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Schlemiel, Schlimazel and the Kansas City Royals

OK, it seems a bit like overkill to keep writing this stuff about the free-falling Royals … but even for someone who has witnessed the repeated disasters of Kansas City baseball the last 15 or so years, this current power outage is something new and kind of breathtaking.

Since May 15 — this is now 11 games, so we’re not talking about just a bad weekend here — the Royals have hit two home runs, both (as mentioned in the last Royals column) by 438-year-old Miguel Tejada. This means that the Royals have not had a regular hit a home run in about two weeks. Or, you can say it this way:

— Since May 15, the Royals have been outhomered by the Chicago Cubs PITCHING STAFF.

— Since May 15, the Royals have been outhomered by Eric Chavez and, no, just Eric Chavez.

— Since May 15, Miguel Cabrera alone has hit THREE TIMES AS MANY HOMERS as the Kansas City Royals.

— Since May 15, the Royals have exactly as many home runs as Jedd Gyorko, which is not as interesting or depressing a stat as the others but it does offer an opportunity to say “Jedd Gyorko,” which I intend to do at every opportunity.

Jedd Gyorko! See?

I did mention this comical home run dry spell in the last Royals piece, but there’s something in there I did not mention, something that in so many ways gets at the heart of the curious beast that is Kansas City Royals baseball.

Last October the Royals fired hitting coach Kevin Seitzer. That made me a bit sad because I like Seitzer a lot, everybody in Kansas City does, he’s a very public figure around town (Seitz and another former Royals player, Mike MacFarlane, own a baseball academy in Kansas City) and, even more, because I think coaches — especially hitting and pitching coaches — take a wildly disproportionate percentage of the blame when teams struggle.*

*This happens everywhere, but it is especially true in Kansas City, where coaches are fired early and often. The team has had two general managers since 2001. I could be miscounting on this, but off the top of my head I count that the Royals have had at least six first base coaches over that same time, including Doug Sisson who apparently was causing such significant damage that the Royals felt it necessary to fire him IN THE MIDDLE OF LAST SEASON.

But, such is life. The Royals didn’t hit and Seitzer was the hitting coach and he got fired. Life isn’t always fair.

The Royals have fired so many coaches through the years that they now have it down — they fire the coach and then in the firing press conference praise him so profusely for the job he did that you wonder why in the world they would have let go of such a talent. This was especially true of Kevin Seitzer. General manager Dayton Moore sounded like he was firing his favorite uncle at the end of season press conference. “Kevin’s one of the most gifted coaches I’ve ever been around,” he said. “Kevin’s one of the greatest people I’ve ever been around. I respect him immensely. I mean him and (Royals latest first base coach) Rusty Kuntz are 1 and 1A for me …”

It was so gushing that you wanted to stop the press conference right there and comfort Dayton by telling him that it wasn’t too late, he could still hire Seitzer back. But the logical takeaway from it was that Dayton probably did not want to fire Seitzer. He was, rightfully, backing the decision of manager Ned Yost, who did want to fire Seitzer for a very specific and compelling reason.

The reason? Yep, you already knew it: The Royals didn’t hit for enough power.

“(Seitzer’s) philosophy was basically to stay in the middle of the field and to the off side,” Yost said. “I think we’ve got a group of young power hitters who are capable of hitting home runs.”

Sigh. The Royals fired their hitting coach so they would hit more home runs, and now they’re not hitting ANY home runs. That could be the subtitle of the Royals book I have to write someday.

But believe it or not, this thing gets even wackier than that. Less than a month later, the Royals replaced Seitzer with, get ready for it, TWO hitting coaches. Yep, two, they hired Jack Maloof as their regional hitting coach and Andre David as the assistant to the regional hitting coach. It should be noted — it was noted at the time — that the Royals are not the first team to hire two hitting coaches, this has become something of an odd little mini-trend. Philadelphia did it. St. Louis did it. A couple of other teams. So this isn’t just some hair-brained Royals idea.

But there were two things that made the Royals’ hire slightly different from the others

  1. They were, I believe, the first American League team to do it.
  2. They are the Royals.

The first thing might not mean anything, but I did find it interesting. The second thing means everything. Someone else could hire two hitting coaches and suddenly (and probably coincidentally) start crushing the ball. There was exactly zero percent chance this would happen with the Royals. There was no doubt once the Royals hired two hitting coaches, absolutely no doubt, that it would become a punchline at some point. It only took a month and a half.

The Royals have as many hitting coaches as home runs since May 15.

You know the difference between a schlemiel and a schlimazel, right? They are both Yiddish words, made famous by Laverne and Shirley. A schlemiel is a fairly easy word to define, he or she is a bit like a klutz, someone who messes things up all the time. The definition of schlimazel is a bit harder to get at, it is something a little bit more existential. A schlimazel is someone who bad things happen to. The classic vaudeville explanation is that a schlemiel is the guy who spills a bowl of soup. The schlimazel is one who has the soup spilled on him. Wile E. Coyote is a schlimazel.

The Royals are both schlemiel and schlimazel. But they’re more schlimazel. Yes, they often make moves that are not particularly smart, true, but they could be relatively harmless … and instead they backfire in unnecessarily spectacular three-dimensional explosions. Ken Harvey might not have been good enough to play every day (much less be the Royals All-Star selection) but he did not HAVE to get hit smack in the back with a relay throw. Mike MacDougal might not have been quite good enough to close in the big leagues but he did not HAVE to throw the ball 10 feet over the catcher’s head from 40 feet away. Kerry Robinson should not have been playing center field but he did not HAVE to climb the fence and have the ball land five feet in in front of him. Juan Gonzalez was a dreadful signing but he did not HAVE to suffer a minor day-to-day injury that kept him out for five months. On and on and on.

So, yes, the idea that hiring two new hitting coaches as the way to get more power out of players was kind of a schlemiel move — klutzy, silly, pretty illogical, mostly pointless. Who really thinks a hitting coach — or two of them — can make that much of a difference? But to hire two hitting coaches to get more power and THEN go on a semi-historic powerless streak … yeah, that’s Kansas City Royals baseball.

Also: Jedd Gyorko!

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45 Responses to Schlemiel, Schlimazel and the Kansas City Royals

  1. They are the Jerry Gurgich of baseball!

  2. ry420guy says:

    Laverne and Shirley???

  3. lurker42 says:

    The Red Sox went to 2 hitting coaches this past offseason. Greg Colbrunn as hitting coach, and Victor Rodriguez as assistant hitting coach.

    They’re the only other AL team with 2, though, as far as I know.

  4. Devon Young says:

    Woah that’s ridiculous!

    Ok, I had to look it up. Last year thru KC’s first 48 games (thru May 29), they smacked exactly 40 HR’s. This year thru 48 games (thru May 27), they’ve clobbered just 28. That puts them on pace for 113 HR’s this year (28*3.375, since 48*3.375=162). The last time they hit less than 120, was 2007 when they hit just 102 HR.

  5. For a minute I thought you were going to say they hired Laverne & Shirley to be the hitting coaches…

    • clashfan says:

      Likely an improvement. Laverne directed ‘A League of Their Own’ and Shirley once produced a regional performance of the play ‘Bleacher Bums’.

  6. Kansas City says:

    One of the joys of reading Joe is that he write a highly entertaining column proving Yost is not smart enough to be a good manager without saying a word about it.

    • Rob Smith says:

      What’s Yost supposed to do? He can’t manufacture good players out of thin air. That’s Dayton Moore’s job. So, until then, he has to do something. It sounds stupid, but what options does he really have. Yes, it’s total desperation, and he’ll probably be fired by the end of the year. It’s his destiny.

    • Bob Cook says:

      Ned Yost……all time 44% winning %……….

    • Kansas City says:

      What is Yost supposed to do?

      For starters:
      1. Realize what all of the rest of baseball knows:

      a. Francouer is not an everyday player;
      b. Getz is neitehr a starter nor a leadoff man.
      c. Escobar is not a number 2 hitter.
      d. Moustakis needs to go back to the minors
      e You can’t catch Perez 150 games.
      f Francouer is not a good fielder.

    • Rob Smith says:

      OK…. so take Francouer, Getz and Moustakis out…. and put in who? Cut back on Perez time catching and put in who? Take Escobar out of the #2 slot and Getz out of the #1 slot and put who there? Maybe bring some not ready talent or AAAA players up from AAA or some never will be ready backups (if you are a backup for the Royals, by definition, you suck). Managing the Royals is no picnic.

  7. Tracey says:

    Not to be that nit-picky guy, but because I figure you might want to know for future reference )and I had to look it up to be sure): it’s generally accepted the term is “harebrained,” not “hair-brained.” Although, as this article points out, both are plausible in context.

    More substantively, isn’t it possible this move not only did not produce more power but has had a negative impact on the hitters’ approaches? I don’t get to watch the Royals often, but when I have it seems to me that, to pick one, Eric Hosmer went through a stretch in which he was overswinging (and, conversely, he seems to be much more effective when he’s willing to cut down his swing a little and go the opposite way).

    • Rob Smith says:

      The Braves hitting coach, Greg Walker, generally tries them to use the whole field and hit it up the middle. When they do that, they end up hitting HRs. Why? Trying to pull everything and hit HRs is generally a recipe for failure. Make solid contact while trying to hit the ball up the middle, and some of the balls go over the fence. So, to me, it sounds like Seitzer did know what he was doing & this desperate move is only going to make things worse…. and apparently has already done that.

    • Bob Post says:

      George Brett, he of the 317 lifetime home runs (or, as much as the entire KC Royals team has combined since late in the 2010 season), said that he always just tried to hit it hard up the middle, and the home runs would come naturally. Sounds like Seitzer was on to something.

    • Bob Post says:

      George Brett, he of the 317 lifetime home runs (or, as much as the entire KC Royals team has combined since late in the 2010 season), said that he always just tried to hit it hard up the middle, and the home runs would come naturally. Sounds like Seitzer was on to something.

  8. Unknown says:

    This is hilarious.

    You missed your higher calling to be a Mets fan.

  9. purebull says:

    …they might do better if they *do* hire laverne and shirley as coaches. i imagine they’re under a lot of…stress…

  10. Brian says:

    I know Joe alluded to it, but does anybody else get any joy out of imagining Andre David telling people he’s an assistant regional hitting coach, then having Jack Maloof correct him by saying he’s assistant TO the regional hitting coach?

    Andre David: Question. May I fire Mike Moustakas?
    Jack Maloof: No you may not.
    Andre David: But he just looks lost up there in the box.
    Jack Maloof: That’s what she said.

  11. It wasn’t so long ago that KC was said to have one of the greatest assortment of prospects ever assembled, and now look at them struggling to hit in the big leagues. Whenever some team has a “can’t miss” prospect down in the minor leagues who the blogosphere insists needs to be called up to replace some established veteran, it should be remembered that “can’t miss” prospects miss all the time, and not just with the Royals (see Montero,Jesus).

    • Rob Smith says:

      See Francoeur, Jeff or Davies, Kyle, or Chen, Bruce…. Or any of the other many players the Braves gave up on that went on to stink for the Royals.

  12. Having you write about the Royals almost makes being a fan for all these losing years worth it. Thank you for that. I only hope that when/if they actually begin winning you’ll continue to write about them while maintaining your humor.

  13. EssexBorn says:

    So if the rumor is true that Frank White was cashiered because of his “disparaging” observations regarding the Royals, is not an apology in order? And as for the current TV booth lineup, while Phisioc is bearable, can we do anything to to get Rex Hudler into an intervention program for the terminally verbose? And please, please get Ryan Levavre (sp) back in the booth as often as possible to supply some sorely needed wit and humor.

  14. Kansas City says:

    I doubt that many readers here need convincing that Yost is not smart enough to be a good manager, but he recently explained that he started Francouer over Lough against a right handed pitcher because he wanted Frenchy’s defense.

    Yost has watched Francouer play every day for 2.5 years and thinks he is a good defensive right fielder?

    A similar question. Yost has watched Getz play for 2.5 years and thinks he should bat lead off?

    Yost is not smart. He is a bad manager, who now is snakebit as well. Time to go.

    • Rob Smith says:

      I’m sure you’re right, but I guess, just like a lot of Royals players, he’s a Braves castoff. It’s hard to move from an organization that expects to win, to one that always loses. I think eventually you lose your mind.

    • Rob Smith says:

      The amazing thing about Francoeur is that he was recruited to play safety by Clemson. He was an amazing High School safety and reciever & had excellent speed. It seemed like within 2-3 years of coming up to the Braves that he went from fast to slow. I’m not sure how that happened. Maybe it was all the weight he gained trying to bulk up & hit HRs after hitting “only” 19 HRs and batting .300.

  15. Jake Bucsko says:

    Everybody is burying the lead here…the Royals first base coach is named Rusty Kuntz?! I am not ashamed of laughing. Google him and check out “people also searched for”. High comedy

    • dshorwich says:

      His name is pronounced “koontz”, so it’s not as hilarious as it looks. However, “Gyorko” is, against the odds, pronounced “jerk-o”, which is good for at least a chuckle.

    • Bob Post says:

      The old joke in KC was that Kansas City had an answer to the “Reggie” candy bar in the late 70’s. It was called the “Pete LaCock Sucker”.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Bob you just tied together this thread since Pete LaCock was the son of Peter Marshall who was the brother of Penny Marshall/LaVerne. Perfect circle. Don’t mess with it.

  16. Cliff Blau says:

    The Yankees had two hitting coaches in 1987. Bobby Murcer couldn’t suit up during games because they were over the coach limit. Jay Ward was the regular hitting coach. They finished seventh in scoring and hit 196 homers. Of course, it’s too late for the Royals to hire Ward or Murcer.

  17. Kansas City says:

    I swear Moore and Yost have become Dumb and Dumber I tried to give Moore the benefit of the doubt, but it is increasing hard to do Quotes in today’s papar:

    Yost: “We’ve been looking at it, studying it,” Yost said. “We’ve been trying to put numbers to it and doing the sabermetric thing. I just think you continue to juggle and massage and move (players around) until we break out of it.”

    He does not even know enough about the substance of the stats to say anything other thatn “the sabermetric thing.” And then falls back on the genuius “juggle and massage” approach

    Moore used a similar description when assessing the struggles of third baseman Mike Moustakas, who is in a three-for-45 slump and is batting .178 with four homers and 12 RBIs for the season.
    Moore said a demotion to AAA Omaha is not in the offing for Moustakas. For now, anyway.
    “There are three basic processes that I challenge myself with when sending a player down,” Moore said. “Is this struggling player staying positive and working hard? Does the coaching staff remain positive in this struggling player? And do his teammates continue to rally around this struggling player?
    “As long as those three things are occurring, it’s very difficult as a general manager to make a change.”

    EARTH TO MOORE – WHY DON’T YOU LOOK AT HOW THE GUY IS PLAYING AND DECIDE WHETHER TO SEND HIM DOWN BASED ON THAT More seriously, Moore talks about “three basic processes I challenge myself with.” Who talks like that? It is like he went to some seminar to learn how to talk/think. I’m afraid he might be in a job above his class

    Read more here:

    • Rob Smith says:

      The Braves aren’t going to send BJ Upton down, even though he has worse numbers than Moustakas. But what you’re hearing is “Upton is getting a normal rest day” and “Upton is spending the time during the game working on his swing”. What this means is, we’re playing Gattis and Schafer more since they are actually hitting (crushing the ball, in fact). Upton is a mess, but he’s got a monster contract, so we don’t want to admit that he’s benched.

      The difference though is the Braves actually have players who are hot to substitute in. The Royals do not.

  18. Kansas City says:

    This is now absurd. Today, Hitting Coach Jack Maloof (whom Yost says is doing a great job) gave an interview. Now, Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest. He is a guy whom Yost hired because he wanted more home runs. See what Maloof now says about home runs (to the extent he had any chance of not getting fired, that chance is now gone):

    “There is just no reward here (for us) to try and hit home runs,” Maloof said. “We try to stay down on the ball, be more line-drive oriented, and do more situational hitting at least through the first two or three rounds (at home) here. That’s why I’m not overly concerned because I think we’ll lead the league in fewest home runs again this year. We don’t have a 40-homer guy in the middle of the lineup.

    “We’ve got kids. Billy Butler is a doubles machine. No one has told me he is a home run hitting guy. If we try to do it too much, we’ll get ourselves in trouble. Same thing with Alex (Gordon). They’ll hit home runs on the road, and yes, they’ll hit some here. They have. But the risk for them to go out and hit a home run in one of 80 at-bats, the reward isn’t great enough.

    “Baltimore? Better reward. I’m not using it as an excuse. But it is a mindset.”

    Of course, the counter argument is obvious: Other teams seem to come into spacious Kauffman Stadium and have no trouble hitting home runs. Yost mentioned as much after letting Seitzer go last fall.

    In fact, opponents have hit nearly three times as many home runs (32-11) this season at Kauffman Stadium as the Royals.

    Maloof has an explanation for that.

    “Here’s the thing: Other teams come in here from Anaheim or wherever and they have their swing already down,” Maloof said. “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.

    “What we need to do with our players, like we were in April, is be better at situational hitting. We were over 60 percent then in getting guys in from third. We’re under 50 percent now. We just need to execute better. In this ballpark, go ahead and hit the ball in play (with guys on third and less than two outs). You’re not going to hit a home run anyway, for the most part.

    “I’m not making excuses. We play half of our games here. I’m just talking about the ability for a ball to carry out here the way it would in Anaheim or Philadelphia or in Baltimore, where we have hit home runs.”

    The absence of power, Maloof said, has more to do with youth than ability.

    “I understand what Kansas City fans and baseball fans have been through here,” he said. “They want winning. In spring training and in April, expectations were high. I get that. But again, we’re looking at players whether it’s Sal Perez or Lorenzo Cain or Eric Hosmer or Mike Moustakas – they don’t have much service time. Not an excuse, but it’s a fact.

    • Rob Smith says:

      The funny part about this comment is that the ball absolutely does not carry in Anaheim. The ocean air comes in during the late afternoon and by a 7:00 p.m. game time, you can actually see the air it’s so thick. Balls hit high just die. You have to club a line drive and hack through the air to hit a HR there…. and the park is not small either. Philly and Baltimore, also mentioned, are small parks & it makes more sense to mention them.

    • Kansas City says:

      Maloof obviously is not ready for giving interviews and, as a life time minor league guy, it is questionable whether he was ready for a big league job. Very odd choice by a manager with very questionable judgment. I think even worse than him being wrong about Anaheim, his premise that opposing teams “already have their swing down” before coming to the K is absurd. Like Yost, he is not bright enough for the job.

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