During his pregame news conference on Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium, Royals manager Ned Yost used some form of the word “streak” a dozen or so times in a few moments … and magnificently in this little burst:
“Whenever they go on kind of a streaky little bad streak,” he said, “they always back it up with a really good streaky good streak.”
Yost spoke about this as if it were inevitable because it’s happened before. No asterisk here about how past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Maybe he’ll be proven right on the totality of this premise, making for another patented entry in his ledger of wit and wisdom.
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Alas, right now, only the first part is clear:
The Royals officially are in a streaky little bad streak since they atoned for their abominable 10-20 start by winning 34 of their next 54 to climb to just a half-game out of first place in the American League Central.
As of their demoralizing, lethargic 9-3 loss to the Tigers on Tuesday, they’ve dropped seven of eight to droop to 3 1/2 games out of first pending the result of Cleveland’s late game at San Francisco.
In the process, they’ve given pause even to those of us who had decided that their resurgence was a market correction to what this group really is.
And that still could be exactly the case.
But whatever this regression is about — whether it’s the bends from rising too fast or a letdown after expending so much energy to get back or a team that ultimately isn’t that good or merely the down part of the Yost streak doctrine — the real trouble is it’s coming at precisely the wrong time.
As much as the Royals still stand in the thick of the divisional and wild-card races, as much as they thus appear more apt to buy than sell before the July 31 trade deadline, with every faltering step they further challenge general manager Dayton Moore and his staff in their already-complicated evaluations of how to balance present and future.
If you were to draw up the most confounding scenarios for them with a team carrying so many prominent prospective free agents, it might be something like this: a continuing downbound spiral over the next 10 days that leaves them, say, six games back.
They would in no way be out of it, as you’ll well-remember from the group that was eight games back in the division on July 21, 2014, and went on to take the Giants to Game 7 of the World Series.
But how much would they really be in it?
Would Moore and Co. believe in what’s still possible … or would they just be hoping, really?
Would their conviction be such that they’d stay focused on the immediate over the long-term health of the franchise?
Those questions have hovered over this season from the start.
Naturally. However it plays out, the July 31 cutoff could represent a momentous crossroads in the direction of the organization.
Selling, buying or standing pat, whatever they do, may have ramifications for years to come, so the fluid dynamics in play have seemed ever-present long before any action was imminent.
But with the All-Star break behind, whatever is going to happen is going to happen (or not) about any time now.
That was reinforced on Tuesday, when Detroit slugger J.D. Martinez was in the Tigers’ initial lineup card … only to be traded to Arizona before the game.
With all this percolating in the background, Yost offered some perspective on his perception of the psyche of his team into this pivotal swing.
Even as he acknowledges the trade deadline is “always out there,” he says he doesn’t feel any need to address the obvious with his players.
Just the same, he’s not suggesting that “stuff” isn’t on their minds, either.
In fact, he even embraced a question on the topic that seemed like the sort he’d swat away.
Asked if he thought players were conscious of rallying around each other for one last stand together, Yost was all-in.
“No doubt; I mean, there’s no doubt,” he said. “You sense that greatly inside that locker room, that these guys want one more push together.
“And they don’t know, we don’t know, what’s going to happen (with roster turnover). Dayton has come out and said, ‘Look, we’re going to do whatever we can try to do to keep this group intact.’
“But we just have to play it out, (and) they definitely want to finish their year together and see what they can accomplish.”
So one way or another, Yost knows these weighty matters are front-and-center on the minds of the nucleus of players who have grown up together before your eyes.
But he’s hoping, perhaps with a little prompting, that they can put that to constructive use rather than be burdened by it.
It’s the same reason he says things like “once we do get to the playoffs, there’s no telling what can happen” — also something they’ve demonstrated before.
And that’s also why he figures a “really good streaky good streak” lies ahead, something that the Royals sure could use sooner than later.