The Royals are finally spending money.
It's a strange feeling, reading about significant Royals free agent signings on MLB Trade Rumors like a fan of a normal team, but here we are. For so many years Royals transactions were a constant source of impotent frustration for fans. Now the team's financial philosophy appears to be genuinely altered.
That philosophical change should absolutely be applauded. But at the same time, applauding the Glass family for finally spending rather than focusing on easier profit schemes, is kind of like renting a bounce castle for the neighbor kids because they finally stopped setting bags of crap on fire at your doorstep. They shouldn't have been doing that in the first place!
Now, kids will be kids. And greedy, old greaseball capitalists will be be greedy, old greaseball capitalists.
It's not as if the Glasses' previous behavior was unexpected. Most, if not all, owners are predominantly concerned with profits. The game is a business after all. It's just that some attempt to grow their team's brand by winning, and others attempt take the less contested route of balancing core fan loyalty and a gutted budget. In other words, every team will have a base that will never abandon it. That base will buy tickets and tee shirts and beer (lots of beer), even if their team only wins 50 games a year. And owners know that. Of course, a team that only wins 50 games a year isn't going to be very profitable, but clubs can carve out profit margins similar to the clubs that are actually focused on winning games ... IF they spend much, much less.
So, maybe the free agent frenzy following the Royals back-to-back American League pennants and their World Series win has caused ownership to jump from one group to the other. If so, that's great!
But it seems as though the proper response from the fanbase should be less of a "Thank You" and more of an "It's About Time."
Maybe some of you read my last article on Royals ownership. In it, I asked David Glass to "put our money where [his] mouth is." In other words, either spend the surpluses we know you've acquired through the team's success or stop talking about how you are "obsessed with winning" — that quote is from 2011, by the way.
With the unimaginable outpouring of fan support, came massive revenues. Perhaps the margins were no bigger than they used to be in the good old loyalist-swindling days, since Glass allowed a record-high payroll last year. However his obligation to fans became greater now that the fanbase has experienced winning and shown their willingness to support an increased budget by spending relatively enormous sums of money on a winning team.
The fear now is Glass' fortitude. Will this newfound financial boldness last or will it quickly shrivel up at the first sign of difficulty? If the Royals fail to make the playoffs in 2016 will Glass end his spending experiment, slash this team to league-minimum ribbons, and return to his luxury bunker to count the tickets purchased by his now greatly-widened base? After all — some might convince themselves — spending is not a guaranteed route to winning. But it is a route that leads out of a territory in which sustained winning is a pipe dream.
Hopefully, things have really changed. But Glass has earned some skepticism after 20 years of doing the opposite of what he is being praised for doing now.