The season is more than half over. In a year in which the Royals needed to overperform a bit, though not nearly as much as usual, in order to make the playoffs they have underperformed their talent. The Marlins, Padres, Athletics, and White Sox are all in position to go to the playoffs but the Royals are behind even the lowly Tigers. And, in true Royal fashion, they’re still not bad enough to be in contention for the number one draft pick. If the season ended today the Royals would receive the fourth-overall pick.
Now that we’re halfway through the season I can say that Mike Matheny has, at least, not been the trainwreck I envisioned at manager. He’s done some interesting things with the bullpen and lineup and I appreciate how much he references statistics and analytics. However, he continues to do two things that make no sense. First of all, he starts Adalberto Mondesi every day. Free of context, that wouldn’t be a terrible thing. But Mondesi has been struggling mightly this entire season. His contact issues have continued to plague him but even his speed and power seem to have left him. The kid could probably use a day or two off.
The other thing that Matheny has done is continue to start Alex Gordon every day. I know Alex had a decent night at the plate last night, but he’s still batting under .200 and walking less than ever. Coming into the year the Royals had three talented but unproven outfielders that deserved to get a long, hard look. Instead Gordon has started 27 of the 33 games and Brett Phillips was traded for a mediocre prospect after starting in only eight games, Bubba Starling has started in only seven, and Franchy Cordero got into seven before hitting the IL for the rest of the year. Even if none of those guys were the answer it made a heck of a lot more sense to start them over Alex Gordon just to make sure. And, even if the Royals are concerned only with fielding the team most likely to win right now that would almost certainly involve Ryan McBroom playing in left field more nights than not.
I suppose no manager is perfect and if we rooted for a different team we’d have similar gripes about whoever managed there. It’s just exhausting to watch a shell of Alex Gordon flail helplessly right before Adalberto Mondesi swings at three pitches nowhere near the strike zone and kills yet another rally.
Still, today is another day. Perhaps those two players will surprise me.