2006 – Trey Hillman leads the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters to their first Pacific League Championship in 25 years.
2010 – Try Hillman leads the Kansas City Royals to their first World Series Championship in 25 years.
…it could happen.
When Trey Hillman took the reigns of the Royals in 2008 they were a beleaguered bunch, and had been for some time. Emil Brown had no business occupying a key run producing spot in the lineup. Letting go of Raul Ibanez—given his low cost—was a HUGE mistake. David Cone for Ed Hearn? Colt Griffin? Etc. etc. etc.
For all of Allard Baird and Herk Robinson’s quality traits, they made horrible decisions for over a decade. Below are total losses over that span:
* First ever 100 loss season for Royals Baseball Club
** Tony Pena led “We Believe” mirage that proved to be more hype than hope
The Royals managed to exist 33 years without incurring a 100 loss season, and then in a five year span they managed to do this four times.
There were no All-Star caliber players on squad.
Minor League affiliate rosters were filled with never-will-be’s.
Draft selections were based on signability, not potential.
There was little hope on a yearly basis.
Then, a miraculous thing happened. The Glass family decided to open the Wal-Mart vault a bit. They lured Dayton Moore, the protégé of former Royal GM John Schuerholz, away from Atlanta. They landed a World Champion manager (even if it was a Pacific Coast League Championship) in Trey Hillman. They increased spending and they renovated their stadium into a bona-fide cougar (38-year-old stadium that got “surgically” enhanced).
The only necessity at this point is a winning product—the most elusive of all the improvements.
Dayton Moore has responded with the addition of several serviceable players despite league wide opinions of the franchise and the Glass family. They have drafted Scott Boras clients—indicative of a team drafting for talent, not signability. They have bought and sold several run-of-the-mill relief pitchers leading to the acquisition of key producers like Coco Crisp and Mike Jacobs—indicative of a savvy GM.
Trey Hillman has taught baseball in Kansas City the way it was meant to be taught. Though Kansas City fans may be itching for the long ball, he is a throwback manager that believes in pitching and defense. He took a lot of grief when, after a poor onfield performance during a spring training game in 2008, he gathered the team around home plate to review fundamentals. However, he was given little praise when he held voluntary infield drills at his home before this spring and nearly every player decided to participate.
The micromanagement of Trey Hillman thus far is out of hand. Local sports talk dissects every move he makes—even when it works. He is either considered a moron or lucky.
Fans seem to be frothing at the mouth while they wait for the next Hillman mistake.
Is it because Royal fans have been trained over the past two decades that no matter the start we will revert to the “norm?”
To those pessimists, I ask you this: If the season ended today, who would be a better choice for Manager of the Year?