If you watched Thursday night’s Royals game, you know there wasn’t a lot to write home about. Danny Duffy was up in the zone for the first three innings and the Boston Red Sox scored four runs before he got the problem fixed. Wade Miley was down in the zone and the Royals hitters did not do a lot with those pitches.
After the game Ned Yost refused to blame fatigue for his team’s loss. The Royals had a rain delay and a long game the night before in Cincinnati and did not get to their hotel until 6 a.m. Thursday . Even if a manager thinks it’s true, it’s considered bad form to blame a loss on fatigue. It sounds like an excuse and diminishes the other team’s accomplishment: “We would have beaten you if we weren’t so tired.”
And to be honest, some ballplayers manage to get to their hotel at 6 a.m. without a long game the night before.
Anyway, the Royals lost 4-1 and the game was not overly interesting until Joel Goldberg did some sideline reporting (not sure it’s called that when you do it in baseball — I’ll ask Joel when he gets back) that included a conversation with Boston’s DH, David Ortiz.
Apparently, Big Papi told Joel that the Royals should be congratulated for their success and the patience that made that success possible. Ortiz said that would never happen in Boston: fans and the media are too impatient. Boston fans wouldn’t want to wait for Alcides Escobar to hit, for Mike Moustakas to figure out there’s a left side of the field or for Eric Hosmer to learn that swinging harder doesn’t always mean hitting the ball farther.
But even though Ortiz complimented Kansas City fans on their patience, it wasn’t very long ago that some fans and media members wanted Dayton Moore fired.
A baseball tradition: Fire someone to appease the fan base
Every season some general manager, manager or coach gets fired, not because they’ve done anything wrong; they get fired to appease the fan base and the guys in the media who get the fan base stirred up.
I once heard a story about a manager being called into his GM’s office and being told: “It’s me or you and it ain’t me.” The team wasn’t winning and someone had to be sacrificed.
And if a team isn’t winning there’s a good chance they’re not scoring many runs, so hitting coaches are often a popular target; show the fans you mean business, fire the guy responsible for the offense — that’ll buy everyone else some time.
When George Brett was brought in as the Royals hitting coach, Ned Yost’s firing seemed like a real possibility and people were openly discussing who the next manager might be. The Royals brought in Brett, the media reacted like a German Shepard that had just seen a squirrel run by and everyone turned their attention in that direction long enough for the team to pull it together and save Ned’s job.
Want more evidence?
Since Ned Yost has been manager he’s fired all kinds of coaches. He’s gone through hitting coaches, the pitching coach, base coaches and bench coaches. Firing a coach buys a losing team time: fans and the media feel like the team is doing something to improve — even though the next coach might be worse than the guy who just got fired — and everyone waits for the dust to settle to see how things work out. In the meantime, maybe the team will put a few wins together and nobody else will have to walk the plank.
But all those Yost firings came when the Royals were losing. Now the team is winning and no coaches are getting fired. I guess you could argue that the Royals finally got the right coaches, but no one in baseball would argue with the idea that coaches sometimes get fired to buy time for everyone else.
If the Royals don’t win, some fans will turn on them
The other day a co-worker wanted to know how I thought the Royals would do in the playoffs. I said we ought to be happy that the Royals are even in the playoffs and the coworker said we probably should be happy, but it wasn’t going to be enough.
So we’ve gotten spoiled that fast?
A team that hadn’t been in the playoffs since the Truman Administration goes to game seven of the World Series and now they need to win the whole thing or we’re going to be unhappy?
Mark my words (which would be a lot easier if my words were on paper): if the Royals don’t win a World Series championship, someone is going to say: Dayton Moore/Ned Yost (you pick the name) is good enough to get the Royals to the playoffs, but not good enough to win the whole thing.
We can still screw things up if we complain enough
I don’t believe fans should blindly support a badly-run team. For too many years the Royals appeared satisfied to lose games and make money. Fans should not have to pay good money to see bad baseball — especially at the big-league level. But by now it should be clear that under Dayton Moore the Royals have made great strides forward. Some fans ridiculed the “process” but it’s now clear the process worked.
I have no idea whether the process will result in a World Series championship, but it’s clear the process has produced a winning team that plays good baseball and compelling games. And after watching so much bad baseball, I’m pretty happy with that. In my opinion, if the Royals do not go all the way, it’s still been a very good season.
Last year the Royals were not the best team in the American League, they were just the hottest team at playoff time. This year another team could get hot and knock the Royals out of the postseason. And if that happens, it doesn’t necessarily mean people need to be fired.
But if the Royals lose early in the playoffs, some of the people wearing blue and chanting “Let’s go Royals” are going to be unhappy and demand some kind of action. The Royals are on a good run, but if this season ends with a loss and we complain enough, we can still get someone fired who may not deserve it.
And in the process, we might screw up the process.