About a week ago, I wrote a post vilifying the Royals for their flippant use of the term “competition”. I chastised them for using a rhetoric of lies while giving players like Luke Hochevar the chance to continually disappoint. I even had a very witty Ron Mexico joke in there.
The very next day, they pulled Hochevar from the rotation, and my post was DOA.
Go ahead and search the major Royals blogs (especially Kings of Kauffman, which his in my opinion the bestest blog ever!). You’ll find plenty of writing about Hochevar’s move to the bullpen so I’m not going to go there. I’ll just state that moving a guy who can’t pitch with runners on base into a position in which one primary function is to pitch well with guys on base is a little confusing. But here’s hoping he turns into Mariano Rivera.
Instead, I’m thinking about the shift in approach that this move signals … if it does in fact signal one … which I don’t think it does. Those same writings on Hochevar mention this potential shift, but I’m not so optimistic that a shift has necessarily occurred. In fact, I’m not sure that Hochevar being moved could even be evidence of a shift in approach.
Moving Hochevar is not an un-Royals move. It’s actually a very Royals move once viewed as a whole. Because you can’t look at this move in the moment; it must be looked at in its entirety. What have the Royals really done here? They drafted a guy number one overall, moved him quickly threw the minor leagues, pushed him to be their number one starter, and then stuck by him through one of the worst starting pitching careers in history. They stuck with him much, much longer than anyone in their right mind would have, and finally, when they were the last ones left to realize what he was, they made a move to salvage that product.
In what way is that un-Royals like? On different scales (over different periods of time) that’s the story with Jason Kendall and Mike Jacobs and Jose Lima and so many others that if we crowd sourced might fill multiple rosters. Go ahead, name the one’s I’ve left out for the sake of brevity in the comments section.
No, Hochevar is not the measure of a shift in approach or attitude or perspective. The Hochevar move is a team making a big mistake, realizing it way, way, way too late, and trying to salvage. The real test of whether or not a shift in approach has occurred might be in the two other fifth starter candidates: Luis Mendoza and Bruce Chen. Anyone with eyes knows that Mendoza is the better pitcher and deserves that job. Anyone who knows baseball a little, knows that Chen’s best years (the two roughly average years he had with Kansas City) are behind him. Choosing Mendoza over Chen might signal that the Royals have opened up more to bailing on their mistakes when they’re apparent, a small shift in attitude but an important one. It might signify that they no longer get oddly protective of certain players who can’t perform, as if those players are all David Glass’s favorite nephews.
Really, it will take a body of decisions to evaluate whether or not the Royals decision makers have evolved their thinking to fit a team that is seemingly in place to win now. Do they stick with Jeff Francoeur if he struggles mightily in the first month? Do they send Donnie Joseph to AAA even if he is the best option they have as the last member of their bullpen and their best LOOGY option? These are difficult decisions (ok, the first one isn’t) the answer to which changes depending on where a team is at in its progress. If a team is rebuilding, options and service time and protecting large numbers of players is more important. If a might contend, those things should matter less (that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t matter at all; it just means they should matter less).
The next month and a half will give us a clearer indication if the those pulling the strings at Kauffman Stadium have actually wised up or if it’s just business as its often shitty usual.