I tried to start this post seven different ways, but I kept coming back to one.
Cliché? Probably. Appropriate? Definitely.
My name is Nick, and I'm a Royals fan.
I was three months old when the Royals won their only World Series, and I can hear Al Michaels' voice crisply in my head as I type this. "To Motley, for the title."
It sounds so good, but it's a distant memory.
Let's hope I don't get fined for this. Royals officials may view this as an error.
The 2010 Kansas City Royals' unofficial theme was fundamentals. The Royals claimed to preach this during spring training. The Kansas City Star focused on this in their still-solid baseball preview. This Royals team wasn't going to have the most talent in the league, but it was going to play like eight giant Ecksteins in the field.
But it's only the middle of May and it already feels like the season has been dragging on for months. The Royals are 11-23 — 11 games behind the Twins in the AL Central — and as a Kansas City resident my whole life, I've even taken the drastic step of debating of giving up my fandom.
Crazy, I know, but how can a rational baseball fan like myself root for a team with the following realities staring me straight in the face?1. Trey Hillman is the Royals' manager. Sure, this may also be a bright spot given that Hillman's contract is up at the end of the year, and at this rate, Hillman may not even make it to the end of the season. Everything you needed to know about Hillman and the Royals you could have learned in the Texas Rangers' four game sweep of the Royals. On Sunday, Josh Hamilton(notes) forgot to tag up, but no one on the Royals noticed. Not even Hillman, who said that while he didn't see the play, Billy Butler(notes) should have.
"It should be (caught)," Hillman said. "You would hope your first baseman would catch that."
A confident manager probably doesn't throw his best player under the bus like that. But could you blame Hillman? The night before, he left Gil Meche(notes) in for eight innings and seven walks as Meche proceeded to give up the winning run in the bottom of the eighth. Meche threw 128 pitches, the most any pitcher has thrown in 2010. Yes, this is the same Gil Meche who hasn't been the same since Hillman ran him out for 132 pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks last year. But at the same time, who was Hillman going to put in the game?
Side note: A confident manager also doesn't go out to third base like Hillman did Monday night and give a half-assed argument in a blatant attempt to get ejected. Just like Hillman's managing this season, he even went about getting the ejection wrong. At least look like you're sort of pissed, Trey!
2. The Royals bullpen, save Joakim Soria(notes), is terrible. Dayton Moore was the top GM prospect in baseball when the Royals hired him after getting rid of Allard Baird. Everyone, and I mean almost everyone, thought that Moore was the perfect man for the job. This was something that the Royals had finally done right.
But Moore quickly realized that bullpen assets were fungible, and proceeded to trade Ramon Ramirez(notes) and Leo Nunez(notes), the Royals two best non-closers in 2008 for Coco Crisp(notes) and Mike Jacobs(notes), respectively.
But Crisp couldn't hit and was shelved for a season with a torn labrum. Jacobs couldn't do anything, especially as Hillman gave him 111 plate appearances against lefties, but the deals could still be excused if Moore's bullpen fungibility theory could be executed. It couldn't.
Moore went and signed Kyle Farnsworth(notes) to a two-year, $9 million deal and Farnsworth proceeded to blow the game on ppening day in 2009. In no universe should it be acceptable to pay $9 million to a reliever who is only effective if the game is +/-4 runs.
Signing Juan Cruz(notes), who was a type-A free agent at the time also seemed like a pretty good move. Cruz had been a wildly effective reliever for the Diamondbacks, and could be the perfect eighth inning guy. Or not.
The 2010 Royals' bullpen has consisted of Soria, the since-released Cruz, Farnsworth, the spectacularly good or spectacularly bad Robinson Tejeda(notes), Dusty Hughes(notes), Bruce Chen(notes), Josh Rupe(notes), John Parrish(notes), Brad Thompson(notes), Roman Colon(notes), Victor Marte(notes) and Luis Mendoza(notes), who established the new baseline for Mendoza line pitcher futility.
Outside of Soria, all these guys are disposable, not fungible.
3. Zack Greinke continues to be embarrassed. Don't get me started about how wins are a terrible statistic for pitchers. I know that. A lot of people don't. He's the defending Cy Young winner for your higher power's sake, and he's winless with a 2.51 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP!
Anything Greinke can do, the bullpen or lineup can blow.
Take Sunday, May 2 for example. Greinke threw 87 pitches in eight innings, giving up four hits and striking out six. It was one of Greinke's most dominating outings of the last two years, and that's saying something. One of those hits was a solo homerun by Evan Longoria(notes). Sadly, that homerun was the deciding factor. And this was two days AFTER Joe Posnanski noted all of the times that the rest of the Royals have let Greinke down recently.
4. Alex Gordon(notes) is languishing in Omaha After fighting injuries that derailed his 2009 season and the beginning of 2010, the former hope of the franchise is now playing left field up I-29. Why? Because management felt it was more important to have Jose Guillen(notes) and Chris Getz(notes) in the lineup. (That really hurt to type.)
No, Gordon hasn't been as awesome as the hype suggested. But as a 24-year-old in 2008, he put up a line of .260/.351/.432 with 16 HRs. I know, not great. But his slugging percentage increased 21 points despite only hitting one more homer in 2008 and increased his OBP 37 points while increasing his average only 13. The signs were there.
Instead, the Royals decided to take his injury-marred 2009 as more of a sign of Gordon's worth, and demoted him when Getz came off the disabled list because of a strained oblique. Getz is a nice player to have, someone who can pinch run and play every five or six days at second base. Basically, he's Willie Bloomquist(notes) with more speed and less position versatility.
The club's star prospect is now 26 at Triple-A and learning a new position, a spot that demands even more offensive production than third base does, but the Royals shifted him there because he wasn't hitting enough to play third base. Does that make sense to anyone?5. If the Rays can do it, why can't we? When I see a team like Tampa Bay doing what the Royals should have done when Dayton Moore came along, it stings, because none of these failures can be at the hands of owner David Glass. Glass has proven that he's willing to spend money, pushing the Royals' payroll over $70 million.
With a different general manager and manager, that may get you much more than Jose Guillen, Scott Podsednik(notes), Rick Ankiel(notes) and Jason Kendall(notes). Tampa's only big free agent hitter over the past two years has been Pat Burrell(notes), and we all know how well that has worked out. However, their system depth made Burrell a complementary piece, and if he failed, the Rays could survive. Ankiel was the Royals' Burrell. Problem is, the lack of organizational depth in the Royals' organization meant that he had to play centerfield and hit fourth.
I feel worse with every Rays game I watch, and I find myself flipping back to the Royals game to punish myself. I can't explain it, but no matter how hard I try, I can't give the Royals up. There's something lovable about a team that's convinced it's doing everything to put itself in a position to win when in reality, the emporer isn't wearing any clothes.
Oh, sorry, this is the Royals we're talking about. The pawn isn't wearing any clothes.
But hey, Moore gave Hillman a vote of confidence on Tuesday, which in Kansas City logic means that Hillman's probably out of here no later than the end of June.
And that means the Royals can start all over again.
And with that blank slate comes optimism, no matter how irrational it may seem.
Somehow, I'm still looking forward to it.
Nick Bromberg is a lifelong Royals fan and a contributor to the Yahoo! Sports Blogs. Read more of his work over at From The Marbles.
- Trey Hillman