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Keeping Trey Hillman In Perspective

Think about the Astros. Think about the Pirates. Think about the Indians. Why are those teams losing? Is the manager causing them to lose? Can you even name their manager?

Alright, you can see where this is going, but let's keep take it further. Think about the Yankees or the Phillies or the Rays? Are they winning because of their managers?

How do you think Trey Hillman would do managing the Phillies? I think he'd be absolutely fine. F-i-n-e. Three years ago the Phillies were perpetual disappointments who played horrible fundamental baseball. Struck out too much. Bad relievers. The whole thing. The Philly media ripped ole Charlie Manuel so much that he challenged a radio guy to a fight. Put Trey Hillman in the right situation at the right time, and he'd be writing "as told to" books with his thoughts on faith, family & baseball six months later.

I didn't love or even like Hillman as a manager, and, it's been clear for awhile that many of you feel the same way. However, everyone hates their manager, to some extent. Especially when the team is horrible, and especially when you're a hardcore fan, watching the team day after day. You start to notice their little ticks, their pet strategies, their pet players. I went through that myself during the Buddy Bell era. I hated the hiring from the beginning, viewing Bell as a lazy hire, a retread, basically an old-school doofus. (That was like three half-hearted rebuilding efforts ago, awesome.)

You win or lose with your roster. Especially in 2010, when years of media scrutiny and a conservative in-sport culture have whittled down the differences between managers. Tony La Russa is totally out there, because sometimes he hits the pitcher 8th.

I think about Bell now. What did I want him to do so badly? Well, all the usual stat-head things. Was he the man to do them? Hell no. Did it matter? No. I hated that he played Terrence Long every day. I can't even remember who I wanted to play instead. Typical blog fodder and a legitimate criticism, but honestly, did it really matter? Bell loved him some Joe McEwing, who we amazingly played a first base a few times. It was annoying, but in the long run, did it even matter? I'll even lay my heart on the tracks here: did it really matter that the Royals mysteriously never played Huber? We build these bench/AAA guys up because we're desperate to have something to root for.

(By all accounts, completely randomly, Bell ended up handling the Greinke situation, something no one could have foreseen, very very well. He did more good there than he could have possibly done by playing Dee Brown or Justin Huber or whomever. Things like this do happen, but its extremely difficult to predict or account for them.)

When the Royals are in a legitimate pennant race, these little nagging managerial things matter. When the Royals are facing off against the Las Vegas Indians in the 2025 ALCS, the little things might matter. Might. I thought Joe Girardi was horrendous last fall. Horrendous. It didn't matter.

Baseball is a team game, a rigidly team game. It always amazes me when a team makes a big in-season trade, and then I read about the impact of the deal on a smart site: the difference between Joe Slightly Below Average and Jack Star, over 90 games, is usually around a game or two in the standings.

So yea, I think, on balance, Trey Hillman cost the Royals a few games. I hated his lineups. Hate what he did with Gil Meche. So he deserved to go. The emotional impact of the firing, yea, it might make a difference for a month or so. And then the players will get frustrated with the losing, and it'll seem like Yost is part of the problem, and he'll get tuned out. Good cop, bad cop, trust the process, good fundamentals, pick up the chairs, whatever. Its interesting for awhile, and then reality sets in.

I think the perfect hire for this team would be someone who doesn't care about his future. Someone who would get out of the way, and maybe sacrifice (perceived) present gains for letting younger players get seasoned. Someone who realizes: "we're gonna lose, this job isn't going to get me anything else, but I don't care." Hillman, someone at the beginning of his career, was, no doubt , a colossally wrong guy for a young, rebuilding, team. I feel for Hillman in a way. He was put in a bad situation, and eventually, he reacted like a guy who wanted a .450 winning percentage over the long term interests of the team. Moore did his guy a disservice, unless we assume that Hillman was never going to get hired by anybody, which I guess is possible.

So we move on to Ned Yost. Trust the Process.