Well obviously this hasn't gone to plan. After a 17-10 start, we were told repeatedly by Rex the Wonderdog that the Royals could simply play .500 the rest of the way and it would be a successful season.* Never mind the fact that .500 the rest of the way would result in only 84 or 85 wins, which likely won't be enough for a playoff berth. Instead, the Royals have went into a tailspin and have now won just 4 of their last 20 games.
* Considering how close Rex appears to be with all of the players on the team, you have to assume that a similar sentiment was being whispered in their ears. "Eric, don't worry about one loss. We just need to play .500 the rest of the way. Drive the bus, you stinky piece of cheese!" There's a winning culture for you.
Now given that most of us predicted the Royals to be a 78-85 win team, we all should have realized that there would be rough patches. However, I don't think any of expected a stretch like the one we are currently on.**
** Good thing the Royals acquired a stopper. It is almost humorous hen people say things like there won't be any long skids since the Royals have a stronger rotation. Well what people should realize, is that one win doesn't all of the sudden right a sinking ship. Just because the Royals haven't lost 12 in a row, doesn't mean they are incapable of two week long stretches of awful baseball.
At this point, it seems clear to me that the Royals need to make a change. I do not believe that an individual should lose their job due to poor performance over a 20 game stretch. However, I do think that a 20 game stretch can highlight deeper more sustaining problems. What seems blatantly obvious to me is that Ned Yost is ill-equipped to be a Major League manager.
The offense hasn't done Yost any favors, but that should not serve as a blindfold to the decisions that he has made. In virtually every way, he has shown an impotence when it comes to leveraging his talent in the ways to make this roster as successful as possible. There are the obvious things, like not utilizing platoon advantages in pinch hit situations, bringing in Bruce Chen with less than 2 outs and a man on third (a fireable offense in its own right, with a rested pen), and batting Chris Getz leadoff.
There are also other inefficiencies hat are not unique to Ned Yost, but an industry wide problem when it comes to managing (continuing to bat one of the team's worst hitters in the most important spot in the order, batting the team's best hitter's in one of the less important spots in the order, proper leveraging of the bullpen, etc.)*** Finally, there are the more frustrating aspects of Yost that come from just being an educated fan. The regular patronizing post game interviews and the excuses.
*** It has been ten years ago since Moneyball became a top-selling book. Since that time virtually every front office has been infiltrated by analytics and individuals with statistical backgrounds. At what point does this revolution hit the dugout? Joe Maddon of the Rays is already applying these principles with huge amounts of success, but even Maddon has a playing background. I'm talking about sabermetric types finding roles as bench coaches or even managers. This is a topic for another discussion.
Here is the problem with changing managers, Dayton Moore has in no way shown that he deserves the opportunity to hire a third manager. Since June 8, 2006, Moore's first official day as Royals General Manager, the Kansas City Royals are 487-636 (.434). Over 162 games, that is good for a 70-92 record. This is Dayton Moore's average performance over the course of his seven years at the helm. In the history of the Royals franchise, they have posted a lower winning percentage just twelve times. Three and a half of those have occurred in Dayton Moore's tenure.
Industry wide, just two teams have won fewer games than the Kansas City Royals since June 8, 2006: the Houston Astros and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Astros have intentionally hit rock bottom over the last two plus seasons. The Pirates appear to finally be getting it together. In fact, it isn't unreasonable to suggest that by the end of May, the Royals could have the worst record in all of baseball since Dayton Moore took the helm. Does this sound like a guy who deserves to hire a third manager?
Despite the poor performance on the field, Dayton Moore is the ninth longest tenured general manager in the game. The only general manager with a longer tenure than Dayton Moore and a lower winning percentage since Dayton Moore was hired, is Dan O'Dowd of the Colorado Rockies who in his 8th full season took the Rockies to the World Series.
This brings me back to my final thought, Dayton Moore is under contract through 2014, which would be his 8th full season in charge. As unfortunate as it is, I have a hard time imagining him not at least being given this season to show improvement. Quite frankly, all signs seem to point to 2014 as the year of final judgement. If things don't come together by that time, Dayton will have no one to blame but himself as he was the one who honed in on a two year window when he acquired James Shields from Tampa Bay.
I don't believe that Dayton Moore was a useless general manager. I also don't feel as though Kansas City has tread water for seven years or has taken a step back. I believe that Dayton Moore did a fine job of improving the infrastructure and rebuilt a farm system through the aggressive acquisition of high end talent. The development of that talent and Major League roster construction has been a huge problem.
For me, Dayton Moore is now a replacement level general manager. The Royals are at a point, where that potential needs to be turned into talent and where roster construction has to be a strong skill of the individual in charge. Since neither of these areas are strengths of the current administration, I see no risk in the opportunity to bring in a new GM. In fact, I would be incredibly excited to see what a forward thinking General Manager could do with the talent that is currently in the organization. Until that time, the Royals will be below replacement level at third base, second base, right field, in the dugout and in the front office. Fortunately, for the front office they won't even realize it.