Some believe Adalberto Mondesi represents the future of the KC Royals. The way a Mondesi injury was handled in 2019 was questionable.
This story began, and now ends, with the premise that the multitude of mistakes necessary to lose over 100 games aren’t on the players’ alone, and while they may not impact individual losses, some mistakes can have other consequences. The KC Royals’ response to an injury to Adalberto Mondesi may be a prime example.
Without question, Mondesi is an all-tools player with almost infinite potential. There is nothing on a baseball field he can’t do well. So great are his potential, and the Royals’ opinion of him, that they entrusted a 2015 postseason roster spot to him and used him as a pinch-hitter in the World Series before he had played even one regular-season big-league game.
After struggling in 2016 and ’17 and spending parts of each season in the minors, Mondesi proved in 2018 that he belonged in Kansas City. In 75 games, he hit .276 with 14 home run and 37 RBIs and stole 32 bases. The Royals’ shortstop job was his.
His average dipped to .263 in 2019, but Mondesi stole 43 bases, tied for the league lead in triples with 10, added 20 doubles and nine home runs, and had 62 RBI’s. But for two shoulder injuries that cost him significant playing time, Mondesi’s season could have been even better.
The Royals’ response to those injuries could have imperiled their star’s career.
The first injury, a left shoulder subluxation (partial tear of his left shoulder joint) occurred on July 16th during the Royals’ 11-0 drubbing of Chicago when Mondesi dove for a foul pop. He went on the Injured List the next day, then started a rehab assignment with Omaha on August 20th. Mondesi was activated on September 1st and immediately rejoined the club.
But the club imposed restrictions on his play, ordering their star shortstop and base-stealer not to dive for balls or into bases. Allowing Mondesi to play with such significant limitations made little (if any) sense, especially with less than a month to go in a dismal season and players headed nowhere but home for the postseason.
Expecting Mondesi to abide by the club’s restrictions was unrealistic–inevitably, he’d instinctively dive for a ball or into a base. The club’s limitations on his play acknowledged the risk; playing naturally increased it.
And so it was that on September 22nd, in the first inning of the Royals 157th game of the year, Mondesi did what shortstops instinctively do to prevent grounders from finding holes through the infield–he dove and reinjured his left shoulder. He immediately left the game, but worse news was coming.
He needed surgery that would eliminate any baseball activity for several months, making his return for the opening of Spring Training probable but not certain.
Playing without diving for balls or into bases wasn’t realistic. Why the Royals played Mondesi in September is a legitimate question.
The KC Royals proved in 2019 that countless mistakes, both on and off the field and by both players and management, are part of the game. Hopefully, the club will make fewer mistakes in 2020.