By In Stuff

Another Royals Power Update

OK, so, I’ve been around the Kansas City Royals a long time, and because of this I usually see things coming. Losing streaks. Illogical decisions. Ridiculous statements. They’re usually not too hard to anticipate once you know what you are looking for. However, I have to admit that the last few days of Royals baseball has kind of blindsided me. I think it’s because I broke my cardinal rule of watching Royals baseball, a rule best verbalized by Buddy Bell: Things can always get worse.

I really believed that this Royals team was different from years past. That was probably Mistake No. 1. But I did believe it. No, I did not really think the Royals were going to be winners this year — I picked them as a playoff team more as a lark than anything else — but I did think they would be different. I saw a Royals team with viable starting pitchers, which is not something I’ve been able to say in almost 20 years. I saw a Royals bullpen with great arms — not good arms, but great ones, 100-mph arms, 12- or 13-strikeout per nine inning arms. I saw a young Royals lineup anchored by big talents — Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, I mean, just about every scout loved those guys.

I saw a Royals team that realistically could hold their own. They seemed to me to have a legitimate shot at being .500, and, with some luck, maybe even slightly better than that. They played great ball all spring and they started the year 17-10. No, they obviously were not going to play .625 baseball all year. But, all signs pointed upward, and I think that’s when I let my guard down and forgot that these are still the Kansas City Royals.

The slide really did begin on the day Royals manager Ned Yost pulled James Shields for no apparent reason after he threw eight innings of two-hit shutout ball. I’m not saying that’s WHY the slide started, but I am staying that’s when it started. The Royals led 1-0 going into the ninth there, and Shields was yanked because, as Yost said, he could only win it or lose it. The bullpen blew the game. They lost again the next night, and again the night after that, and, well, to save the suspense, the Royals are 4-19 since that day.

But, as you know, the amazing part has been the astonishing lack of power, which has set off a bizarre chain reaction that is so Kansas City Royals, they should have it trademarked. Here you go:

Step 1: The Royals go 14 straight games (and counting) without having a regular player hit a home run. The Royals have hit two home runs since May 15, both by 440-year-old Miguel Tejada, and there are all sorts of ways you can illustrate the lunacy, thought my three favorite are:

— The Chicago Cubs pitching staff has outhomered the Royals since May 15.

— Two different players (Dioner Navarro and Ryan Zimmerman) hit more homers YESTERDAY than the Royals have hit since May 15.

— The Royals have as many hitting coaches as homers since May 15.

Step 2: Royals manager Ned Yost admits he has no idea what to do. “Take my belt off and spank them?” he asks. “Yell at them? Scream at them? What do you want?”

Step 3: Several people (including yours truly) make note of the fact that the Royals fired hitting coach Kevin Seitzer last year precisely BECAUSE they wanted to hit for more power. This is what the highfalutin like to call “ironical” and it makes for good blog fodder and talk radio stuffings.

Step 4: The Royals hitting coach, Jack Maloof, gives one of the most bizarre interviews I’ve ever read with an old pal, Jeff Flanagan. I mean this thing was plain nutty. As crazy as the reasoning might have been, Ned Yost really did say that he fired Seitzer because he favored a more opposite field approach. Ned Yost really did say he believed the Royals young players had a lot more power potential than they were exhibiting. Ned Yost really did seem serious about these things. It seems hard to believe he did not relay these thoughts to one of his two hitting coaches.

But, it appears, he did not.

Jack Maloof says this: “There’s just no reward (here at spacious Kauffman Stadium) for us to try and hit home runs.”

And he says this: “I think we’ll lead the league in fewest home runs again this year.”

And he says this: “The risk for (the young players) to go out and hit a home run in one of 80 at-bats, the reward isn’t great enough.” (Editor’s note: ??!!?!!?!?)

And when asked why other teams do hit home runs at Kauffman Stadium (they’ve outhomered KC 32-11 this year), he gave a quote that, well, you just have to read the whole bit: “Here’s the thing: Other teams come in here from Anaheim or wherever and they have their swings down. This park doesn’t even enter into their minds when they hit here. They have their swings, the same swings, because it pays dividends for them at home.”

I don’t know Jack Maloof, he has been around baseball many years, and he has many people who swear by him including Tony Gwynn, so I mean no disrespect to his coaching abilities. But those might be the most illogical 45 words I’ve ever read in a row. Seriously, if he had said: “Hot dog telephone sweet frog livable water supply chicken tennis ball lunatic monster potato glass teflon wrist house fire tackling dance toboggan muffin spark shoelace kissing Qatar ballooned bandana post Baltimore coast kangaroo sassafras disco shines McGovern landing pen minibar flagging sailing palm digit sanitizer,” it would have made exactly the same amount of sense. I don’t even know where to begin, the thing is so irrational that it almost seems impolite to point that Anaheim is a lousy hitters park too.

Then, during the game last night, the announcers actually encouraged Royals fans to go READ that story, which they obviously did before reading it themselves.

Step 4: Fire Jack Maloof immediately and replace him, wait for it, Hall of Famer George Brett.

I love George Brett. He is one of my favorite athletes. He’s absolutely hilarious, and he’s a great story teller, and he’s fun guy, and I think he probably knows more about hitting than almost anybody on planet earth. Not only that, I think he probably could TEACH hitting better than almost anybody on planet earth — I don’t see George being one of those natural stars who cannot relate to people without the same talent.*

*I always loved the story Rick Mahler used to tell about pitching coach Bob Gibson — at least I think it was Mahler. He said Gibson came to the mound one time and said “Just bust him inside with a fastball” and he headed back to the dugout leaving Mahler, who did not have a fastball, left to the problems of mere mortals.

I’ve been lucky enough to talk hitting with George on numerous occasions, and I learned something every single time. There is absolutely not doubt in my mind that George Brett should be a terrific hitting coach, one the Royals would be proud to have.

But, um, well, two things.

One is fairly obvious: If George Brett was available to be hitting coach, why in the hell would they have hired Jack Maloof in the first place. Agaiin, no disrespect. But, um, what?

Two, though, is even more important, a small point that seems to be have been lost: It is almost a certainty that hitting coaches, well, DO NOT MATTER. OK, maybe the all capital letters is a bit over the top. They matter. I mean, they’re good for the players psyche. They help a player’s comfort level. They certainly can improve players’ hitting over weeks and months and years — Brett is a prime example, having been the prize pupil of one of the most famous hitting coaches ever, Charlie Lau. I have little doubt that Brett, given these players to work with over a long period of time, can make them better hitters.

But even assuming Brett is hitting coach for a long time (he was hired as an interim coach and has always said his life was too busy for a full-time baseball job) these are small, incremental changes — a hitting coach isn’t like a new offensive coordinator where you will suddenly start running different plays. it was entirely ridiculous for the Royals to think changing hitting coaches would improve their power numbers back when they fired Kevin Seitzer in the first place. It’s just as ridiculous now, even if George Brett is the greatest hitting coaches of all time. Once and for all: The Royals problem is NOT their hitting coach. It’s NEVER the hitting coach.

It’s the first base coach. Everybody knows that.

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45 Responses to Another Royals Power Update

  1. Joe Pos, these Royal pieces are side-spiltin hilarious, keep em coming…..

  2. Gregg Glass says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Wonder if ol’ George will be regaling hitters with gems like this (an oldie but goodie, and NSFW):

  4. Kansas City says:

    They need to make Brett manager. He would not want to do it for a long time (probably). But he apparently would do it the rest of this year and hopefully next year. He might be a good manager and could hardly be worse than Yost. And it would be fun and interesting to watch.

  5. Hey, hey, hey – you leave Rusty Kuntz (tee hee) out of this.

  6. George says:

    My guess is that Brett is not a hitting coach–he is an Eric Hosmer (and maybe Mike Moustakas) coach.

  7. Kwaz says:

    Isn’t Toronto hitting coach Dwayne Murphy largely credited for changing Jose Bautista’s swing and rather rapidly helping change him from replacement level hitter into superstar?

  8. Hey! Don’t trash talk Rusty Kuntz.

  9. Kansas City says:

    I thought the announcers were gently helping to push Maloof out the door by referring to the story. It was common knowledge by then that he had made a fool of himself and they were bringing attention to it.

    • KHAZAD says:

      The Royal announcers are nowhere near that subtle. Every one (except for Denny) regurgitate anything said by a GM or coach in the organization as if it were gospel, especially Lefebvre.

  10. JayHawklet says:

    Then, please tell us what the problem is, Joe. What’s wrong with our team? Why can’t our prospects- legit guys like Hosmer, Moustakas, Butler, Gordon, Perez, hit for power? They’re ranked just as highly as other organizations’ prospects who do hit well for power. What is it about KC that ruins hot prospects? If not coaching, then what?

    • Matty says:

      Like he said, it’s the first base coach…

    • Rob Smith says:

      After reading the half dozen Poz blogs about this subject, it occurs to me that they’ve had four hitting coaches in less than a year. There’s no better way to screw up a hitter (especially a young hitter) than having too many cooks in the kitchen. You don’t want or need more than one guy giving advice to a struggling player. The Braves are having the same issue with BJ Upton. There is no doubt his mechanics are screwed up & he’s a mess. But it was reported that every Tom, Dick and Harry coaches or players hang on the batting cage and give BJ advice when he’s hitting. It sounds like BJ is listening. While I’m glad he’s not one of those stubborn guys who won’t listen to anyone, there is such a thing as too much input. Chipper Jones famously didn’t work with the Braves hiting coach (and he certainly earned the right… what is a hitting coach who hit .250 lifetime going to tell Chipper Jones?) But when Chipper got in a funk, he would inevitably call his Dad. Usually a couple of days with his Dad and all was good. Chipper knew who to listen to and who not to listen to. A young player doesn’t know that, or have the luxury of telling his hitting coach to push off. Just a thought.

  11. Matty says:

    Don’t the Royals actually have twice as many hitting coaches as home runs in this stretch: Maloof, David, Brett, and Grifol? These guys are amazing.

  12. Unknown says:

    FYI – a Cubs pitcher just hit a grand slam.

  13. Jeff Harris says:

    Maybe they should wear lightning patches on their uniforms…and fire the first base coach.

  14. How does this not end with the Royals alienating their best public ambassador after people get cranky because his mere presence in the dugout is enough to upstage everyone else?

  15. Dinky says:

    This sentence fragment needs a “with” probably after the “him”: “and replace him, wait for it, Hall of Famer George Brett.” This article might get picked up by NBC and you’d want it to put you in the best light.

    I think hitting coaches can matter, or at least the great ones can, such as Ted Williams. Adrian Beltre was just a decent major leaguer when the Dodgers hired Tim Wallach, and suddenly he stopped swinging at sliders in the dirt and put up MVP type numbers. He went to Seattle, lost what he had learned without Wallace to guide him, then found it again eventually as he matured.

    Thank you for the blog.

    • dshorwich says:

      Just to be clear, Ted Williams was never a full-time hitting coach per se, although he did receive credit for improving the Washington Senators offense when he became their manager in 1969.

      There are at least 4 more typos in this piece in addition to the one mentioned above, but I’m not here to be Joe’s line editor.

    • Rob Smith says:

      You don’t think that the fact that Beltre was in a contract year had anything to do with his big year? Maybe Beltre actually started listening to Wallach, but I don’t think there is any hitting coach on the planet that wouldn’t try to address the obvious issue of swinging at sliders in the dirt. See Francoeur, Jeff. Do you think Francoeur needs a hitting coach to tell him to stop swinging at sliders in the dirt? I think Jeff may have been told that a time or two. And yes… as dshorwich said…. Williams was more of a hitting consultant who worked where and when he wanted to. Which was not much. He could have been a great hitting coach, but he wasn’t really interested in being one. He liked to pontificate and teach, especially if he had a receptive audience, but he didn’t want a 9 to 5 job. He quickly got bored. A lot of what hitting coaches do these days is film work and preparation for next team coming in. Who’s pitching, what do they throw, what to look for, hitting approach, favorable matchups for pinch hitters. It’s kind of a detailed job… it’s not just hanging out at the batting cage offering a few tips.

  16. bigdancehawk says:

    Good piece. Thanks, Joe.

  17. invitro says:

    I learned from last night’s NBA broadcast that the team that imposes its identity on the other team is the team that wins the game. So maybe the Royals’ problem has nothing to do with scoring runs or preventing runs from being scored. The Royals just need to do a better job of imposing their identity.

  18. Jackie Jack says:

    I think Joe was saying that hitting coaches do matter…but only over the long run. They won’t make short term differences. And I agree w. this because as someone else asked, why is it that all of our talent that makes it to the big stage flames out in spectacular fashion? Gordon has finally come around, but it took a while. Hosmer, Hochaver (there’s an article in and of itself…why is he still w. this team?), Moose, Crow, etc. They’ve all flamed out and underachieved. I think the talent is there, but the coaches don’t know how to get it out of them. That, coupled w. the culture of losing makes for horrible baseball.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Schlepping out there when you know you are likely to lose…. and you only have 100+ games left in the season has to be pretty difficult. I played through High School and I played on good teams were I just couldn’t wait to play the next game and I couldn’t wait for the next at bat. And I was on terrible teams where everything that could go wrong did go wrong. When I pitched, the second baseman (my brother, who was a good player by the way) would boot the double play ball. The leftfielder would run down a flyball and drop it (with the bases loaded). When I pounded a grand slam, some outfielder would somehow run it down as it left the park. I absolutely hated playing a couple of years because of crap like that. And you know what…. those were my worst years statistically. Winning does matter. It makes the game much more fun.

  19. Daniel Rose says:

    If anyone else but Posnanski wrote this, I’d get my defensive Royals fan attitude going, but Joe knows the Royals as well as anyone on the planet and every word is true. The thing is, we’re finishing up two straight series with the Cardinals and the difference between the two organizations is literally night and day. KC does everything in the dark, and everything St. Louis tries turns bright. Sadly, more and more Royals fans are becoming Cardinal fans because the I-70 World Series was a million years ago and it’s fun to watch winning (i.e. Cardinal) baseball.

    But Joe is incorrect on one thing — it’s the bullpen coach’s fault.

  20. Joe says:

    Mark McGwire had a positive impact on the StL Cardinals hitters. It was as much about approach as it was about the technical aspects of hitting. Mabry worked w/him and continues the same approach. It would seem to be working.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Most hitting coaches focus on “approach”. All that means is whether you’re working the count or looking to drive a pitch early in the count…. or are you trying to hit the ball through the middle… hit it where it’s pitched…. or look for a pitch in your wheelhouse that you can yank out of the park. That’s nothing special.

  21. 陳朗 says:

    OMG! Jeff Francoeur just homered! Looks like the George Brett hiring was well worth it! XD

  22. Jason says:

    If this rains out without finishing the 9th, what happens? I know they can’t declare the Royals winners without the Cardinals getting to bat in the ninth. But they wouldn’t take away the Royals’ runs and make the final 2-1, would they? That would be a novel way to keep the losing streak and the homerless streak going.

    • 陳朗 says:

      I think that’s only if it’s not an official game yet? I’ve always been confused by this rule but looking at it now it seems that because the Royals took the lead and the Cardinals hadn’t bat yet the umpires would declare it a suspended game. I have no idea what’s taking them so long to do so, though, so it’s possible they’ll pull the “last completed inning” switcheroo.

    • Unknown says:

      the rule used to be that they wiped out the inning in progress and reverted to the last completed inning. I remember such an instance in the 1970s; obviously the rule has changed since then, no doubt because of the inherent unfairness of taking runs from a road team that has gone ahead (as the royals did last night). If they couldn’t continue, the game would have been suspended at that point,but because the Royals wouldnt’ be coming back to stl this year (and the cost and logistics of coming back at a later date for 10 to 15 more minutes of baseball would be problematic), the umps decided to wait it out.

  23. J.S. says:

    Francoeur Joe! Your favourite!

  24. LargeBill says:

    I agree with commenter Joe (@ 5:04) it is just as wrong to say hitting coaches don’t matter as it is to say they can change things immediately. A good coach is as much as psychologist as he is a coach. A coach can help a player take a better approach to their at bats. Part of taking an intelligent approach is having a plan that changes as the count changes. A player who could (I hope) be a good example of the positive affect of a new hitting coach & manager is Drew Stubbs. As an Indians fan living in Cincinnati I’ve watched Stubbs struggle and listened to fans bitch about all his unfulfilled talent potential. I could be wrong, but with Stubbs it seemed like most of his problems were above his shoulders. He was a mess at the plate. He struck out a lot and the fans & media let him know about it. It was more pronounced because he was force fed to top of the order because . . . ? well because he is fast. With Cleveland he is batting 9th and with less pressure he is doing a little better. Batting 9th he doesn’t have people upset with a .250 BA yelling at him.

  25. Sean says:

    I disagree with the idea that hitting coaches (and pitching coaches) don’t matter. I think coaches like Walt Hriniak and Leo Mazzone and Bryan Price can help young players develop and help fix some rough spots. What they can’t do is take a bunch of lousy ballplayers and turn them into All-Stars. The Royals lineup is a mix of journeymen and young players who ought to have spent more time in the minors. George Brett can’t turn Chris Getz into Joe Morgan.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Look I love Leo Mazzone, but when you trot out Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz every five days for 15 years, you’re going to look pretty good. A lot of Mazzone’s staffs did not have great bullpens either. Leo did get credit for several reclamation projects, which I’m sure he did have a positive impact on… although some, like Jared Wright, owed more to the fact that Wright actually stayed healthy for a full year (for a change). Leo was also very hesitant to use younger pitchers and was famously foul mouthed and hard on them. I think the Braves current pitching coach Roger McDowell is actually better. He’s managed to fashion a dominant bullpen every year, largely made up of younger pitchers. It’s nice having Kimbrel at the backend of the pen, but Leo might have been hesitant to put him out there as a rookie closer three years ago. McDowell never hesitated. This year, Venters and O’Flaherty go down with season ending injuries. So, he needs a lefthander & pulls up Alex Wood, who’s had no more than 18 months in the minors to fill the role. First game, he’s in… granted it was an 11-3 game at the time, but the announcers were speculating that he’d see time even when the game is close…. because that’s the way McDowell rolls. Once you’re there, he gets you in the game to see what you can do. Mazzone would NEVER do that with a young player.

  26. DJ says:

    And if instead of Jack Maloof saying:
    “Hot dog telephone sweet frog livable water supply chicken tennis ball lunatic monster potato glass teflon wrist house fire tackling dance toboggan muffin spark shoelace kissing Qatar ballooned bandana post Baltimore coast kangaroo sassafras disco shines McGovern landing pen minibar flagging sailing palm digit sanitizer,”

    it was actually Michael Stype, it could be a new R.E.M. song couldn’t it?

  27. Freealonzo says:

    The Minnesota Twins(!) hit more home runs in the 4th inning last night than the Royals have since May 14th.

  28. I don’t want to make your life as a Royals fan any worse than it normally is, Joe, but the Royals are the answer to the question, when should you bunt runners over? You bunt runners over when you have no power, a good starter, and a strong bullpen. You play for one run at a time, and hope to win low scoring games.

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