Desperate times call for desperate measures — and with the Royals mired in a 4-19 collapse, they pulled off a whopper prior to Thursday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
Hall of Fame slugger George Brett returned to active duty with the organization as one of two hitting coaches in a stunning move aimed at unlocking the club’s flat-lining offense.
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Brett said he accepted the offer, on an interim basis, “out of frustration” when approached in recent days by general manager Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost.
“I feel the same frustration as the players do,” Brett said. “I feel the same frustration as our manager, Ned, and our general manager, Dayton, and our ownership, David and Dan Glass.
“Just frustrated watching night after night after night.
“A couple of nights ago Dayton called after a game and said, ‘What do you think?’ I said, ‘Well, hey, Dayton …’ The next thing you know, Ned calls and says, ‘What do you think about doing this?’ I said, ‘Let me think about it.’
“The next night we lost again, and I just … give it a try. So I’m going to give it a try.”
Brett, 60, will join Pedro Grifol as interim replacements for Jack Maloof and Andre David, who were reassigned to roles within the minor-league organization.
Grifol, 43, is in his first year with the organization and had been assigned to serve as the hitting coach for Surprise in the Arizona Rookie League. He spent the 13 previous seasons in the Seattle organization.
While Brett joined the club prior to Thursday’s game against the Cardinals, Grifol won’t arrive until Friday’s series opener at Texas.
“Change is never easy,” Moore said, “but based on recent events and the expectations for our club, we felt that change was required. George is the perfect guy for where we are right now…
“Timing is everything, and George felt he’s ready to take on this challenge. We talked to him in the past about doing this. We’re just excited he’s ready to go.”
Moore said no other major personnel changes are planned, which should ease the mounting speculation surrounding Yost’s job security.
The players reacted to the coaching switch by expressing disappointment at their failure to produce for Maloof and David but with clear enthusiasm at the prospect of working with Brett.
“It’s George Brett, man,” third baseman Mike Moustakas said. “The guy knows so much baseball, and we’re lucky to have him with us here full-time for right now. It’s going to be great to work with him.”
Brett has served as a vice president of baseball operations since his retirement in 1993. He is the franchise’s all-time hit leader with 3,154 during a 21-year career and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.
The interim tag was Brett’s preference.
“I think I can help these guys,” he said. “Hopefully, I can. I don’t know if I can. When Dayton asked me to do this, I said, ‘Dayton, I’ll do it on an interim basis.’
“These guys might not come to me. I might not be able to connect with them, and I’d hate for Dayton Moore to have to fire me from the Kansas City Royals.”
Brett said he plans to meet again with Moore in a month to assess the situation.
“Hopefully, I’ll be here for a while,” he said. “I’m planning on staying at least a month. Hopefully, more. We’re one good week from turning this thing around. We’re two good games from turning it around.”
Officially, Brett will replace Maloof as the hitting coach, while Grifol gets David’s former title as a special assignment coach. The main distinction is only Brett is permitted to be in uniform during games.
“I spoke to the players already,” Brett said. “I tried to invoke the passion I have for the organization. I’m scared to death right now to be honest with you, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.
“I just want to come and share my life with them. How I got through things like this. How I became a more consistent player. How I became a leader of a ballclub and play with the passion I played with.
The move comes with the Royals ranking 12th in scoring among the 15 American League teams at 3.98 runs per game.
They scored just 16 runs in their current eight-game losing streak and, at 21-29, now occupy last place in the AL Central Division. They were one-half game out of first place, at 17-10, after a May 5 victory over Chicago.
“We’re trying to get this thing turned around,” Yost said. “We’ll do whatever it takes to get it right. Dayton, myself and George...we all feel we’ve got the right kids in that locker room.
“We’ve got the right ingredients, but we’ve got to help them get through it. We’ve got to continue to mentor them. We’ve got to continue to teach them, and we’ve got to continue to grow them up.
“For me, this is the perfect choice. I’m so happy that he’s here. I think he’s a great addition to our staff, and I’m glad, finally, after years and years of asking, he said yes.”
Brett comes to his role with a working knowledge of the club’s personnel after serving as an on-field coach each year in spring training. His approach will be heavier on personal interaction than on video study.
“They’ve just got to have someone they can trust,” he said. “I trusted (former hitting coach) Charley Lau with my heart and soul and, hopefully, these guys will trust me. I’m basically going to be Charley Lau’s ghost.
“There’s going to be a lot of one-on-one conversations on airplanes just like (Lau) had with me in 1974.”