The expectations for the Kansas City Royals were as high as they have been in years heading into the 2013 season. Unfortunately for their fans, the results thus far have been more along the lines of the same old Royals who haven’t finished above .500 since the 2003 season. They currently have a record of 21-28 and are in 4th place in the AL Central and General Manager Dayton Moore has to be contemplating a managerial change.
If the Royals were to fire Ned Yost it would make sense to bring in a veteran manager who could assemble a dedicated coaching staff on the fly, someone who knows how to handle a young roster with high expectations, and since Dayton Moore’s job security is shaky at best the candidate would have to be willing to accept an interim label with the knowledge that if the team doesn’t turn things around he’d be out of a job at the end of the season.
To me the perfect candidate for the job is ex-Indians manager Mike Hargrove. Grover still has the desire to manage and interviewed with the Toronto Blue Jays this past winter before they re-hired John Gibbons. He told Danny Knobler of CBS sports not to call him a retired manager saying “He hopes to get another shot.” He also spoke of the opportunity being part of the equation:
“I’d like to manage again, The situation would have to be part of the equation. If it happens again, good. If it doesn’t happen, that’s OK.”
A look at the Royals situation and the equation of poor results + high expectations would seem to be a perfect opportunity for Grover who is now 63 years old to make one last push as a big league manager.
The Kansas City Royals have a similar look as the young Cleveland Indians teams that he led out of the doldrums to two World Series and a string of playoff appearances. A big difference between the two teams is that the Royals are much further along in the process.
A word of caution – please don’t extend the comparison below of the 1995 Indians and the 2013 Royals to statistics…if possible try to view the comparison in terms of roster make up and talent!
Many people including myself feel that the Royals have the talent to compete in 2013 but the team as a whole is under performing. They have an ACE at the top of their rotation in James Shields and inning eaters in Jeremy Guthrie and Ervin Santana and a bullpen that included a competent closer in Greg Holland and set up men Tim Collins, Luke Hochevar and Aaron Crow.
The rotation is very similar as the 1995 Indians who had Dennis Martinez, Charles Nagy, and Orel Hershiser in the rotation with Jose Mesa, Julian Tavarez, Eric Plunk, and Paul Assenmacher ready in the pen.
Comparing nearly any offense tot he 1995 Cleveland Indians is not fair but the Indians had a young nucleus of players in Kenny Lofton, Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Sandy Alomar Jr., Carlos Baerga, and an everyday DH in Eddie Murray.
The Royals offense has solid everyday performers in Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, and Salvador Perez but they have been able to become the impact offense that people expected because of extremely disappointing seasons from Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. If both Hosmer and Moustakas could reach their potential their lineup could become an impact offense.
If Hargrove were to be named manager he’d want some control over the roster as I don’t believe he’d settle on Chris Getz and Elliot Johnson at second base or Jeff Francouer in right field. He may not want to keep Wade Davis in the rotation or Bruce Chen in the bullpen. He would also want to be able to bring in a few of his own coaches.
One interesting name to keep an eye on would be former Indians slugger Jim Thome who could be brought in as hitting coach or to work with Hosmer and Moustakas to get them going. At the end of April Charlie Manuel told Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer concerning Thome’s futures:
“He still thinks he can play. He misses the game. Baseball is his identity. That’s all he’s done for 20-some years or so. He’s kind of having a hard time adjusting.”
If Thome has accepted that his playing days have come to an end and if it’s true that baseball is his identity, I can’t think of a better job then re-joining the major leagues in the heat of a pennant race. Of course, there are more ex-Indians that may be interested in breaking into the coaching ranks at the major league level.
The other ex-Indian that many feel has a future as a big league manager is Omar Vizquel who is currently a roving minor league instructor with L.A. Angels. Vizquel would bring a fire and passion to the Royals organization.
Finally, one of Hargrove’s favorite players was Travis Fryman, who has worked as a roving instructor, minor league hitting coach, and manager since joining the organization in the spring of 2007.
Mike Hargrove hasn’t managed since walking away from the Seattle Mariners in 2007 for personal reasons. He never had much success outside of Cleveland. He isn’t a miracle worker and he failed to win in 4 years with the Baltimore Orioles posting a sub-.500 record of 275-372 as well as with the Mariners where he went 192-210 in his 2+ years there.
Needless to say, his name has not been the first name people think of for mid-season hires to turn a franchise around. I’m sure the fans in Kansas City don’t view a bunch of 1990′s Indians as their saviors but the circumstances in Kansas City make Hargrove an ideal candidate. As mentioned, he has a slew of competent coaches that may be willing to join him in his endeavor, he has managed expectations of a city starved for winning baseball, and he is also probably very familiar with the AL Central.