Disclaimer: This post is more or less a free association of grievances that have developed and will continue developing for the foreseeable future. Apologies are made for the incoherency of what follows; an attempt to expel the unexpellable.
Tyler Drenon wrote recently, and quite aptly, that this team has issues. A lot of issues:
It's an accepted defect for what can be an otherwise delectable experience. You can definitely cut out the sand vein and make the experience a little better -- even if it's only a psychological improvement -- but for a lot of people, if you want some tasty shrimp, it's alright if there's a lil bitta shit in there.
That's kind of like the consumption of the Kansas City Royals' product in way. They might bring you some joy, but you'll probably have to swallow a lot of their crud if you wanna get to the good parts.
And he's right. Dayton Moore is still a problem. Ned Yost is still a problem. It's easy to choke it down when you're riding high. When you struggle, though, everyone circles up and points at everyone else's mistakes, of which there are many. Omar Infante continues to play with a bum shoulder. Salvador Perez is severely struggling in the second half of the season. Mike Moustakas is still a thing, and has actually outproduced Salvador Perez in the second half of the season. Since the All-Star Break:
Salvador Perez: .226/.232/.326, five home runs, nine doubles, two walks
Mike Moustakas: .238/.283/.379, five home runs, eight doubles, nine walks
One of them couldn't buy an off-day. The other is playing better, which is to say, not quite as awfully.
On top of this, the Royals luck in terms of injuries is starting to wear off. Danny Duffy is on the shelf, Greg Holland has a thing, though his availability the last two nights seems to have been subject to whether or not the Royals needed him. For his benefit, they did not.
The offensive deficiencies are well-documented, and yet the general tone from One Royal Way seems to be that everything's fine, that this is how they drew it up. There's no reason to panic.
And maybe there isn't. The Royals are, after all, in first place still. Sort of.
But in watching the last two games, there has been a clear dichotomy between how each team, Tigers and Royals, have approached these games. It isn't just that Detroit was more prepared, or the fact that they are, frankly, a better team.
Kansas City, over the last two games, has looked like a team with an inferior approach to the game. Detroit grinds through at-bats. They make pitchers work. They take strikes. In terms of contrasting ideologies, the differences could not be more apparent.
In a particular inning last night, the Royals accomplished a feat that only they are capable of:
The #Royals get two hits, strike out twice, and leave them stranded on twelve pitches total. Simply stunning.— Joshua Ward (@JoshuaKWard) September 9, 2014
That is a problem. Being a contact team is not, but when your overall strategy is "swing early, swing often," you are going to run into problems like this, particularly against good pitching, where they will stay out of the zone, give you nothing to look at, and let you swing yourself into oblivion.
It was a week from now, on September 16th, that Ned Yost was fired as the head coach of the Milwaukee Brewers and replaced by Dale Sveum. I'm assuming for things like this. Or quotes like this:
Yost on moving Omar from No. 2: "It’s kind of dumb to start doing that . . when we’ve gone on such a good run w/ the lineup the way it is."— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) September 9, 2014
That good run includes a two week stretch in which the Royals have scored two or fewer runs in eight of the last eleven games, with a second baseman whose on-base percentage is making fans misty-eyed for the heady days of Chris Getz:
2014 Omar: .254/.290/.346 2012 Getz: .275/.312/.360— JT (@TarH2O23) September 10, 2014
Contemplate that on the tree of woe, and come to terms with the fact the Royals, who are tied for first place, are trotting out sub-Getzian production in the two-hole every night, along with a pair of Getzes at four and eight as well.
People talk about teams looking too tense, too tight. That they need to stay relaxed and even. My outside observation of this team is that maybe they are staying too relaxed, content with one outcome or another. It's a very Zen type of commitment. Outside of Alex Gordon and the pitching staff, no one else seems particularly concerned about the recent struggles, or committed to doing much about it.
There's a very good chance that all of that is hogwash. Considering there is absolutely no access to the clubhouse, it is only speculation to think that way.
Then again, certain actions and comments make you think otherwise. Take, for instance, things like this:
Dyson said "I can't worry about the infield" when asked about Kinsler being at the bag. "I just lost my focus" I thought he said after.— The Program (@theprogramkc) September 10, 2014
In the biggest moment of his career, standing in enemy territory, when everyone knows that his first mission is to steal third base, Jarrod Dyson lost his focus.
Last night's game was a dissertation on the postulation of good versus evil. At least we play it that way. The problem is, I'm not so sure the good guys didn't win.
Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch wants to win. He has dedicated the last few years towards one goal: a World Series win. He has dumped money into his team, and relied on general manager Dave Dombrowski to make the moves necessary to accomplish such a feat. We can write all day about budgets and monetary constraints and market size, but the simple truth is that Detroit is, or has been, better at what they do.
This is just the team we root for. A broken, flawed, imperfect-beyond-repair collection of individuals strapped in blue and white and set against a foe with a better roster, better management, and ownership more committed to winning. It is hard to root for a team that is the antithesis of everything you have come to understand about the best way to win baseball games simply on the grounds of geographical convenience.
I'm still here. I'll still be here. I couldn't cut the Royals out of me if I tried. I'm just not sure the wrong team won last night.
So now what?