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 Nationals bullpen is a tire fire. They’re about to add another tire. Per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, Washington is about to sign free agent reliever Francisco Rodriguez.
K-Rod was released by the Tigers last week after posting an ERA of 7.82 over 28 appearances this season. He has a 1.658 WHIP, is allowing 11.9 hits per nine innings and is posting his highest walk rate in five years. Also worth noting: the Detroit Friggin’ Tigers decided that he was not good enough to be in their bullpen.
So, yeah, good luck with that Washington.
I’ve spent years arguing with people about team chemistry. You know the battle lines on all of that now: people who talk a lot about team chemistry tend to attribute winning or losing to good or bad chemistry, respectively. I tend to think that characterizing chemistry is a retroactive exercise in which teams that win are happy and then cite their happiness as the reason and vice versa. Jim Leyland agrees with me, for what it’s worth, so I’m pretty happy with my take.
Not that I’ll claim a monopoly on wisdom here. I’ve never played on a professional baseball team. I don’t know what it’s like to try to prepare to play baseball while surrounded by jackwagons who don’t get along with anyone. I can’t imagine that makes life easier. Indeed, based on the testimony of players I have spoken to, I will grant that there is at least some intangible yet real benefit if everyone is happy an gelling. I dismiss team chemistry arguments for the most part, but if I ran a team I’d at least try to get rid of bad seeds if their bad seeding was not outweighed by seriously outstanding on-the-field play. You want your workers happy, folks.
All of which makes me wonder what the heck to do about this passage from Ken Rosenthal’s latest column. It’s about the reeling San Francisco Giants. They have all kinds of issues — their offense is putrid, their pitching isn’t much better and they’ve been without their ace most of the year — but today Rosenthal looks at their team chemistry. It’s a quiet and subdued clubhouse, he notes, and it has a lot of people wondering if something is wrong there. What could it be?
Sandoval, who was an often noisy and boisterous presence during his time with the club, departed as a free agent after that season. Pence has suffered a number of injuries in recent years and declined offensively, making it difficult for him to be as vocal as he was in the past. Some with the Giants muse that the team even misses Angel Pagan, who created an odd sort of unity because most of the players disliked him.
Read that last sentence again. And then go on with your talk about how team chemistry is a legitimate explanatory concept regarding what makes teams win or lose as opposed to a post-hoc rationalization of it.
Not that it’s not a good article overall. There’s some interesting stuff about the Giants’ bullpen culture. And, of course, we now know why no one signed Pagan last winter.