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.
After 71 years, the Cubs are headed back to the Fall Classic.
The dominance with which Clayton Kershaw attacked the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS was nonexistent in Game 6 as the Dodgers’ ace loaded the bases to start the first inning and scattered five extra bases and five runs over five frames. By the time Dave Roberts pulled his starter in the sixth inning, Kershaw was sitting on a Game Score of 33, the lowest he’s mustered since the start of the 2015 season. Only one of his strikes came via curveball, and whether he was having difficulty locating his off-speed stuff or felt more confident with the fastball-slider combo, it was the fewest curves he’d seen land for strikes all year (per David Adler).
Where the Dodgers were able to give Kershaw the edge in Game 2, they found themselves powerless against opposing hurler Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks turned out 7 1/3 scoreless frames with two hits and six strikeouts, preserving the Cubs’ second shutout of the postseason and the first since they bested the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. After his 1-0 loss to the Dodgers early in the NLCS, seeing the MLB ERA leader turn out a gem was a relief for the Cubs, especially one as spectacular as an 88-pitch two-hitter.
With Hendricks effectively stymieing the Dodgers’ best attempts to get on base, the Cubs played to their strengths at the plate. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist cleared the bases in the first inning for a two-run lead, followed by a Dexter Fowler RBI single in the second. Willson Contreras came through in the fourth inning for the Cubs, lifting an 87 m.p.h. slider to left field for his first home run of October, while Anthony Rizzo hit his second homer of the postseason on a 1-1 fastball in the fifth.
Neither bullpen allowed a single run from the sixth inning onward. Dodgers’ right-hander Kenley Jansen took the ball from Kershaw in the sixth, scattering four strikeouts over three innings and denying the Cubs so much as a single baserunner through the end of the game. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, issued just one walk in 1 1/3 scoreless frames, inducing a Yasiel Puig double play to clinch the Cubs’ 17th franchise pennant.
With the win, the Cubs will face off against the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at 8 PM EDT. And, in case you needed a reminder:
So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
According to MLB.com’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).
Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.