The KC Royals lost to Minnesota 9-2 Saturday night, not an unexpected result considering they were 10 games under .500 and close to the American League Central basement before the game even started. That Kansas City played the best the Central has to offer this season simply made the outcome more likely.
It was, to be sure, the same old script the Royals played out at Kauffman Stadium. This team doesn’t score runs, a fatal flaw sourced in its hitters’ incredible inability to drive in runners in scoring position and which contributes to the hordes of runners they leave on base. The Royals were 1-for-6 with RISP and left eight runners on Saturday night.
But the causes of this club’s flaws are many. Pitching has been a problem and was again Saturday night—starter Brad Keller pitched well for the most part, but the bullpen gave up five runs.
Where lies the fault for the performance of a team that’s increasingly tough to watch?
There are plenty of places in the KC Royals organization to assign blame.
As is almost always the case with bad teams, or not-so-bad teams playing badly, there are plenty of targets for finger-pointers. Manager Mike Matheny’s lineups are more than occasionally ill-conceived. Does Ryan O’Hearn batting cleanup ring a bell? Or Whit Merrifield leading off while he languished for weeks below .200? Or Carlos Santana getting at-bats he shouldn’t?
Hitting coach Terry Bradshaw was an easy target considering the general malaise that permeated his charges, but the Royals fired him last Monday. Time will tell if Alec Zumwalt is the cure.
Then there’s KC pitching coach Cal Eldred, a popular punching bag when scrutinizing the club’s collection of hurlers. Eldred has little to show since coming aboard in 2018; indeed, and without much exception, some of the stars of Kansas City’s spectacular 2018 draft class have struggled under his wing. Why the Royals put Bradshaw on the bricks before Eldred is a question worth asking.
And the front office? It’s a little early to rake Senior Vice President for Baseball Operations and General Manager J.J. Picollo over the coals—after all, he’s been in the job less than a year, and his boss remains Dayton Moore, the man he replaced and who’s now President of Baseball Operations. Moore’s title alone speaks to the power and influence of the position—it’s doubtful Picollo makes major moves without Moore’s approval.
Unfortunately, this season is beginning to look like most under Moore—remember, the Royals have had just three—three—winning seasons since he took the GM job in 2006.
What role principal owner John Sherman plays in all of this is unclear. Perhaps he prefers to let his veteran baseball people, like Picollo and Moore, run the baseball side of his business. Maybe he’s giving them a full season to prove they can together turn the club around, or to at least give fans strong reasons to believe the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t a mirage. Or perhaps a new downtown ballpark is his highest priority right now. We just don’t know.
What we do know, however, is that Moore’s “Process” (whatever that may currently mean) isn’t working. O’Hearn continues to play, Santana’s tenure needs to end, the mystery of why promising pitchers deteriorate so quickly when they reach Kansas City must be solved. The Royals aren’t going anywhere this year, so the time is ripe for change.
Someone just needs to make that change. This team is getting pretty tough to watch.
The Royals will try to avoid a sweep of their three-game series with Minnesota this afternoon at 1:10 p.m. CDT.