Billy Butler has been with the Royals for seven years, long enough to know that you can expect heads to roll when the losses pile up.
From that standpoint, he wasn’t surprised to see the Royals replace hitting coaches Jack Maloof and Andre David with Hall of Famer George Brett on Thursday in an effort to spark a sputtering offensive attack.
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“It’s never good to be changing hitting coaches,” Butler said, “but it’s not working, and maybe we need a different voice. That’s unfortunate. We’re 50 games into the season, and we’re making a change. That falls directly on us as players. We’re the reason why it’s happening.
“You struggle long enough, and they’re going to make a change. I’ve seen a lot a change, and I’ve never seen change for a good reason.”
That said, you can count Butler among the players who hope Brett’s overall confidence and pedigree rubs off them in time to save their season. The Royals entered Thursday in last place in the American League Central at 21-29.
“Everybody respects George for obvious reasons, for what he did in his playing days and his personality,” Butler said. “He brings that confidence with him, and I think that’s what all of our players need to have. We need to get some confidence from him and listen to what he says. He did it, and he knows what he’s talking about.”
The Royals, clearly, are hoping that statement is doubly true for 24-year old Mike Moustakas and 23-year old Eric Hosmer, two franchise cornerstones who have had their share of difficulties this season.
“We’ve seen those guys when they’re hot,” Brett said before the Royals were scheduled to play the Cardinals on Thursday. “They’re as good as a lot of major-league players who are making a lot of money. When you have a whole team go south, guess what? Everybody starts pressing a little bit, and you try to do more than you’re capable of doing.”
Entering Thursday’s game, Hosmer was batting .262 and faring much better than Moustakas, who was batting .187. But neither has shown much power, with Moustakas tallying four home runs in 43 games and Hosmer tallying just one in 48 games.
“You try to stretch the strike zone sometimes,” Brett said. “You get out of whack, out of sorts. And basically, (I’m) just going to try to get them in a comfort range where they can go out and have fun, be selective and drive the ball.
“I know one thing: We need Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer to swing the bat well if we’re going to contend.”
Both Moustakas and Hosmer spoke highly of Brett on Thursday.
“When he’s around the cage, he’s expressing what he thinks we should be doing — his ideas — but he doesn’t push them upon you, he doesn’t make you do things,” Moustakas said. “It’s just an idea. That helps you to get better as a player. It’s going to be awesome having him around … you can’t say enough good things about that guy.”
Hosmer summed up his previous experiences working with Brett more simply.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s George Brett,” Hosmer said with a laugh. “Sometimes you come back from the cage and realize you just hit with George Brett.
“We all followed his career and know how good of a hitter he is so I think finally getting some insight from him in live, game situations instead of spring training is (a good thing).”
Somewhat lost, however, in the intrigue surrounding Brett’s return are the fates of David and Maloof, who have each been reassigned within the organization. Moustakas was one of several players who expressed sympathy for both, while looking toward to the future.
“Jack and Andre can’t go up there and hit for us,” Moustakas said. “They physically can’t do it. It’s on us, and we just weren’t getting the job done as players. So someone had to make a move, something had to happen. Unfortunately, it was those guys. We’re going to miss them. They’re great coaches. I got to know them real well in the minor leagues. But things happen. You’ve got to adapt and overcome.
“We’re fortunate that we get to have Hall of Famer George Brett come in and be our hitting coach. We’re all excited about that and to get going.”