Yuniesky Betancourt of the Kansas City Royals hits a RBI single during a game against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Sunday, the Royals designated infielder Yuniesky Betancourt for assignment, reportedly because he wasn't happy with his playing time.
It's official! In Kansas City, the scapegoating has begun.
Remember, this was the season in which the Royals were supposed to begin their long-delayed climb back toward relevance, and perhaps even into contention. For a few years now, the Royals have boasted one of the best farm systems in the game. They graduated some brilliant young players to the majors last year, and were supposed to graduate a few more this year. A lot of people figured them for a winning season, at least.
Instead the Kansas City Royals have the worst record in the American League.
Yeah. Those moves should make everything all better.
Just looking at the numbers, it's hard to understand why the Royals would dump Betancourt at this point in the season. Yes, he's terrible. He's also been hitting almost exactly the same as his career numbers. But apparently Betancourt hasn't been happy with his irregular playing time, and wasn't shy about letting people know. Here's manager Ned Yost (via Jayson Jenks in The Kansas City Star):
"We have been living in a losing culture here for many, many years," Yost said. "We cannot get over the hump. In order for us to get over the hump, we have to have 25 guys that are solely invested in one goal and that’s turning this organization around to become a champion. That’s it. It’s not about, ‘How much do I play?’ It’s not about, ‘Do I have a job?’
"And Yuni did a great job for us, but he was a guy that wanted more playing time. He would get upset when he didn’t, but (Chris) Getz was playing good. There were just situations. We’re trying to win the ball game, and we’re going to put the best team on the field every day."
Purportedly, the Royals signed Yuniesky Betancourt as a utility infielder. But when he wasn't on the Disabled List, he started roughly three-fifths of the club's games at second base, because a) Chris Getz also spent some time on the D.L., and b) the organization seems to have completely lost interest in second-base prospect Johnny Giavotella.
Lately, though, Getz has been getting most of the action at second base. Presumably because he's a better fielder than Betancourt, and because Getz has been hitting better than Betancourt (although it's worth mentioning that Getz's career numbers are even worse than Betancourt's).
Ned Yost's comments about the Royals' "losing culture" lead to some interesting questions, though. Yes, there's been a losing culture for many, many years. Or losing, anyway. But Yuniesky Betancourt has been just a small part of that losing culture. Meanwhile, Ned Yost has been managing the Royals since the spring of 2010. Dayton Moore has been general managing the Royals since the summer of 2006.
I don't know if the Royals actually suffer from a systemic culture of losing. Most of the players seem to be trying their best, and most of them say all the right things. But if there really is a systemic culture of losing, one can't help wondering how much time Dayton Moore should be allowed to change it. In the wake of the summary dismissals of minor figures like the first-base coach and the utility infielder, six years suddenly seems like a long time.