So far, the Royals have served up a very interesting first half of the season. They are 3.5 out of first today. This last week before the All Star break could finish with a bang.
Tonight, Jason Vargas goes up against Tampa’s Jeremy Hellickson. Hellickson is making his 2014 debut. Vegas likes the Royals, and so should you. The Royals have Yordano Ventura throwing against Alex Cobb on Wednesday night. Cobb is a solid starter, but he’s just not as good or pitching as well as Ventura right now. The Royals should win this series.
Meanwhile, Detroit has 2 games against the red-hot Dodgers, and then travel to Kansas City on Thursday for a four game stand with our Royals. Between today and Sunday, the Royals could find themselves in first place, seven or more games out of first place, or right about where they stand now. What a way to finish the season’s first half. What an excellent opportunity for the Royals. How will they handle this pressure packed opportunity?
Ned Yost has officially called out Billy Butler. When Ned tells the media he needs more out of the DH spot, that’s as close as he gets to throwing a player under the bus. I am 100% fine with this. Butler gets paid big money to do nothing but hit, and he’s severely underperformed. He deserves the pressure, he deserves to be moved down in the lineup.
Eric Hosmer continues to get a pass. Seriously, the kid gloves for Hosmer just feel stubborn and funny. I’m not saying he needs to be sent to Omaha the rest the year. I am saying that somehow creating the illusion that his results actually matter would be wise. Some type of pressure needs to be applied to Hosmer. As I have written before, I don’t see any “rescue bats” available for the Royals, with their lack of MLB ready prospects. Hosmer is, indeed, this season’s X factor. I just think Hosmer would have a more thoughtful approach netting better results if he thought there may be ramifications, some type of demotion, for continuing to underperform. This coddling of Hosmer, a “Moore player”, has cost and will cost wins. I don’t know how many. I’ll leave those stats to Hunter and the boys. The point? If this team falls just short, there will be blood on leadership’s hands. Seemingly, inexcusable blood considering how obviously they will have blundered the handling of their cherished first baseman. But not so fast.
Sam Mellinger wrote an interesting column about this Hosmer/Butler dichotomy. When asked about his lineup demotion, Butler passively called out Hosmer. “Somebody’s got to be that guy, and it’s sending a message to the rest of the guys. I can take it. I guess I’m a mentally tough guy. He could do it to somebody else, but I think he knows how I’ll take it.” Mellinger sees this drama as a potential danger. What if it helps? What if this is being done on purpose?
Maybe a fat chip on Billy’s shoulder will push him. Maybe he will be busting his butt while auditioning for other teams. He’s not going to get his option picked up and is now playing for a contract, somewhere, next season. If Butler heats up and stays pissed off, maybe that will push Hosmer to improve. Maybe that’s the type of pressure that will get inside of Eric’s happy-go-lucky dome. Business partners often require some forms of positive tension. Sometimes baseball teams do as well.
Right now, the only thing keeping the Royals from being a true playoff contender is a slugging Butler and Hosmer. Maybe a competitive rift between the two hitters is just what the doctor ordered. Is it possible Dr. Ned Yost feels this way too?