Last place. Familiar territory, isn't it? Once again the Royals have found their natural place in the world. Lest the lowly krill believe it has ascended the food chain, every marine-species from anchovies to whales swallow them whole to ensure that things stay right. But, the Royals are not just in last place, they have the worst record in the American League. At least when they fail, they do it spectacularly. None of this hanging around .500 to look respectable crap.
After decades of this kind of incompetence, I begin to ask myself "What's the point?". And what, indeed is the point? They Royals have been mismanaged, misrun and screwed by the system for years. The system is coming around by providing some revenue sharing monies, but the organization is still being run into the ground. Should we even care anymore?
I've loved the Royals for as long as I can remember. I went to games with my grandpa. It was like I was a fully formed Royals fan when I emerged from the womb. I've cheered them on in the decades since. I remember when they were pretty good, but those memories have been nearly wiped out with the constant losing and utter disgrace this organization has become.
I truly understand how tall of a task the Royals have with the financial structure of baseball. The small market teams have accepted too easily their lot in life and only recently have begun to claw back what is rightfully theirs as payment for allowing the Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers to have a near monopolistic hold on the largest markets in the country. Don't want to share revenues Yankees? Well, then let the Royals move to Brooklyn. No? Then shut your mouth.
These financial realities make building a regular contender an extremely difficult task. The Royals, though aren't struggling to become a regular contender, they're struggling to not be the worst team in professional sports. I say to those in charge at One Royal Way, don't worry fellas, you're there, accept it. You've destroyed a model franchise and turned it into the worst-run, most pathetic athletic team of the century.
The Royals in the six years of Dayton Moore have been worse than the expansion Royals. So they've concentrated, clearly on things which are designed to turn that round. Such important tasks as:
1. Firing TV producers who talk about baseball with other baseball people
2. Firing one of the greatest Royals because he dared speak ill of this rotten organization
3. Stopping players from talking to other players on the bases
4. Reading blogger tweets and sending minions to help correct the situation
5. Spending $10m on a a perceived leader who instead is one of the worst players in baseball
6. Continuing to play the player mentioned in #5.
The Royals have build a culture where the most desired qualities are loyalty, paranoia and doing things not "the right way", but Their Way. It's like they've bastardized the ideas of the Yankees organization and used them as an excuse for being terrible. It's like if a chicken restaurant opened and decided to copy Chic-Fil-A's support of anti-gay organizations rather than their high-quality fast-food and great employee morale.
Since the Royals, are granted a monopoly in terms of MLB baseball in Kansas City, they can continue to run themselves into the ground,make a small profit and not really worry about it. Note that I'm not saying that the ownership is specifically to blame here, because I don't believe that to necessarily be the case. But the Royals are operating in an environment with fixed economic rules and therefore don't have to suffer the wrath of a more free economic system.
The Royals are actually one of many thousands of companies where the organization is built on paranoia and trying to keep a stranglehold on what teams have done in the past. In the real world, those companies typically get trounced by competition. They may be able to eek out a niche somewhere, but that's all it is. High-performing companies that continue to break new ground and grow markets are almost never run like the Royals. Thousands of books have been written to that fact.
So the Royals can go on being mismanaged and spending time and energy on fools errands. They can continue to employ and pay people who fit the mold of what the Royals want, but also play a major part in creating a losing team. Royals fans will probably take it. I'm still planning on taking my son to a game for his birthday, but only because it's there and he loves baseball. If I could take him to a Nationals game, I'd do that instead.
So what is the point of being a fan anymore? With the advent of MLB.tv we can watch any team we want. In fact with the blackout rules, it can be technically easier to watch other teams. With blogs and Twitter I could become a part of any fanbase I wanted. If I picked an American League team, i could even see them in my own city at least 3 times a year.
Is there some value in the tradition I've had of rooting for the Royals? I certainly have a lot of pride in my city, but should that inherently extend to a poorly run sports team? I've given lots of time, money and effort and what have I received in return? What exactly have the Royals done to earn my fandom or to pay back my loyalty? The management has said that I'm not smart enough to understand their "process", they've forced me to watch Yuni, twice. They've run out the worst player in baseball in Jeff Francouer and tried to tell me how great he is.
It reminds me of a speech I heard from one of the best coaches I've ever played for. You can take a turd and you can cover it in gold. You can polish it up all nice and shiny. You can make it look really pretty and you can tell people that it's a ball of gold. But it's still a turd inside.
The Royals have been polishing and polishing and bragging about how shiny they are, but this organization has been nothing but a ball of crap and doesn't seem to be making any significant changes to the contrary. The only thing they seem to have left going for them is that we'd all feel bad abandoning them because their uniforms say Kansas City on them. For the most part, they're probably right. But for how long and to what extent? At what point do people just throw up their hands, say "What's the point?" and go buy a Sporting KC jersey. Keep running Francoeur our there and find out Dayton, I dare you.
- Nick Scott