Is it time for Ned Yost to get the axe?

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Expectations can be a drag. It’s not Ned Yost’s fault that a lot of people thought the Royals would be this year’s version of the 2013 Pirates and end a long playoff drought. So if the team is failing to meet those expectations, is it really his fault?

Well, sure. Because in this particular case the expectations weren’t terribly unreasonable. No one predicted a championship or even a division title. But respectability and occasional friskiness is definitely something this Royals team should be living up to given the talent on the roster. Perhaps Yost isn’t doing anything egregiously wrong (just go with me on that for now, Royals fans) but lots of dudes have been fired for managing a talented but underachieving team which appears to be listless and without fire.

Ken Rosenthal — who has never been one to call for managers’ heads all willy-nilly — thinks it’s time for Ned to go:

. . . if ever a team appears in need of a fresh voice, it’s this one. I’m not sure what that voice should sound like, though at this point, screeching probably would be preferable to soothing. The entire organization seems almost too comfortable, waiting for a surge that might never come . . . Considering the Royals’ talent, can anyone say [Yost] is getting the most out of this club?

Nope. Not at all. And that’s before you take into account his crazy in-game decisionmaking, his odd bullpen usage and post-game comments which, intentionally or not, suggest that winning isn’t always the most important thing. Which, to you and me and the kids at the bus stop it shouldn’t be, but to a major league manager it kinda is.

I’m not sure who today’s version of Billy Martin is. The guy who comes in, kicks butts, lights a fire under a team and manages a quick turnaround. Maybe it’s Ozzie Guillen? Maybe someone else? All I know is, it ain’t Ned Yost.

Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak ended 78 years ago today

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There’s nothing special about a 78-year anniversary. It’s not a round number or anything and we tend to like round numbers. But (a) I was reminded of this today; and (b) we have no idea if the Martians will have invaded and taken over the planet come 2021, so I feel like it’s best to run this now than wait for the 80th anniversary. Cool? Cool.

Anyway: on this day in 1941, Joe DiMaggio’s still-unbroken and possibly unbreakable (see below) 56-game hitting streak came to end. The game took place in Cleveland in front of a staggering 67,468 fans. Not bad for a Thursday night. The way the streak ended, courtesy of an ESPN Classic post from Larry Scwartz back in 2003:

Third baseman Ken Keltner makes two outstanding plays, grabbing DiMaggio smashes down the line in the first and seventh innings and throwing him out at first base. In between these at-bats, left-hander Al Smith walks DiMaggio in the fourth.

The Yankee Clipper has one more chance to extend his streak when he bats in the eighth with the bases full against Jim Bagby, a young right-hander who just enters the game. DiMaggio hits the ball sharply, but shortstop Lou Boudreau plays a bad hop perfectly and turns the grounder into a double play.

Stuff happens.

To be clear: 56 may not be broken in my lifetime or yours. It’s obviously a SUPER difficult task to string together a hitting streak of considerable length. As we saw when guys like Pete Rose or Paul Molitor or whoever have come within spitting distance of DiMaggio’s record — long spitting distance — the pressure ramps up and it’s hard to do you job with a lot of pressure. Add in the fact that simple base hits are harder to come by in today’s game than they used to be due to prevalent hitting, pitching and defensive trends, and it’d be no shocker whatsoever if no one ever does it.

But I draw the line at “unbreakable,” simply because, as noted above, stuff does happen. And because there’s nothing structural preventing it from happening. It’s not like Cy Young’s 511 wins or something which fundamental changes in the game have made basically impossible. No one is going to win 26 games a year for 20 years straight or what have you. Heck, CC Sabathia is baseball’s current gray hair among pitchers and only has a few dozen more career starts than that. It’s just a different game.

Hitters do play in 150-160 games now, though, and the good ones do average more than one hit per game. Putting them in the right arrangement may never be likely, but doing so is only a matter of stars aligning, not breaking the fundamental rules of engagement. It could happen. Maybe. Because, unlike some other records, it did before under broadly similar circumstances.

OK, that aside, I’ll offer up my favorite and most maddening DiMaggio hitting streak fact.

During his streak, which lasted from May 15-July 17, DiMaggio went 91-of-223, which is a .408 average. Between April 15-September 28 (i.e. the whole dang season) Ted Williams hit .406. And when it was all said and done he was substantially better in virtually every other batting category as well.

Joe DiMaggio won the MVP Award.