The best way to change the Royals’ skidding fortunes, manager Ned Yost contends, is not to change anything.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
“What you try to do is to stay as steady as possible,” he said. “You don’t do crazy stuff that you wouldn’t do if you were winning ballgames. You try to stay as even-keeled as you can. You stay positive. You keep working. We don’t change anything.
“We don’t work more. We don’t work less. When we’re going good, we work a lot. We try to maintain the same pace when things are going bad as when things are going good. We stay positive. We stay encouraging. We work the same.”
It’s easier said than done – especially in guiding a team brimming with youthful talent that now finds itself anchored in the American League Central Division basement after 21 losses in its last 27 games.
Yost admitted he often spends postgame hours analyzing what he could have done, or should have done, differently – or what he might do differently in preparation for the next day’s game.
The answer, usually, is nothing. He then shifts gears toward preparation for the next game.
“You try not to portray any type of panic or disappointment,” Yost said, “even though it’s disappointing the way we’ve played. Our mind-set can’t be on the last (four) weeks. That will drag you down because the last (four) weeks have been horrible.
“Your focus when you come in each day is we’re going to play hard, we’re going to perform, we’re going to get the job done and we’re going to start a streak.”
Yost said his other emphasis is to keep a keen eye on his young players to gauge their reaction to the growing disappointments.
“When things are going bad,” he said, “you’re really watching to see that guys are showing up with the same intensity every day. And they are. It’s the same or more. It’s a group where I’ve been proud of their focus and their intensity every single day.
“If you see signs of guys starting to get discouraged, where they take it into the game, they’ve got to come out of the lineup. But we haven’t seen that. Our guys all show up ready to go.”
The Royals’ woeful 1-6 trek through Anaheim and Seattle couldn’t obscure Billy Butler’s big week. He was picked as the American League player of the week for the fourth time in his career.
Butler went 11 for 24 and led all AL players with a .552 on-base percentage while tying for first in hits, tying for second in batting average and doubles, tying for third in walks and total bases and fourth in slugging percentage.
His last award came roughly one year ago when he shared the honor with Los Angeles pitcher Ervin Santana for the week of July 25-31, 2011.
Butler is the first Royals player to win the award this season. In addition to last season, he won the award for the weeks of Sept. 7-13, 2009 and Aug. 3-9, 2009.
Others who received votes for their play last week: Chicago first baseman Paul Konerko, Baltimore infielder Omar Quintanilla, Minnesota outfielder Denard Span and pitcher Scott Diamond, Texas pitcher Scott Feldman and Seattle pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen.
Butler will receive a watch from Game Time in recognition for his award.
Something to keep in mind as the minutes click down Tuesday to the 3 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline: The Royals, under general manager Dayton Moore, show an inclination to pull a late trigger.
The Royals made a July 31 deal in three of the previous six years; and a July 30 deal in two of the other three years. Here’s a breakdown:
2006: Sent pitchers Jeremy Affeldt and Denny Bautista on July 31 to Colorado for first baseman Ryan Shealy and pitcher Scott Dohmann; also sent first baseman/outfielder Matt Stairs to Texas on July 31 for pitcher Josélo Diaz.
2007: Sent pitcher Octavio Dotel to Atlanta on July 31 for pitcher Kyle Davies.
2009: Acquired outfielder Josh Anderson on July 30 from Detroit for cash considerations.
2010: Sent outfielder Rick Ankiel and pitcher Kyle Farnsworth to Atlanta on July 31 for outfielder Gregor Blanco and pitchers Tim Collins and Jesse Chavez.
2011: Sent infielder Mike Aviles to Boston on July 30 for infielder Yamaico Navarro and pitcher Kendal Volz.
The Royals had two minor-league players cited for their performances last week in short-season leagues.
Burlington third baseman Patrick Leonard was picked as the player of the week in the Appalachian League, while Idaho Falls lefty Sam Selman was picked as the pitcher of the week in the Pioneer League.
Leonard, 19, was nine for 22 in six games with two homers and nine RBIs. He was the Royals’ fifth-round pick in the 2011 draft.
Selman, 21, pitched six shutout innings in his only start – a 10-2 victory at Great Falls – in improving to 4-0 while lowering his ERA to 1.67 through seven games. He was the Royals’ second-round pick in this year’s draft.
It was 40 years ago Tuesday – July 31, 1972 – that Amos Otis became the first player in Royals’ history to record a straight steal of home. It came against Nolan Ryan and produced the only run in a 1-0 victory at California.
Otis led off the fourth inning with a walk. Ryan appeared to have Otis picked off, but committed a throwing error that enabled Otis to reach third.
Ryan then struck out Ed Kirkpatrick and retired Lou Piniella on a grounder back to the mound before Otis stole home – with Big John Mayberry, a left-handed hitter, at the plate.
Roger Nelson threw a three-hit shutout for the victory.