Over and over again, nationwide, you constantly hear variations on the following theme: “The Royals organization has been making the same inept mistakes for years.” Here are some of the variations:
- Year in, year out, the Royals always [do X].
- Signing Yuniesky Betancourt, that’s such a typical Royals move.
- The Royals can’t develop a shortstop. They’ve never really been able to.
How is it possible that these traits spill over from one regime to the next?
I’ve been a Royals fan since around 1988 (I moved to KC in ’86 and it took a couple years to sink in). I can’t remember the exact year Schuerholz left, at twelve years old—at least back then—you didn’t typically know or care about the general manager. You cared about Brett and Stillwell and Seitzer and Gubicza and Montgomery (I always thought he looked like Neil Young. Of course, at twelve I was cool enough to know who Neil Young was). When I finally realized you should care about and keep track of the GM, Herk Robinson was the guy. I remember—until he traded for Jermaine Dye—I couldn’t stand Herk. He seemed to always be acquiring old, slow guys (it’s likely that entire perception was colored by Kevin McReynolds). I remember when we signed Wally Joyner. You’d think Joyner would be a kids’ ballplayer—he looked like your dad out there, master of the fundamentals. But I couldn’t stand him; I wasn’t old enough to respect what he brought to the table. All I knew was that he was a first baseman who hit like a second baseman. It seemed like all the Royals, except Danny Tartabull, an aging George Brett and you-know-who, hit like second basemen (this is why I was slightly worried when we signed Seitzer as a hitting coach. I was, and still am, worried that he’s going to teach everyone to hit like Wally Joyner).
I’m getting way off topic. Point is, Herk—fairly or not—seemed to be the grandfather of a few traits that the Royals are now famous for, not the least of which is the blah acquisition—the overpaid free agents who were once maybe kind of good, but are now in the declining phase of their career and sign with the Royals mainly because they can’t sign anywhere else (you know the names. I’d like to see a complete list. The all-over-the-hill Royals team. The Kansas City Blah Stars). The best part is the Royals’ subsequent propaganda campaign. They fly over Kansas City and drop pamphlets out of an airplane. He may be 38, but [McReynolds, Gonzalez, Sanders, Guillen, ____, ____ ] is a POWER BAT!
The blah acquisition is just one of many alleles in what is taken to be Royals’ genetic code. ‘Can’t develop a shortstop’ is another. ‘Can’t develop a starting pitcher’ used to be one before Zack arrived. But here’s what doesn’t make sense to me. Haven’t there been three different front office regimes since Schuerholz left town and these fungi originally appeared? I can’t remember how many of Robinson’s staff carried over into the Baird regime, but since Baird was one of Robinson’s guys, you could try and say that he carried Herk’s traits with him. Perhaps, for example, Baird was infused with Herk’s eye for blah acquisitions.
But can you really ascribe the Royals’ organizational traits—those characteristics so quintessentially…Royalsian—to Moore? I mean, you can and no one will really disagree; the guy did sign Jose Guillen to a ridiculously burdensome contract. Yuniesky is a quintessentially Royals blah acquisition. But it just doesn’t make sense to me. This ascription of character traits to sports organizations across regimes happens all the time in sports. The ‘Braves’ Way’ will be referenced long after Schuerholz is gone from the organization. They’ll acquire some pitcher in 2050 and someone will say, that’s a classic Braves move! Shoot, you see this kind of thing all the time, not just in sports, but in life. “Foreign policy X is so American.” But you see a lot of it in sports. “NFC style football.” “Yankees style baseball” (even though their entire core was signed this last offseason).
I guess it wouldn’t bug me so much if there didn’t seem to be some truth in it, even if it makes no sense at all. Think about it. The only holdover from the Baird regime—as noted by Rany—is Nick Swartz. You’re telling me Nick Swartz carries on the Royals Way? Somebody is going to say that Glass is the common denominator, that he and his ownership circle (family) carry it along from GM to GM. I’m not buying. We’re led to believe that he has absolutely no say in player acquisitions, that Moore has been given total autonomy per his demands upon signing up for the job. And I do believe it. Also, the Royals are actually spending money now. They’re spending more money than almost anyone else in the draft, and they’re funding an extra affiliate. That was why we were so excited when Moore arrived, there were tangible changes in the way the team operated. Going forward, Royalsian moves were to be a thing of the past. When we saw Glass opening his wallet, we didn’t need convincing.
And yet…Royalsian moves continue. Not just typically Royals moves, quintessentially Royals moves. Is there a spirit hanging around at Kauffman stadium? Does the team need to be exorcised? If so, let’s hurry up and arrange it.