In late May 2013, the KC Royals were perched dangerously on the cusp of another miserable season thanks to a poor offense. After beginning the season with a record of 17-10 to trail Detroit by just a half-game in the American league Central, the Royals dropped 19 of their next 23, toppled into last place and were slashing a combined .249/.296/.350 after losing to St. Louis May 29.
And two key Royals weren’t swinging the bat well—Mike Moustakas was hitting .187 and Eric Hosmer was at .262.
Those concerns caused a major change in the coaching staff. Given jobs elsewhere in the organization, the club’s hitting coaches, Jack Maloof and Andre David, were out and Hall of Famer George Brett was in, to be helped by new special assignment coach Pedro Grifol.
Brett had been asked to become a coach within the organization before but had declined. But with the Royals in trouble, Brett finally took the offer, telling The Associated Press (via ESPN):
"“I don’t know if I’m going to be good at this. If I’m not doing my job, I don’t want Dayton to feel like he has to fire me.This could be something I just could not stand to do, I don’t know. The players and I might not hit it off, I don’t know.”"
Little did Brett realize just how much of an impact he would have on the young Kansas City players in terms of their mental approach.
The KC Royals heated up when George Brett took over as their hitting coach.
In his first game, a May 30 night contest in St. Louis, Brett may have had an immediate impact.
Kansas City ended an eight-game losing streak that night. Although they started slowly, the Royals eventually pulled out a 4-2 win with the aid of an Elliot Johnson RBI-single in the fifth, and a Jeff Francoeur home run and Eric Hosmer go-ahead two-run double in the ninth. (The Kansas City portion of Francoeur’s up-and-down career ended a few weeks later when the team released him).
The Royals won 12 of their next 17 games. Moustakas and Hosmer improved.
While Brett served as hitting coach from May 30th to July 25th, Hosmer slashed .308/.347/.525 with 61 hits, 32 RBIs and 10 home runs while Moustakas slashed .260/.308/.377 with 38 hits and three home runs, a vast improvement from The Moose’s poor .187 start.
Before May 30, the Royals were 21-29. After Brett stepped in, KC went 26-22. When Brett stepped down July 25, Hosmer praised him:
"“When George gets in there, he’s so competitive and all he wants to do is win…When you’re around a guy like George and he’s acting like that in the dugout it gets you fired up.”"
And firing the club up is what Brett did. Even after Grifol took his place, the Royals continued their winning ways and even came close to snaring a playoff berth. They went from last place when Brett returned to the dugout to finishing third place in the Central.
The Royals ended the season batting .260, good for ninth in the majors. Hosmer finished 2013 slashing .302./.353/.448 with a .801 OPS and 17 home runs, 79 RBIs and 34 doubles. Moustakas ended up at .233/.287/.364 with a .651 OPS and 12 homers, 42 RBIs, and 26 doubles.
Of course, Grifol, who’s now Kansas City’s bench coach, deserves a ton of credit for overseeing the technical aspects of video and batting mechanics, but one can’t discount the mental aspect of the club’s improvement and the part Brett played in it. Brett helped instill a sense of confidence in younger players, which led to them bettering themselves at the plate.
As then-General Manager Dayton Moore put it, “We needed to be rescued mentally.”
Brett was obviously the coach to do just that.
George Brett became hitting coach for the KC Royals for a time in 2013 and helped the club ready itself for its 2014 and 2015 World Series runs.