Sam Mellinger had an interesting column in Sunday's paper about the relationship between the Royals Brain Trust and the fans. You should take a moment to read it. Because if you don't know what Mellinger wrote, the rest of this post isn't going to make a lick of sense.
In case you can't be bothered to click the link above, the basis of the column was this:
But this is the Royals' best team (on paper) in a generation, and especially with two wild-card spots, the playoffs are (finally) a realistic expectation. The baseball world sees the Royals' steps from Industry Punchline to Rebuilding Model as sound. They strengthened their infrastructure with bigger scouting budgets, more scouts and record-breaking spending on amateur players. The game's best farm system was built from ashes.
That's what people like (Theo) Epstein are talking about, and what frustrates some inside the Royals. If folks around baseball can see it, with no rooting interest in the Royals, why can't more of Kansas City get behind its best baseball team since the strike?
And how about this?
"We get more love outside of Kansas City than we do here," they say.
Basically, the Royals "officials" are frustrated with a certain portion of the fan base. Apparently, there are some who don't appreciate what Dayton Moore, et al have given. Apparently, some Royals officials expect a bit of gratitude thrown their way.
Apparently, some Royals "officials" are hopelessly out of touch with reality.
After I read the column on Sunday morning, I sent out a series of tweets. I'll expand a bit more on my thoughts.
First of all, things most assuredly are better in Kansas City. It's been eight years since a 100 loss season. Tony Muser is god knows where. Mark Redman is an All-Star only on Baseball Reference. Money has been spent on the draft and development. The team has made an impact on the international level. There are some things that are right about this team. If you don't see that, I don't know what to tell you. You can dislike David Glass, Dayton Moore, and Ned Yost. But you can't ignore they have moved the needle in the right direction for a franchise that spent the better part of the previous 25 years floundering on the outside of competence and respectability.
The Royals won 86 games last year and were in the mix for the postseason deep into September.
Yes, things are better. Do you want a cookie?
Seriously, Royals "officials." What do you want from the fans? Thanks for an 86 win season? You're in the eighth year of The Process for crying out loud. One season with 86 wins and you want a parade? (I guess that is what you want, given that last year felt like winning the World Series.)
No. An 86 win season eight years into The Process earns you this: Finally. Now do it again and do it better.
If you won 86 games your first or second season here, fans would be turning backflips, thinking we found the front office baseball messiah. Except you took seven years to get there. In between the start of the Dayton Moore regime and last year you gave us seven years of questionable hirings. Seven years of unsound personnel moves. Seven years of player development failure. You took your time and because of this, you picked up some baggage along the way.
Fans follow their teams closely. They know every move and they have an opinion. This isn't news, but I feel the need to explain this to Royals "officials" in the unlikely event they are reading this post. Because they fail to understand the basics that drives the fan-team relationship. It's been almost 30 years since this team played in October. Fans don't forget when you talk about on base percentage and then bring in Mike Jacobs and Miguel Olivo. Fans don't forget you you say pitching is the currency of baseball and then you fail at developing even a single a home-grown starting pitcher until Ventura. You brought Yuniesky Betancourt to Kansas City twice. Twice! The list of failures is epically longer than the list of successes. One year above .500 - even though it's a step in the right direction - doesn't erase the previous decade. It shouldn't. It doesn't.
You want our trust? Tell me, Royals "officials," what exactly have you done to earn our trust? We've been burned before. We've been burned by you, in fact. Our memories are long. Our patience is thin. I'll ask again, Royals "officials," what have you done to earn our trust?
If we're being totally honest here, Royals "officials," this whine about the fans not giving you credit for what you have done is yet another example of how horribly out of touch you are with this fan base. Forced marriages don't seem to work. We don't understand you and you sure as hell don't understand us. To think that one winning season out of eight will wash away all the garbage is misguided. You made far too many mistakes and took far too long to get to the magical .500 mark.
Besides, I'll ask this question again: What exactly have you done that's so great, so deserving of accolades? You may be "doing it right" to hear baseball insiders talk, but that's just code for "potential," which is code for "you haven't done anything yet."
How about a reality check? From 2007 (the first full season of the current Royals brain trust) to 2012, 28 of baseball's 30 teams cracked the .500 mark. The only two? The Royals and the Pirates. Both teams finished above .500 last year, ending extended droughts. The Pirates played in October. So, Royals "official," asking for thanks for last season is akin to finishing last place in a 100 meter dash, then framing your participant medal.
You just did something that every team in baseball has done multiple times since you were hired. And you want a pat on the back? A parade? The trust of fans? Get over yourself.
If you want the trust of the fans, you need to treat us with respect. It's a two-way street. The problem is, you don't respect us. We've been hardened by years of losing. Our bullshit detectors are finely tuned. And you feed us a lot of bullshit. A lot of bullshit.
It's too cold. It's too hot. It's a day game after a night game. Rainouts. We need 100 at bats. We need 500 at bats. We need 1,500 at bats. It takes four years to whip a farm system into shape. Everyone will improve. It's about competing in 2014. You can't hit home runs at The K...
Stop. Just stop.
You know what fans want? The truth. And accountability. Your team just crapped their pants at home against the club that is the prohibitive favorites in the AL Central. And you can damn well bet we're not going to hear a peep from Royals "officials." You hired a pair of broadcasters who spend more time apologizing for what we just saw than actually describing the action. Poor performance from certain former top prospects is rewarded with another day in the major leagues. Quit trying to hide your mistakes. A former president would tell you the cover-up is worse than the crime.
I find it telling that Andy McCullough wrote an article in the Kansas City Star where he referred to Alcides Escobar as "one of the worst everyday players in baseball in 2013" and heard from some Royals "officials" who were unhappy with that characterization. That takes a serious disconnect from reality to take issue with that statement. Yet, there you go. It's as if the "officials" knew this about Escobar, but hoped the Royals fans somehow missed this. Shhhh. Don't tell the fans about Escobar's 2013. It's the perfect example about how this organization gets things wrong.
Now that Scott Pioli is gone from Arrowhead, is there an professional sports team more thin-skinned than the Kansas City Royals? The whining by "officials" borders on the out of control. You want hosannahs and bouquets? What exactly have you done to deserve this? Are you so naive to think that one 86 win season washes away the stink of Jose Guillen, Trey Hillman and the fact in eight years on the job your organization has developed only Yordano Ventura as a legitimate big league starting pitcher?
Focus on the big picture. Focus on winning more games and getting your team to the postseason. The "respect" you crave from the fans will take care of itself. Yet regimes with this sort of us vs. them bunker mentality routinely take their eyes off the prize. Fans are so ready to embrace this club. TV ratings were through the roof last summer. Attendance is holding steady, but would increase quickly with consistent winning performances. Kansas City is a baseball town. Give the city a winning baseball team.
Finally, you are in a results-based business. How you've lasted this long is beyond my comprehension. You win 86 games and tell the fans that "in a small way, it feels like we won the World Series." Another example of your disconnect with the fans. Because if you really understood us, you never would have said that.
You're in a difficult business. You're competing against teams that have bigger budgets and computers and a development program in the minor leagues that produces actual major league talent. It's tough out there. Call someone who gives a damn.
I love this team. I so badly want them to succeed. I remember the good times and I remember the bad. I enjoyed last season - post All-Star break and got a kick out of September. I'm ready for a quality team and consistent winning baseball. It can be done. Get to work.