I don’t know what’s more painful — root canal or watching Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas trying to hit a ball out of the infield.
Moustakas, the Royals’ starting third baseman since the middle of 2011, has the second-worst batting average of all regulars in major league baseball. The Royals keep trotting him out there and he generally responds with an 0-fer He heads back to the dugout with a glassy look and probably points to the sky giving thanks he somehow still has a job.
Moustakas has become one of the most polarizing figures on the Kansas City sports scene in quite some time. He’s right up there with former quarterback Elvis Grbac and ex-Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli. Unlike those men, however, Royals fans LIKE Moustakas. They’re rooting for him to succeed. They grimace after every futile swing. They want to yell “MOOOOSE!” far more frequently than they do. But despite all of their will, there’s simply no way. It’s not happening for Moustakas.
His only claim to fame at the moment is leading the team in home runs with four. That’s not saying much since the Royals are on pace to hit less than 60 this season, which is an embarrassment. In fact, I saw a quote the other day when Jeremy Guthrie gave up three home runs against Seattle, that equaled the number of homers hit by Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler — combined. That’s supposed to be the Royals’ heart of the order, the trio they’re building their team around offensively.
Sorry, I digress. Let’s get back to Moustakas.
If Moustakas were any other player, he’d be in Omaha right now trying to figure things out. But because he was General Manager Dayton Moore’s first draft pick and that he once was the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, he’s being given longer rope than about any player in baseball history.
Moustakas came up in 2011 as an alleged power-hitter, based on his 36 minor-league homers in 2010, where they must have been pitching under hand. He hit only five in 89 games in 2011, but was given a free pass since George Brett also had modest home run numbers when he first came up.
He did hit 20 in 2012, but batted only .242. He slumped even more in 2013 with a .233 average and just 12 home runs.
After dedicating himself to getting better in the offseason, Moustakas tore it up in the Cactus League this spring and the Royals thought that maybe he would ascend this season to the level of Hosmer, who he seems to be joined at the hip with since they’re the franchise’s expected cornerstones.
But Moustakas has just 16 hits in 109 at-bats, though 10 of them have been for extra-bases. Most of his outs are weak grounders or popups.
Danny Valencia is now basically starting against all left-handers, who have Moustakas flummoxed. There’s talk of giving iron-hands Johnny Giavotella a look there. The way is being paved for Moustakas’ exit. A trip to Omaha should have been made weeks ago, but he remains on board to suffer humiliation game after game.
He does have a good glove. But third base is a position of power. The really good teams don’t carry third basemen who can’t hit .200 or even .150 in this case. They can’t afford to.
The Royals should put Moustakas out of his misery. Send him back to Omaha to see if he can revive a crumbling career. If he can’t hit Triple A pitching, the Royals must cut ties and move on.