Though it comes as no surprise—we didn’t REALLY think the Royals would contend this year, did we?—it is a bit more melancholy than years past. That’s because, unlike the past 20 years of futility, those magnificent whores teased us all the way into late August. With the cicadas screeching their awful songs of anger and the Chiefs finding their footing on hot Friday and Saturday nights, the Royals—yes THOSE Royals—actually remained relevant. A fistful of games out of a Wildcard spot, a few more than that away from a division lead… foreign territory.
This was a team built off of good-to-occasionally-great starting pitching, a near-perfect bullpen and a ridiculously good defense. Oh man, that defense.
But the inconsistent and often punch-less offense foretold the team’s doom with each at bat. Miserable on base percentage. Unable to take a goddamned pitch. Striking out with the bases loaded. Grounding into inning-ending double plays.
It’s blindingly clear that they need a second baseman, and just as clear that they need another outfielder. Justin Maxwell isn’t an everyday guy, law of averages would say that David Lough will experience some regression next season, and Lorenzo Cain…
Cain is the real tragedy.
In a piece near the beginning of the season, I wrote an obscene amount of words stressing the importance of Cain to this lineup. He’s well above-average defensively, his offense is a work-in-progress (with promise, though) and he has all of the makings of being an All Star center fielder, a position that has been filled by absolute embarrassments since the departure of Carlos Beltran and later (and to a lesser extent), David DeJesus.
Cain could be that guy, but his is a career that seems likely to be derailed by injuries.
Some guys get the injury bug and can’t shake it. Mike Sweeney got it late in his career. So did Ken Griffey Jr. Unfortunately for Royals fans—and Cain himself—he’s one of those sad souls who will probably never reach his potential because of his brittle bones and unyielding muscles.
It’s no coincidence that the team’s most recent downward spiral began when Cain strained his oblique.
All this being said, however, there’s another clear issue with this team that must be addressed as soon as the season ends: the manager.
Ned Yost has got to go.
All of the talent in the world can’t make up for a manager who has no idea what he’s doing on a daily basis.
Perhaps nothing is more illustrative of his ineptitude than back-to-back nights in this most recent (and painful) fall from relevance.
On Friday night against the disappointing Washington Nationals, Yost started his lineup with Alex Gordon hitting first and Eric Hosmer hitting second. The pair proceeded to go six-for-seven with three walks, three doubles, a home run and seven runs scored.
And though the Royals lost—of course they did—their 10 run total was the most they’d posted since an August 5th 13-0 thrashing of the hapless Minnesota Twins.
So CLEARLY Yost saw how wonderfully this lineup worked, and he went with the same 1-2 the next day, right? I mean, what kind of idiot WOULDN’T?
The next evening, he continued to bat Gordon leadoff—duh—but he dropped Hosmer down to the three hole. You know, because EMILIO BONIFACIO HANDLES THE BAT JUST AS WELL AS HOSMER.
And wouldn’t you know it, the Royals lost, scoring a measly two runs in the process.
This isn’t shocking, though, because this is a team that tends to lose more than they win. Always. They’ve lost seven in a row, they’re back to .500, and they’re 11.5 games back in the AL Central.
But hey, it was fun while it lasted, right?