Of course, the most important prediction we made was how many wins the 2018 Kansas City Royals would accrue. None of our 10 staff members predicted the Royals to win more than 80 games because it was pretty clear why the Royals wouldn’t be as good as they were last year. Our staff average prediction was a shade over 73 wins.
Winning 73 games is certainly not good; in a normal year with a standard distribution of talent among the league’s teams, that places you firmly as the fourth or fifth-best team in your division (worst or next-to-worst, if you want to focus on the negative). Kansas City was last that bad all the way back in 2012, when they won 72 games.
But the 2018 team, oh boy, the 2018 team is worse than that. Way worse. As it stands now, Kansas City is on pace for 52 wins. For those keeping track at home, that equates to 110 losses, and would be the worst finish in team history over the 106-loss train wreck of a 2005 squad.
Now, the Royals may not lose that much, because even a two or three-week stretch where the Royals just play .500 ball endangers their quest for a triple-digit loss number.
Unfortunately for the Royals organization, it hasn’t mattered. Fans have been fleeing the team and have been for a few years. In 2016, after the glow of a World Series victory, Kauffman Stadium averaged 31,576 fans, working out to 83.3% capacity. As one might expect, attendance in 2017 dipped a bit after the mediocre 2016—Kauffman Stadium pulled averaged a 27,754 attendance at 73.2% capacity.
It was this year, though, that the bottom fell out. This season has seen a 20,216 average attendance at 53.3% capacity. That’s a 27% decrease in fans just this season.
And those numbers might crumble even more, because seriously: why on earth would you want to watch a Royals game this year?
- Winning is more fun than losing. This is not negotiable. Losing, and losing so often, is draining and boring. This is the biggest reason, and it’s a doozy.
- Watching good players is better than watching bad players, but unlike Zack Greinke in 2009 or Alex Gordon in 2011, there aren’t any transcendent or truly compelling performances going on, and nobody is chasing any records like Mike Moustakas was last year.
- Watching old dudes be bad at baseball is profoundly demoralizing. Nine players on the current active roster are at least 30 or turn 30 by the end of this season, and the Royals have the fourth-highest average batter age in all of Major League Baseball.
- Kansas City entered the season with the worst farm system in baseball and has zero top-shelf guys who are going to be ready this year (and precious few who have any chance at all of getting to that potential).
Of course, fans are fans and Royals fans in particular have been through an awful lot already. The fans that are leaving are the bandwagon fans—you know, Bill in logistics who got really into the Royals for like six weeks each in 2014 and 2015 and hasn’t watched a game in nearly two years. It is those same bandwagon fans that suddenly became very interested in the Royals a few years ago when they were good that are total no-shows now to games and broadcasts.
Now, some of you may try to assert your fan dominance and sneer at them. That’s the wrong move. Back in 2015 when the bandwagon fans were at their peak, I defended them, writing that there was nothing wrong with bandwagon fans. I stand by that. Bandwagon fans are arguably the only reasonable sports fans out there. What I wrote then still rings true now, especially in regards to this current dumpster fire of a season:
A devotion to a sport is an expensive proposition, and not just in dollars and cents. Going to a game costs money, yes, as does a cable or MLB.tv subscription and merchandise. But it is also supremely expensive in terms of time. There are 162 games a year, plus another 31 spring training games and up to 20 additional games should the team make the playoffs. That’s about 600 hours per year of baseball, not including discussing the game, driving and tailgating time surrounding an in-person visit, or time spent reading or discussing.
It’s sane to be a bandwagon fan. Sport is entertainment, not an obligation. The 1995-2012 Royals weren’t worth watching. The only sane ones were the people who stopped doing so.
Just like almost every waking moment from 1995-2012, the 2018 Royals aren’t worth watching. They are an old, boring, awful team with a terribly bleak immediate future—that 2019 team isn’t going to be any better—that is going to sell off its best players for a chance that maybe in 2020 it could be interesting again and in 2021 be legitimately good again.
There are so many good entertainment options out there. If you aren’t a big baseball fan, or a lifelong diehard Royals fan? What earthly or extraterrestrial reason would have to watch a boring Royals team lose so much?
Some will continue to watch the Royals this year, because baseball is still baseball and a night at the ballpark is still a quality event regardless of what happens on the field. Furthermore, it is often in the terrible times that true community is forged; the 2014-2015 run was sweet precisely of because what it meant for those who endured the hard road to success.
But in a vacuum, the 2018 Royals just aren’t worth watching. There’s plenty of baseball out there. There’s plenty of entertainment out there. This Royals season barely qualifies as either.