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It’s ok to stop watching

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Being a fan doesn’t mean you are beholden to every game

Yolmer Sanchez #5 of the Chicago White Sox celebrates the home run hit by Leury Garcia against the Kansas City Royals at Guaranteed Rate Field on April 16, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. Sanchez scored.
Yolmer Sanchez #5 of the Chicago White Sox celebrates the home run hit by Leury Garcia against the Kansas City Royals at Guaranteed Rate Field on April 16, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. Sanchez scored.
Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

There’s a lot to enjoy about the Kansas City Royals, especially compared to last year’s start. Alex Gordon is probably singing his swan song as a Royal and as a professional baseball player, and he’s done so reminding everyone just how talented he is. Whit Merrifield is the second coming of Ben Zobrist. There are a bunch of young and/or inexperienced Royals who are exciting to watch, including Adalberto Mondesi, Ryan O’Hearn, Hunter Dozier, Brad Keller, Richard Lovelady, and Jorge Lopez.

And, if you like to pay attention to the farm system, this year has been a treat. Brady Singer has been successful in his first few starts as a pro player. Kyle Isbel, Bubba Starling, Seuly Matias, Kelvin Gutierrez, and Michael Gigliotti are tearing the cover off the ball. The Wilmington Blue Rocks are 9-4 and feature great pitching, both starters and relievers, almost every night. They’re the next wave. That’s exciting.

If that’s enough for you, that’s fantastic. Keep watching! Enjoy yourselves! Baseball is still baseball—in other words, it’s still great—and there’s something freeing about watching a team where the outcome of the game is secondary.

But the Royals are an awful, awful, awful team. There’s not much else to enjoy.

As I write this, the Royals are 5-12. This is the second-worst record in Major League Baseball. They have yet to win a game on the road. Last year, the team was the second-worst in Major League Baseball. After an offseason where the front office publicly stated their embarrassment at the 104-loss season in 2018, the result has, so far, been zero improvement whatsoever.

The bullpen has been bad. The team is filled with either bad veterans or veterans who are blocking other, more interesting young players. The starting pitching has been below average. By both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating, the Royals have had a below-average defense.

This is to say nothing of long-term consternation. The Royals seem barreling forward toward another 100-loss season, yet neither the organization’s Triple-A or Double-A teams have a winning record, and this lack of talent will probably doom Kansas City to being hopelessly bad in 2020, too. Dayton Moore’s front office has shown a complete inability to rebuild efficiently and a complete inability to assemble anything resembling a sustainable talent pipeline. This is an inarguable fact proved by the Royals’ meager three winning seasons over the 13 years they’ve been helmed by Moore and Co.

You can probably pencil in three of fourteen in advance. Three of fifteen if you’re feeling frisky.

So, if you’re into the Royals, and you derive joy from watching your team play baseball, knock yourself out. But if you’re sick of the Royals, if you’re sick of losing, if you’re sick of bad baseball, it’s ok to stop watching.

Let me say that again, just so we’re clear: if you don’t want to watch or pay attention to the Royals, it’s ok to stop watching. It doesn’t make you a worse fan. It doesn’t make you any less loyal. It doesn’t make you any less Royal.

In October 2015, at the height of Royalmania in Kansas City and mere days before they would win the World Series, I wrote that there’s nothing wrong with being a bandwagon fan. It was true then, and it’s true now.

Being a hardcore fan of a team is at best extraordinarily difficult and at worst illogical. It demands time, patience, effort, and commitment to be one, even when the team is good and especially when the team is bad. Time, patience, effort, and commitment are words that are often referred to when speaking about relationships, and some fans don’t want or need that kind of connection. Some fans just want to watch obscenely talented men do unbelievable things with little balls in a game. That we assign what amounts to an almost religious devotion to that act is the crazy thing, not the other way around.

...Sport is entertainment, not an obligation.

You owe nothing to the Royals (or any other sports team). Nothing. Whatever you give is your choice. If it is your choice to continue watching, to continue paying attention, to continue clicking on every Royals Review, Kansas City Star, and The Athletic article about them, that’s great.

And if you want to turn off your TV in disgust, cancel your cable subscription, and turn to football season? You shouldn’t need to validate that decision for anyone.

Broadly, it seems like Royals fans are doing just that. The Royals are pulling the second-worst attendance figures in all of baseball, at barely over 13,000 per game. It seems like Kansas City is profoundly rejecting this season with a collective “why bother?”

I’m not going to tell you which way to go. But, either way, you should absolutely feel empowered to stop paying attention. It’s the Royals’ job to convince you that they are worthy of your time. It’s ok to decide that they aren’t.