KANSAS CITY, Mo. – In a stunning move Thursday morning, the Royals reassigned fired first-year hitting coaches Jack Maloof and Andre David, then announced Hall of Famer George Brett would assume the interim hitting coach position effective tonight when the Royals conclude a four-game home-and-away series with the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
Brett, who just turned 60 earlier this month, has been the club’s vice president of baseball operations since retiring after the 1993 season. Brett has worked with Royals hitters during virtually every spring training since, but has always taken a hands-off approach during the regular season out of respect to the club’s hitting coaches throughout the years.
Brett also has maintained he wasn’t interested in becoming a manager or hitting coach because he didn’t want to spend that much time away from his family.
But Brett said Thursday that with two of his three sons in college and a third who will be a senior in high school, the timing was suitable for him to become the batting coach on an interim basis.
“I’m as frustrated (by the losing) as anyone else,” Brett said. “It’s time to get to work.”
Brett said he will rely on the teachings of his mentor, the late Charley Lau, to guide the Royals’ young hitters.
“I will be Charley Lau’s ghost,” Brett said.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore said he has tried to persuade Brett several times in the past to join the coaching staff.
“Change is never easy,” Moore said. “But, based on recent events and the expectations of our club, we felt the changes were required and needed. George is the perfect guy for where we are right now, and we are just very delighted that he has accepted this opportunity. We look forward to this team being more productive, and more consistent. That’s part of the reason, the main reason we did what we did.
“We just felt the time was now. Obviously, we are losing a lot of ballgames. We’re getting relatively strong pitching, and we aren’t getting runs. We’ve got to do a better job. We just felt we needed to inject some entusiasm and some energy.”
Entering Thursday night’s game, the Royals had lost eight straight and 19 of 23.
“I feel the same frustration as the players do,” Brett said. “I feel the same frustration as our manager, Ned (Yost), and our general manager, Dayton, and ownership, David and Dan Glass. Just frustrated watching it, night after night after night.
“So, I’m going to give it a try. I spoke to the players already, tried to evoke some passion that I have for the organization. I’m scared to death right now, to be honest with you. But I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Maloof and David were hired just last fall to replace the fired Kevin Seitzer. But the changes Yost had hoped for with the switch – more power from the lineup – never came to fruition.
The Royals are dead last in the American League in home runs with 28 and have hit just two home runs since May 14 – both by 39-year-old backup infielder Miguel Tejada.
“There is just no reward here (for us) to try and hit home runs,” Maloof said. “We try to stay down on the ball, be more line-drive oriented, and do more situational hitting at least through the first two or three rounds (at home) here. That’s why I’m not overly concerned because I think we’ll lead the league in fewest home runs again this year. We don’t have a 40-homer guy in the middle of the lineup.
“We’ve got kids. Billy Butler is a doubles machine. No one has told me he is a home run hitting guy. If we try to do it too much, we’ll get ourselves in trouble. Same thing with Alex (Gordon). They’ll hit home runs on the road, and yes, they’ll hit some here. They have. But the risk for them to go out and hit a home run in one of 80 at-bats, the reward isn’t great enough.
“Baltimore? Better reward. I’m not using it as an excuse. But it is a mindset.”
Opponents, though, have out-homered the Royals 32-11 at Kaufmann Stadium.
“Here’s the thing: Other teams come in here from Anaheim or wherever and they have their swing already down,” Maloof said. “This park doesn’t even enter into their minds when they hit here. They have their swings, the same swings, because it pays dividends for them at home.”
Those comments caused an avalanche of controversy on Kansas City sports-talk radio, and on social media.
Both Maloof and David were reassigned to the Royals’ minor leagues.
“We’re going to miss Jack and Andre,” third baseman Mike Moustakas said. “They were two great guys, and they knew what they were talking about. You know, something had to happen. We’re lucky that we get George Brett, a Hall of Famer, in here to help us out.”
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org