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Will this lousy season cost anyone their job?

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Someone’s got to go to prison, Ben

Ryan O’Hearn #66 of the Kansas City Royals reacts after striking out during the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Kauffman Stadium on April 26, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Ryan O’Hearn #66 of the Kansas City Royals reacts after striking out during the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Kauffman Stadium on April 26, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

One of my favorite movies of all time is a stupid film from the mid-00s. Mind you, it isn’t one of the best movies of all time. Nevertheless, I unironically love it. That movie is the legendary Nic Cage masterpiece National Treasure.

The premise of National Treasure is ludicrous. The plot of National Treasure is preposterous. The realism of the movie is simply nonexistent. But that’s not its main draw. Its main draw is that it is an unapologetically sincere action-adventure romp buoyed by a truly interesting historical framework and peak Nic Cage. I’m going to steal the declaration of independence. Who else could utter that line with such an epic middle-distance stare and make it work? Jeff Goldblum, probably, but that’s the whole rest of the list.

Other one-liners of note include the wonderful the secret lies with Charlotte and the reason why I’ve spent 150 words talking about a 15-year-old movie with a Rotten Tomatoes score south of 50%: Someone’s got to go to prison, Ben.

Harvey Keitel’s character, an FBI agent, says this to Nic Cage’s character, Benjamin Gates. The idea behind this is that, no matter the monetary value of Gates’ newfound treasure, no matter the historical value of Gates’ find, someone stealing the freaking Declaration of Independence necessitates a consequence. Someone’s got to go to prison.

This reminds me so much of the Kansas City Royals. No, there is no gleefully unique brilliance of Nic Cage. No, despite the Royals’ fondness and league leading aptitude for stealing, the Declaration of Independence isn’t on the agenda. No, regardless of the quality of Royals baseball on the field, no one’s going to prison because of it.

The Royals are, uh, bad. Not only are they bad, they are woefully awful, an R-rated monstrosity that has no business playing in the big leagues. After yesterday’s loss to the Chicago White Sox, the Royals stand at 20-45, which is tied for the somehow equally dreadful Baltimore Orioles for the worst record in baseball. Kansas City is on pace for 112 losses, a mark which would shatter the previous worst season in Royals history—the egregious 2005 campaign, which hit only 106 losses.

It’s pretty easy to diagnose why the Royals are bad. Their pitching is one of the worst units in all of baseball, and the Royals defense has been simply good rather than elite. On the position player side, the Royals are extremely top-heavy, with productive players weighed down by profoundly bad ones. For instance, Ryan O’Hearn, Chris Owings, Cam Gallagher, Lucas Duda, and Frank Schwindel have combined for -2.7 Wins Above Replacement per Fangraphs. And the latter three have only played a combined 47 games.

Worse, the Royals have done all this while being awfully healthy. No team remains perfectly healthy, but the Royals have been pretty close. The entire rotation is healthy and has been for a long time. Ditto the relievers. Eight position players have played in at least 50 games, and a ninth would have also eclipsed that by now had he not played his way out of his job.

Ironically, the Royals’ awfulness is working in their favor for the rebuild. It’s better to be really bad for a few years than just kinda ok—you get better draft picks that way, and it’s abundantly more clear whether to buy or trade at the deadline. But there is a difference between purposefully tanking and simply being bad enough to accidentally reap some of the benefits that tanking would. The Royals are the latter.

Being this bad for this long, especially by accident, is not a result that is free from consequence. It’s just how baseball works. Like other sports, baseball is a results-driven game. And what the Royals are right now demands a consequence.

To be clear: I am not advocating for anybody being fired. Not specifically, certainly, and not even generally. I am merely the messenger that this type of lengthy, pathetic, and underwhelming baseball performance almost always results in someone losing their job. It’s simply the consequence of what has transpired.

Someone’s got to go to prison, Ben.