Royals aren’t handling Mike Moustakas situation the right way


05/13/2014 10:02 PM

05/16/2014 3:08 PM

Well, the Royals are handling their biggest current problem of a critical season with all the grace of a fat kid on ice skates.

You know the situation. Mike Moustakas, the first official draft pick of general manager Dayton Moore’s time with the Royals, is hitting .147. After Sunday’s game, manager Ned Yost said the team would consider sending Moustakas to Omaha in an effort to unlock his potential. On Tuesday, the Royals instead put Omar Infante on the disabled list and recalled Pedro Ciriaco.

There is genuine disagreement within the organization about this. Some think team and player would be better off with Moustakas in Omaha. Others remain loyal to Moustakas’ talent. For now, loyalty is winning out. That’s fine. Someone has to win the argument.

But the internal disagreement is showing itself in an organization response that is, to be wildly charitable, disjointed.

In a sentence: Yost is hinting at confidence issues, Moore is blaming a lack of better options, and Moustakas is choosing glassy-eyed optimism.

From Yost: “He’s a guy that has very little room for error in his mind on what he wants to accomplish.”

From Moore: “I’ve said many, many times, you have to have alternatives.”

From Moustakas: “I’m going to go out there and get four hits one day, four the next day, and nobody’s going to be thinking about this anymore.”

Now, some perspective. The Royals are 19-19, even through a rotten stretch from the offense and injuries to two key pitchers and the center fielder. They are not where they want to be, but certainly not so far away that they can’t get there. A good pitching staff and very good defense make them one of the game’s best teams at preventing runs. You can win games like that.

So it’s OK to have struggles. There are no perfect teams and no perfect players. Just teams that maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses better than others. Just players who are better at prolonging their hot streaks and shortening their slumps better than others.

But the pressing matter for the moment is that the Royals are doing nothing new to fix the problem.

They’ve platooned Moustakas. He continues to put in extra work, but the results aren’t changing, and hitting coach Pedro Grifol has said they’ve “exhausted every possible scenario to get him locked in.” They have opened his stance, then closed it back a bit, moved his hands and talked about pitch selection until their throats go dry.

And the results aren’t changing.

The alternative, of course, is to give Moustakas some time in Omaha. If part of the problem is mental — and there are plenty of rival scouts who agree with Yost’s insinuation that part of it is mental — it might help to be away from the pressure and daily grind of the big leagues. If Moustakas is right and he just needs to see some good results, maybe it would help to go rake minor-league pitching for a few weeks.

Either way, Moore’s point about not having a better alternative falls flat against the fact that virtually


is a better alternative than an already stretched-thin offense carrying a .147 hitter.

The point here is that the Royals show no sign of finding a real fix, in part because there is no agreement on what the problem is, or even how big a problem it is.

“Mike Moustakas was projected to be the seven- or eight-hole hitter when the season began,” Moore said at one point.

“To ask us to cover a guy you’re expecting to be a big-time run producer is a difficult challenge,” he said at another point.

At least for now, the Royals are basically using hope and denial, shutting their eyes and covering their ears and making loud noises until things improve, whenever that is.

The problem isn’t Moustakas being one of the worst-five everyday hitters in baseball so far this season as much as it is the Royals not doing anything new to address it.

After the reporters had asked their last question before Tuesday’s game, Moore put a smile on his face and showed a sarcastic side he usually hides in group settings.

“Anyone want to talk about our bullpen? Or talk about our starting pitching? Is there anything good about this team right now?”

He shouldn’t have said that, of course. He shouldn’t have fed the growing fan sentiment that the Royals want to be rewarded for ordinary results. But he does have a point, that there are some positive parts of this season.

What he doesn’t see is that fans would spend more time talking about that if they felt like the team was doing a better job addressing the negative parts.


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