Royals manager Ned Yost on the bullpen and White Sox
After losing the first game of their series against the Chicago White Sox, the Royals have now lost five games in a row and are 2-9 in the month of August.
All teams, even good ones, have bad streaks.
And when a team is in a bad streak, members of that team are likely to shrug their shoulders and say what can you do about it; that’s baseball.
It’s as if winning or losing is out of their control; they just have to wait until the Gods of Baseball decide to let them start winning again, they just have to wait until the breaks go their way.
And to some degree that’s true; there’s an awful lot of luck – good and bad – that determines the outcome of games, but it’s not all luck. Teams that are winning tend to do the little stuff right and teams that are losing tend to play sloppy baseball.
And in this current bad streak, the Royals have played sloppy baseball.
The Royals need to control what they can
You don’t worry about things like cats running on the field and the poorly-located sinker that followed; that is baseball and you don’t control it.
So what can you expect to control?
At the top of that list you’d find walks and errors; big league pitchers should be able to throw strikes and big league fielders need to make the routine plays.
Assuming I counted right, in this five-game losing streak the Royals have walked 23 batters and made eight errors. They’ve also had one wild pitch, two passed balls and hit three batters.
During this streak of sloppy baseball, we’ve seen a pitcher fail to cover first base and home, a pitcher out of position on play at the plate, a blown rundown and a base runner picked off because he lost track of the count.
Those are things the Royals should have been able to control, but didn’t.
Why you have to admit fault
If a player makes a mistake and won’t admit it, he’s unlikely to change; why should he?
He just got unlucky and the result was not his fault.
The same goes for teams; if they say a losing streak is the result of bad luck, they have no motivation to fix mistakes, clean things up and be accountable. After all, losing was just bad luck and that’s not something they control.
Now here are a couple pertinent quotes about luck:
"The more I practice, the luckier I get."
"Luck is the residue of design."
The first quote is attributed to numerous golfers; the second quote comes from either John Milton or Branch Rickey, and since Milton was born in 1608 and died in 1674, I’d put my money on John.
Despite the uncertainty of the quotes’ origin, there’s not much doubt of their veracity.
Good teams take care of the little stuff and when they do something wrong, they correct it so they don’t make the same mistake again; when bad teams do something wrong they blame it on bad luck and just keeping making the same mistakes.
The Royals need to be the exploiters, not the exploited
In recent years Royals fans have seen their team pressure the opposition into making mistakes and then exploiting those mistakes. For the past few years, this has been part of the Royals’ winning formula.
But recently, the Royals are the ones making mistakes and the ones being exploited; if they want to get back on a winning streak, that needs to change.
After a loss, players and managers know how to talk to the media; they won’t throw a teammate or player under the bus, they won’t say we could have won if our pitcher remembered to cover first base.
But after the media leaves the clubhouse, those things not only might get said; they better get said.
Staying in your lane, refusing to speak critically about how your team is playing, is how you keep making the same mistakes. Nobody wants to be the bad guy, so nothing gets said and nothing gets fixed and the team keeps playing sloppy baseball.
We’ll never hear what gets said behind closed doors, but we can see how the Royals play on the field; we can watch them play and see if some of their recent mistakes get fixed.
And those mistakes need to get fixed quickly; the season is winding down, the Royals don’t have much room for error and this losing streak is not all bad luck.