Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star writes that Trey Hillman is basically a dead manager walking, with the only question being whether the Royals will fire him during the season or simply let his contract run out.
I’m of the opinion that general manager Dayton Moore deserves a bigger share of the blame than Hillman, because he’s actually responsible for building a roster full of veteran mediocrity. With that said, the list of Hillman’s flawed decisions is a mile long and seemingly growing with each game, and as Mellinger points out regardless of the quality of the roster he simply hasn’t done what he was brought in to do:
He’s in charge of a roster that fits his tendencies and style better than either of the previous two. He likes speed and athletic ability, and the Royals finally have some. Judging a manager’s worth is endlessly tricky. Most times, it’s probably overrated. But here, where has Hillman improved the Royals?
He arrived as a hope to improve fundamentals. Before he ever managed a game, he talked about playing good defense and finding ways to manufacture runs. People would mention that he puts a lot of focus on the little things, and he’d quickly correct them. There are no little things, he’d say.
Well, in his third season and managing his kind of roster, the Royals rank last in defense and base running. Their run production doesn’t match up to their level of hitting, let alone exceed it. These are the areas Hillman was supposed to help. At best, he’s been ineffective.
Ultimately firing Hillman isn’t going to fix the Royals, because Joe McCarthy, John McGraw, and Earl Weaver together couldn’t manage this collection of scrubs to 75 wins. However, there’s little to indicate Hillman is pushing them in the right direction and plenty of evidence that he’s hindering the already shaky rebuilding process. His overall record as manager is 151-205 (.424), including 58-107 since last year’s 18-11 start.
Plus, as always the first step to an organizational overhaul is for the general manager to fire the manager. Once the Royals push Hillman out the door, whether by firing him now or opting not to renew his contract, then the pressure will be placed solely on Moore’s shoulders and the franchise might be ready for a more meaningful change.
The Red Sox inked Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract back in August 2014. Over parts of three seasons, the 29-year-old has a .679 OPS across 337 plate appearances in the majors and spent the vast majority of the 2016 season at Triple-A Pawtucket.
Castillo had a chance to start things off on the right foot in 2017, but that ship has already sailed. On Thursday against Northeastern at JetBlue Park, Castillo didn’t run out a routine ground ball. He claims he lost track of the outs. Manager John Farrell isn’t happy about the situation. Via Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald:
“Disappointing for a couple of reasons,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “One, he has lost the number of outs. Still, regardless of another of outs, getting down the line is controllable. And for a player in his situation, every little aspect of the game is important. That’s something that was addressed in the moment. He needs to execute the game situation. And for that matter, every player. But that one obviously stood out.”
Everyone always makes far too big a deal about running out grounders. It’s a real nit to pick when it’s February 23 and your team just finished playing an exhibition game that is even more meaningless than the other exhibition games that will be played in the coming month.
That being said, Castillo has to prove himself to merit inclusion on the 25-man roster and that means dotting all his i’s and crossing all his t’s. Even if he went hitless all spring, Castillo could have at least said he couldn’t have done anything else better. But on day one, he already gave his team a reason to count him out.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon says C/OF Kyle Schwarber is the frontrunner to bat leadoff for the team this season, CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports.
Schwarber, 23, has hit out of the leadoff spot only eight times in his young career, but the move up the batting order mostly just means more opportunities for him to swing his potent bat. He hit .246/.355/.487 with 16 home runs and 43 RBI in 273 plate appearances in his rookie season in 2015.
Schwarber suffered serious injuries early in the 2016 season when he collided with teammate Dexter Fowler in the Arizona outfield. He tore the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments, which everyone thought ended his 2016 season entirely. However, Schwarber returned for the start of the World Series against the Indians. In 20 plate appearances over five games, Schwarber contributed six singles, a double, and three walks.