Everywhere I go on the internet I see it. Twitter, Facebook, Royals Review, and more. It doesn’t matter where I look. People who make guesses that the team has to spend a certain amount of money or reach a certain level of competence or at least be exciting in order to entice some TV company to pay the Royals a few million dollars more for their TV rights are all over the place. I honestly don’t get it.
Listen, I’m a computer programmer and a video game nerd when I’m not watching baseball. Maybe I’m not any more of an expert on TV deal negotiations than anyone else. But this mostly seems like common sense. The Royals previously signed a contract that lasted ten years. The next contract seems likely to cover a similar time period. So what does it matter if the Royals in 2019 win 100 games or lose 100 games? That’s not going to matter in 2020 much less in five years or ten.
Consider this: The Royals won the world series in 2015. In three short years since then, they managed to lose 100 games and also 40% of their attendance. The team also increased their sold tickets by a nearly identical amount from 2012 to 2015. Audience interest changes fast. Would it matter if the Royals could show that they were perennial winners with a constant interest in their market? Maybe. But playing well in 2019 can’t prove that. For what it’s worth the Royals continue to pull in more TV viewers than most teams in terms of percentage of their market size. That’s something the team can point to in negotiations; the number of games they win in 2019 is not.
If it only makes sense that the team’s record in 2019 won’t significantly affect negotiations then it makes sense that the players on the current roster won’t either. Whit Merrifield staying in KC doesn’t improve the TV deal - either way he’s likely to be gone before it’s completed. Billy Hamilton being signed doesn’t affect the TV deal. He’s likely to be gone before it even starts. That goes for Salvador Perez, Hunter Dozier, and Jorge Soler, too. None of it matters.
There are relatively few things that seem likely to matter. Market size, obviously. Also the percentage of market that watches, the number of companies that want to bid (which is constantly changing depending on who wants into the televised sports business and who wants out), and whether televised sports continue to be the only show in town that gets people to tune in live - and therefore become captive audiences for the commercials that profit the television companies enough to make them willing to pay the team for the rights to broadcast the games. All of those things are outside the Royals’ control. The Royals’ role in these negotiations won’t be to sell the bidders on their on-field product, it will be to sell them on the market the product is in. What the Royals need to get the best deal isn’t a good baseball team, it’s a good negotiator. Hopefully, they’ve got someone better than whoever helped them get the last deal.
Speaking of Billy Hamilton
This deal has been pretty divisive among some people. I just... can’t find myself getting worked up over it. Does Billy improve the team? Maybe? Probably not much? Does he take opportunities from some combination of Brian Goodwin, Brett Phillips, Jorge Bonifacio, and Rosell Herrera? Yeah but...does it really matter? Does it seem weird that the Royals wasted no time running out to sign him to a contract that will pay him at least as much as his former team thought he wasn’t worth - and probably more? Yeah, it does.
Billy Hamilton is who he is. He’s not going to suddenly learn how to hit. He’s 28 and the Royals don’t exactly have a history of taking other team’s castoffs and turning them into golden boys. Especially not hitters. He’ll still be fun to watch in the outfield. And putting him on the same team as Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi seems like a great way to make the games a bit more interesting. Or at least it will make checking the box scores the next morning more interesting.
The thing that really boggles my mind is that the Royals had a Billy Hamilton. And he was their own guy in Jarrod Dyson. And they traded him when he was being paid half as much money. They didn’t remotely consider re-signing him when he became a free agent after trading him, either, despite the fact that he’s still being paid less than Hamilton. Since 2014 Jarrod Dyson has played in two-thirds the game with half of the plate appearances of Hamilton. He’s been a significantly better hitter over the period of time. Leading Hamilton in all of the important rate stats - average, OBP, slugging, ISO - with approximately half as many home runs and half as many steals. Dyson was worth only 0.5 fWAR less than Hamilton despite the playing time discrepancies and worth significantly more in both the Offense and Defense stats FanGraphs uses. I’m just not sure why Dayton Moore is so covetous of Billy Hamilton when he had an extremely similar if not superior player in Jarrod Dyson and never seemed to care much for him. Despite the fact that Jarrod was a hometown guy and cheaper.
I can’t get worked up too much over the money, outside that comparison, though. Six million dollars isn’t a lot to spend on a baseball player in the best of times. And it isn’t like the Royals were going to do anything better with that money, anyway. If they didn’t spend it on Billy they would have spent it on Alcides Escobar or another hot tub for Mr. Glass. Of those three options, I prefer to spend it on Hamilton. The baseball player, not the musical.
Though, now that I think of it... If the Royals had spent that money on convincing someone to put on a production of the smash-hit musical at Kauffman stadium whenever the team was out of town that might have been the smartest move. They could have profited quite a bit off of that. Of course, it’s not like we expect Moore or Glass to start thinking outside the box now, is it?