I’m going to cut right to the chase:
Tonight summed up exactly what being a Royals fan is all about.
When you’re a Kansas City sports fan, you have to deal with incompetent organizations that have pretty much always been clueless. The Royals basically screwed up their "buy playoff tickets in advance/give us more money now" plan – something that had fans irritated before the gates of Kauffman Stadium even opened.
Then came the game. The big game; the big series. The Kansas City Star referred to this weekend’s Royals/Tigers matchup as the biggest series in Kansas City since 1985. 10 hours before game one even began, it was announced that all three games had already sold out. Not to worry, though – Lord David Glass was willing to sell standing room only tickets for more money!
Just shy of 38,000 people walked through the turnstiles of Kauffman Stadium on Friday night – a sellout. Oh, but first, the organization screwed up the parking procedures. The fans who arrived hours early were met with an unpleasant surprise – the team that had preached to their fans about being ready for big-time was unprepared for such a large crowd.
Kansas City had another opportunity to prove themselves as a legitimate contender on the big stage. ESPN’s A-team of announcers called the game for a national audience. Please, thought Royals fans across the metro, just don’t embarrass us.
Why would they think that? Because the organization has a knack for, well, crapping the bed in big games. Per Rany Jazayerli, the team was 25-74 since 2003 in front of 30,000+ crowds.
What do you think happened? I’ll give you some time to come up with an answer. Hey, let’s make it a multiple choice question, like on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
A. The Royals defeated the trend and won big over the Tigers, climbing back into first place and delighting the sellout crowd.
B. The Royals faced a large deficit early on, but resiliently fought back to reward the loyal fanbase with an exciting victory.
C. The Royals were blown out and embarrassed on national TV, once again letting their fans fill the role of Charlie Brown in the "C’mon and kick the football – this time will be different!" scenario.
Sadly, there are no trick questions. Considering that it’s the Royals we’re talking about, there likely isn’t going to be a happy ending, either.
It wasn’t close. It wasn’t pretty. The Detroit Tigers, as they have all season, did whatever they pleased with the Royals, rolling Kansas City 10-1 to pad their AL Central lead to 1.5 games. The Tigers outhit the Royals 19-7, prompting the fans to boo their team several different occasions throughout the evening. The Tigers beat down Kansas City with walks, home runs, and extra-base hits - things that Royals executives have publicly admitted that their own team "isn't good" at, and made no effort to fix them. That's the problem here, folks. This organization doesn't understand that what their team doesn't do is what the teams that actually win and go to the playoffs do.
The pre-game ceremonies were beautiful. The stadium was completely filled 20 fans before the first pitch was even thrown. Everything was in place for a magical, memorable weekend. Jason Vargas threw strike one to Ian Kinsler, and the sellout crowd roared louder than Kauffman has been in years. Then, three batters into the game, it all came crashing down.
Alex Gordon misplayed a seemingly routine liner from Miguel Cabrera, which should have been a sign that things weren’t going to go the Royals’ way. What would have been an inning-ending lineout double play turned into an RBI double, the first of three runs the Tigers would plate in the first frame. Detroit would add a run in the second and fourth frames to knock Vargas (11-10) out of the game – his shortest outing of the season. He allowed nine hits and five runs in just 3.1 innings.
The bullpen didn’t do any better, as the flood gates opened up in the fifth inning. The Tigers doubled their lead by scoring five more runs, climaxing with Kinsler’s two-run homer down the left field line. Down 10-0 five innings into the "biggest series since 1985", some fans booed very loudly. Others headed for the exits. The ones that remained were forced to endure thousands of children banging together their promotional "Thunder Stix", which were probably struck with more force than any of the baseballs the Royals would hit all evening. A reminder - all of this was occurring on national TV, a privilege that took the Royals 12 years to get, and they're not exactly giving any out-of-market viewers any reasons for wanting to see them again.
For the Tigers, Justin Verlander (14-12) cruised through 7.1 innings of one-run ball. The punch-less Royals mustered just two extra-base hits off of the ex-ace, allowing him to yield one or fewer runs for just the second time all season. His only real trouble occurred when two doink hits gave Kansas City second and third with one out in the second inning, but Billy Butler flew out on a 3-0 pitch and Omar Infante grounded out to end that threat. The Royals would plate a run in the eighth inning - on a Jayson Nix (who still doesn't have a hit as a Royal) sacrifice fly. By that point, Ned Yost had pulled all of the starters. Let that be a lesson for you, Johnny Giavotella. If you find yourself trailing 10-0, it's your time to shine!
Friday night’s debacle counts for just one game in the standings. The Royals are still in line to make the playoffs as a wild card team, and are still only 1.5 games back of Detroit in the AL Central. For Royals fans, though, it was felt like a lot more than one loss. The horrific record in big-crowd games aside, fans have been criticized and lectured by Yost and Dayton Moore for not showing up to games. The inept clowns who run the team still don’t understand why fans aren’t taking the bait, as if this type of performance wasn’t completely inevitable. What's even sadder is that if only 15,000 showed up tomorrow, the team still wouldn't understand why people don't trust them. They think the fans are the ones to blame - not the organization that holds nobody besides Billy Butler accountable, not the crappy players, and not the awful coaching.
As we’re used to here in Kansas City, the fans did everything right – and still got screwed. The organization did everything wrong – and made a pretty penny out of the 38,000 suckers who walked through the gates tonight.
The Royals are as dysfunctional of an organization as any in professional sports. Still, they’re a contender for a playoff spot. Any chances of an AL Central crown seemingly reside on winning the last two games of this series. James Shields will battle Max Scherzer tomorrow in front of what figures to be another sell-out crowd.
We’re all tired of seeing the Royals roll over and play dead in front of big crowds. We’re sick of the same lousy performance every time a national network comes in. Heck, it doesn't matter what network this garbage is displayed on, we're sick of garbage in general. We're also tired of feeling the embarrassment that this team brings upon itself. There simply is no other option – win the next two games, or things are about to get really ugly around here. And no, Dayton, it won't be the fault of the fans.