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Royals' manager just one problem

Last June, Gil Meche threw a four-hit shutout. He also threw 132 pitches.

In 2007 and 2008 he started 34 games in each season; they were easily the two best and healthiest seasons of his career. In 2009, that June shutout left him with a 3.31 ERA for the season.

After throwing 132 pitches, complained of a "dead arm" ... and shortly afterward was allowed to throw 121 and 114 pitches in consecutive starts. Shortly afterward, he went on the disabled list for a month, returned in August to make four more starts, then didn't pitch in September.

Last Saturday night, Meche threw 128 pitches in a valiant (but losing) effort.

Since throwing those 132 pitches last June, Meche has thrown 76 innings and given up 74 runs.

As you might imagine, my friend Rany Jazayerli noticed all this:

    So to recap: Gil Meche, who started complaining of a tired arm after throwing 132 pitches in a complete game last June, and who has been consistently awful since throwing 121 pitches with a dead arm last July, and who wasn’t pitching well so much as pitching lucky on this night, was allowed to throw 128 pitches – the longest outing by any major league pitcher this season – on Saturday night. He was left in to complete the 8th inning, despite a fresh bullpen, and despite the fact that he allowed the first three batters to reach base safely.

    Oh, yeah - and as a result, Meche surrenders the game-winning run.

    --snip--

    Ten months ago, Trey Hillman made perhaps the worst decision of his managerial career, and ruined – perhaps irrevocably – his second-best starting pitcher. Yesterday, faced with the same choice, he made the exact same decision. There can be no stronger evidence that Hillman hasn’t learned a thing on the job.

    The old me would now proceed with a few thousand words filled with choice insults and all but demanding that when the Royals return home today, that Hillman be left behind in Arlington along with his retired number. The new me is trying to be a little less emotional and a little more analytical. So I’m not going to insist that the Royals fire Hillman on the spot.

    I’m not going to argue that Hillman should be fired. I’m just going to predict that he will be. Probably soon.

On another track, Aaron Gleeman riffs on a Kansas City columnist's critique of Hillman:

    Ultimately firing Hillman isn't going to fix the Royals, because Joe McCarthy, John McGraw, and Earl Weaver together couldn't manage this collection of scrubs to 75 wins. However, there's little to indicate Hillman is pushing them in the right direction and plenty of evidence that he's hindering the already shaky rebuilding process. His overall record as manager is 151-205 (.424), including 58-107 since last year's 18-11 start.

    Plus, as always the first step to an organizational overhaul is for the general manager to fire the manager. Once the Royals push Hillman out the door, whether by firing him now or opting not to renew his contract, then the pressure will be placed solely on Moore's shoulders and the franchise might be ready for a more meaningful change.

Top draft picks Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Derrick Robinson, all of whom have been disappointing since joining the organization, are off to hot starts this spring. The Royals' No. 1 prospect, left-hander Mike Montgomery, has been brilliant from Day 1 and today ranks as one of the most impressive pitchers in the minors.

There is talent in the pipeline. Help is on the way. The Royals' general manager has a background in player development, and we might soon conclude that the Royals are being well-served by that acumen.

But that's not enough. A team with limited financial resources has to do almost everything well. This same general manager has hired a manager who has destroyed the health of a fragile and highly-paid pitcher. This same general manager has placed great faith in the talents of Yuniesky Betancourt, Willie Bloomquist, and Jose Guillen. This same general manager has not, by my count, made a single outstanding trade in nearly four years.

In his indictment, Rany writes, "David Glass has been a model owner for the last four years." In one respect, that's true. He's given his general manager a respectable budget and then mostly stayed out of the way. Glass has been a model owner if you are his general manager.

But if you're not his general manager -- if you're a fan, or Zack Greinke -- wouldn't you prefer an owner who hires the right general manager in the first place?

The Royals don't need a new manager. The Royals don't need a new general manager. The Royals need a new everything.