Trey Hillman finally got the ax in Kansas City on Thursday. It was inevitable, especially after the Sunday incident when Josh Hamilton of Texas advanced a base on a fly ball without tagging up and nobody — NOBODY — in a Royals uni noticed.
It was Joe Posnanski's piece about that play — well, that and the Twins weekend series with Baltimore — that prompted my post on the Royals and Orioles. And Pos, in his usual elongated style, gives a very reasonable macro-reason why Hillman failed.
There's no argument: The Royals' problems go beyond Hillman. Replacing him with Ned Yost is not a fix. They may get the baseball equivalent of a dead cat bounce, but the Royals have three to five high-quality players (Zach Grienke, Joakim Soria, Billy Butler, maybe David DeJesus and Gil Meche) surrounded by a bunch of guys who wouldn't make the Twins roster, much less lineup. That might be partly Hillman's fault, but the blame goes more on Dayton Moore, the general manager.
The Royals took Alex Gordon with the second overall pick in 2005, took him ahead of Ryan Braun and Tory Tulowitzki and Ryan Zimmerman and Ricky Romero and Andrew McCutcheon and Matt Garza ... and it wasn't a stupid pick. Most organizations, I dare say, would have taken Gordon there. It just didn't work. Gordon is back in the minors now; they're trying to make him a left fielder.
The Royals took Luke Hochevar with the first overall pick in 2006. This was not a consensus pick, and for a number of reasons I wouldn't have wanted the Twins to draft him had he been on the board when they took Chris Parmelee with the 20th pick, but still: The Royals thought Hochevar was worth the top pick, and it hasn't worked, and probably won't. Hochevar has had almost 60 starts, well past my 30-start "now you can start judging him as a major-league pitcher" rule, and he still has an ERA pushing 6.
(Among those the Royals passed up: Evan Longoria, Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw, Chris Couglan, Joba Chamberlain.)
Neither player has developed under Hillman. They are no better, and perhaps a bit worse, now than when they arrived in Kansas City.
The players taken in those spots in the draft should be cornerstone players. Is the failure of Gordon and Hochevar to meet that standard the fault of the scouts? The minor league system? Hillman? A combination? I can't say for sure how to apportion the blame, but I know this: It's no way to rebuild the once-proud Royals.