The summer before last I bought my first NBA 2K game because it was cheap in the summer Steam sale and, well, why not. Surely NBA 2K17, bought at that point at the low price of $15, would yield some fun. It did indeed; I quickly got into the franchise mode in 2K17. In fact, I got a little too good at it, manipulating its draft system to get great players and pulling off trades that would never happen in real life.
See, in real basketball, players lower down in the two-round, 60-player amateur draft can make a big impact. For instance, Monte Morris, selected 51st overall in the 2017 NBA draft, has thus far outperformed Lonzo Ball, selected second overall in the same draft, at the exact same position of point guard. In sports video games, it is extremely difficult to account for that variance in talent, so stockpiling top draft picks guarantees you to succeed in a way it doesn’t in the real world.
Because I was able to play the system so optimally, I eventually got bored and started to do crazy things. My tinkering peaked with what I called the Really Big Dudes team. My entire 15-man roster was made up of power forwards and centers at least 6’10”. The team’s core consisted of Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Love, and Kristaps Porzingis. I did not expect the team to do well. The game disagreed. The team smashed its way through a simulated season and eventually swept the NBA Finals thanks to a stifling defense and absurd rebound figures.
The Kansas City Royals are run like a real life team and not a video game team. That being said, it feels like the Royals are currently constructed in the same way that my Really Big Dudes squad was. Whereas I constructed my team with the question, “What happens if I put together a team solely consisting of really big guys,” the Royals front office seems to have asked “What happens if we put together a team of really fast guys” and then taken that to the extreme.
Fresh of his nice, shiny extension, Whit Merrifield led the American League in stolen bases in 2017 and Major League Baseball in 2018. If Adalberto Mondesi had played as many games as Whit in 2018 and maintained his pace, he would have stolen over 20 more bases as Whit. New Royal Billy Hamilton once stole over 50 bases in 2014—and then did it again in 2015, 2016, and 2017. And while Terrance Gore hasn’t yet had playing time as a regular in the Majors, he has swiped bags at an almost incomprehensible 87% clip in 31 career stolen base attempts.
Kansas City ain’t gonna be good next year. After the 2018 All-Star Break, when the Royals finally honed in on their roster that will comprise a majority of 2019’s roster, the team won 46.3% of their games. Over a full season, that equates to a 75-87 year. That, pretty definitively, ain’t good, and there is no guarantee they’ll be that good anyways. Ryan O’Hearn is not hitting 53% above league average next year, for instance.
But heck, darn do I appreciate the Royals front office for adopting a very specific and devil-may-care attitude for this season. It’s something I’d do in a video game. How many bases can a team steal? Well, let’s put Merrifield, Mondesi, Hamilton, and Gore on the same one and find out. It’s gonna be bad, sure, but why not?
We’re all just biding time anyway until the Royals’ current crop of talented youngsters—the crop that includes Khalil Lee, Seuly Matias, MJ Melendez, Nick Pratto, Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, the second overall pick in the 2019 draft, and more—so we might as well have some fun while we’re at it. God, can you imagine the Four Horsemen of the Base Stealing Apocalypse hitting back-to-back-to-back-to-back? Fun doesn’t have to be good. You can’t control if you’re good, not if you’re rebuilding, but you can be fun. I love it.