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Behind Closed Doors

When the Royals fired Trey Hillman last season and hired Ned Yost, I was euphoric. I know that a baseball team doesn’t ultimately matter in my life, but my summers are pretty well taken up by Royals games and thinking about ways they can get better. Luckily, they’re usually pretty bad so there’s not much down time in thinking about those ways. When I heard that Trey Hillman was finally out as manager, I figured that the Royals had figured out the first way to get on their way to being a better club who could compete for a division title. And for a long time, it didn’t really matter what Ned Yost did because he had one huge thing going for him: he wasn’t Trey Hillman. As time passes, it becomes clearer to me why exactly he was fired with his Brewers in the thick of a pennant race. When he was hired and people from Milwaukee told us of his faults, I thought that they were silly. Now, I’m beginning to understand way more than I did at the time.

The reason I bring this up is that the Royals had a closed door meeting yesterday that I assume was initiated by Ned Yost. Upon coming out of the meeting, Yost was asked questions by reporters about the nature of the meeting and he did not mention anything that was said. That part doesn’t bother me so much, but it’s how snippy he was with the reporters combined with the fact that he seems to be morphing back into Nervous Ned makes me believe that the Royals might not be able to win with him at the helm.

I was watching the Red Sox – Rays game on Sunday Night Baseball a couple days ago and in that game, Joe Maddon got kicked out. Then, a couple innings later, his bench coach, Dave Martinez, got kicked out as well. The announcers were talking about what they were doing the clubhouse and somebody mentioned that they were probably watching the game in Joe’s office. Then one of the other announcers chimed in to make the point that he doesn’t have a television in there and that they’re probably sipping on some expensive wine. The reason I tell that story is that it illustrates the difference between Maddon and Yost. Just once, I’d love it if the Royals make a hire like that and he turns out to be a mellow guy who can manage a hell of a baseball game.

Now I try not to harp on the manager because only in the extreme cases does a manager make a huge difference either way. Hillman was one of the excessive ways to the negative, and that worked out well for Yost. It’s easy to follow sheer incompetence because any kind of basic knowledge makes you look like a genius in comparison. Anyway, I’m doing talking about managerial qualifications. I’ve heard a quote that I’m sure you’ve heard many times as well. It is “winners win and losers meet” and that was the first thing I thought of when I heard reports that the Royals had a closed door meeting. If any team was in need of one, it was certainly the Royals. They were 22-22 at one point during the first Cardinals series. Can you believe that? Since then, they’re 17-36. That’s pretty pathetic.

I obviously have no idea what they could have talked about behind closed doors. As a fan, I hope they talked about the lackadaisical play of most of the team since the break. I hope they talked about the team’s inability to get a big hit when necessary. I hope they talked about the fact that the starting rotation needs to give seven innings every time out because the bullpen will be taxed otherwise. There’s every chance in the world that they talked about nothing at all and used the opportunity to close the door, get away from baseball and the media and just try to clear their heads. The thing about the 2011 Royals is there is a good baseball team buried somewhere on that roster. Unfortunately, it’s under a pile of bad baseball that the team just needs to get out of.

Think about that for a second. Ignoring the fact that this team has had some excellent stretches of baseball early in the season,, think about the fact that there’s more talent on this Royals team than we’ve seen in quite some time. On the infield, with the exception of Getz, everybody has a future in the big leagues as a starter. And (you knew there had to be an obligatory reference) Giavotella isn’t far away from the big leagues as the missing link to the future infield. The outfield is young and productive and will just get better when Cain can get to the big leagues. Catching sucks around baseball, so I’m not worried about that. The pitching staff looks good with the bullpen all set and the starters seem to be beginning to fall into place. Paulino looks good every time out and Duffy keeps getting better. Somewhere within this team is a good baseball team.

I don’t know. Maybe they find it behind closed doors. They looked awfully good last night with a couple exceptions. I know that Jake Peavy isn’t the same guy who won the Cy Young with the Padres a few years back, but he still throws hard and throws strikes. It’s a good combination and the Royals chipped away against him before getting him out of there in the seventh and then holding on. Danny Duffy looked as good as I’ve seen him after the first inning last night. He ended up throwing 94 pitches in 7 innings after having a 25 pitch first inning. That’s the kind of efficiency he needs to be a star in this league. So yeah, maybe they woke up from that meeting and will play much better from here on out. It would go a long way toward making fans believe that 2012 will be different than any other year in the past 27.

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