I use to have this football coach who was a little bit kooky, a little bit nutty in a down-home-Midwest-drill sergeant kind of way. He had a flattop haircut decades after that was something people were still doing. He use to pad up and play scout team quarterback with us, which felt odd even at the time. He also had these incredible sayings that kind of made no sense. The one that’s sticking in my mind at this moment is “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.”
It seems true enough even if it’s completely false. Sometimes, you can in fact just keep doing what you’ve always done with differing results because the circumstances surrounding that action change. For example, a large group of people in New York continued to back mortgage futures into the mid 2000s, at first making billions of dollars and then losing billions of dollars when the housing bubble burst. Same doings, differing results.
That said, I think it might help Ned Yost to learn my old, zany coach’s lesson a little bit. Recently, he made a statement to Bob Dutton, my favorite beat writer of all time, that Dutton put in an article about Yost’s “steady as she goes” approach to losing many baseball games: “You don’t do crazy stuff that you wouldn’t do if you were winning ballgames. You try to stay as even-keeled as you can. You stay positive. You keep working. We don’t change anything.”
I read this, and immediately, the voice of my old coach popped into my head, “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.” Yes! Of course! When you experience sustained losing, you must change something or you will continue to lose. That seems like the most basic sports principle of all time, and yet, it alludes Yost. The principle behind Yost’s philosophy, I’m guessing, is to not be overly swayed by small sample sizes. Statisticians know the perils of this. But the Royals are 41-60. They’ve lost 21 of their last 27. That’s not a small sample size. It’s in fact a very healthy sample size when the question is should something be changed? Abso-freaking-lutely something should be changed!
There is a point when patience becomes impotence, when faith in the ability of your guys is clearly misplaced. As Royals fans, we know where that faith is misplaced: Jeff Francoeur and Yuniesky Betancourt. Are the Royals a winning team, even with an optimal lineup of the organization’s best players (yes I used “organization” intentionally as our best second baseman and right fielder are currently in AAA)? Maybe, maybe not. But to consistently repeat an action, like playing two players who are not effective, and expecting changing results when the circumstances surrounding that action never really change is willful ignorance (Some call it insanity; too me, that’s a slight on the truly insane like myself and Donald Trump).
Is Yost stupid? I don’t know for sure, but I doubt it. I’m guessing he’s a decently smart baseball guy. He’s just not wise. He’s clearly not a big picture guy, and that’s just crazy when the biggest picture he should be concerned with is doing whatever it takes to win baseball games. It feels like he’s more concerned with getting players to play well. It would seem like these two things are connected, but they really aren’t. He needs to get the team to play well. Sometimes, that means changing the team so it doesn’t include dead weight. And yes, he needs Dayton Moore’s help to do this.
Moore showed some signs that he might be a little wiser than Yost. He made a change today, trading Jonathan Broxton for a couple of solid minor league arms. Kudos for Moore for taking a player who had some value to other teams but not really to the Royals and turning it into some value for the Royals. Now, he and Yost need to figure out how to do that with players inside their own organizations or both of them may learn what the brutal winds of change their so hesitant to bring about feel like when they’re sweeping them away.