Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Gordon to Omaha, Aviles to the bench? Amateur Hour in the boardroom or the lockerroom drives the bus right into the mud...


Sam Mellinger of the Star has it right on the Royals' recent move sending Alex Gordon down and bringing Mike Aviles back to the big club. As Mellinger says, this move could be good if they don't let Alives "rot" on the bench. He adds that's a big if. Mellinger's most persuasive argument is this:

"When asked Monday, neither Moore or manager Trey Hillman could cite much difference between Aviles and Chris Getz at second base other than Getz having more experience.

"Club officials think Aviles has better range than Betancourt at shortstop but may not make as many plays in part because of his recovering arm.

"Aviles doesn’t have the big-league track record to demand instant status as the regular shortstop, but neither does Betancourt. Of the two, Aviles has been far more successful as a big-leaguer.

"Too much of the value on Betancourt has been what scouts thought he might become, and too much of the knock on Aviles has been what folks assumed he couldn’t do. The focus should be on production.

"Getz is now hitting .171 over his 41 at-bats, and if Betancourt is worn down, the Royals are out of excuses about not finding Aviles regular time.

"He can play third base, second base or shortstop. He hit .325 and won the club’s player-of-the-year award last time he was healthy. Even if he’s just 90 percent of that, that’s significant improvement on what the Royals currently have."

I see this as a central example of the central problem with the Royals. This team is run by amateurs. Hey, everybody has to start somewhere, right? Why not Kansas City? You certainly don't get your big break in New York or LA. How many managers have been given their start here then gone on to be ... long time hitting coaches (Hal McRae) and bench coaches (Tony Pena Sr.) elsewhere. It will always be amateur hour in Kansas City -- probably until (and this is increasingly unlikely) a professional baseball man decides to buy the club.

When amateurs run a ball club -- or the department in which you work -- they tend to go by the book ... literally, the last soft-core management book they've read. Or they do things the way the last boss they loved to hate did them. Or they pick out a couple of overarching principles and ride them relentlessly into the sunset no matter what.

What they don't do, what they are afraid to do, is improvise. They get locked in and they are terrified of the consequences of straying from The Book. They can't make exceptions. They don't seize opportunities because they are too busy looking in the rear view mirror of fear. They like this job -- well, they usually love to hate this job -- and they want to keep it.

What that means on the ball field or in your cubicle is that all innovation stops.

It also means they are not capable of listening to what they do. I always tell writers to listen to their stories. If the writing is going slowly, like walking in lava, listen to that, stop, look for a problem. If some part of their story has a lot of energy and they feel great writing it, listen to that energy and for goodness sakes move the energry up to the top. Listen. React.

And that's where the Royals have been for years. The bosses --my guess is from the scouts to the third base coaches -- are intellectually deaf. They're stuck. They're spinning the wheels of the bus in the mud and they can't understand why The Book won't get them traction.

And, because Mike Aviles was not SUPPOSED to be a major league shortstop, they will let him rot on the bench.

Unless they are finally desperate enough now to try anything. That, really, is the only hope for Kansas City. Until management is so desperate it begins to "listen" to what is happening on the field, to throw out the book, to realize this is not and never will be a textbook franchise anyway, to squirm and wiggle and innovate, and to stop worrying about what the pros in their field will think of them elsewhere, every hour of Kansas City baseball will be amateur hour.

God I wish I had seen the Monarchs play.


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