Judging the Royals

The Royals have to start playing better — now

Third base umpire Cory Blaser called out Kansas City Royals third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert at third base during Monday’s game.
Third base umpire Cory Blaser called out Kansas City Royals third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert at third base during Monday’s game. jsleezer@kcstar.com

A while back I had a doctor’s appointment and it was politely suggested that I could stand to lose some weight; I waddled over to the doctor and promised I would. At my next doctor’s appointment I was told I’d gained 7 pounds. To me, the answer was obvious: there had to be something wrong with the doctor’s scales.

An alternative theory is that I eat too much and don’t exercise enough.

Since covering the Royals I’ve put on weight, and I like to blame the food in the pressbox; they feed us like we’re going to the electric chair in the morning. But the truth is, nobody is putting a gun to my head and forcing me to eat slices of chocolate cake so big and dense you’d have to put a jeep in 4-wheel drive if you wanted to run over one.

So if I’m going to accomplish my goal, I’ve gotta quit kidding myself; it’s on me and nobody else — and right now, the same is true of the Royals.

Ian Kennedy and those four home runs

On Wednesday afternoon, Ian Kennedy gave up four home runs and seven earned runs; as you might imagine, the Royals lost the game. Afterward, Kennedy said he was falling behind in the count and the Indians made him pay for it —– which isn’t totally accurate.

The first home run by Jason Kipnis was hit in a 3-1 count (throw a guy a fastball in a fastball count and don’t be surprised if he hits that fastball a long way). But the other three home runs were given up when Kennedy was ahead in the count.

Tyler Naquin homered on an 0-1 curve, Carlos Santana homered on a 2-2 fastball (the count might be even, but the pitcher can afford to throw a ball and the hitter can’t afford to take a strike) and Mike Napoli homered on a 1-2 fastball.

These are all counts in which Kennedy could have forced the hitters to chase marginal pitches, but instead the hitters were getting pitches good enough to hit out of the park.

Soria and that walk-off homer

A couple days earlier, Joakim Soria gave up a walk-off home run to Detroit’s Jarrod Saltalamacchia and later said it was a good pitch. When someone hits a baseball over 400 feet there’s a decent chance the pitch wasn’t that good. Soria also said he was trying to pitch inside and that’s something you don’t do late in a tie game or in extra innings. Everyone’s trying to pull the ball and end it with one swing; make them hit the ball to the opposite field and beat you with three singles.

So the Royals have suffered two losses when their pitchers went away from the fundamentals; when you’re ahead in the count don’t give the hitter anything good to hit and late in a tie ballgame don’t pitch inside.

The Royals are still a very good team, but don’t have enough talent to overcome ignoring the fundamentals.

The Royals need to play better and they need to do it now

In his postgame news conference after Wednesday’s loss, manager Ned Yost was asked if Thursday’s visit to the White House might remind them the team of what they accomplished last year and inspire them to play better. The follow-up question might have been about Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy; I couldn’t tell you because after that first question my mind went elsewhere.

Specifically, I was thinking about what Mike Jirschele said when I asked him what the team needed to do during this crucial run to the trading deadline. Jirschele had a simple answer: “Play better.”

Last season when Johnny Cueto scuffled, plenty of fans though the Royals should bench him, cut him or at least send him to Siberia. But the Royals couldn’t do any of those things. They had no option — they just flat-out needed Cueto to pitch better and eventually (with the help of Dave Eiland) he did.

Unless David Glass and Dayton Moore have some move in mind that they’ve neglected to tell me about, the cavalry is not coming. The Royals just need the guys they have to play better and, in some cases, smarter.

They can’t pitch inside late in games, they can’t make the first out at third base, they can’t chase marginal pitches when ahead in the count, they can’t watch those same pitches go by when they have two strikes and they can’t throw fat pitches when ahead in the count. They’re running out of time; the Royals need to play better and they need to do it now.

And now that I’ve solved the Royals problems, I’m going to work on my own; I plan on exercising more and eating less.

Right after I finish that piece of chocolate cake.

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