In the two years dubbed “it” by the powers that be sitting on high in Kansas City, the Royals have managed to correct all that seemed to be wrong in the few years prior in solidifying a solid pitching staff. Unfortunately they have since watched the promise of their core group of young hitters falter. Once again, the Royals hitters are being embarrassed at the hands of pitchers across baseball, handing out career starts for those taking the hill on an almost nightly basis.
The key part of the Shields/Myers trade was to bring over a dominant, front of the rotation pitcher who could anchor a pitching staff and help them elevate to a level that would almost certainly guarantee success. James Shields has been all that was advertised and more, providing a solid foundation of accountability by which all of those around him can follow. Even on his off nights, he pitches deep into games providing the kind of relief to the bullpen that a team filled with young, and mediocre starters truly needs.
This was exactly what General Manager Dayton Moore was looking for. More so than the shiny ERA and ability to strike out batters, he wanted a leader. Someone who not only knew how to win, but a sense of accountability in that no one was willing to give anything less than their best because they didn’t want to be the reason Shields was unable to succeed.
That mission was accomplished.
The part that is still missing is that type of accountability on the offensive side of the ball. With seasoned veterens like Billy Butler and Alex Gorodon, one would think they would provide the kind of nightly motivation where all other hitters would step up, and simply be unwilling to fail. It seems neither of these is capable of taking on this role, and possibly for good reason.
Everyone has always gushed about the work ethic of Alex Gordon. His dedication to perfecting his craft and being the best baseball player he can be, capable of contributing to his team cannot be questioned. However in his 8th year as a Royal, he does not seem to be the spokesman for the team. He is not the one calling out players when they fail to produce, nor does he ever seem to show any strong emotion. That’s ok. Most teams would be happy to have 25 Alex Gordons on their roster, and the Royals would be no different. He provides a kind of leadership that is a “do it my way” type without ever saying a word. This, however, does not seem to be the kind of direction many of the young players on this team need.
Billy Butler, an eight year veteran, would seem to be the de facto leader based solely on success as well as service time. While I am sure he has the respect of the clubhouse, his role on the team does not lend itself well for being “The Voice.” Being relegated to a DH only role pushes Billy into a depreciated role when comparing with his teammates. He cannot speak to defensive miscues, and his poor baserunning give him no ability to provide advice in that arena either. Billy Butler hits, and when he is on, hits quite well. If a player has an issue with seeing a pitch or has questions about a pitcher, then I would venture to guess Butler is one of the stops they would make on their quest for knowledge.
Salvador Perez has shown the ability to be an excellent field general. He is capable of changing a game all by himself from behind homeplate, and has solidified himself as a potential perennial Al-Star. He does not lack confidence in his ability, and is the first one to fire up his teammates on defense as well as on the mound. Salvador could easily be the team leader, if not for the simple matter of having a language and culture barrier that prevents him from being able to connect with the majority of those around him. This may grow with time, and in a few years he could very well be THE GUY.
This leads to the point of all of this.