The following is a collection of thoughts about the 2012 Royals in a way that wouldn't fit onto sports talk radio and a lot of things that I want to put into the atmosphere on the topic of a rapidly failing team.
It's hard to get mad at the Royals for losing. It's hard to get mad at the players or the management. It's not because losing has some sort of upside. Losing has no upside here. Losing does not really build something that can win baseball games in the future. While it may seem at times that this is the Book of Job, losing more often leads to more losing, as opposed to an inner humility that leads to winning.
There is no serious redemptive value to losing every game of a ten game home stand. The only positives of the home stand is that Legionnaire's Disease didn't break out in the middle of the series..
It's hard to get too mad at the failure of a team that any reasonable unbiased person viewed as being 10 or 12 under .500. This team is 10 under .500, 16 games into the season. It's not something worth getting mad over because it is so impressively and totally inept that it's a trivia-point that keeps Elias and Buster Olney in work.
One of the side-pursuits various members of this site follow to take their minds off the Royals season is the surprisingly less depressing world of politics. Some of the people have even spent their time on campaigns. I got to spend some quality time volunteering on a Missouri US Senate campaign two years ago. That campaign was in an unfavorable environment for that candidate and her party. They didn't make it any more favorable by having a television strategy of repeatedly running negative ads on her opponent before she established herself positively. Eventually around October, she began running positive ads but by then nobody was paying attention and it was pretty obvious that the campaign would not prevail. And yes, they lost by 14%, putting up a worse winning percentage than several recent seasons.
This Royals team is competing in an unfavorable environment and managing to weaken their position for competition. It's not just a manager whose desperation for a win leads to giving away outs like they're spare couches, but a general manager whose approach is just as maddening and unsatisfying.
Before the Monday game, Royals General Manager Dayton Moore mentioned several things of note.
1) "Billy's getting his hits, but he needs to get them with runners in scoring position" - this was what the Royals General Manager said of a guy who was the best player on the team with runners in scoring position going into the game. It's bizarre logic. It's as if grounding into double plays deducts 50 points of batting average per out. What about Jeff Francoeur, who was hitting .200 with RISP going into the game? What about Alex Gordon? Oh no, Billy Butler is the problem here.
2) That this team would be 50% homegrown by 2013/2014, and they may not be good by then too. One of the trademarks of the recent DM era is what some call "moving the goalposts". Once we approached the 4th anniversary in 2010, the revelation that it takes 6 years was released. And the time table is now 6 to 8 years. So if we go by the start of the DM era, the 8th anniversary may be a team that could wind up as not being a winning team, but almost certainly will have the same cavalcade of excuses as previous Dayton Moore failures.
After all, we're not gonna out-talent anybody out there. But negative spirits. Process. (They never specify what happens if we aren't patient, do they?)
Which leads me to this point. Talent minus results is hype.
This Royals team has been called too talented to lose lots of games. And so far, they have lost a lot of games. What they have is not proven talent, but promised talent. There is a lot of promised talent. Jeff Francoeur. The matter of proven talent takes time to figure out. But right now, it may be harsh but it is absolutely true to say it's hype that lays under the foundation of the current Royals and the so-called greatest farm system ever. They might say Eric Hosmer is a future MVP, but until he shows that, it's just hype.
The undercurrent of Royals player public relations management in regards to the streak is essentially begging.
Or to quote Danny Duffy on the Twitter
April 16th: "Tough patches strengthen us. Proud to call myself a Kansas City Royal. My team has more heart than anyone in the league. Have faith in us."
April 22nd: "We know that Royal nation is just as hungry as we are. Stick with us. Thanks for all the love"
April 24th: "Down in Cleveland. Tomorrow is a new day.The season is young and I love my squad. Support thru this stretch has been 2nd to none.We got this"
Well, that's nice. The people who stick with a team that lose 10 straight home games are gonna stick with that team anyways. So there's not really a need to beg. Same goes for Bruce Chen and his flipcam. At some point, the begging won't suffice and all that you have to do is win baseball games.
"We're gonna laugh about this one day"
Or so inspirational leader Ned Yost hopes. That's what he said in the postgame after Monday's loss. Using that standard, Ken Harvey being eaten by a tarp, Ken Harvey being hit by a throw from the outfield, Ken Harvey being hit in the face by Jason Grimsley on a play at 1st base are all things that will be laughed about soon. And apparently laughing about it is a good thing or something. As if this team has a 11 game winning streak in them sometime soon.
Ned Yost has gone on and on about not panicking. And if you can't panic after losing 10 straight games at home, when the the hell can you panic? Might as well ban panic while you're at it. Maybe a bit of panic would help more than Ned's Buddy Bell impersonation and his droning about how they're gonna be better tomorrow and they're gonna win and take off. They'll stop drinking the gatorade of suck tomorrow honey, they swear.
Ned Yost being fired won't change anything, but he's certainly doing his best at strengthening the case for his sudden unemployment. It took a Texas series with the Yuni drop and a runner moving from 1st to 2nd without any Royal noticing for Trey Hillman to get fired. After a 11 game losing streak, lord only knows what can get Ned fired as we approach their 9 game road trip.
Well, lets look at the schedule for the next month and week. The Royals will have played 51 games by the end of May. Here's how it could break down.
The 9 game roadtrip is coming up first. The Cleveland series is a likely series loss, but let's be nice and assume they finally win a game. They could win the series in Minnesota, but they could lose the series. The Royals/Twins series should give us an idea of where we stand on the totem pole of the AL Central. Then the Tigers will beat the Royals in their series. Let's be nice and say 4 wins, 5 losses. 7-18.
Then we have a 7 game homestand v. the Yankees and Red Sox. The Yankees will win the 4 game series v. the Royals and could always sweep. The Red Sox are proof of schadenfreude. Bobby Valentine will be fired sometime before the end of the year. Their team really isn't as good as it was, but it's better than it's looked so far. We can be nice and say 2 wins, 5 losses. 9-23.
Then the Royals go to Chicago and Texas for 5. 1 win, 4 losses. 10-27.
Then another 9 game road trip to New York (where they'll have at least one game with 20 total runs scored), Baltimore, and Cleveland. Once again, let's be nice and arbitrary and say 4 wins, 5 losses. 17-34.
Hey, 33% beats 19%. Obviously they'll be 4 good weeks out of first place then, in Yost units.
And here's a series of more concise and possibly controversial or interesting (but maybe not both!) observations
#1: Nobody is "pressing" more than Ned Yost right now
How else can you describe Yost's leadership than desperate? The guy acts and talks like he'd payday loan his soul for the team to win some games, turn around and redeem his reputation from the hit it took when he got fired from Milwaukee. For all the talk of hitters pressing, it's not some accident. Perhaps it's more of an emulation of the leadership they get Ned Yost. The official excuse is that the "Our Time" campaign caused them to try too hard. If they can't handle an advertising campaign, God help them during a pennant race. But i'm sure that is categorized as a character building experience as well.
For those of you unsure of how Ned Yost is pressing. Look at his usage of relievers. Look at his usage of players on the basepaths. Look at the fact that nobody could touch 2nd without risking being bunted over. Well, unless you were on 2nd and Team Leader Francoeur was batting, in which case, you were going nowhere anyways. Look at the fact that this team has had 15 lineups in 16 games, a pace similar to Bob Boone on a bender.
Ned Yost wants to win. But maybe less is more here. Let them win the game without doing all the razzle-dazzle "managering!" that loses as many games as it wins.
Some people say that Ned Yost should show more fire, be madder. By this point, does it matter? Are the players going to be motivated that way right now? If you want to show fire, show it a few games before loss 11 of a losing streak. Or better yet, don't make stupid moves thinking you have to win or else you'll be put in front of a firing squad afterwards.
But as noted multiple times, firing Yost doesn't really change anything. Not purely because of the expectation that a new manager would implement similar tactics, but because we've seen this play before.
#2: It's all David Glass' fault. If only he cared more.
Kansas City Media Employee for Life Jack Harry may not be able to tell you a lot about Baseball, but he can tell you how many outs there are, how many inning there are, and the fact that apparently David Glass is the guy who signs free agents. Or to put it more specifically from his Slatler and Waldorf show with fellow employee for life Frank Boal, David Glass didn't sign any free agent pitchers. (Then they spent time on how letting Prince Fielder steal 2nd was the sign that this team wasn't in the games, and they wondered if the youngsters were keeping the hell off the lawn at their houses)
If Dayton Moore can't identify or address problems on his own team, then you got a bigger problem than the perceived lack of desire of ownership. If Ownership has to make those decisions, then what good is a General Manager? But in an ideal world, the general manager would have more desire and self-awareness than the ownership, because most team ownership shares the common trait that they watch baseball on TV but they don't really know much about the specific needs of their teams and how specific moves can impact their team. Nolan Ryan is the exception.
The problem isn't the desire to win, it's the decision making to achieve the deeply held desire to win. Nobody claimed David Glass didn't want to win when Gil Meche and Jose Guillen got $91M combined. They've glossed over the variety of extensions that were given out to various proven and unproven players in recent years. If the GM is trying to sign free agents and having deals vetoed, a problem would exist, but it would be difficult to cover that up without anybody reporting or mentioning such events. That's not to say that the Glass' haven't sucked for a significant portion of their time as Royals ownership, but it seems fundamentally inconsistent to blame them for things that are not listed under job description.
You never know, the next owners of the Royals might be known before the end of this year. And you all will have to find new takes about why they're not winning games. A change in ownership may not exactly be the best thing for the current general manager, but if the situation between the fans and ownership is such that winning a World Series wouldn't make them popular, perhaps it's time to see how much you could get from a buyer.
Hopefully the buyers would wind up being in a field with a dependable flow of money (not subject to a contraction if the Supreme Court shoots down part of your revenue stream) and maybe some sports experience (even in a salary cap league) would help.
Ultimately, be careful what you wish for applies to the concept of selling the team, no matter how local or in-the-stands the ownership group appears. This would be the 3rd shot for local business to buy or join the Royals ownership (first time was the mid-80s and involved lifetime contracts and Memphis real state, the second was the sale of the team in the 1990s). Perhaps if we act like Kauffman Stadium is a giant operahouse, the buyers will flock in to buy the Royals.
#3: There is only one option that would decisively shake up this season and the next few years
Let's call this "the nuclear option", and the option involves firing Dayton Moore during this season. Obviously the well-founded fear is that the foundations built in the last six years would be torn down, and we would be talking in 2016 about how the new GM didn't have anything to work with when he stepped into the job if the foundation isn't respected. But it'd be delusionary (to steal a word from Jim Traficant) to act as if Dayton Moore's impact outside the major league level hasn't been positive.
The Royals Franchise had at least 15 years of malaise after the departure of John Schuerholz in 1991. The team won with veterans in 1993 and 1994, but really didn't rev up the engines on the farm system until the mid-90s, in which time they had to keep stocking the ream with veterans due to gaps in the farm system. Then they had group 1 of the can't miss system with the Johnny Damons and Carlos Beltrans. And as a team, they didn't really achieve anything of note aside (thanks Tony Muser!). There is a risk of this group of guys being the late 90s Royals, only in a game where pitchers are better and hitting is worse.
The Baird drafts for the first few years were terrible enough that the hole reappeared, and without the sweet opium of veterans, the team flat out sucked and the Baird was fired. By 2004/2005, the team was drafting several important players who you may have heard of sometime recently. The idea that the Royals system had nothing for Dayton Moore to build on when he became the General Manager is not true. It's just that the Royals system was a mid-level pawn shop and the new GM had to find a way to upgrade their stocked items by selling all the random stuff that was collected. Let's face it, the legacy of Allard Baird's time as GM is that Royals fans could seriously expect us to randomly pick up dudes from independent leagues. It's an inspiring method of acquiring talent but it's not necessarily great for long term development.
Dayton Moore provided some semblance of direction and focus on the organization. But he doesn't get a job for life for doing what any competent GM would have done in that situation. At some point, the name of the game winning on the major league level and when it comes to Dayton Moore, the question isn't about drafting talent, it's a question of him being able to identify the 25 best major league players for his roster and being able to develop pitching.
Dayton Moore says pitching is the currency of baseball and by the looks of things, he's operating with a bunch of IOUs. We have promising pitchers in Omaha and Springdale. Every pitcher is promising in Wilmington because it's Wilmington, and the rest are still unproven in the scheme of things.
Right now, the Royals have one starting pitcher who was drafted by Dayton Moore and that's Danny Duffy. Danny Duffy was drafted one round behind Sam Runion, who is now pitching in Wilmington. Duffy was drafted one round ahead of Mitch Hodge, who was last seen in Kane County last year. Sam Runion was drafted one pick ahead of Jordan Zimmermann. The Royals drafted 3 players who made the majors in the entire 2007 draft with David Lough a possible fourth if multiple outfielders come down with malaria. Four picks from the 2008 and 2009 drafts have had Royals experience.
And since I mentioned David Lough, looking at Omaha, the youngish guys hitting right now are Clint Robinson (who i've covered why he's not likely to be a success anywhere, but he should send tape to South Korea if he ever finds himself out of work), Max Ramirez (who is a catcher in the sense that he lines up behind home plate when he's not playing DH), Derrick Robinson (who gets the Jarrod Dyson job when we realize Dyson isn't going to become a useful piece), and Johnny Giavotella is kind of hitting, but will probably get kept in Omaha until September because the Storm Chasers need a pennant. Will Smith and Mike Montgomery look the most promising on the pitching front. Nate Adcock has a low ERA but he doesn't strike anybody out.
And in Springdale, Wil Myers and Yem Prades are hitting themselves towards the outfielder logjam. Jake Odorizzi is pitching very well. Chris Dwyer and Tim Melville seem to be having a 1:1 K:BB ratio contest. And Noel Arguelles (who'll have to be on the major league roster in a few years) is not very impressive. In all likelyhood, Arguelles is going to wind up being handled like a Rule V player who'll show up to pitch to left handers occasionally due to the major league contract he received from this team.
The fun of the DM system is that the players will heat up even more this summer and hopefully some of the actual good players will start to move up as well. Having all the talent in the farm system in the world is nice, but being unable to get the right players on the 25 man roster or in the position to make their case for a roster spot is going to be a problem. One of these days, the major league team has to be freed from the idea of spitting 2nd between Chris Getz and Yuniesky Betancourt, and the outfield will have spots open for guys who aren't random members of the Houston Astros or lifer Royals system guys.
If the fair and reasonable determination is that Dayton cannot be that General Manager, then going in a slightly different direction is called for. Which would mean going to one of the people already in the employ of the Organization to see what they could bring to the table in regards to the major league level. Tearing down or scaling back the draft and development efforts would be unparalleled stupidity. It'd be like training for a marathon by getting kneecapped. It's flat out counterproductive.
If I had to decide now, I wouldn't go through with the nuclear option. But at the same time, the doomsday clock moves forward a bit when the goalposts get moved or another questionable move occurs that doesn't really do anything but limit the team going into the future. As opposed to 2010, where firing Hillman was a relief and firing Moore was never conceivable, firing Moore in 2012 is becoming more realistic as the rhetoric wears thin.
But the idea that Dayton Moore could be fired shouldn't be an outcome to fear. Nor should it be an outcome that we wait 6 to 8 years to bring about if it's the obvious decision. There's still time, since we have the greatest minor league system ever.
What it will take for this team to be successful is being able to operate as a 21st Century Baseball Team. Operating as if the norms of the 1970s or 1980s is the best way is not going to cut it in baseball in 2012. Runs win games, get players who bring about runs with their bat, or prevent runs with their glove or pitching arm.
It's not a computer formula. It's not Aramaic. It's simple enough, and yet we have a field manager who acts like the worker who puts his paycheck down on greyhound races. After all, it may work sometimes and then boom. But most of the time, it's more like Boom Yosted.
The window for success is limited, and doing things to limit a limited window is more frustrating than anything else. If the talent works out as hyped, you can get angry if they fall short or disappoint.
But right now, it's hard to be too mad at the first franchise to ever lose their first 10 home games consecutively. It's a historic failure of such a scale that you hope you can laugh about it some day when you actually win something.
First step is actually winning, of course. Then you can act as if the 17 years of losing baseball made the winning a lot more fun to experience. When we win games, then we can seriously complain about our first world problems, like Rex Hudler. Until then, we got bigger problems and hopefully enough wires will touch each other to get an electrical current to start up this process i've heard so much about recently.