The teams that drive me crazy are the ones that are in denial, performing poorly yet operating in their own little universe, acting as if only they know what is best.
The Orioles were like that for a long time. So were the Pirates. The Astros are like that now, but get the benefit of the doubt because they just started to rebuild.
The Royals have lost the benefit of the doubt.
And now that their season of promise is rapidly turning to ruin, I wonder just how long they’re going to keep telling us that everything is all right.
Here is a team that is in free fall, loser of 18 of its last 21 games and 10 straight at home. Yet general manager Dayton Moore sounded almost defiant when he told the Kansas City Star last Thursday, “We’re not going to panic.”
I seriously doubt that many people in Kansas City would be upset Wednesday if the Royals announced they were firing Yost.
It goes without saying that Yost is not completely to blame for his team’s collapse; no manager ever is. But if the Royals were so wedded to Yost, they would have extended his contract last offseason. And now, as the losses mount, Yost’s frustration appears to be growing.
According to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star, Yost sounded exasperated Tuesday night when asked how players were being held accountable.
“What are you asking me to do?” Yost asked. “Take my belt off and spank them? Yell at them? Scream at them? What do you want? These kids, every day, we go through the process. We’re constantly talking about approach.
“Do we need to make changes? This can’t continue. Somewhere down the road, yeah, we’re going to have make some changes.”
Somewhere down the road? Sorry, the Royals can’t wait that long.
They could release outfielder Jeff Francoeur, demote third baseman Mike Moustakas, fire one or both of their hitting coaches, make any number of smaller moves. But it sure appears that they also need to do something bigger, in part to mollify a fan base that last celebrated a playoff team in 1985.
This was supposed to be the season, remember? Moore went all-in, trading for right-hander Ervin Santana, re-signing righty Jeremy Guthrie, giving up top outfield prospect Wil Myers to acquire righties James Shields and Wade Davis.
I applauded Moore for acting boldly. Some in the industry thought that he acted too soon. Whatever, Moore now needs to realize that his career, too, is at stake. The Royals have yet to produce a winning season since he took over on June 8, 2006. No active GM has a losing streak that long.
Is it still possible for the Royals to salvage their season and for Yost to save his job? Sure it is. I thought the Dodgers’ Don Mattingly was doomed a little more than a week ago, but he seemed to find his voice and now his team is playing better.
The Dodgers’ players, though, are more proven than the Royals’. And while Yost is in his 10th season as a manager, only once did he finish with a winning record. It would have been twice, but the Brewers fired him with 12 games left in the 2008 season, fearing that Yost was about to cost them a spot in the playoffs.
The Brewers rallied to reach the postseason, but firing the manager often is too easy an answer, failing to produce the desired results. If Moore wants to keep Yost — if he truly believes that Yost is the solution — then that is his GM’s prerogative. But at some point, Moore needs to figure out why some of the Royals’ young players are regressing, why the offense is one of the worst in the AL, why the team overall can’t seem to get out of its own way.
I don’t buy the easy narrative that the Royals’ problems date to Yost pulling Shields with a 1-0 lead after eight innings on May 6, resulting in a 2-1 loss to the White Sox. The Mariners’ Eric Wedge did virtually the same thing with Felix Hernandez only two days later, but his closer earned the save and hardly anyone said a word.
Then again, we can play this game forever. This isn’t the manager’s fault. That isn’t the manager’s fault. We’re all in this together. Everyone is to blame.
In the end, it’s all just another form of denial. And the Royals have been in denial for too long.