded organization in the game, with your proud boasting about not understanding fairly simple defensive stats. That's why, now, this position that we're all too simple and stupid to understand your fancy plan seems so insulting. Pick a side guys, either be embattled visionaries before the chattering mass of idiots or staunch PE teachers battling the eggheads.
And before we go, here's another thing. Draft better. Draft better and make better trades. Actually adhering to your supposed process would be nice. The next time you want to trade away arms for old, expensive, bad players, don't do it. Getting a fat budget and drafting completely predictable players in the early rounds is not exactly brilliance. Its a good strategy, but stop parading your process so much when, and this might hurt, a dude with a Baseball America subscription could have done the same thing. Bring us some late-round guys that emerge. Prove to us how smart you are. The Royal system, which has been overhauled since 2006, is still weak. There have been hits and there have been misses, but three drafts in, there's still a lot of uncertainty.
I guess what I'm saying is, bring us more Joakim Sorias than Kyle Farnsworths. Bring us a single, good all-around position player, just one, before we get the next lecture on "The State of American Culture and Average Expectation Levels Amongst Sports Fans, with a Special Comparative Emphasis on Japan".