In an effort to stymie the recent freefall of the struggling Kansas City Royals, manager Ned Yost has called on the team to conduct a players-only meeting to identify and correct the reasons behind the ineffectiveness of recent players-only meetings.
"This is where and how this losing trend needs to stop - behind closed doors" the Royals skipper asserted. "This is how hard-nosed baseball is done. Problems on the field are solved by being accountable in that locker room, and the way to attain that accountability is by locking those doors and not coming out until those issues are resolved. I assure you the team has already had some of these meetings, but still we are not getting the results that are expected. The problem clearly stems from having the wrong kind of players-only meeting. At this point I'm encouraging the team to have a new meeting, and I'll nail those doors shut if I have to this time until this team can decide what sort of players-only meeting is going to get results."
Team leader Jeff Francouer can see where Yost is coming from.
"Look, something needs to change in [the locker room}. We've identified certain problems that these guys seem to take to heart, but the real problem seems to lie in being accountable for what they've said. For instance, last team meeting we told Moose [third baseman Mike Moustakas] that he needs to stop sitting with his head down and blaring that damn AWOLnation song on repeat every time he goes 0-4. The very next night, he's sitting in his locker with his headphones on sobbing something that sounded like 'blame it on my ADD'". It doesn't take a genius to figure out what he's listening to, and while he's technically following through on the letter of the law we laid down, he's not following the spirit of it. As a team, we need to figure out what sort of players-only meeting is going to get through to him."
Other Royals' players seem to differ on what exactly might make for more effective players-only meetings. Part-time second baseman Chris Getz proferred that maybe technology could help identify and illustrate the issues that need to be worked on.
"We play baseball the old school way - the right way - but we're still a 21st century team. We have iPhones and internet and iPads, all sorts of ways to show video and presentations on how to improve this team, and we really need to utilize them. Well, I take that back. Elliott [Johnson] only has a black and white Kindle, so he's not really going to be able to help out much there, or at second base, or at the top of the lineup, and definitely shouldn't play ever. But the rest of us are open to using technology. I've heard Bruce Chen is really good at Powerpoints, that could be a key launching point for better players-only meetings."
First baseman Eric Hosmer took a more candid approach in his assessment of the locker room situation.
"We're not the Red Sox, OK? We're not in there eating chicken and drinking beer while lamenting our problems, alright? We have great, motivated guys in there. If anything we might be too focused during our players-only meetings. Gordo [left-fielder Alex Gordon] is so determined to lead this team by example that he's usually just outside the circle adding to the conversation while doing burpees and body-weight exercises to motivate us. It sometimes just works too well, as Frenchy [Francouer] usually joins in for five minutes or so until he needs to go to the mirror and see the progress being made in his triceps. True leaders for sure, but I guess sometimes it's a little distracting."
Some Royals players seem to think that even when a consensus is reached on actions that need to happen on the field, even one dissenter can undo a productive players-only meeting.
"Best and worst decision we made all year in a players-only meeting was to use the John Cena 'Can't See Me' motion after a hit", says slugger Billy Butler. "It's fun, helps keep most of us loose, just lets us enjoy the game a little bit after a minor personal victory. There is one guy though - and I won't say who - who really wanted our post-hit celebration to be the Gangnam Style horsey-ride dance. We tried telling him that it was no longer funny but when he aggressively disagreed, we just had to out and out tell him that it really puts a bad mental image in our heads since he's constantly doing the horsey dance naked in the showers anyway. Well, he got pouty after that and I think it's really affected his production this year at the plate. In retrospect we probably should have taken a gentler approach with the guy and showed him that all opinions matter in players-only meetings. We really were counting on some production out of right field this year."
General Manager Dayton Moore echoed the sentiments of Francouer that in the end, it all comes down to finding an approach that ensures that what is said in players-only meetings makes it to the field. "I'm not going to throw anyone under the bus here, but when we make a big trade for a guy in the offseason and he identifies his problem as making a mistake pitch every game and swears that he won't do that anymore, you expect him to hold true to that. Next game, here comes the mistake pitch again and all of a sudden we're down 2-0 to the Astros. How can you expect your team to come back from a 2 run deficit when your ace is not holding up his end of the bargain? You can't. These young kids on our team look to the leaders as examples, the losing has nothing to do with the talent level on this team - and I would know, because I hold myself accountable for that."
Time will tell if these Royals can find the right combination of words and actions in today's scheduled players-only meeting to right the ship, but Royals fans everywhere will not have to wait long to find out as the Royals play game 2 of a 4 game series with the Angels tonight at 7:10 pm.