The Royals certainly opened themselves up for criticism from the national media as well as a few uninformed bloggers recently.
First, the Royals and manager Ned Yost made it clear to the team’s infielders that fraternizing with opposing baserunners was no longer going to be permitted, a story you read first here on FOXSportsKansasCity.com.
Then the Royals abruptly let go of first base coach Doug Sisson last weekend, and followed that up by designating Yuni Betancourt for assignment. A day later, the Royals let reliever Jose Mijares go on a waiver claim by the San Francisco Giants, meaning the Royals didn’t pull back Mijares from the waiver wire (which they can do) once the Giants made their claim.
At first glance, all these moves seem frivolous to the big picture – which is turning this organization into a winner – and only marginally newsworthy. That’s why the moves also led to much sarcasm inside and outside of Kansas City.
Hey, Royals, way to get to the bottom of it? Why don’t you fire Sluggerrr, too? That’ll solve everything!
The truth is, though, general manager Dayton Moore and Yost seemed to have reached their collective boiling point.
And we should applaud that, not ridicule it.
Let’s face it: This season went down the tank in such a hurry it had to startle Yost and Moore. Even though Moore has told us repeatedly that this team probably won’t be ready to compete for the division until 2014, my guess is that he expected this team to be competitive throughout 2012.
But a recent slide in which the Royals lost 21 of 27 proved the Royals are in danger of slipping – even with all their young talent – back into the oblivion of the pre-Dayton era (yes, it was worse). It also proved to Moore and Yost that the Royals now must pay more attention to environment in order to break free from what Yost termed a “losing culture.”
So, to their credit, subtle changes have been made. Bigger changes may be on the way.
If you look closely, it’s hard to argue with each of the recent moves.
For example, fraternizing with the opponent during the middle of a horrendous losing streak doesn’t exactly send the message that the Royals are distraught over losing. So Yost made it clear he will not tolerate fraternizing. Can anyone really argue with that logic?
We don’t know the exact reason for Sisson’s dismissal, though one can assume that he and Yost were not on the same page with Sisson’s approach in a particular coaching area – perhaps baserunning, where the Royals have been dreadful this season.
Betancourt’s dismissal? Anyone who has covered the clubhouse isn’t shocked by that his release. Betancourt does have some value offensively (and that is marginal at best) but he is not a long-term solution here. And, fair or not, he does strike most observers as a selfish player who is far more interested in where he’ll land in free-agency each year than his current team’s winning state.
Recent complaints from Betancourt about his playing time – amid a season-killing losing stretch – no doubt pushed Yost over the edge.
The Royals’ willingness to let Mijares go also could have been attitude related, or maybe it was simply roster related. The Royals could not find a trading partner for Mijares (which reveals what his true value was) and they will need space on the 40-man roster soon, which made him expendable.
The biggest message tucked within all these moves is that the Royals are already in 2013 mode. They understand this season is lost, and they are preparing a team for next season. They also are preparing a culture for next season.
As Yost said after Betancourt’s dismissal, “We have been living in a losing culture here for many, many years. We cannot get over the hump. In order for us to get over the hump, we have to have 25 guys that are solely invested in one goal, and that’s turning this organization around to become a champion. That’s it. It’s not about, ‘How much do I play?’ It’s not about, ‘Do I have a job?’
“This is about 25 guys with one goal: That we’re going out to try to win this baseball game tonight, and you have that goal night in, night out. Anybody else that’s not on page with that, we will never change our culture. It’s about 25 guys who respect each other, 25 guys that have the same common goal. That’s how we’re going to turn this losing culture into a winning culture.”
If that is truly what was behind the Royals’ recent moves, Royals fans may adopt a new slogan for 2013: “It’s About Time.”
Maybe that will make us forget about “This is Our Time.”