Archive for Thursday, June 16, 2005

Seemingly dubious Royal managerial hire ringing bell so far

June 16, 2005

A few weeks ago I woke up to go about my daily routines by turning on the radio to a sports station, as I always do.

As the voices came through my speakers, I was suddenly hit with one of the most underwhelming bits of news I had heard in some time.

The Royals had hired Buddy Bell as the newest captain of their rapidly sinking ship.

As I heard the news, I really didn't know what to think.

After the sudden resignation (termination?) of Tony Pena, I was really hoping for the executives in blue to take a long hard look at Art Howe as the team's next skipper.

Howe had two successful stints in the majors, one with the Astros and another with the Oakland A's. And recently with the A's, he led a team that featured future stars such as Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada to three consecutive playoff appearances.

Off course, he flamed out last year under the intense scrutiny of the New York media as the manager of the Mets.

However, for me it seemed Howe was the logical choice if he was available. He had a track record of developing young players and turning them into a cohesive unit, which is what we're being told is the Royals' ultimate goal.

But Buddy Bell? What has Bell done?

He enjoyed a disastrous stint with the Detroit Tigers, as well as a listless tenure with the Colorado Rockies.

The choice of Bell baffled me, even as I listened to the president and general manager of the team tell us all why he was the man for the job.

I figured this season, which was akin to watching teeth being pulled, would carry on.

But then something happened -- something that shouldn't have.

The Royals swept the New York Yankees at Kauffman Stadium in Bell's first series as manager. It was the team's first series sweep in nearly 80 tries.

As exciting as that was, it wasn't something that would turn this lost season around.

However, the Royals backed up an eventual 4-2 home stand with a 4-2 road trip.

That was something to get excited about.

The team opened the trip against the San Francisco Giants (without Barry Bonds of course) and managed to instill a feeling in me that I hadn't felt in quite some time.

That game saw the Royals pummel the Giants 8-1. Not once during the game did I feel the team was in jeopardy of losing.

Normally when I listen to the games on the radio or watch them on television, I am waiting for the eventual collapse. Whether it was an error or a bullpen guy who refuses to throw strikes and blows the game, it seemed to always come.

It didn't come and for once I listened to a ballgame assured of a Royals victory.

Another encouraging sign with the new manager was the game on Friday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, where the Royals came back from an 11-2 deficit to tie the game in the ninth, only to lose 12-11 in the 10th.

Yes, it was a loss, but the team came back. Earlier in the season, the Royals would have just mailed it in.

Of course this stretch of baseball is not going to overcome the 20-game deficit the Royals find themselves in at the bottom of the American League Central.

But what it does, for me at least, is show me the plan.

I can finally see that the umpteenth youth movement may have some teeth.

The team is playing hard and smart. Mike Sweeney is no longer relied on to provide the only offense in an otherwise anemic attack. The pitching is coming along, especially with the consistent performance of reliever turned starter, D.J. Carrasco.

Whether it is merely the intoxication of the Buddy Bell honeymoon or a true turning point for this beleaguered franchise; the team is playing good ball.

And for all of the doubts about the franchise and Buddy Bell, that is all any of us as Royals fans really ever wanted.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.