As you have undoubtedly heard, the Kansas City Royals demoted hitting coaches Jack Maloof and Andre David to the minor leagues and hired George Brett as the interim hitting coach, with Pedro Grifo serving as special assistant. The team announced the moves on Thursday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the infamous Maloof comments.
Dayton Moore told the media that "this is the last move we are making," so anyone hoping for sweeping changes should be disappointed. Still, the Royals brain trust is at least acknowledging that something is wrong with the 2013 edition of the offense. The hiring of George Brett, to me, looks more like a public relations move than a serious attempt to improve the team and gives off a sense of desperation from the front office.
I've never been impressed with Moore's ability to assemble a competent major league roster, but he has proven that he can handle the media fairly well. He has had a few gaffes, but for the most part his relations with the media have been positive. GMDM has not elicited the some anger from members of the Kansas City media that former Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli did despite an equally unimpressive track record.
This move looks like a media savvy decision, as it helps the team regain control of the narrative and buy some more time for the offense to turn around. Moore and company have normally been able to spin whatever story they want to tell, but Yost's comments about corporal punishments and Maloof's expectation to lead the league in fewest home runs could not be explained away. Fans and members of the media were rightfully crushing the team on social media and talk radio, quickly turning a once hopeful season into another punchline.
The Brett hiring turned people's attention away from the general insanity and has caused many fans to regain some level of hope that the offense will turn it around. Now, there are a section of people who are skeptical about the impact Brett will actually have with the young offense and don't think the move will have bring the team back in contention. But I think we consist of the minority of Royals fans; most are so enamored with Brett that they believe he can turn things around, or at least willing to give him a chance.
Those in favor of the decision talk about the credibility that the Hall of Famer will bring to the clubhouse. Every person who talked about Brett on sports radio only had glowing remarks about his demeanor and attitude. They also talked about his personal success as a hitter, and what a privilege it will be for the Royals young hitters to learn former third baseman.
While it probably won't hurt to have a former player as successful as Brett with the team, I have a hard time imagining his impact as anything other than minimal. The ability to drive a baseball successfully and the ability to teach others that same ability are two different skills that aren't necessarily related. Brett obviously knew how to optimize his swing to achieve success on offense, but we shouldn't assume he can do the same with others.
Brett doesn't need to help fix every hitter in the lineup; if Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer start to show improvement in the next month at the plate, many will call for the Royals to build a second statue for the best player in team history outside the stadium. The corner infielders still have serious potential; the hope is that Brett can help them unlock it.
Of course, if all the two players needed was a little coaching from George Brett to turn into superstars, they probably would already be successful hitters at this point in their careers. Brett has seen obviously interacted with the players in spring training; if he noticed something mechanically wrong with their swing, he could have helped them fix it then.
Brett's hiring is all about bringing more leadership into the clubhouse. He should have plenty of credibility, and could theoretically help hold players accountable if they continue to struggle.
Even though that sounds like a positive development, it should raise some serious questions about what has been going on with the team's offense. Do Jeff Francoeur and Miguel Tejada not bring enough leadership to the team to justify their spots on the 25 man roster? Are the team's struggling hitters unable to motivate themselves to make improvements? Why has the team hired three different head hitting coaches in under a year?
This move looks like an act of desperation from Moore. The team is simply out of ideas on how to improve the team's production on offense, and is hoping that Brett can work some magic with players they were expecting to contribute in a big way. It's possible that the team's Hail Mary will work, but I think replacing the players who are struggling with quality players would have a much bigger impact than bringing in more leadership and hoping that it rubs off.
The move did satiate the bloodlust for the majority of fans, and I imagine most will give Brett a month or two working with the players to see if they will turn around. Few will blame the Hall of Famer if the offense continues to struggle; the attitude will be "If Brett can't fix them, then nobody can."
So those of us who want a complete overhaul of the regime will have to wait some more, as the team is getting every opportunity to prove that it can compete this season. While it was nice to see the Royals make some change, I have a hard time believing it will make much of an impact. The team has restored some of their credibility in the eyes of the fanbase, but will need to start winning to restore faith in the process.