Select Your Own Journey – You Be The Manager!
When I was a kid I loved checking out a certain series of books from the library that allowed you to CHOOSE your own ADVENTURE. For legal purposes, let’s call those books "Select Your Own Journey."
McCovey Chronicles and Drays Bay have featured their own "Select Your Own Journey" novels, but it is high time Royals fans got to enjoy an adventure of their own. What follows is a chance for you to select your journey as Royals manager. There are a number of different endings, so feel free to play many times. Good luck. You will need it.
In a surprise move, Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost has unexpectedly retired and the club has hired YOU as the manager. After the thrill of being named manager of your favorite team has subsided you quickly get to the manager’s office to begin the first day on your arduous journey to turn this franchise around.
You walk into the office and see an antiquated-looking computer sitting on the desk in the corner. You approach it and are surprised to see it is still left on. It reads:
"Congratulations on your hire. My creator, Ned Yost, has designed me to assist you in the most difficult challenge a man will ever have to endure – managing the Kansas City Royals. To continue, press any key."
Ned built a computer and left it for you? How presumptuous of him! But you have never managed before, and his guidance might be of some use to you. What do you do?
Turn the computer off – turn to page 23
Press any key – turn to page 26
Turn the computer off
"Silly Ned," you mutter to yourself as you shut off the computer. "If he wants to guide this team, maybe he shouldn’t have quit."
You head over to the dugout to observe batting practice when you are intercepted by General Manager Dayton Moore.
"Hey, how’s your first day of managing going?"
"Pretty good," you respond.
"Did you get a chance to use Ned’s computer?"
"Uh, no I shut it off. I didn’t want to use his old stuff."
A worried expression came over Dayton’s face. "Well, in this organization we are pretty high-tech. We use computers, we use statistical analysis – we even use the internet. Just use the America Online disk in your office to log on. But if you want to stay in this organization, you’d better start using that computer. It has a lot of valuable info. And check out that binder of stats Jin Wong left in your office. It has lots of great pitcher vs. hitters matchup stats that you can use in your decisions tonight."
"Uh, thanks," you mumble in embarrassment.
First day on the job and you’ve already made a fool of yourself in front of the boss! Oh well, you can always redeem yourself with a victory tonight.
Go back and turn on the computer – turn to page 26
Continue to batting practice – turn to page 28
Press Any Key
The computer continued, "You will find that there is more to the game of baseball than mere stats. It is imperative that you manage based on feel, making decisions based on your gut. The fate of the franchise – and possibly the world – depends on it."
The last part of that sentence throws you off. The world? What could that possibly mean?
"Feel free to use this computer as a guide. Type in any query for a response."
You stare at the blinking cursor, a puzzled look upon your face. You type "Who should lead-off in the lineup?"
The computer reads "Chris Getz."
Chris Getz? The second baseman with a .314 OBA and absolutely no power? Every sabermetric analysis showed Getz to be near worthless, and certainly not someone you would want getting at-bats at the top of a lineup. What kind of guide was this?
Still, perhaps the computer was right and the stats were not telling the whole story.
Bat Chris Getz leadoff – turn to page 31
Bat Chris Getz ninth – turn to page 34
Bat Chris Getz Ninth
You decide to hit Getz ninth that night. He goes 0-3, but he breaks up a double play after reaching on a fielder’s choice, hits a sac fly to drive in a run, and makes a heads-up play on a relay throw. The team wins 7-5 as your leadoff hitter Alex Gordon goes 3-4 with a home run.
After the game, you are sitting in your office enjoying an ice cold post-game victory beer when your phone rings.
"Why are you batting Getz ninth?" a voice asks.
"What? Who is this?"
"This is Lee Judge with the Kansas City Star. Do you know who you’re messing with?"
"Messing with? What do you mean?"
"Look, you pop-tart eating stat nerd. We have a system. The Ron Polk Point System. Its fool-proof. And it shows Getz is one of the most valuable players on the team. You don’t mess with that. Or else."
"Or else what?"
"I’m a political cartoonist. It should come as no surprise then than I am well-connected. We have ways of making you comply. So you can either take the easy way or the hard way."
Click. The phone goes dead.
Who did this guy think he was? The political cartoonist? You know Getz is terrible and the Ron Polk Point System is grounded in old school baseball mysticism with completely arbitrary value systems.
Still, you are new to the job and you don’t want to make a lot of enemies early on. Who will hit leadoff for you?
Continue to hit Getz ninth – turn to page 38
Let Getz hit lead-off – turn to page 39
Let Getz hit lead-off
"Getzie!" you shout, "get in here!"
A short, scrawny fellow peeks into your office. "You wanted to see me Skip?"
"You’re leading off tonight," you mutter angrily.
"Yippee!" shouts Getz, knocking over a large pile of bats. "Oops, sorry Skip. Want me to clean that up?"
"Just get out Getz," you sigh as you shake your head.
Getz goes 0-4 that night with three weak ground balls and a pop out. You see Lee Judge sitting in the press box, laughing with his arm around Coach Ron Polk. This was going to be a long season.
Continue to page 44
Continue to batting practice
You continue to make your way to the field, but it appears as if you have made a wrong turn somewhere because you continue to go through hallway after hallway in a confusing labyrinth in the bowels of Kauffman Stadium. Was this from the stadium renovations?
In a darkened hallway, you see an elderly gentleman hunched over on a chair, seemingly asleep. You approach him and are about to tap him on the shoulder when he quickly turns his head towards you and sizes you up.
"Lost, are you?" he says in an Australian accent.
"Uh, yes. I seem to have taken a wrong turn on the way to batting practice."
"Did the computer tell you how to get there?"
"Computer? I turned it off."
"Oh, that was a big mistake," he chuckles. "A big mistake indeed."
"Justin Huber?" smiles the old man, his long white hair nearly touching the ground. "Yes. I lost my way here about four years ago. Or was it forty years ago? You lose track of time down here. And now it will happen to you….."
"No, no, no," you stammer, backing up slowly until you look over and discover you have backed up into a pile of skeletons with jerseys reading "Pickering" and "Guiel."
Old Man Huber cackles in glee. "You can run all you want, but you’ll never find your way out. NEVER!"
You stumble about blindly in the darkness for what seems like an eternity before it finally dawns on your that you will never get out and will never get your chance with the Royals. The dizzying array of hallway after hallway turns out to be a rip in the fabric of time, trapping you and others like you in an infinite maze.
As the years go on, friends like Kila Kaaihue and Clint Robinson stumble upon this bizarre lost dimension and become trapped with you. You even befriend a submariner named Chris Hayes. Days becomes weeks, weeks become years, years become decades. You all lose track of time in the darkness, wondering what might have been had you found your way to the field.
What could I have done differently?
Continue to hit Getz ninth
The next night you hit Getz ninth, and he goes 0-4 with three weak ground balls and a pop out. Gordon, on the other hand, laces a two –run double and draws a walk in a 2-3 performance from the leadoff position.
After the game, you are sitting in your office eating a post-game meal when a large, shadowy figure cloaked in a trench coat and fedora enters the room.
"Who the hell are you and what are you doing in my office?" you scream.
"We told you to hit Getz leadoff," said the mystery man.
"Who are you? Another political cartoonist?" you joke.
"You can call me ‘Doonesbury," said the man.
"Why, because you like the comic strip?"
"No. Because when I commit crimes like beating up people, I’m like the comic strip – NO ONE GETS ME!"
The man slowly begins walking towards you, shedding his coat to reveal a mountain of muscles. He begins pounding his fist into his cupped hands while you inch into the corner of your office in fear.
The next morning you awaken in a hospital room, your body covered head to toe in a cast. As the nurse feeds you your breakfast through a straw, you peek up to see the lead story on ESPN is about you. They report a "car accident" has rendered you incapable of carrying out your tasks as manager of the Royals and you have been replaced by former Royals color analyst Frank White.
Oh well, perhaps you’ll get another chance to manage in the big leagues someday – once you can walk again! But you really should have listened to that political cartoonist!
What could I have done differently?
Six Man Rotation
The next day was Kyle Davies’ turn in the rotation to start. But you were debating whether or not to end the absurd six man rotation experiment and demote Davies to the bullpen. Perhaps the computer can offer some guidance.
"Should Kyle Davies start?" you type to the computer.
"Yes," was the response.
You frown. This was not the response you expected. Even by old school metrics, Davies had been a terrible pitcher that year. It had been inexplicable as to how he had lasted as long as he had without showing much signs of improvement.
Still, his FIP wasn’t terrible. And he had been in the Braves system, so that must mean he knew something about pitching, right?
Keep Davies in the six-man rotation – turn to page 45
Demote Davies to the bullpen – turn to page 46
Keep Davies in the six-man rotation
You decide to keep Kyle in the rotation and make that night’s start. Later that evening, after a four-run first inning, Kyle sprints back to the dugout.
"I felt pretty good out there Skip," he remarks. "I think if I make a few adjustments, I’ll really start cruising."
"That’s great Kyle," you mutter as your hang your head in shame.
After the 12-4 loss, General Manager Dayton Moore catches you in your office.
"Good game Skip," he smiles. "Thought we had a chance there for a minute, we just let it slip away. That Davies is really showing some high character in his fastball though. We’re already working on a contract extension for him. Pitching is the currency of baseball!"
It was definitely going to be a long season.
Continue to page 51.
Demote Davies to the bullpen
"Kyle, come in here," you bellow to the clubhouse.
"Look Kyle, we’re going to have you pitch out of the pen for awhile. You’re just not getting the desired results," you continue.
"I see," answers a crestfallen Davies.
You tell Bruce Chen to get ready to pitch that evening’s contest.
That night, as Chen begins his warm-up tosses before the first inning, an eerie fog begins to encircle Kauffman Stadium.
"What is going on?" you mutter to yourself.
"It’s happening," answers Bob McClure, your pitching coach.
"What is happening?"
"The Rise of Baal-Boni – the demigod."
"Demigod?" you ask incredulously.
"Kauffman Stadium was built on an ancient Native American burial ground," continued McClure. "In 1985, the Native American tribe, after asking the Royals to move the stadium for over a decade, finally put a curse on the team. It would be the last year the team would ever win a championship, and the last year a player would ever hit as many as 36 home runs – the number Steve Balboni hit that year."
"Curse?" you exclaim. This sounded all too strange.
"The demigod Baal-Boni also requires a player sacrifice. Each year, one player must sacrifice all his talent, yet still be required to play every day, to appease Baal-Boni. We have sacrificed Neifi Perez, Tony Pena Jr., Jason Kendall, even back to the days of Onix Concepcion. All of these players are potential All-Stars, but they had their talent sacrificed in the name of Baal-Boni."
"What about Chris Getz?" you ask.
"Oh, Getz just sucks," replies McClure.
"How do you know all this?" you ask.
"I am a spiritual hunter. I have traveled around this league for decades chasing poltergeists at Wrigley Field, capturing spirits at Fenway Park, and battling brain-dead zombies at Busch Stadium. Now I have been asked to be the guardian of Kauffman Stadium." He chuckles. "Why else would the team keep me around? We’ve been near the bottom of the league in pitching since Clinton’s first term!"
"You need to start Davies – he of the 7.77 ERA," continues McClure. "Seven is a mystical number, a number that keeps Baal-Boni at bay. Do you know how hard it is to achieve such an ERA? But Davies is a natural. He is – ‘the one.’"
"I feel it is too late," answers a somber Kyle Davies as he stares out at the Kauffman Stadium fountains. You see an enormous creature emerge from the fountains, a creature as large as the giant video board itself. It has a huge potbelly and a mustache and looks strangely much like former Royals slugger Steve Balboni.
"Boy is he ugly," you remark.
"You should see his fielding," replies Davies.
"I would advise you all to make like Jarod Dyson and RUN!!!!" screams McClure.
As you run for your life from the giant demigod Baal-Boni, who is now firing bolts of lightning at you, you wonder, "would it really have been so bad to start Kyle Davies? After all, the stats don’t tell the whole story!"
What could I have done differently?
The next game finds you already down 4-0 in the first inning once again, but Melky gets things going in the first inning with a single to right. Billy Butler is up and perhaps this can be a rally that can get your offense going.
"You should consider stealing here," says bench coach John Gibbons. "The computer recommends it."
Steal? Melky could swipe a base or two, but you were already down four and needed to play for the big inning. Plus why potentially take an RBI opportunity away from one of your best hitters?
Still, maybe the stats didn’t reveal everything about stealing bases and it would be worth it to gamble and play for one run.
Send Melky for a steal – Turn to page 56
Keep Melky at first and let Butler hit – Turn to page 58
Send Melky for a steal
You give Melky the steal sign. While your third base coach is relaying the steal sign to Melky, the pitcher quickly throws over to first, catching Melky off the bag.
"OUT!" yells the umpire.
Melky trots back to the dugout as you hold your head in disgust.
"Sorry coach, I couldn’t see the sign because of the ball boy," confessed Melky.
Billy Butler then lashes a double down the left field line. Jeff Francoeur follows him up with a strikeout to end the threat.
"We’re so close to scoring runs," chuckled hitting coach Kevin Seitzer. "This is way different than Royals teams in the past. We’re only a bunt and some situational hitting away from being a contender!"
It was going to be a long season.
Continue to page 62
Keep Melky at first and let Butler hit
You decide against a steal attempt and let Butler hit. He lashes a one-hopper heading towards right field, but the second baseman spears it, throws to second base where the shortstop flips it back to first base for a double play. The Kauffman Stadium crowd begins to boo.
"Sorry coach, thought I hit that one square," mumbles Billy as he returns to the dugout.
After the game ends, you decide to go on a walk to clear your head. You see a crowd full of people descending on the Plaza. Many are carrying pitchforks and torches.
"What’s going on?" you ask one of the passers-by.
"We’re going to get that Billy Butler once and for all!" replies the man angrily.
"For what?" you ask.
"He is a one-dimensional player that hits into too many double plays. All he does is hit! Like that has much to do with winning baseball. I have been registering my disgust at his shoddy defense, slow-base running, and lack of power on Facebook for weeks. Now it is time for action!" he replies, adding a few homophobic slurs for good measure. "If only he could be more like Chris Getz!"
The angry mob makes its way to Billy’s Plaza condo.
"Come out you beast, or we will force you out!" shouts an angry voice in the mob.
You can see Billy cowering in fear in the corner of his living room. Just then, the mob bursts through the doors of his condo tower and stream up to Billy’s unit. As they get to his room, torches and pitchforks in hand, you see Billy stand up in anger. He is an odd shade of green. To everyone’s astonishment he begins growing at an alarming rate. Soon he over eight feet tall and muscles have sprouted up all over his body, ripping his clothing.
"BILLY MAD!!!!!!" he screams.
The crowd shrieks in horror as Billy begins flicking people with the back of his hand as if they were wet rags. He makes his way to the window where he leaps to the side of the building and begins climbing the condo tower.
A swarm of police helicopters descend upon the condo tower. Billy swats at them like flies. "This is completely out of control," you think to yourself.
"BILLY MAD!" he repeats. "BILLY NO LIKE LOSING! BILLY WANT HIT HOME RUN!"
"Then stop hitting it to right field you dumb oaf," shouts a voice in the mob.
Billy grabs one of the helicopters and flings it at his heckler, flattening the poor guy. The helicopters swarm closer to Billy and begin to fire a hail of bullets at his chest. Billy loses his balance and falls several stories to his death. The crowd shrieks in horror however, when they find he has landed on star outfielder Jeff Francoeur.
Great, now you’ve lost your best hitter - Francoeur. How do you expect to score runs now?
What could I have done differently?
The Trade Deadline
Dayton Moore calls you into his office one afternoon. The team has been slumping, so you hope this isn't bad news.
"We have to make a decision on Jeff Francoeur," says Dayton. "We either have to trade him if he's not part of the future, or sign to him a contract extension if he is."
"The guy has had a fantastic season," continued Dayton. "And he's put up good numbers before. He seems popular in the clubhouse, popular among the fans, and he of course know the BRAVEST way to win. We're going to need some leaders in the clubhouse, and Frenchy rates very high on my Leadership Optimization Levels or LOL. Its a metric I designed. I got that from Ned's computer. See, I'm a stats guy too!"
You try not to roll your eyes.
"Still," continued Dayton. "Signing Francoeur won't be cheap. We just spent a ton of money on amateur talent. And I'd like to allocate some money to shore up the pitching. And we have Lorenzo Cain raking in Omaha - would Francoeur block him? And I'm can't help but feel that Francoeur is having a fluke year - he wasn't exactly great the last few seasons."
"What do you think?" asks Dayton, turning to you. "You watch Jeff on a nightly basis. Should I extend him or trade him?"
Gulp! The boss was asking your opinion on personnel matters. This was a big decision that could impact the future of the ballclub. Better make the right decision!
Recommend trading Francoeur - turn to page 77
Recommend trading Francoeur
"I think you should trade Frenchy while you can," you suggest. "His numbers are due to regress and he's not part of the future, Lorenzo Cain is."
"I see your point," replies Dayton. "I'll make the call."
The next morning you read Dayton has swapped Francoeur to the Dodgers for their top three prospects. "That Ned Coletti is priceless," you laugh as you shake your head.
You enter the clubhouse and are shocked by what you see. The clubhouse is enveloped in smoke, apparently from a small fire at the locker of Brayan Pena. Danny Duffy appears to be entangled in his own jersey. You see Mitch Maier locked up in a small dog carrier. Mike Moustakas runs up to you.
"Coach, I just don't remember how to play baseball anymore. Is it four strikes? Five? Five seems like the right number - its on the scoreboard under 'Brett." How many bases do you get for a strike? Oh man, if only Jeff were still here to tell me what to do."
You walk through the clubhouse, dumbfounded at the mass hysteria. You see Eric Hosmer crouched over, holding the limp body of Matt Treanor.
"Sorry coach, I saw my bat in my locker and I didn't know what to do with it. So I just started swinging it around. I must have hit this guy, whatever his name is."
"Its Matt Treanor. He's been your teammate almost all year," you reply.
"Yea, Train-Nor. He's out cold boss. I don't know what to do. I'm so scared!"
"ITS CLUBHOUSE CONFUSION!" screams a naked Bruce Chen as he runs through the clubhouse. He takes a folding chair and throws it through your office window. Mass looting ensues. "ANARCHY! ANARCHY!" shout the ballplayers.
Eventually Kansas City SWAT is brought in and subdues the clubhouse with tear gas and Pabst Blue Ribbon.
"Boy, this group needs a leader," mentions a SWAT team member. "And you sure aren't it buddy."
Dayton agrees and fires you the next day. Getting some value for Francoeur was nice, but did you even consider the leadership he provides?
What could I have done differently?
Recommend signing Francoeur to an extension
"Jeff provides invaluable leadership," you reply. "And his smile is infectious. Even if I'm having a bad day, all I have to do is look at his eyes and its like all my problems melt away."
"I feel the same way," Dayton smiles. "He's really a special guy. I'll send over the paperwork to his agent."
The next day the team announces a six year contract extension for Jeff Francoeur. Fans rejoices.
"Finally this team is serious about locking up its good young players," writes one Facebook fan.
Franceour bats just .150 the rest of the season, but the steady leadership he provides ensures the Royals avoid 100 losses for the fifth straight season.
"Its really an amazing streak," smiles Dayton Moore. "To go that many seasons without losing 100. Its really a testament to all our hard work and The Process."
He winks at you and continues. "Just think, just a decade more and we'll be a .500 ballclub. And you'll be along for the ride. You've really become a great manager."
Abandoning cold, emotionless stats has served you well. You have learned valuable lessons along the way - that grit and feel and trusting your gut can have benefits that far exceed what VORP, WAR and other stupid acronyms can tell you.
Dayton sees that you finally get it.
"Thanks for trusting the process."