NHRA: New England Nationals-Qualifying

The Rock and The Hard Place

Hello friends, welcome to the island of despair.

All the hard work and, to be fair, all the good fortune that propelled the Kansas City Royals into first place had all been paid back with interest with a 0-7 start to the current road trip. As Craig pointed out, the Royals are not scoring and doing so at a historical rate. They aren’t pitching well, either and, thanks to Yordano Ventura, getting crappy publicity as well. Feels like 2006, only worse.

Yet, that is an overreaction, isn’t it?  The Royals are 30-29, just two and one-half games out of first place and we are just in the second week of June.  They have managed that position despite a cavalcade of injuries and a slew of underperformers. This remains the team that has won 270 regular season baseball games and 22 post-season games over the prior three seasons.  Only twice this century (2015 and 2000) have the Royals posted a better record on June 9th than they currently hold.

What? Me panic?

Yes.  Maybe.

On the one hand, this is still that team.  The one that could win with Alcides Escobar leading off, no dominant starting pitcher, Omar Infante at second and Alex Rios for gods sake in right.  If you are willing to consider Whit Merrifield as an upgrade over Infante and a Dyson/Orlando combo as certainly no worse than Rios, one starts to believe Ned Yost just needs to ride this out. Baseball is generally ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys, hot and cold, beautiful and ugly, ying and yang…..okay, I got carried away.  The Royals are not this bad, nor did they overachieve for three straight seasons. Stay the course and believe this group can still win.  There is some logic to that train of thought.  Quite honestly, with a far skinnier track record, that is what Dayton Moore did at the trade deadline in 2014 and it played out spectacularly for him and all of us that follow the Royals.

There is danger, however, in that kind of thinking.  The Royals could wake up in early August and be twelve games back with a .260 on-base guy leading the team in plate appearances and a starting rotation that has continued to bury its team in the first few innings of every game. A team can only wait so long before they have waited too long.

Despite being far from buried, the Royals feel buried. The idea of Alex Gordon and his .211/.319/.331 slash line coming back seems like an incredible upgrade. The thought of Kris Medlen being healthy and back in the rotation actually might be a welcome improvement. Brett Eibner and his 15 career major league plate appearances? Man, we could really use that guy back!

Therein lies a bit of the problem. One needs options to make changes and the Royals have few internal cards to play.  They already have deeded second base to Merrifield, but would you take time away from Cuthbert at third to play Christian Colon?  Would it make any real difference if you did? Beyond trying to play the hot bat in the two corner outfield spots with Dyson, Orlando and Fuentes, is there much else to be done?  Sure, Jorge Bonifacio has rekindled his status as a prospect, but is hardly the type that can viewed as savior. Hunter Dozier is 9 for his last 39 with 15 strikeouts in Omaha. Raul Mondesi is suspended.

That said, four runs in six games almost demands change for the sake of change. I would be tempted to take any of the three corner outfield options and bat them lead-off, swap Hosmer and Cain in the order mainly just because. I would have Cuthbert share time at third with Colon and even go so far as to have Escobar bat sixth in front of Morales.  Shuffling the deck chairs?  Yeah, it might well be, but I would rather do that than just grip the railing tightly and watch the water come up to my chin.

Of course, none of that solves a starting rotation that has become Ian Kennedy, Danny Duffy and a whole bunch of ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen’. Edinson Volquez has given up four runs or more in four of his last five starts.  The guy across the hall from you could hit a home run off Chris Young right now.  Then there is Ventura, who has managed to walk only two batters over his last three starts and somehow gotten worse and managed to annoy his teammates along the way.  All that and the sad truth is that with Medlen, Minor. Almonte and Zimmer hurt (or fatigued) the options of Dillon Gee and Brian Flynn do not scream improvement.

Still, I would be tempted to make a statement to both Yordano Ventura and the team as a whole and send Ventura to Omaha.  Banish him, if you will, to AAA with the cryptic ‘he’ll be down there awhile no matter how well he throws’ statement. A shake up for shake up sake.  Move that row of chairs over the other side of the deck, boys.

The above does not consider the idea of a trade, which would at least break the monotony.  Knowing who might be available and at what price is tough to gauge this far from the trade deadline and the one obvious big move, James Shields, has already been made by the White Sox.  It will be interesting to see how that trade plays out, but I am skeptical enough about it to not have spent much time trying to figure out if the Royals should have been in on the discussions. I should be more interested in the idea of Rich Hill, but I mean… Rich Hill.  Tough to get the blood pressure up on that one.

Ned Yost and Dayton Moore had Thursday off and a plane ride from the Baltimore to Chicago to stare out into the night and ponder life. Those are good conditions to spawn a change in the batting order and maybe even a roster move. I for one, hope that is what will transpire before the Royals take the field on Friday night.  I enjoy a good furniture rearrangement.

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