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Great Lakes Royals


May 10, 2010 9:00 AM

It would be Easy to Dump Hillman Now, Which Means that the Royals Should demonstrate Patience

At some point in the next 200 days, I'm nearly certain that Trey Hillman will be a former manager of the Kansas City Royals.  The only real question is not whether he should be fired, but when?  The team is on a losing streak of 5 games, and since topping out at 8-11, the team has dropped 10 of their last 13, going all of 3-8 on a road trip that started 3-3.  Hillman hasn't done himself any favors with his managing, no one around the organization really believes the Royals will lose anything by moving on without Hillman, and there's no easier or more logical sacrificial lamb than the manager.

All of that a given, shipping Hillman out of town would be the wrong move at this time.

The second half of this season is going to be a very critical time for Royals baseball, even after the team will realize that it's out of it sometime in June (if it hasn't already realized this).  By moving Hillman out now, the Royals might play inspired under John Gibbons for a week or two, and there might be more immediate term accountability, both good things.  Ultimately, and this is the problem, any issue that Hillman cannot fix is not a problem that can actually get fixed once you fire him.  It's common for a managerial change to make it look like things are getting better, but after the weeks pass following the change, the problems that had appeared to be fixed would eventually re-emerge.  Yuni Betancourt is still going to "catch" baseballs with poor fundamentals.  Rick Ankiel is still going to have a huge hole in his swing.  Kyle Farnsworth isn't going to miss many bats, and Robinson Tejada still isn't going to be able to find the strike zone.  There are things Trey Hillman can do about all these things, over time, but once you move him out and place in an interim manager, any personal improvements made by players on the team will be, well, interim.

I'm not against firing Hillman during the season, and I'm not even against firing him for effect, but this is way too early.  An in-season release should come a lot closer to the All-Star break or trade deadline.  Hillman is the manager of this team, and should get every reasonable chance to correct the problems.  In honesty, he should probably get longer than a reasonable amount of time to correct what he can.  The Royals aren't going anywhere this year, with or without Trey Hillman.  I've seen John Gibbons manage a ball club.  The guy once intentionally walked Tony Pena Jr. to set up a double play.  That guy is not the answer.

There are no easy answers at this point.  No Royals pitcher is striking out nearly as many batters as would be expected (save Soria, who has allowed three homers already this year).  The defense has exceeded expectations, and the baserunning, at least, is less putrid in May than it was in April.  There's Kila and Aviles to be excited about, and perhaps a new Alex Gordon later this year.  Trey Hillman may not give the Royals their best chance to win right now, but that's irrelevant.  The Royals can't win with Zack freakin' Greinke on the mound.  At this point, getting a guy that gives the Royals a better chance to win than Trey Hillman to try to salvage the month of may is missing the forest for the trees.

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