Results tagged ‘ Buck O'Neil ’
Yesterday we gave you a piece of the conversation held at the Crosstown Station between General Manager Dayton Moore, manager Trey Hillman, and former players Al Fitzmorris and Willie Wilson. Today we’ll bring you the rest of what was said during the final State Farm Legends Luncheon. For more information on the luncheons please visit www.thebestofbuck.com. The Luncheons are in honor of Buck O’Neil and have supported the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (www.nlbm.com) for nine years.
Part one of the Luncheon recap yesterday focused heavily on Moore and building the Club’s minor league system. Wilson, as a one-time Royals farmhand, put in his two cents about how to build the club as well.
Today, Around the Horn wants to focus on what Hillman had to say about his first year as a manger. We’ll preface Hillman’s comments by saying that after the conversation between the four men on stage finished, the audience was allowed to ask questions. One woman asked both Hillman and Moore what their best and worst decisions were since joining the Royals. Moore told the crowd his greatest baseball decision to this point was the hiring of Trey Hillman to manage the Royals.
Moore fells so strongly that he has the right man he barely hesitated before responding. He sees in Hillman a desire and work ethic fit for the job. Two examples of that are Hillman’s seemingly tireless work while in spring training. Hillman would be on the back fields working with the minor league players long after the Major Leaguers had showered and left the complex. No one asked Hillman to do it, he just did.
In the same manner, he was at the Royals pre-draft workout hitting fungos to prospects who weren’t even in the organization yet. Moore said these are the types of things no other manager in the Majors is doing but they make the young players want to play for Hillman. If that kind of environment can be created, then a pride and desire to wear the Royal uniform will be created. Something Around the Horn wrote about yesterday in talking about strengthen the farm system.
Needless to say the fan was pleased and said she truly believes that Hillman and Moore are the best people in baseball today to take on the job of building a champion in Kansas City.
When Hillman took the job, the first thing he did – which was his answer for his best decision – was to start talking to players but also to start raising the expectations. Hillman said he was wearing out his cell phone while he was still in Japan talking to people in the organization from players to publicity folks to the baseball minds. He did say not to mention this fact to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, his club last season in Japan. So keep that on the down-low.
The expectation of the 2008 Royals was to win the World Series. That was Hillman’s best decision. He told people before the season, “If you aren’t aiming for a championship, you can’t win one.” He also knew that 2008 was going to be a season where a lot of questions needed to be answered.
Since Moore’s arrival, the team needed to address some issues like adding a front-line starter and a slugger to the lineup. Moore has done both of those things with Gil Meche, who was considered a middle-tier free agent when he signed, and Jose Guillen, who has come with some controversy but is an impact to the lineup. These players believe in what’s going on in Kansas City and want to win, which is where Hillman is coming from. He wants to win.
This season hasn’t been the easiest. Hillman said probably one of his other decisions that could go either way was not to use Joakim Soria during the 12-game losing streak. Using the Royals All-Star may have won that game, but the what-ifs can go both ways. Hillman is content to know that Soria is healthy and still pitching at an extremely high level. Had he been used on short rest during the streak, who knows what may have happened.
For the first-year manager, Soria is a bright spot. He heard so much good about the closer during spring training but didn’t see it. Soria didn’t pitch like an All-Star in the spring. But he turned it on once the season started. Hillman said he was amazed that he had 39 (now 40) saves on a team that had less than 70 wins.
Hillman was also impressed with Mike Aviles. He told Moore that Aviles would make an impact on this ball club during the spring. However, Hillman didn’t think the rookie would make this much of a difference to the 2008 team. Likewise with Ryan Shealy. During their demotion meetings, both players were somewhat upset but quickly turned around their feelings to a desire to work and get better.
Another question and answer was Zack Greinke. They wanted to see him stay healthy and stay consistent in the rotation for a full year. Greinke has matured and blossomed this season. Hillman said he’s become a pitcher and not just a thrower. One of the key’s for Greinke (who starts today) is to pitch around 91-92 mph and keep his 96-97 mph heater in his back pocket to break out every once in a while and baffle a hitter. Greinke has done that and so much more. He has become a student of the game.
Fitzmorris said that he and the pitchers on his teams were constantly talking to hitting coach Charlie Lau. They wanted to know how hitters thought about hitting. Hillman said this team is becoming students of the game in the same manner. He hopes that the inefficiency of the starters comes as a bit of a “slap in the face” and spurs them to work more. Look at what Kyle Davies accomplished two nights ago. That is a perfect example. Hillman said that if Davies can reproduce 75 percent of what he did on Tuesday he will be a solid performer. True, its one start and this late season surge is in September. But Hillman likes to live by a saying he got from Moore.
“Believe in what you see and not what you hear,” Hillman said.
For starters, congratulations to Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki. He received a warm ovation from the Kauffman crowd when he collected his 200th hit of the season last night. With the hit, Suzuki tied a Major League record and broke the American League record by recorded eight straight seasons with at least 200 hits. He broke Wade Boggs’ A.L. mark of seven (1983-89) and tied Wee Willie Keeler (1894-1901)…Jose Guillen and Alberto Callaspo have career high hitting streaks going at 14 games and 11 games, respectively…Ryan Shealy homered for the second straight night, the second time he’s accomplished the feat this season (third in his career)…The Royals are riding a season-high six-game winning streak and have 11 homers during the streak…Joakim Soria is one of three Royals pitchers to record a 40 save season and currently has the fourth best season in team history behind Jeff Montgomery’s 45 in 1993 and Dan Quisenberry’s 45 in 1983 and 44 in 1984.
Today’s Official Game Notes.
Around the Horn got a treat today with the final State Farm Legends Luncheon of the season. General Manager Dayton Moore and manager Trey Hillman chatted with former Royals Al Fitzmorris and Willie Wilson for a few hours in downtown Kansas City and we got to listen.
For today, we’re going to give you a taste of what went on during the event.
If you haven’t been to one of these, we here at ATH strongly recommend them. Wilson and Fitzmorris serve as the host and talk to guests who are connected to Kansas City baseball or even players and coaches who represent the legacy of the Negro Leagues and Buck O’Neil. For more info, check out www.bestofbuck.com.
Today’s session started with a thank you to all those in attendance. Through nine years of Luncheons, over $100,000 have been raised for the Negro Leagues Museum. That’s a substantial sum for what started as an idea hatched in a conference room.
Once Wilson and Fitzmorris took the stage, they introduced Hillman and Moore. Wilson, who endorsed TeamSmile before the interview started, thanked Moore and his staff for bringing back the Royals Alumni. Wilson said he really enjoys being involved in the organization again and feels it will help re-instill the tradition of the franchise to the new players.
Wilson said it means a lot to him because he has a strong connection with the Royals. He worked his way through the system. So when he got to the bigs, he felt ownership over the team and pride in the uniform he wore. Similar to how he felt once he reached the Majors, Wilson said 60 percent of the Major League club needs to be grown through the farm system.
Moore agreed with him and spoke about being able to draft. He said that in the past, it wasn’t totally an issue of money being put into the draft, but instead the picks which did get the money didn’t pan out the way they should have. The philosophy has changed.
“You have to draft on ability and not signability,” Moore said.
Moore then talked about growing scouting everywhere and not just looking at the draft as a means of acquiring talent to be groomed. At this moment, the team is working on developing a foothold in the Eastern Rim – with area scouts and talent evaluators. The team is also ramping up efforts in Latin America and becoming more aggressive in the Dominican Republic, where the Royals already have a baseball academy.
To grow the system even more, programs are in place for the Fall Instructional League that will allow players who workout during the day and attend classes at night at Glendale (AZ) Community College. They will learn about leadership, character and responsibility on and off the field. Moore said this is something no other team is doing.
Wilson said home-grown players have an attachment to the “Blue and White,” a bond they’ve formed with the team since entering the organization and then continued as they flourished inside of it. Moore seconded his thoughts, saying “Players have to feel strongly about putting on the Royal uniform.”
These programs are making the Royals the toast of the league. In some respects, the Major League club may not be the strongest competition, but scouts are raving about the work going on in the Minor Leagues and at the scouting level. But there is still a lot of heavy lifting to be done.
For example, he threw out a few names the Detroit Tigers picked up over the last offseason. To acquire Edgar Renteria, the Royals would have had to give up Luke Hochevar and Dan Cortes. To get Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera they might have had to fork over Hochevar, Cortes, Derrick Robinson and maybe even Danny Duffy. Those trades would have decimated a thin minor league system. Moore said beyond those few, there was a large gap to get to the next tier of talent in the system.
“Before we build a great farm system, it will be very difficult to impact the Major League team,” Moore said.
The Royals are 10-5 this month, eclipsing their 2007 September win total with 11 games left in the season…When Brandon Duckworth struck out Wladimir Balentien to end the sixth inning; the 2008 pitching staff become the Royals strikeout kings. They passed the 1990 staff which had 1,006 punch outs with Duckworth’s K and ended the night with 1,010 for the season. That number is sure to skyrocket with Gil Meche and Zack Greinke likely to get at least two starts still (both are in the American League’s top 10 for K’s this season)…As a team, the K.C. offense produced a cycle in the fifth inning last night. It was the first time since June 14, 2007 that the Royals have singled, doubled, tripled and homered in one inning.
Today’s Official Game Notes.