Tag:Trey Hillman
Posted on: May 13, 2010 5:20 pm
Edited on: May 13, 2010 6:50 pm
 

Hillman out, Yost in in Kansas City

This was Royals' general manager Dayton Moore speaking to the Kansas City Star on Tuesday about manager Trey Hillman: "Trey is a tremendous leader. ... He's exactly what our organization needs at this point in time."

This was Moore speaking to Hillman 48 hours later in Kansas City: "You're fired!"

And with that, bam, another Royals manager bites the dust.

That's three in the past six years, five in the past 13, and on and on this grisly story goes. From Tony Muser to Tony Pena (who did deliver an AL Manager of the Year season in 2003) to Buddy Bell to Hillman. Fired, fired, fired, fired.

Next up is former Brewers manager Ned Yost, who joined the Royals this year as special advisor to baseball operations ... which is not unlike a storm chaser signing on as special advisor to tornado damage.

Wreckage everywhere. And what I can't get over is the twister that blew through in that 48-hour span from "He's exactly what our organization needs at this point in time" to "Pack your bags and hit the road, Jack."

Talk about a reaching a crisis point.

The Royals look like they have no idea what they're doing.

They clearly underachieved under Hillman: At midweek, they ranked fifth in the AL in batting average, sixth in slugging percentage, seventh in on-base percentage ... yet 11th in runs scored. Only Baltimore's record was worse.

But they also are not getting any better players than they were five or six years ago, and the pitching is abysmal. Statistically, only the Angels have a worse bullpen right now, and only Detroit has a worse rotation.

For that, the spotlight now swings straight over to Moore, whose choice to replace Hillman was predictable: An old Braves connection from the days when Moore was an assistant to Atlanta GM John Schuerholz and Yost was a coach on manager Bobby Cox's staff.

Whatever. This is a team that has lost 100 or more games in three of the past six years and 93 or more games in five of the past six years. Moore replaced former GM Allard Baird (fired, too) in May, 2006, and the Brewers have lost 93 and 97 games in two of Moore's three full seasons.

This season? They're on pace to finish 56-106.

The exact same record they posted in 2005, the last full season before Moore was hired.

Progress? Or irreversible corrosion?

It is never pleasant when a man loses his job, no matter how much relief there surely is in many quarters of Royal fandom today.

"Thankfully, in 20 years of managing, last year easily was my most trying year," Hillman told me this spring. "Easily. Because each day, you want to give the great fans of Kansas City what they want, what they deserve."

The Royals owe their great fans something fierce. And it isn't Scott Podsednik getting picked off of base, Yuniesky Betancourt half-assing a routine infield fly and muffing it, or the current sorry bullpen that has sabotaged several games the Royals could have won.

And it damned sure isn't singing the manager's praises early in the week only to fire the same guy later in the week.

Posted on: March 15, 2009 5:00 pm
 

Hillman: Royals to unleash Soria

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Any other spring in which a Kansas City manager talks about how he will use his closer in the upcoming season might elicit a yawn or a shrug of the shoulders. But after the Royals compiled a baseball's-best 18-8 record last September and added leadoff man Coco Crisp and first baseman Mike Jacobs over the winter, who knows?

Nobody is predicting an AL Central title for the Royals, but things do seem to be headed in the right direction. Which is one reason why skipper Trey Hillman thinks the time and place are right to lengthen the leash on All-Star closer Joakim Soria.

In his first full season as Royals' closer in 2008, Soria essentially was a one-inning guy. His 42 saves ranked second in the American League, and of those, only two came in games in which he was asked to obtain more than three outs (he also had one blown save during which he entered the game in the eighth inning).

"Now, with more innings, we're going to be more aggressive with him," Hillman says. "We'll let the situation dictate, but maybe there will be times this year when we ask him to get four or five outs."

The Royals are very optimistic that they've improved their bullpen. The additions of right-handers Juan Cruz, Kyle Farnsworth, Doug Waechter and Jamey Wright, the return of Ron Mahay and John Bale (who is sidelined until late March with a thyroid condition) and the hot spring Robinson Tejada is having, combined with Soria, should give Hillman some dependable late-game options.

And the more consistent the Royals pitch in the sixth and seventh innings, the more games they should be in position to win in the eighth and ninth.

"It's a matter of being ready for situations," says Hillman of Soria, whom the Royals plucked from San Diego in the 2006 Rule V draft. "I think you need that one year of solidification without taxing him too much and putting him at risk."

That came last year, a breakout season in which Soria converted 42 of 47 save opportunities and became one of only 14 closers in major-league history (minimum 30 saves) to record more saves than hits allowed (39) in a season.

In 2007, Soria's quick ascension began in the bullpen, continued when he quickly became the Royals' set-up man and then went into overdrive when he became the primary closer.

The Royals were very aware of protecting Soria last season, with Hillman usually opting for somebody else on the third day if Soria had closed two consecutive games.

"During our 12-game losing streak (May 19-30), we had fans yelling at us, 'Where's Soria?!'" Hillman says. "But if he had pitched two days in a row, we were not going to pitch him a third day.

"I think we have more coverage for him this year. At least, from an experience standpoint."

Likes: Hall of Famer George Brett, upon hearing details of Team USA's mercy-rule loss to Puerto Rico, saying he was going to immediately call fellow HOFer Mike Schmidt, third-base coach for Team USA. "Oh, I'm going to call him and get all over him about this," Brett cackled. "I'll ask him, 'Are you guys even trying?'" ... The groundskeepers hard at work manicuring the field at 9:30 a.m. in a quiet Scottsdale Stadium on Sunday morning. One of them was taking grass clippings from a bucket and sprinkling them in bare spots, filling in areas where the sod was worn. "Shhhh," he said. No need to keep it quiet, though: Scottsdale Stadium is a beautiful place, the grass more consistently lush than anywhere else in the Cactus League and the trees on the other side of the outfield fence adding to the beauty. ... Padres broadcaster and former Yankees infielder Jerry Coleman busting into San Diego manager Bud Black's office the other day and expounding on the "lost art of the pop-up slide." ... The MLB Network is far better than I expected. More legitimate analysis, less propaganda. ... Seeing actor Timothy Busfield in Los Olivos, a Mexican joint in Oldtown Scottsdale, on Saturday night. I do miss The West Wing.

Dislikes: Arizona is loaded with those sneaky cameras not only looking to aid in ticketing drivers for running red lights, but also to catch them speeding. I've seen the red light cameras before, but I've never seen cameras rigged along freeways looking to catch speeders without a cop in sight. We're reaching the point where we need a citizens' uprising in our Big Brother society. If a cop can't catch you in a traffic violation, there should be no ticket.

Sunblock Day? Another in a streak of gorgeous Arizona days. Hot sun, 80ish, many girls wearing their summer clothes here in Scottsdale Stadium. Wish you were here.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"It’s a cartoon town,
"I play my part,
"And I ain’t spoke her name in years"

-- Drive-By Truckers, Marry Me

 

 

Posted on: September 23, 2008 8:06 pm
 

Last word on Yankee Stadium closing

MILWAUKEE -- They did it the way you knew they would, with pomp and ceremony, and by blasting Frank Sinatra's New York, New York 6,000 or so times. That's not a knock. In that city, in that stadium, I could listen to Sinatra's New York, New York 60,000 times.

From what I saw on television, the whole night was nearly perfect.

Except for one thing.

The snubbing of former manager Joe Torre was awfully small for such an outsized organization.

The fact that they blew off Roger Clemens wasn't surprising, because that's apparently the way we're going while emerging from the Steroid Era. You see it in San Francisco with Barry Bonds -- or rather, you don't  see anything in San Francisco with Bonds.

For years, baseball's official position on performance-enhancing drugs was to pretend they didn’t exist.

Now, baseball's official position on players who pumped up and set records and won World Series is to pretend they don't exist.

Is it right?

Of course not.

But is it right when you bump into an ex-girlfriend at a party that you hem and haw and avoid her?

It's just the way it is with awkward circumstances.

Mostly, we just avoid dealing with them.

Clemens helped the Yankees win two World Series, but if there's anybody now who believes some of his career numbers aren't vastly inflated with PEDs, I'm a part-owner of the new Yankee Stadium.

Having Clemens there in person, or even unspooling highlights featuring him on the scoreboard, would have been a huge distraction for an historic evening. Given the way Clemens even threw Andy Pettitte under the bus, I don't blame the Yankees for conveniently forgetting about him.

The snub of Torre, though, was classless.

Esepcially on an evening in which the always classy Derek Jeter delivered an eloquent final address that ranks right up there with some of the great ones in Yankees history.

Likes: Teams that are out of it right now that still play hard. Case in point: Cleveland, which had won seven consecutive games heading into Tuesday night's contest in Boston. I've always thought that's one way you can identify a good manager, if the players keep playing hard when there's nothing to play for. And the Indians' play speaks very well of manager Eric Wedge. ... Same for Trey Hillman, with Kansas City winning eight of 10. ... Maybe it's because I live in Southern California and spend half my life trapped in freeway gridlock, but I always enjoy driving through the Midwest, where traffic generally is light and population bases are few and far between. I also love some of the sights, such as a couple I passed while flying across I-94: Signs for the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum and the Mousehouse Cheesehaus. I only wished I had time to stop. Especially at the cheese shop. ... Really enjoyed the Chrysler Sebring convertible rental and the Sirius satellite radio on the trip, too. It's beautiful right now in this part of the Midwest, right around 75 and no humidity. Crisp, clean days.

Dislikes: Aw, I'm going to be working during the first presidential debate Friday night.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio
"A nation turns its lonely eyes to you"

-- Paul Simon, Mrs. Robinson

 

Posted on: April 17, 2008 11:27 pm
 

Pitching lessons from the Royals

There are several reasons why things are looking up for the Kansas City Royals, and chief among them is this: Their pitchers are throwing strikes.

Dovetailing into the fact that the Royals' 3.02 staff ERA was best in the AL and ranked second in the majors entering Thursday night's game in Anaheim was the fact that Kansas City pitchers also had the second-fewest walks in the AL.

Two years ago, while going 62-100, the Royals walked 637 batters to rank 14th in the AL.

"That started last year," third-year pitching coach Bob McClure says of his staff's honing in on the strike zone. "The free-pass thing was out of control my first year. We had guys who didn't belong -- nothing against them, they were just brought up before they should have been -- and they didn't command their pitches.

"The front office recognized it, and we made some changes."

Dayton Moore had taken over as general manager in May, 2006, and recognizing how raw that '06 staff was was one reason he offered Gil Meche $55 million two winters ago. Not only were some of the Royals' kids not ready for prime time, but Meche fit the veteran prototype for which the Royals were searching: Meche, with Seattle in 2006, had nearly a 2:1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.

With McClure harping on the importance of throwing strikes throughout the spring of '07 -- and with Meche and Brian Bannister (acquired from the Mets) in the rotation -- the Royals wound up trimming their walk total by 117 from the year before. Their 520 walks -- down from that unsightly 637 in '06 -- ranked seventh in the AL.

"That huge jump started from day one in spring training before the '07 season," McClure says. "I really haven't had to mention that since then. That's something we talked about then: Pitching to contact and to your ability. If you have decent fastball command and the ability to pitch off speed, and if you have the ability to throw strikes when you're behind in the count, you can get people out."

McClure and the staff stressed that in '07, and it's really taken off in '08. Zack Greinke's 0.75 ERA leads the majors, and Bannister's 0.86 is second in the AL. One veteran AL scout I talked with the other night said Greinke's complete-game shutout over the Yankees earlier this month is the best game he's seen pitched in this young season. "He's not throwing his fastball as hard now, but it's just exploding across the plate," the scout said.

Veterans Meche and Brett Tomko have meshed well and done just what Moore hoped they would do: Provide veteran perspective and knowledge.

"It's been enjoyable to watch," McClure says. "The interaction between the pitchers themselves, whether on the bench or in the locker room, has been very good. That's something you try to create and build.

"There's a lot of down time in this game, and I'll see these guys talking about different grips and hitters. The interaction has been very good."

Other than the Meche signing -- which was roundly criticized until the right-hander made 34 starts and produced a 3.64 ERA last year -- most of Moore's moves have been under-the-radar types. One of the most important was keeping McClure as pitching coach even after manager Buddy Bell stepped down and while the Royals were searching for their next manager.

"Mac's a really, really good teacher," says that new manager, Trey Hillman. "It's a no-brainer. Dayton Moore hired Bob McClure before he hired his new manager. I told Dayton quite frankly (when I interviewed), if the new manager has a a problem with everything you've told me about Bob McClure, maybe you hired the wrong manager."

Hillman's managerial career isn't even a month old but, judging from the early returns, with Moore, Hillman, McClure and some of the players in this Kansas City clubhouse right now, the Royals finally appear to have hired a lot of the right guys.

Likes: Love the way Royals right-hander Brian Bannister approaches each start. You can read about that over in Short Hops. ... Nice to see clubs that have been down-and-out recently, like Kansas City and Florida, off to good starts. ... Pat Hughes and Ron Santo are really pleasant listening on Chicago Cubs radio broadcasts. Caught a few innings of Thursday's Cubs-Cincinnati game on XM radio while driving to that night's Angels-Royals game. ... The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert on location in Pennsylvania this week in advance of next week's Democratic primary. Colbert is at the top of his game right now. ... The upcoming disc from Mudcrutch, Tom Petty's old band that's reunited, sounds promising.

Dislikes: Asparagus.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"It seems like yesterday
"But it was long ago
"Janey was lovely, she was the queen of my nights
"There in the darkness with the radio playlng low
"And the secrets that we shared
"The mountains that we moved
"Caught like a wildfire out of control
"Till there was nothing left to burn and nothing left to prove"

-- Bob Seger, Against the Wind

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com