George Brett likes to say that hitting was always easier for him to do than say.
After all, he was one of the best of his generation – of any generation, really. His pursuit of the near-mythical .400 mark during his MVP season of 1980 came up just 10 points short, and to this day remains one of the most spirited cracks at it since Ted Williams reached it in 1941.
But for Brett, stepping into the batter’s box, peering back at a pitcher and then putting the right swing on the ball came naturally. He worked his tail off, but when someone would ask him to explain his sweet swing, he would usually just shrug.
It was easier to do than say.
Well, now he’s getting paid to say rather than do. He’s three weeks into a monthlong experiment as the Kansas City Royals’ hitting coach, and just like Williams and scores of other greats who have tried to become coaches, Brett is finding results maddeningly slow to show.
The Hall of Fame third baseman turned down numerous opportunities to coach over the years, mostly because he didn’t want to deal with the daily grind. But he also didn’t know whether he’d be any good at it, a hard admission for someone who has always excelled in baseball.
The Royals were hitting .261 when Brett put on the old No. 5. They were averaging four runs a game, and ranked near the bottom of the American League in just about every statistical category.
Since he took over, the team is batting just .247 and scoring about 3.7 runs per game.
In just about every relative statistic, the Royals have regressed under Brett, but there are plenty of reasons to explain it. It takes time for changes to take hold. Subtle tweaks to a swing and, more important, a mindset can sometimes take months to reflect in the numbers.
In some cases, players have simply reverted to their expected mean.
But Brett believes the Royals are on their way toward sustained success, something that hasn’t happened for the franchise in decades.
“Every day we stepped on the field,” Brett said, “we expected to win, and I think this organization the past five years of losing 90 games, they were hoping to win rather than expecting to win. I think when we start winning, we’ll expect to win again.”
Clearing the bases
Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Alex Cobb returned to Tropicana Field and spoke to the media for the first time since being struck in the head with a line drive and taken to a hospital on June 15. … San Francisco Giants center fielder Angel Pagan is scheduled to undergo surgery today to repair a tendon in his left hamstring. … Retired outfielder Randy Winn joined the Class-A San Jose Giants to get a taste of coaching in the San Francisco Giants’ farm system and to see if it’s something he would like to pursue on a full-time basis.