In today’s world, nothing seems to get done without a capable leader. It always takes someone to stick to their guns and hold everything together. I think we all have had experiences with captains, leaders, chairs, etc., and can understand that sentiment.
With that in mind, a little more than a year ago, I wrote a post crowning Billy Butler as the Royals’ captain of sorts, saying that “having a guy of Butler’s age, experience, and production will be extremely important to build a great clubhouse atmosphere.” Well, a lot has changed since then. A considerable chunk of the team has been turned over. There’s even more youth around. And now we face the dilemma that Butler may not be the clear-cut leader. While Soria is probably still the head guy of the bullpen and pitchers (possibly with Chen at his side), the picture among position players is a little less clear-cut.
So, who’s the guy?
You might wonder why I’d back off Butler at all. And I might wonder the same thing. I guess it comes down to the idea that Butler might be reluctant to take up that title. As I described in the post linked above, Butler was always sort of a quiet type. After the Zack Greinke deal went down, he became much more vocal than ever before. And then, suddenly, he quieted down again. It was as if he felt the time was there to say something, but he never wanted to go any further than that.
Of course, we have to note that none of us knows what is happening in the clubhouse. It could be that Butler is a huge presence there and we’re just unaware. But without being an insider or knowledgeable of those behind-doors areas, I have to root around what I’ve seen to find the next guy.
I have a few options in mind. I’ll just lay them out:
Those six seem the most likely to snap up a spot as team captain or leader. Really, some of them may have already done so last season. But with that season in mind, I really can’t imagine that Hosmer, Moustakas, or Perez are quite ready for that spot. Though they’re all primed for such a role in the future, being in the big leagues for less than one season can make it difficult to completely fill that role, even on a team of young guys. When we get to Wil Myers and Bubba Starling and Cheslor Cuthbert reaching Kansas City, things might be structured differently.
So, that leaves us with Butler, Frenchy, and Gordon. There are two different situations here. The first involves Butler and Gordon, who both played with the Royals starting in 2007 and who were both developed in the Royals’ farm system. They’re homegrown products of Royals drafts. They are your Royals figureheads, seemingly. However, the second situation encompasses Frenchy’s, well, whatever you want to call it. He’s been a joke on the field in previous years, though he cleared that up with the Royals in 2011 (for the most part). And he’s a clubhouse leader and a man’s man, based on what we’ve seen before. And he’s extremely charismatic, to the point where it’s hard to not believe and trust him when you hear him speak. Even if you’re constantly fighting the widely-spread idea of his leadership, he does inspire confidence when you listen to him.
Who do you go with, though? The born-and-bred Royal (Gordon), the incumbent (Butler), or the born leader (Frenchy)?
This isn’t as easy as it seems. And I think it’s going to make me break form a bit. While I argued for using a product of the farm system as the leader for last year’s season, I can’t ignore that Frenchy makes a good spokesman for the club. Watching Joel Goldberg’s interviews with Frenchy is always going to be more interesting and entertaining to me than interviews with Gordon or Butler. He’s been surprisingly upfront about his opinions at times and gives the club a friendly face, even if that person has been the brunt of jokes for many years. While we know these things about him, any benefit he has within the clubhouse is an added bonus from this perspective. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with all things Frenchy, so I wouldn’t be shocked to know that he does have a strong impact on the team, especially with the young guys.
What that means for Gordon and Butler is that they need to be inspiring for young guys and their struggles. Both Butler and Gordon have gone through tough times and spent large periods in Omaha. They know what it’s like to slump and struggle. And they’ve been through this farm system before. They can be the coaches for the rookies as they start the 2012 season. It’s likely that some or all of those guys will struggle, and Gordon and/or Butler should be there to talk them through it and hold things together. Heck, even Frenchy’s had tough times in his career, and he can lend a hand when necessary.
When it comes down to it, it’s hard not to hand the whole role to Frenchy. If he is as strong in the clubhouse as previous reports have indicated, then he really should be the leader. But I guess the moral of the story is that Gordon and Butler shouldn’t be let off the hook. They’ve been around the block and they know the ups and downs. They can speak to their struggles and what helped them to overcome those. And they can use their experience with the Royals organization, from top to bottom, to “coach” the younger guys about working through issues.
The Royals really have a three-headed beast as a captain. Frenchy’s in more of a public role, but Butler and Gordon are extremely important to holding the club together. If they lose their heads and let things unravel, the team might unravel with them. And as we get prepared for an improvement in the team’s performance, keeping things together will be more and more important. With a tight young core of players, it comes to the more experienced guys to make the clubhouse livable. And that’s just what these three have to do.
Just don’t expect to see anything out of the ordinary from Butler or Gordon in public now that Frenchy can take up most of the spotlight.
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