John made some terrific points about Trey Hillman's non-use of closer Joakim Soria yesterday. I wanted to apply a bit of a postscript to his thoughts.
Yes, General Manager Dayton Moore has made some bad decisions. Yes, manager Trey Hillman has made LOTS of bad decisions. Yes, several Royals players are performing well below their ability.
But for the most part, the Royals have just been plagued by an incredible string of bad luck and very little good luck.
Injuries have plagued a significant amount of Royals starters, including starting center fielder Coco Crisp (out for the season), starting shortstop and 2008 Player of the Year Mike Aviles (out for the season), starting third baseman Alex Gordon (just returned from DL), closer Joakim Soria (hurt earlier in the year), backup catcher John Buck (out earlier in the year) starting pitcher Gil Meche (15-day DL, but maybe longer) and others.
I can't think of a team in Major League Baseball that wouldn't struggle after losing the starting center fielder, the No. 2 pitcher and the left side of the infield to injury.
And the Royals as an organization can't be blamed for underperforming players. The bullpen has been atrocious, but it probably shouldn't have been. Moore traded away two key bullpen players in the preseason, but he signed two veteran relievers (Kyle Farnsworth and Juan Cruz) to replace them. That should have been an upgrade.
Moore traded for two position players that should have had a bigger impact. Coco Crisp showed signs of life early in the year before he got hurt. Mike Jacobs has not yet lived up to his promise and has been reduced to the role of bit player. (The jury is still out on Yuniesky Betancourt - although he was tried, convicted and sentenced by fans and the media before he ever put on a Royals uniform.)
Now, the Royals have had a limited amount of good luck. Zack Greinke has been something special. Miguel Olivo has been a fine starting catcher. Alberto Callaspo came out of nowhere to have a great season. Billy Butler is slugging. Mark Teahan is playing ball. And Willie Bloomquist - perhaps the bigges surprise of all - is perhaps the most important player on the team right now.
So... The 2009 season will hopefully be remembered for those bright spots. It's not over yet, but, well, yes, for the Royals it's pretty much over. I know I'm saying something that's said after every disastrous season, but hopefully the Royals can build on the small successes for the future.