The KC Royals lost to Cleveland 4-0 Wednesday afternoon, bringing to a predictable end a miserable 2-7 road trip that should trigger major changes.
The loss came packaged like so many others this season: the Royals, hamstrung by four hitters who struck out at least twice and two—Bobby Witt Jr. and Hunter Dozier—who fanned three times apiece, scored no runs, and the club’s starter, this time Brad Keller, gave up too many. But at least the four he surrendered Wednesday were less than the six he yielded twice last month on the way to a 5.40 May ERA. (He is now 1-6).
Their triumph gave the Guardians a tidy three-game series sweep and firmed up their opponents’ status as the worst team in baseball. The Royals staggered out of Cleveland 16-33 and will take Thursday off to lick their wounds before the American League West Division-leading Astros hit town Friday for three games.
These Royals stand little chance against Houston and will keep losing unless repairs and replacements are made soon. Very soon, even before Friday night’s first pitch.
The KC Royals need to immediately abandon their approach to this season.
Turning the Royal tide won’t be as simple as changing out a couple of players and must involve significant alteration of the baseball side of the franchise’s business. Whether it’s comfortable for him or not, principal owner John Sherman has to wield a heavy hand.
President of Baseball Operations Dayton Moore, whose dismal record as general manager, then head of all baseball ops (three winning seasons since 2006) should have, but apparently didn’t, put him on a red-hot seat before this campaign started, needs to go, or have his responsibilities cut. He has failed far more in depth and frequency than he’s succeeded; his record speaks for itself.
General Manager J.J. Picollo, on the other hand, should have the rest of the season without Moore, his boss, to prove he deserves the job. Perhaps free of Moore’s influence, he can start building a better club.
The road trip also solidified Mike Matheny’s candidacy for unemployment. Poor substance and execution mark too many of his decisions—his lineups are questionable, his starters’ leashes are too long, relievers aren’t warming when they should be and he remains excessively reliant on non-productive players. And Tuesday’s decision to intentionally walk José Ramírez with two away and the cleanup hitter coming up in a first-inning scoreless tie smacks a bit of a strategy just short of desperation. (The Royals issued Ramírez another two-out intentional pass the very next inning).
And what of Matheny’s coaches? Letting pitching coach Cal Eldred go should be just as easy as it would have been before the 2-7 road trip began. And all but Alec Zumwalt and Mike Tosar (both of whom recently joined the big league club when someone finally made the decision to part ways with Terry Bradshaw but require more time to prove their mettle at this level), and perhaps assistant hitting coach Keoni De Renne, should exit—the Royals need to make as clean a break as they can.
However, such a wholesale staff change is awkward, if not impractical, during the season, but shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. At the very least, it must be seriously considered when Kansas City concludes this mess of a campaign.
Naturally, the roster can’t escape necessary alteration. Everyone knows all too well that the team needs to move Carlos Santana, preferably sooner rather than later so Vinnie Pasquantino can get his chance. Santana’s two Wednesday hits did nothing to change anything—after all, he hit .225 on the road trip and his season average is .161.
And saying it gets old, but Ryan O’Hearn is this team’s most expendable player; his departure from the club should have been effected before this season.
It’s also time to consider the future of Keller, whose performance is again beginning to outweigh his potential, and to give Jackson Kowar another opportunity.
And the club must soon decide whether to expend the financial resources necessary to extend Andrew Benintendi, or trade him for prospects or immediate help at another position.
More changes probably wouldn’t hurt, but these moves need to be made immediately before interest in this club hits an all-time low. Thursday’s off day seems an ideal moment.
The time is now to shake up the Royals.