On Friday afternoon the Royals announced that Raul Mondesi had been sent to Omaha. On Friday night Whit Merrifield replaced Mondesi in the lineup and went 2 for 4. But even with an improved offensive performance from their second baseman, the Royals still lost to the Texas Rangers 6-2.
As Ned Yost tried to explain to us, Mondesi isn’t the problem.
The Royals always knew Mondesi might struggle at the plate for a while, but they figured his glove would help them win games and the rest of the lineup could cover for his offense while Mondesi figured things out.
The problem was and is the rest of the lineup.
In basketball one guy can make a difference; put LeBron James on just about any NBA team and that team will probably be competitive. You can keep the ball in LeBron’s hands as much as possible and when he isn’t scoring he can serve as a distraction while his teammates do.
Doesn’t work that way in baseball; one guy does not make or break a team.
A great starting pitcher only gets to throw once every five days, a great reliever only makes a difference if his teammates hand him a lead, a great hitter only gets four, maybe five trips to the plate and a great defender doesn’t matter unless a ball is hit in his direction.
So if Mondesi wasn’t the problem, why send him to Omaha?
If the original game plan was to let Mondesi fly under the radar and get comfortable while his teammates took the heat off him, the original game plan didn’t work. His teammates have not performed up to expectations, so Mondesi’s offense became an issue.
And you can only let a young player take so much of a beating before his confidence is shot.
So Mondesi is in Omaha and for a while some combination of Merrifield, Christian Colon and Cheslor Cuthbert will play second base. None of them have Mondesi’s range or arm so they’ll need to hit to make up the difference.
But unless the rest of the lineup starts hitting, a different second baseman won’t fix things.
Cheslor Cuthbert’s missed pop up
I can’t remember what season it was, but one night Alex Gordon missed a low line drive hit in his direction. The next day I found outfield coach Rusty Kuntz and asked if Gordon had been blinded by the lights (which, by the way, sounds like a pretty good title for a pop song).
Rusty said maybe I ought to assume that when a big league ballplayer whiffs on a catchable ball there’s a reason.
I’m not in Texas so I can’t ask why, but Friday night Cheslor Cuthbert whiffed on a high pop up in the seventh inning.
So I’m following Rusty’s advice and guessing the wind was blowing pretty good about then – a storm came in before the game was over – and that had something to do with Cuthbert’s missing the ball.
Generally speaking, big league ballplayers do not completely miss catchable pop flies.
Why Rusty Kuntz almost got drilled by a foul ball
Let’s say you’re a first base coach and a hitter sends a screaming line drive your way. If the screaming line drive is just to your right, your instinct will be to move to your left.
But line drives tend to hook and that move to your left will put you right in the ball’s path; it feels like a guided missile that has your name on it.
So on Friday night when a foul line drive was hit in Rusty Kuntz’ direction he almost moved into it and at the last split-second dropped to the ground to avoid getting nailed.
Rusty loves to talk baseball and I’ve learned a lot from him. So if he gets whacked in the coconut, I’m the one who will get dumber.
Rusty, next time go right.