Pitching gives Royals a puncher's chance
KC needs only adequate offense in order to turn the corner
KANSAS CITY -- This is, of course, no time to panic for the Kansas City Royals. It is also not time to yell, scream or otherwise step out of character and create a clubhouse scene, a dugout scene, or a bad scene of any sort.
But it would be time for the Royals to resume hitting the baseball.
The Kansas City club, already in possession of impressive young position-player talent, fortified its pitching with solid, veteran help. That made 2013 the year in which the Royals were supposed to make a move. Maybe they wouldn't quite be ready to take over the American League Central from the Detroit Tigers, but a winning season, a contending team, a major step in the right direction; none of that would be too much to ask.
Through 27 games this season, that kind of scenario held up nicely and the Royals were 17-10 on May 5. Then the offense went southward. The Royals have gone 4-13 since.
The good news is, the Royals are third in the AL in team ERA. If the hitting returns to just an adequate level, this will be a winning team.
Still, this has been a frustrating time for the Royals, whose hopes, not to mention expectations, had climbed considerably coming into this season. Thursday night was no exception. In a 5-4 loss, the Royals couldn't do enough against Angels starter Joe Blanton, who entered this contest with a 0-7 record and a 6.62 ERA. A ninth-inning rally against the Angels bullpen fell just short. It was a nice try, but it wouldn't make a dent in the standings.
What to do? Ned Yost, manager of the Royals, appears to have taken a vow of positivism. He is relentlessly positive regarding the prospects of his team. And the thing is, while waiting for the Royals' offense to get untracked, the alternatives to remaining positive are ugly, pointless and worse, not useful.
"The most important thing is to continue on all levels, as a manager, as a coach, as a player, to stay positive," Yost said. "You have to continue to stay positive every single day. You know your personnel. You know how they think. You know their abilities. We know we've been struggling offensively. But we could go an extended period of time at the level that we think we can perform at. So you just wait it out, you stay positive, you keep working, you don't stop. These young men are all doing that.
"What we need to continue to do right now, is to battle to keep our heads above water. Because when we catch fire offensively, which I'm convinced we're going to do, then we're going to put together a pretty nice run. And I don't want to put too much emphasis on the offense, because we're a team; you win as a team and you lose as a team. But we definitely need to score more runs. I told our guys going into it, we're going to have ups and we're going to have downs, and it's how we react and how we stick together and how we battle through the downs that's going to make the difference."
In the end, the Royals will turn this around if they play to their capabilities. In Yost's view, his role is to make certain the players know that the manager and the coaching staff are in their corner.
"It's the players that have to get it turned around," Yost said. "There is nothing I can do personally to get this turned around, except for staying positive and supportive. In Milwaukee, when I was [managing] there and we would go through stints like this, I found out it did no good to yell, to scream, to put more pressure on a player than he already has.
"Trust me, when we go through this it's frustrating. I can't stand it. I hate to lose. But through experience by going through this before, the biggest task I have right now is to remain calm, remain positive and continue to support, teach, mentor and lead these guys. Because they look to the manager, they look to the general manager, they look to the coaching staff for that. And if they see us panicking, if they see us coming out of our routines and our personalities, it only makes matters worse.
"It's an important lesson that I had to learn," Yost said. "I think it's the most valuable lesson that I ever did learn out of my other managing job. You've got to stay supportive, you've got to stay calm. You can't yell, scream, you can't come out of your game. I'm an emotional guy, too. And when I do that, I start to lose my thinking process. I've got to continue no matter what the situation is on the field, I'm always thinking that we're going to get through it. I don't care if we're down six runs. I'm always reminding myself to stay calm, stay steady."
There will always be people who want the manager to stage a public outpouring of emotion, as some sort of general catharsis. But Yost is not wrong on this issue. The time for calm reassurance and steadiness is definitely at hand. The Royals organization has put its faith in this roster, and 44 games into the season is no time to lose faith, or lose composure, for that matter. Yes, it is time for the Royals to hit. But it is not time to for them to hit the panic button.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.