A couple of weeks ago, the Royals were in their worst funk of the season. After losing seven games in a row by May 29 and with a 21-29 record, the Royals made a change and reassigned hitting coaches Jack Maloof and Andre David to the Minor Leagues. In their place, the Royals hired interim hitting coach George Brett. Yes, the Royals legend George Brett.
At the time, it appeared to be a move done by the Royals to show they’re trying to do something and placate a cynical fan base. Hiring the Hall of Famer and the all-time Royals hits leader on an interim basis could either be a brilliant move that sparks the team into winning or become another flop that’s plagued the Royals for almost two decades.
So what happened on Brett’s first day of his job? The Royals beat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-2, snapping the losing streak. Then the Royals went on to an 8-4 run with a six-game winning streak thrown in. Sure, the majority of the winning streak was against the Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros, teams they should beat. But a win streak is a win streak and they did take two out of their last three games with the A.L. Central leading Detroit Tigers.
So with the addition of George Brett, the Royals should be hitting for higher average, hitting more home runs and scoring more runs per game, right? Well, not exactly. When Brett joined the Royals, the team had a .261/.314/.375 average. Now they have a .256/.310/.365 average. They’re still last in the A.L. with 33 home runs, with just two home runs hit in June. Since Brett was hired, the Royals average 3.3 runs a game. They averaged 4.0 runs before Brett was hired. And if that’s not enough, Mike Moustakas has a .184/.250/.286 average, Chris Getz is at .211/.247/.319 and Alcides Escobar is at .238/.263/.313. The Royals won’t win many games if these team and individual stats don’t improve.
So does Brett bring any value to the Royals? I believe he does. Just his presence in the dugout should inspire confidence among the players to play better and the coaches and manager Ned Yost to perform better. When Brett talks about hitting, offense and baseball, I’m sure the players will listen. And while the stats don’t reflect it, the bottom line is the team is getting timely hits and winning games. It doesn’t hurt the pitching staff has an A.L. leading 3.45 ERA either.
George Brett didn’t need this job. He had a good life as a retired Royals legend. He could do what he wanted when he wanted. His legacy as a Royal was secure. Brett knows he’s risking his legacy and perhaps reputation by taking this job, even if it’s only an interim basis. As the hitting coach, Brett will work long hours and spend a lot of time on the road, making players less than half his age listen to him concerning hitting, offense and baseball. But at 60 years old, Brett still has that competitive fire and still looks for a challenge. And it’s obvious Brett has a passion for the Royals to succeed or else he wouldn’t take the job.
The Royals have made it clear Brett will decide at the end of the month if he stays with the team or lets someone else be the hitting coach. And if the Royals keep playing well, Brett might have a real hard decision to make.