After back-to-back winning months in May and June, the wheels came off the bus in July. The Royals never won consecutive games and only managed to beat their awful April win total of SIX by ONE. The team limped into the All-Star Break and fell flat on their face coming out of it. They did not capitalize on the energy produced by a city that had not been so excited about baseball since 1985. July has long been a frustrating month for Royals fans and a challenging one for Royals General Managers. The team has been forced to act as sellers at the trade deadline that caps this month, and were once again this year. It’s another year gone by where the fan base is not allowed to participate in the pennant race. Any chances for contention in 2012 faded fast in the past 30 days. Here’s a look at what happened in the Month of July…
a. July Overall Record: 7-19 (.269)
Season Record: 42-60 (.412)
AL Central: 5th (of 5)
American League: 14th (of 14)
Major League: 28th (of 30)
b. July Home Record
Season Home Record: 18-30 (.375)
c. July Road Record
Season Road Record: 24-30 (.444)
d. July Streaks
Losing: 5 (7/25-7/29: Angels, Mariners)
Current: Won 1
e. July Opponents
Blue Jays: 2-2
White Sox: 1-2
II. Ned Yost Quote of the Month
7/27-after 2nd straight loss to Mariners in Seattle. It was 5-1 after 2 innings. The previous night, it was 2-0 after the 1st inning. The day before in L.A., it was 8-0 after 4 innings.
“It’s hard to play that way. You can’t expect to be successful every night when you’re down four, five, six runs in the first couple innings.”
III. High Point
Kauffman Stadium’s Standing Ovation for All-Star Billy Butler on 7/10
In a month that didn’t have many memorable moments, this one definitely stood out. Butler was chosen to represent the Royals in the game at the K. As the cameras followed the line of All-Stars down the line, you saw some of the biggest stars in the game. Then, the camera stopped on Billy, and he took off his cap, gave a great big embarrassed smile, and waved to the crowd. The fans at the K would not let him off that easily, making the applause last longer than any other player. They made sure that everyone around the world knew that Billy was theirs and that they love him. I think the other players, the other fans in attendance, and people watching everywhere took notice of this moment too.
IV. Low Point
Getting swept by the Mariners on 7/29
When the Mariners came to the K just five days after the All-Star Game, they were one of the worst teams in the American League, and even had a worse record than the Royals (by one game). At 37-53, the Royals had an opportunity to stay in the race against a team that they were better than. Or so we all thought. The Mariners swiftly won 3 out of 4 games in that set. A week later, the Royals flew to Seattle after dropping 2 of 3 to the Twins and Angels. With intentions on getting revenge on the M’s, they came out flat and were swept. At the end of it all, the Mariners had improved their record to 43-57 and put in a request to the commissioner’s office to only play the Royals from here on out. They looked like world beaters, and the Royals looked like a beaten puppy.
V. Surprises and Disappointments
1) So Long, Jonathans.(Surprise) The Royals dealt both Jonathans in June – Sanchez and Broxton. Now, the surprise wasn’t so much that they’re no longer with the team, but some of the circumstances with their departure. J. Sanchez was Designated for Assignment on July 17th, and discussions turned to whether or not he’d accept a AAA contract (or if we’d want him there). Then, out of the blue, the Rockies called and made a trade for Sanchez. They offered up Jeremy Guthrie, another starter who had lost his way. It seemed like a junk for junk swap, but both teams took a chance on new scenery benefitting the players. To this point, neither has been right. For J. Broxton, the Royals saw him as a really valuable bargaining chip, but as time ticked away towards the trade deadline, it seemed less and less likely that Broxton would depart the Royals. However, a couple of hours before time ran out, a deal was struck for a minor league pitcher. Everyone seemed happy. Then, we found out that another (maybe better?) pitcher was also involved in the trade. Two prospects who could potentially be starters in the future were worth taking for a closer who hasn’t had many opportunities to close lately.
2) KC Fans Get a Bad Rap at the Home Run Derby. (Disappointment) One of the biggest stories coming out of the All-Star Game was the emergence of the boo birds at Kauffman Stadium. According to the media, the “rube” fans of Kansas City were booing AL team captain Robinson Cano because he didn’t pick Billy Butler to participate in the event. They called it ugly when the crowd came together to climb entirely into Cano’s head during his one and only round where he hit exactly zero home runs. It was awesome to watch as a Royals fan – BECAUSE I KNEW THE WHOLE STORY. Cano had promised to pick a Royal to participate in the event, then didn’t follow through. The fans in KC were just letting him know that they were disappointed in that decision.
3) Sundays. (Disappointment) The Royals were 0-5 on Sundays in July. They’re now just 5-12 on Sundays for the year. I think they’re taking the whole “day of rest” thing a little too literally…
4) Frenchy’s Slide. (Disappointment) Is it? It’s been amazingly tragic to watch Francoeur’s downfall over the past few weeks. He’s having such a hard time getting on base lately and is pressing so hard while the chants for Wil Myers grow louder and louder. He hit a team worst .178 in July and had a team worst OBP of just .213. He struck out 21 times and walked just thrice. It’s disappointing, sure, because you’d like to see him perform well enough to give Myers more time to develop. Francoeur’s a veteren and has been good for this team to some extent. However, Myers seems to have done just about everything he’s needed to do in Omaha and seems poised for Frenchy’s spot in right field. It will be interesting to see the Royals’ approach to the situation for the rest of the year.
1) 7/1: Optioned LHP Tommy Hottovy to AAA Omaha.
2) 7/4: Designated CF Mitch Maier for Assignment. Optioned RHP Vin Mazzaro to AAA Omaha. Recalled RHP Nathan Adcock & RHP Louis Coleman from AAA Omaha.
3) 7/5: Released C Humberto Quintero
4) 7/9: Activated 2B Chris Getz from 15-Day DL & CF Lorenzo Cain from 60-Day DL. Optioned 2B Irving Falu & RHP Nathan Adcock to AAA Omaha.
5) 7/14: Transferred RHP Felipe Paulino from 15-day DL to 60-day DL. Outrighted CF Mitch Maier to AAA Omaha.
6) 7/17: Designated LHP Jonathan Sanchez for assignment. Optioned CF Jason Bourgeois to AAA Omaha. Recalled RHP Vin Mazzaro & LHP Ryan Verdugo from AAA Omaha.
7) 7/18: Optioned LHP Ryan Verdugo to AAA Omaha. Recalled LHP Francisley Bueno from AAA Omaha.
8 ) 7/19: Optioned RHP Vin Mazarro to AAA Omaha. Recalled LHP Will Smith from AAA Omaha.
9) 7/20: Traded LHP Jonathan Sanchez to Colorado Rockies for RHP Jeremy Guthrie.
10) 7/21: Optioned LHP Francisley Bueno to AAA Omaha.
11) 7/31: Traded RHP Jonathan Broxton to Cincinnati Reds for LHP Donnie Joseph and J.C. Sulbaran
VII. Player of the Month
After hitting .315 with 5 HR in June, Billy continued his upward trend in July. He had a .404 OBP, hit .327 with 4 HR and drove in 16 runs. He was the Royals’ All-Star Representative, and although he was 0-2 in the game, he showed that he was deserving of the honor. In the same way that Mike Krzyzewski might deserve to win Coach of the Year every year but can only win it once every 5 years or so, such is Billy’s fate. He’s been the most consistent bat in this lineup for a long time. Others will have better months and get noticed, but they eventually fade. Billy is a .300 hitter. He’s showing improved power this year, which is a good sign, given that he’s keeping his average above the .300 mark. He’s already topped his HR total from 2011, and is just one HR shy of a personal Major League best. Take away a poor month of May & Billy would be hitting somewhere in the .320 range. Besides his All-Star moment, Billy’s highlight was hitting a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 9th inning to beat Seattle on 7/18. He drilled it and then threw both arms in the air in celebration. July was a good month to be Billy Butler.
Honorable Mention: Alex Gordon. He continues to be productive out of the leadoff spot. He got on base at a .400 clip during July while knocking 12 doubles. He didn’t hit for any power, and he still strikes out too much, but with a .342 average he’s welcome to hit leadoff for my team any day. I’m happy to see him recover so well from a slow start and prove that he deserved the contract that he signed earlier this year.
VIII. Pitcher of the Month
I’m not comfortable with giving this to anybody right now. In July, the Royals pitching staff put up an AL worst 5.58 ERA. They allowed the most hits (268), the most runs (147), the most earned runs (142), and the most Home Runs (37) in the American League. Opponents hit an AL best .295 off of them. The only team worse than them in all but one of those categories was the Houston Astros. There just isn’t one guy who stands out right now. They’ve got to get better fast if the Royals are going to avoid losing 100 games in 2012.
IX. Compare to July 2011
The Royals entered last July in the midst of a five game losing streak. They were 15 games under .500 and resting comfortably in last place in the AL Central. By the end of July 2011, they were 46-62 for the season. That’s __ games better than the current Royals. They came out of the All-Star Break at 1-4 (same as 2012), quelling any enthusiasm. A mid-month four game winning streak helped to pick the team up, with two of those wins coming by way of a walk-off in extra innings. Just two days later in Boston, the Royals battled for 14 innings against the Red Sox and pulled out another win. They were bright spots in another losing month for the team, their third straight since a winning record in April. They were four games better than June, but still finished with a 13-14 record.
Remember watching Melky Cabrera stand out in the 2012 All-Star Game at the K? Well, he was doing the same in July 2011. He hit .384 for the month with 43 hits. He hit 10 doubles, hit 4 HR, and had an OBP of .384. During the same timeframe, Jeff Francoeur hit .306 with 11 doubles, 3 HR, and had 15 RBIs. So – it’s not like it was totally evident who would be the last man standing in the outfield. In fact, the Royals hit the ball a lot in July. Six guys hit over .300 for the month, and six guys also drove in runs in the double-digits. The problem was…wait for it…pitching! Kyle Davies and Jeff Francis were still taking the mound every 5th day, carrying with them their horendus stats. Going into the break, Davies was 1-8 with a 7.74 ERA & Francis was 3-10 with a 4.60 ERA. Bruce Chen was the only starter who was seeing any success, but even he was 1-2 with a 6.26 ERA in 4 July starts.
In late July, the Royals got rid of utilitymen Wilson Betemit and Mike Aviles, partially due to the success & expectations of Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar. We didn’t get much in return, but at least you’ve got the right guys in the lineup now.
X. August Outlook
August is another month that has been traditionally hard on the Royals. You’d have to go all the way back to the year 2000 to find a winning record. Even then, it was only 15-14. The July-August block has been the place where Royals players tire and fans turn their attention elsewhere. It’s too bad, because in the rest of the baseball world, this is where pennant races heat up. We almost always see a spark in September, which builds optimism for the following year, but the team has a tough time bridging the gap between there and June. It will be interesting to see if the Royals can bounce back in August the way they did in May. They have struggled during long homestands at the K this year, and they’ve got three six game sets at home in August. All but six of those games are against AL Central foes, so it’s an opportunity to make up some ground. Two road trips of seven games each will take them to Chicago, Baltimore, Tampa, and Boston. KC is a combined 10-7 against those teams in 2012.
There are also some good promotions in August at the K:
8/2 vs. Indians-Frenchy Quarter Thursday (3 scheduled for Aug.). What will be the turnout? Will he play? Can we have a #FreeWil Friday?
8/3 vs. Indians-”Retro Night”. Prices rolled back to 1980 & a Mr. Royal Lunchbox for the first 20,000. Can we have the talent rolled back to 1980 too?
8/14 vs. A’s-T-Shirt Tuesday
8/18 vs. White Sox-Eric Hosmer Bobblehead
It’s gut-check time for the Royals – time to see if they will fight or roll over. The bulk of this team has won at every level and comes to Kansas City with swagger and confidence. However, the culture of baseball in this town seems to be challenging their will to win. It’s a classic struggle of nature vs. nurture. If the young guys can fight to break down the wall of acceptable failure, then they can change around the attitude in this town. If they give in to losing, then we could be doomed for a long time. They’ve got to come together, start over, set new goals from here on out and forget about a terrible April and July. Go back to playing each game for each game, not as a team that is nearly 20 games under .500. With two months to go in the season, the team can still do a lot to set themselves up for next year (again).