Nolan Woodford, the host of ‘The Night Shift’ on 610 Sports Radio took a few minutes out of his schedule to talk with me. We discussed The Royals, focusing on the Shields/Myers trade with the benefit of some hindsight, how he would rate their season in general, and answered some mid-season award questions.
Paul: At the halfway point of the season, how would you evaluate the year? And what letter grade would you give it?
Nolan: The season hasn’t been a total disappointment so far – this is the closest the Royals have come to contending in a decade. They’ve done some outstanding things and have loads of potential, but the results have been average at best, thus far. They’re right on pace to go 78-84, which is where I had them at the start of the year. But with the talent on this team and the way the starting rotation has performed, being under .500 should be considered underachieving. So I would give them a C. It’s going to be enough to get most everyone through the year, but it’s not a grade you’re particularly proud of. There are certainly going to be opportunities for the grade to go up in the second semester.
Paul: Would you consider the Royals hitting .500 this year a success?
Nolan: Kind of. I think the team has to go at least .500 for Ned Yost to keep his job. But I think they’re clearly the second most talented team in the AL Central behind Detroit, which means they play a lot of games against teams they’re better than. So while going .500 for the second time in the 21st century wouldn’t be a failure, they need to finish with a winning record.
Paul: In light of the Shields for Myers trade, does that make .500 not enough? Since KC only has Shields for 2 years and Myers is a potential future star, does that change the perception of what the Royals should do this year and next year?
Nolan: They need to make the playoffs either this year or next year. And they have enough talent they can do so, especially if Eric Hosmer continues to produce like he has in the last few weeks. But you traded away 6 or 7 years of Wil Myers for 2 years of James Shields. Surely, the Tampa Bay Rays expect Wil Myers to guide them to the playoffs in that time. So Shields needs to do the same in Kansas City. You don’t trade away the Minor League Player of the Year if you’re not trying to win now.
Paul: Who would you consider to be the team’s MVP and Cy Young this year?
Nolan: I think the MVP is Salvador Perez with Alex Gordon a close second. Perez is a year or two away from being the perennial All-Star starter / Gold Glove winner for Catchers in the American League. The Royals went 2-7 when Perez was out after the death of his grandmother. He just brings too much both to the line-up as well as the pitching staff. There’s a reason he is considered the one absolutely untradeable commodity the Royals have. Gordon is a close second because he’s also an All-Star candidate, a tremendous leader, and one of the best defensive outfielders in the game. As far as Cy Young goes, while James Shields and Ervin Santana have pitched at an All-Star level, I’d give it to Greg Holland. He averages nearly 2 strikeouts an inning and after a shaky first couple of weeks has established himself as one of the most dominant closers in baseball.
Paul: Who would you consider to be the AL’s MVP and Cy Young?
Nolan: Chris Davis is having a hell of a year in Baltimore, but to be the man you’ve gotta beat the man. And Miguel Cabrera is still the man right now. I would’ve gone Clay Buchholz for Cy Young before he went on the DL, but right now I’d probably go with Hisashi Iwakuma in Seattle. At 13-0, Max Scherzer is in the discussion, but record doesn’t really matter anymore with the Cy Young voters.
Paul: Who would you consider to be the NL’s MVP and Cy Young this year?
Nolan: It’s not as easy a choice for MVP in the NL, but at this point in the season I’d go with Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks. Carlos Gonzalez is having another MVP caliber season in Colorado as well. Hands down, I’d go Clayton Kershaw for Cy Young with Matt Harvey as runner up.
Paul: What are your thoughts on Jeff Francoeur departing? Does that make the Myers trade harder to swallow?
Nolan: Nothing against Francoeur personally, but his departure was long overdue. I think you have four very good outfielders in Gordon, Cain, Lough, and Dyson all outplaying Francoeur both offensively and defensively. The Myers trade will only be hard to swallow if James Shields leaves without guiding the Royals to at least an AL Central Title. Jeff Francoeur’s release only helps improve their chances of winning one.
Paul: Do you think Brett will have an impact as hitting coach and help change the hitting for The Royals?
Nolan: Since George Brett took over as Hitting Coach (with Pedro Grifol) on May 30th, the Royals have the best record in the AL Central. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have both shown improvements, and their success may be the biggest key to the Royals having success in the second half. Plus, I think just having the greatest Royal of all time in the dugout can do nothing but help a young team trying to guide a once great franchise to its first postseason in a generation.
Paul: You mentioned Yost, who was on the hot seat earlier this year. Now he seems to be a little safer as manager. What are your thoughts on him as a manager and on him keeping or losing his job?
Nolan: I think there’s probably a better manager out there for the job than Ned Yost. Some of his managerial decisions are downright baffling – such as his insistence on batting a player with a .279 OBP in the 2-hole because he “thinks it’s a good fit”. I remember – when the writing was on the wall for Trey Hillman – voicing my hope that the Royals could bring in Clint Hurdle, a former Royal who was serving as the Rangers’ Hitting Coach. Now he’s managing the team that has the best record in the National League despite having Vin Mazzaro on its roster. But no matter what, Ned’s going to be here until his contract is up at the end of the season. I believe bringing in George Brett was done to help add a needed new voice without firing the manager and in turn putting Dayton Moore on the hot seat. If the team finishes below .500, I think Ned gets let go regardless of who ends up on the hot seat next. If they do better, then anything’s possible.
Thanks again to Nolan for doing the interview with me. And those in the Kansas City market, look out for his show ‘The Night Shift’, where you can hear more of his thoughts on The Royals, baseball and sports in general.