Can I start the slow clap for Mike Moustakas, or is it too soon? Have I lowered my expectations to the point where I was just happy for the kid to get his batting average up over .200? Either way, the rookie is hot right now. He’s hitting the way that we all hoped that he would, and I don’t care – I’m going to celebrate it.
Now, I know that everyone knows the over-publicized history of the hype and anticipation of the young third baseman. First round draft pick, fast-track to the bigs, top ranked prospect, etc. There has also been much discussion of his slow starts and an ability to turn things around. I’m leaving that stuff alone.
I was in the same boat as pretty much everyone else – anxious, then excited, then relieved, then surprised, then disappointed. Then concerned. That is, until August rolled around. Two events have rebuilt my faith in Mike Moustakas.
The first of these events occurred on August 3rd. I had the unique opportunity to stand in front of #8 and listen to him answer questions about his slow start, living up to the hype, and what he’d learned up to that point. The rookie hung in there & answered every question from our group thoroughly and with confidence. He told me that the biggest thing that he could do to get better was to learn from his mistakes.
He did not dodge the fact that he was struggling. He took it head on and did not sound panicked that he would not get it figured out. In fact, we had just learned that he had been benched for that night’s game (and the following night) to take a little break. That could have been something to shatter a young player’s last remaining shreds of confidence, but I felt like it was Moustakas who calmed all of our nerves.
My favorite part of that interview was when he was asked about his relationship with Eric Hosmer. These two guys have been tied together since being back to back first round picks in 2007 & 2008. Moustakas was a year ahead of Hosmer, and was the top ranked prospect. He was the guy believed to lead the wave of talent into Kauffman Stadium. However, Moose started slow in Omaha this year and Hosmer hit .439 in 26 games and got the call first.
The two were living together in Omaha earlier this year, and when the call came that Hosmer was going to Kansas City, Moustakas said that “It was the happiest day of my life. My best friend was going to the big leagues.”
He said that he gave Hosmer a big hug and congratulated him. It could have been the kind of moment that sparked thoughts of envy, jealousy, and resentment. Baseball is a business, and sometimes friendship and camaraderie only lives on the surface. But when Moustakas told this story, he had a huge smile on his face and I could tell that the relationship between those two was something special. It put a smile on my face.
When Moustakas finally joined the Royals in Anaheim in June, it was Hosmer who took him under his wing. It’s fitting that they now man the corners of the Kansas City infield – together.
After a great start – hits in his first four games, he cooled a bit, then slid. July was not kind to Moustakas, and he had just 15 hits in 24 games. His BA for the month was .160 and his season average had slipped below the dreaded .200 mark.
After a three hit game against the Yankees and single hits in the first two games against the Red Sox, I arrived at the K on Saturday, August 20th (the 2nd event). I was there with a couple of Red Sox fans, who were overconfident and trying to figure out why some of the young guys on the team were struggling. They landed on Moustakas, who entered the game with a .198 average. I told them that he’d been struggling, but that tonight was the night that he was going to climb back over .200.
That enticed some serious eye-rolling, but Mike had a big two-hit night, and I stood and cheered as he doubled in the 6th and raised his average to .204. I treated him like Ted Williams in 1941, who used that last day of the season to take his average from .39955 to .406. Comparable, right? That’s why I wonder if I’m crazy. I was giving the guy a standing ovation for raising his batting average over .200.
While I’ve contemplated my mental state, Moustakas has continued to hit. He didn’t hover around that mark, but rather, has hit in every game since. Going back to the Yankees series, he’s riding a nine game hitting streak, including two hits in each of his last four games. He’s now hitting .227, and while that’s still nothing you’d want to advertise, it’s a good recovery for someone who the Royals need to be a star.
With 30 games left in the season, Moustakas finds himself 2/3 through his first season in the Major Leagues. I think it’s realistic for him to finish with an average over .250, which would be a good launching point for his career. We as fans have to don our overused rose colored glasses and believe that it will carry into 2012.
The rookie has his swagger back, though I’d argue with you that he never lost it. I’m happy for him, and while I don’t expect him to hit in every game until the end of the season, I’m starting the slow clap.