Mar 18, 2013; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost (left) during the fifth inning against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Mendoza Decision Hints At Change In Perspective

I was surprised. No doubt, Bob Dutton was shocked. And I’m sure many of you were a little taken aback as well.

The Royals chose Luis Mendoza over Bruce Chen.

A revelation. A breath of fresh and reasonable air. In my post on moving a certain terrible pitcher to the bullpen, I noted that the fifth starter decision might be a signal that Royals decision makers are changing their approach/perspective … are maturing really. So, it seems, they have … at least a little … maybe.

The evidence for this decision was clear; Mendoza pitched much better last season and this spring. He’s at the peak of his career; Chen is about a month away from Social Security. The fact that a few years ago Chen had a slightly above league average season means very little compared to the travesty of last season, and everyone (that is anyone with eyes and the capability to reason) saw it. Everyone saw that Mendoza is a better option for the fifth spot (I use hyperbole with the term ‘everyone’ for emphasis on just how many people thought Mendoza the better option than Chen).

But that’s never stopped the Royals before. Everyone saw the awfulness of the Yuniesky Betancourt signing, and that didn’t stop the Royals from signing him and then compounding the situation by giving him a starting job at second base. Everyone saw that paying Jose Guillen money to play baseball would be a bad idea. Sign away. Over the course of many, many years, the Royals have turned their backs on reason, and there was evidence suggesting that this year, the year they’re supposed to be going for it, might be the same (tendering Luke Hochevar a contract!!!!).

Choosing Mendoza as the fifth starter flies in the face of their terrible decision making and seems to support the very simple notion that they are trying to play the best players most often (it seems so simple, right!?). It also seems to indicate that they can accurately evaluate who the better of two players is, a flimsy claim for this team from time to time. It’s not that my evaluation ability is better than those calling shots for the Royals. I mean, it is, but that’s not the point. The point is the Royals have typically been in the extreme minority in their opinions on players and still gone with grit over game performance, guts over the ability to hit a baseball.

The good spring decisions they’re making are, of course, only one step. Other important decisions lie on the horizon that will indicate if those calling the shots at Kauffman really have a new approach capable of winning. They’ve already settled on J.C. Gutierrez as the final man for the bullpen, which is, I think, not a terrible decision just a calculated one. Many on Twitter are unhappy that Donnie Joseph didn’t get the job, and while I might have chosen him, I certainly see the logic in a small-market, relatively low-budget team maintaining some priority on inventory. The backup catcher spot went to George Kottaras, another reasonable decision. But once the season gets rolling and a player starts to struggle (perhaps a certain right fielder), this ‘new approach’ will be tested, as it will near the All-Star break when Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino come back and when it will be decision time on whether or not to move Ervin Santana.

Approaches to running a baseball team are not based on one or two decisions, they are the lens through which an organization sees the game, the perspective of their gaze. The Cardinals and Rays have winning perspectives. They don’t just make a good decision every now and then; they make consistently good decisions. In the past, when Ned Yost saw Hochevar allow 7 runs in an inning, based on his post-game comments and talk surrounding Hochevar, it seemed like he literally saw something different than I did. That’s because his perspective seemed much different than a sane person’s. It’s hard to change perspective, and I hope that we can begin to mark this time as a time the Royals decision makers found a way to change theirs. It’s looking like that might be the case.

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Tags: Baseball Kansas City Royals Ned Yost

  • Brian Henry

    This is almost perfectly in line with my thoughts yesterday when Kottaras was kept over Hays. I turned to my wife and said I think that is four or five decisions in a row that the Royals have made and I agreed with them. Not sure that has ever happened before.

    • jimfetterolf

      Kottaras is a lefty and apparently caught and called a game well enough to get the old catcher’s confidence. All else being equal, being left-handed is the trump for Salvy’s backup. And they managed to get Hayes through waivers, which makes it win/win. This year they have depth at that spot, unlike the disaster last year.

  • hemroid

    I hope that they (Royals management) are coming to their senses. It would be nice if they finally understood that it is the fans that actually pay the salaries. The team can’t pay anyone if the fans don’t show up. I am not trying to indicate the fans should get any part of player decisions, however it is nice that at least this once, management concurs with the financial support of the team. I hope the Royals do well this year and that spring training wasn’t just a illusion, but instead of glimpse of a bright future. Go Royals, I can’t wait to come see you play!!!!

    • Marcus Meade

      Good point. I think, too, it might help to draw distinctions between certain fans. I’m not sure the casual fan knows the difference between George Kottaras and Brett Hayes. It’s fans like you and the members of the mother’s basement crew like me who dig in deep and form pretty steadfast and usually pretty harmonious opinions. It’s funny because the KC blogger-blog reader group has a pretty clear perspective on how the team should be run, and it seems the Royals front office is shifting toward it.

  • jimfetterolf

    I wasn’t shocked, even pointed out that the 5th would get two quick starts in Toronto and Fenway.

    So far this off-season we have heard that David Glass won’t spend money, that Dayton Moore won’t trade prospects, that the Royals had a “hard” $70m cap, that Hochevar was a lock for the 5th, and that Chen was a lock for the 5th. This has been the winter of exploding memes.

    The biggest change for management is finally having depth, which allows for a different style of management. Another change might be that David Glass, getting on in years, has decided to start making a legacy play, seeing a window of a few years to get done what Ewing Kauffman did and Mike Illitch is trying to do, build a Series champion. He has the home grown talent and needed a few parts that may not have been the type willing to sign an FA contract with a rebuilding team, so made trades, raised the payroll, and started reaping the benefits of the years of building the farm. Next year will look better, the year after that better yet. The team is on a self-sustaining path similar to the Tampa model.

    I think Dayton Moore and David Glass are on schedule and a good season this year makes KC much more attractive to any FA that might be needed next year, but probably won’t given available trade chips.

    • Marcus Meade

      I think you mention something that is very important to this conversation of the team’s perspective, and that is the different memes produced by the team through media. It’s really Ned Yost who produces these notions that the team will continue to make bad decisions when he attempts to boost Hochevar or Chen or Francoeur’s confidence through the media. Every team kind of massages the truth; Yost is now dancing the line of blatant dishonesty. It doesn’t bother me really; it just means that as fans we’ll have to look at the information provided by club officials in a certain light. I think one reason fans fear that Royals haven’t changed their mindset is because they say one thing and then do another.

      • jimfetterolf

        Both Ned Yost and Dayton Moore have a well established habit of misdirection in public comments, which is why I ignore them and instead look at the players and situation. Back when the beat folks were talking $70 million I pointed out Rany’s figures on new media money plus contracts coming off after this year and judged that $70m was a nonsensical number for this year. Neither Yost nor Moore do their business in public and what they do say has a purpose beyond entertaining the readers.

        “Confidence through the media” is interesting, old rule is criticize privately, praise publicly, so that is one facet, another is PR for the rest of the industry, trying to enhance trade value. The three you named are in walk years, have underperformed recently, and with the exception of the Frenchman are easily expendable based on depth. The hope is that Hoch looks like he can close, Chen that he can still throw sneaky left-handed innings, and that Frenchy comes out hot while Lough lights up Omaha. Any one of those three nets a lottery ticket and any one or more of those three who fails gets cut by June or so.

  • Kris Higdon

    Wow, what a dumbass this guy is. He thinks he can judge talent so well, but somehow is employed(?) as something other than a baseball talent evaluator? The baseball world is a sadder place because this idiot is writing on the Internet.

    • Michael Engel

      Thank you for your constructive contribution to this discussion. I feel enlightened and energized after the inspiring words.

      • Marcus Meade

        I’m just thrilled with the notion that I have the power to affect the baseball world. Makes me feel like a big shot or something. I’m gonna start big timin’ people now.

      • Kris Higdon

        Someone needs to add something worth reading to this site. “Writers” like you make it harder and harder to keep coming back. I admit I don’t know much about constructing a major league roster, can you say the same?

    • SomeDevil04

      I agree completely. I mean come on a blog where people post their opinion about the team they love…..whatta joke. Its like the internet isn’t even regulated or something. I equate what this writer has done to intellectual homicide, which we all know is worse than real homicide. I’m extremely happy with myself in taking the time to tear down this brown water trash of a writer for offering up his opinion on one of his passions. I am awesome. I know way more than this guy but simply refuse to offer up my opinion cuz….well….I’m not giving this brilliance away for free….on the internet. I am for a country where writers like this Marcus Meade are held accountable for their opinion, which is wrong, and stupid. (In case you can’t sense my sarcasm…..its there. I don’t believe in putting someone down for their opinion) The following is what I actually believe. Great writing, great point of view, great ideas, great website…..keep it up.

    • jimfetterolf

      No need to get mean about this, Marc has his views, often different than mine, but that’s what makes discussion possible and interesting. This isn’t Romper Room or the doctor’s waiting room, “idiot” really isn’t appropriate for a venue trying to rise above the level of a game boy chat room, instead being a place where eyeballs and spreadsheets can meet and figure some stuff out.

      I would mention to Marcus, though, that for all the horribleness of Yuni, Yuni does have a major-league job this year, unlike a recent savior who will be enjoying Omaha once more until a true baseball genius like Billy Beane trades the farm for Johhny and his gaudy AAA stats :) He took Kila off our hands and made Dayton Moore look like a fool!

      • Michael Engel

        Nobody’s ever said Gio would be a “savior”. Every team needs its complementary players and as Gio came up, that was the idea, that he’d be a good offensive second baseman to plug into the #2 spot or as a nice potential producer at the bottom of the lineup in a position that generally isn’t much for offensive production. In Double A and entering Triple A, it wasn’t certain his ceiling, but as a 2nd rounder and hitting at higher levels, he was looking the part. Nobody’s said he’s on the same level as Hosmer, Moustakas or Butler/Gordon. The team can be successful if Gio isn’t good but if Hosmer/Moose stink, they’re in trouble.
        Immense difference.

        • jimfetterolf

          Less savior for the franchise than the man who would save us from the evil that is Chris Getz. Had I been comping him to Hosmer I would have used “Messiah”.

      • Kevin Scobee

        What is the Billy Beane thing about? Is it meant as a pejorative? Because I just don’t get it. He’s a better GM than Dayton Moore, has won far more games since 2006 with far less to work with, but for some reason he’s pointed at as all that’s wrong with baseball. I don’t understand how what Beane has done is goofy and foolish but the Royals GM is to go unquestioned.

        • jimfetterolf

          I described Beane as a genius.