Hillman not to blame in Kansas City

Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Rounding Third Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It wasn't a complete shock that the Trey Hillman era ended in Kansas City on Thursday.

The Royals had taken a step back last year following a promising 2008 that saw them out of the American League Central cellar for the first time since 2003. The evolution hadn't continued, though, as this year's club has been just awful, and appears to be worse than last year's 97-loss team.

I have to admit, though, the firing did catch me off guard, given that three days prior, Royals general manager Dayton Moore was singing his hand-picked manager's praises.

"I think Trey's done a terrific job," Moore said. "Trey is a tremendous leader. Somebody who is very consistent with who is he is day in and day out. He's exactly what our organization needs at this point in time."

So what happened in three days? Nothing, really. Moore just provided another example that a public vote of confidence is indeed a kiss of death.

The fact of the matter is that Trey Hillman is no more to blame for what has gone on in Kansas City than Buddy Bell, Tony Pena, Tony Muser or Bob Boone were.

The problem with the Royals is simple. They don't have the players.

Most of Trey Hillman's coaching success came in Japan.
Alex Gordon was billed to be the second coming of George Brett. Well, the guy who was supposed to carry this team for the next decade can't beat out Alberto Callaspo at third base and is currently in the minors.

Zack Greinke, of course, is one of the best pitchers in baseball, but will he still be when the Royals are ready, if they ever are, to compete? You could argue that the Royals would be better off turning Greinke into four or five prospects to really start this rebuilding process.

I know Joakim Soria is as good a closer as there is in the game, but what is the point of having him if you hand him the ball to protect a lead once or twice a week? Believe me, you could get a ton in return for him.

A team will take Gil Meche's contract off the Royals' hands. Jose Guillen could find a home. While you are at it, get rid of Gordon too. It is time to blow it all up, and start fresh.

There is talent in the minor league system. Why not bring it up and let it play out? With one winning season in the last 15 years, the Royals have seemingly been bad forever, so what is there really to lose? How can it be any worse than it is now? See what you have. The Royals are basically a 4-A team at this point anyway.

This isn't to say that Hillman didn't have his faults, like when he ripped into his team on the field during a spring training contest in his first year. A lot of people thought he wouldn't even make it out of his first year following that episode, with cries that he lost the clubhouse coming out at that early stage.

Most of Hillman's coaching success came in Japan, where he won back-to-back Pacific League championships in 2006-07. He had moderate success as a minor league manager in the New York Yankees system, but he never coached at the major league level in any capacity before his job with the Royals. That may have been one of the problems.

Right or wrong, things are just done differently in the bigs than they are in the minors or overseas. The ripping into players just doesn't fly, nor does fining players for dropped fly balls, which Hillman did last weekend when shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt misplayed a popup.

For all of Hillman's faults, though, the biggest problem is the team he had to work with. Show me what manager is going to win with this team. I know one thing, it certainly isn't going to be Ned Yost.

Yost is a perfect stop-gap manager for the Royals, since nothing is expected of him, nor will he do anything special. He will stick around for a year or two, then will fall by the wayside like everyone else has in KC, finishing his tenure there around 80 games under .500.

Bank on it.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Ruddick at cruddick@sportsnetwork.com.
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