In sticking up for one of his struggling players over the weekend, Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost introduced a neoclassical term to the world. Coming into play Tuesday, third baseman Mike Moustakas was batting .240/.294/.384 with 29 home runs in 1,130 career plate appearances. This season alone, his numbers are much, much worse.
It appears Royals brass has overreached in expecting Moustakas and first baseman Eric Hosmer to develop into reliable corners this season. But it's too soon to give up on Moustakas — even for a while, by demoting him to the minors — Yost said to Kansas City Star reporter Bob Dutton:
“You know what?” Yost said. “Maybe when we get home, I can go to the third base tree and pick another third baseman. … Obviously, third basemen who can hit and hit with power, they must grow on trees."
There it is. "The Third Base Tree." Soak it in, in all of its grandeur. If he contributes nothing else in his managerial career, either on the field or in a press conference, Yost has borne fruit by conjuring a mystical tree from which any major league team can pluck a ripe stud for the hot corner.
• Miguel Cabrera would be the trunk.
• David Wright, Adrian Beltre, Evan Longoria and (UPDATE) Manny Machado (who someday will cross-pollinate over to the Shortstop Tree) would be the biggest branches.
• Kyle Seager would be a blossoming bud.
• George Brett would still be attached, double-tapered and tan.
• Moustakas would be a fallen leaf.
• (UPDATE) Jeff Keppinger is poison oak.
Later in the interview, in case you weren't sure that Yost's quote didn't drip with sarcasm, he broke it to everybody:
“There is no third baseman tree. You don’t go grab another one. You let him develop. Look at Gordy (Alex Gordon). When I came over here (in 2010), all I heard (from fans) was this kid is never going to be anything.
“No. You’re wrong. Give them time to develop. But I understand it. I know what the fans want. They want it, and they want it now. Instant gratification just doesn’t work (in baseball).”
He's right that the Royals have needed patience, but we're more than 1,000 at-bats into Moustakas's career. His adjusted OPS this season is 52. Average is 100. Seager's is 130.
Opening day is no longer an "instant" ago. Yost knows this, but he's being willfully dishonest in order to be seen as "in his player's corner." If he really wanted to help Moustakas, not to mention the team, he would tell GM Dayton Moore to send Moose to Omaha and bring in another player to play third. It doesn't have to be forever, but it should be now.
There's a lot more fruit on the tree than Yost lets on. Kings of Kauffman has more.
In closing: Thanks, skipper, for the imagery of the Third Baseman Tree. It will remain planted in our memories long after Ned has gone.