A long, long time ago…wait a minute, let me throw another “long” in there, it really was a while back…I was in St. Joseph giving a speech. For some reason, Dean Vogelaar, the Kansas City Royals public relations vice president at the time, was speaking right before me. What Vogelaar said has stuck with me all these years: Good teams have a game plan and stick to it. Bad teams are in a constant state of panic and keep changing plans.
That’s why I’m glad Royals GM Dayton Moore did not go out and sign a free-agent pitcher.
Let me explain: In the years following Vogelaar’s speech, the Royals seemed to lose their way. In my opinion, they became a perfect example of the “bad” team Vogelaar was talking about; constantly changing philosophies — preaching one thing and doing another. It got so bad that one year they signed the less-than-mobile Matt Stairs and moved the outfield fences back. It made you wonder what the game plan was.
So, despite the fact that the biggest question mark for the Royals in 2012 is their starting pitching, I like the fact that Moore is sticking to a plan. Moore thinks the Royals have young pitching in the system that’s almost ready, and signing a free-agent pitcher might block the advancement of that young pitching. Fans are all over the place: One minute, Kila Ka’aihue is the answer; the next minute, Eric Hosmer is the player du jour. Mike Moustakas was here for about two weeks before some people turned on him. I’ve even heard someone say now would be a good time to trade Alex Gordon.
A winning team can’t afford to be inconsistent. It needs a plan that makes sense and needs to stick with that plan. Naturally, baseball teams are always selling the idea that prosperity is just around the corner (get your season tickets now!), but there is evidence that this time, the Royals actually have a plan that’s starting to come together.
When I began writing about the Royals in 2010, they had the worst defense in the American League. Now they have five legitimate Gold Glove candidates: Alex Gordon, Jeff Francoeur, Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar and Salvador Perez. (Even if you think the Gold Glove is a lousy award, it’s nice to think the Royals might have five guys considered the best defenders at their positions.) Kevin Seitzer consistently keeps the team near the top of the league in hitting, the Royals run the bases much better these days and the bullpen has been improved.
I’ve always heard that a game plan takes five to seven years to filter its way through the system and become apparent in the major leagues. Moore became general manager on June 8, 2006; do the math. I’d like to believe that whatever is in charge of the universe has a plan, but things still seem pretty chaotic. So I’ve given up on the universe, but I still have hopes for the Royals. If they’ve got a plan, I want them to stick to it. For now, I’m willing to believe that Moore has a plan and we’re starting to see the results.
I hope so…either way, I’ve still got to watch 162 games this year.
I thought that Rustin Dodd’s recent story on Alex Gordon was interesting. When Gordon was scuffling, fans interpreted his quiet demeanor as not caring. Now that Gordon’s producing, that same demeanor is interpreted as being professional.
Last week, I had a disagreement with a reader over whether it would be possible for a baseball fan to know more about baseball than a baseball player (I didn’t think so), but I asked Russ Morman anyway. Russ said there are some players who aren’t exactly nuclear physicists (they’re almost always incredibly talented), but it’s hard to be a coach and be a moron. “The game exposes you.” So you might get into coaching, but you won’t last long if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Russ and I also talked about “weight-shift hitting.” Hitters do two things when they hit (OK, they do a lot more than two things, but let’s concentrate on two for now). They rotate (hips) and they weight shift (back to front). “Rotation” hitters concentrate on the circular motion in hitting and tend to be pull hitters. “Weight shift” hitters concentrate on the back to front motion in the swing and tend to be center field, opposite field hitters — or at least they did. The Charlie Lau/Walt Hriniak school of weight shift hitting isn’t as popular these days. Pitchers have come up with more variations on pitches and as a result, hitters are spreading their feet out and trying to maintain their balance.
Ned Yost recently received a contract extension. Once Ned figured out what I was trying to do, he was willing to explain some of the moves he makes during games. I hope to continue that during 2012.