Leadership can be a difficult thing to assess in baseball. Our national pasttime has always had an odd mixture of teamwork and individualism that can make it difficult to define the “leader” of a team. Granted, there are anomalies, Mr. Jeter as the leader of the pinstripes for one, but for the most part I think that being the captain of a baseball team is significantly different than being the captain of a football or basketball team.
This leads me to a question that I’ve been thinking about quite a bit this week. Who is the leader of the current Royals squad? They’re very young so it’s not like they have a lot of hardened veterans who have had consistent success to teach them how to win.
Many people might say Jeff Franceour is the leader. I have a hard time buying into this, at least for the moment. Jeff’s been here for a year and has had moderate success. The fact that he’s become a fan favorite has also been working for him as well. All I see in articles and interviews are people talking about what a great guy Franceour is and how nice he is to everyone and how hard he works. I’m not saying that I don’t believe that. Far from it in fact. I was actually okay with Dayton signing Franceour in the offseason because I’ve always liked him despite his struggles. I don’t think we can say this is his team though. He just hasn’t been a Royal long enough for me to accept him as a leader. I’ve suffered really crappy baseball in KC much longer than Jeffy has. I deserve a “C” on my jersey more than him at this point.
Could Bruce Chen be a leader? Again, I don’t think so. I realize that the guy gets wins. I don’t know exactly how that happens, but it does. Regardless, Chen doesn’t seem like the guy to look to as the face of the franchise. He’s not an overpowering pitcher and he’s not an overpowering personality…..I do like his jokes though.
Luke Hochevar has to be good for an extended period of time before he can be an upper echelon guy on this team. We’ve all experienced the good and bad times that come with putting hope in Luke Hochevar. He may get it figured out and be able to step into that role at some point, but he’s not there yet.
In my mind, the guy to look to has to be Billy Butler. When Greinke left, he was the only player we had left who had success in a Royals uniform despite how awful the team was. Billy is still pretty young as a player but compared to the average age of the team, he is a wise sage who resides on the top of the mountain giving advice to those daring enough to climb.
In all seriousness, Billy came up through the minors and his success in the majors was fairly instant. It hasn’t slacked either. You can complain about the “lack of power” all you want, but Butler has shown that he is a consistent danger at the plate at the major league level. He is the type of hitter I want the younger guys to look at and emulate.
The only thing that bothers me about that is the fact that Billy’s move to DH seems to have pushed him into the background somewhat. How easy is it to be a franchise’s “Main Guy” when you go to the plate 4 times a game and spend the rest of the time on the bench? Am I wrong in that? I guess Travis Hafner was kind of the main man in Cleveland for awhile and all he did was D.H…..Frank Thomas too, though he played a lot more first base than Billy has.* Maybe the reason Billy’s role feels lessened isn’t necessarily due to his position, but rather the ridiculous amount of minor league prospects who have made the jump to the Bigs this year and the natural excitement that comes with fresh new players.
*And probably ever will if Eric Hosmer has anything to say about it.
In my mind, Billy Butler is still the leader of this franchise. When one of the young guys is in a hitting slump he can’t seem to get out of, I want him to follow Billy’s lead. When a young player is unsure of how a big-leaguer might handle a situation, William “Country Breakfast” Butler is who they should look to.
That’s my opinion..what’s yours?