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Hok Talk: When will the Royals know they’re ready?

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Hint: They won’t.

The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, The Bridge Lab, Sony Pictures Animation,& The Connecting Youth Initiative At Columbia University Host: Bridge Lab Harlem Screening And Industry Career Workshops Featuring Spider-Man: Into The Spider-V
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse director Miguel Jiron stands next to a giant Oscar award after making an amazing film
Photo by Lars Niki/Getty Images for The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences

So I just finished watching Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Am I way behind the times? Absolutely. But, ya know, at least I’m not as far behind as Dayton Moore and the Royals seem to be. Speed and defense was over three decades ago, guys! Also...it helps to actually have elite speed and defense. What this team has is mediocre speed and defense handicapped by an inability to get on base.

Anyway. There’s a lot of great stuff in that movie. I mean, I hate that version of Kingpin. He’s supposed to be a normal human. A normal human who is very strong, very rich, and very evil by normal human standards but within the realm of possibility. That guy was just ugly and giant for no apparent reason and honestly he didn’t fit the aesthetic of the rest of the movie at all. Also, I hate stop-motion animation so the fact that they appear to have tried to animate it by making it look like it was a flip book was not among my favorite decisions even if I can respect that it really enhances the comic book aesthetic they created.

But beyond those two things, everything else was awesome. It especially had a seamless blend of silliness and seriousness that you just can’t find outside of reality, most days. They also made it impossible to choose a favorite Spider-being because all of them had exactly as much screentime as they should have had in exactly the places they should have it while doing exactly the things they should have been doing. It’s really a cinematic masterpiece for these and many other reasons.

But even beyond that, it’s got a super touching coming-of-age story for Miles Morales. Sometimes I think half of the stories out there are coming-of-age stories. And, of course, there are a lot of themes in Spider-Man’s origins that match puberty so his story is almost always going to be used that way. And if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it awesomely. And, for what it’s worth, this didn’t follow in lock step with other coming-of-age stories. Miles doesn’t become Spider-Man because of a mentor helping him or because of bullies that oppose him. He doesn’t even do it because of a traumatic event in his life. Those things are all present in the film but they all serve as grace notes instead of the main melody of the piece. Miles grows up, as many of us do, because he chooses to do so; because he knows that it is what comes next. The moment comes and he can choose to stay a child for a while longer and let the adults handle it. It would not have been the cleanest solution to their problems, but it wasn’t entirely unworkable, either. Miles decides in his own heart and for his own reasons that it’s time to become an adult. Then he follows through on it. And that’s just a fraction of what makes the movie so awesome.

OK, cool movie review, dude. What does this have to do with the Royals?

Well, to be honest, I wasn’t even going to talk about the Royals, today. They’re incredibly boring. If baseball teams were movies there would be absolutely no reason for this team to exist. There are absolutely no story-lines worth being interested in. Even the prospects in the minor leagues seem to mostly be in the process of fizzling out. Maybe a couple of the pitchers from last year look good but There Is No Such Thing As a Pitching Prospect, or TINSTAPP for short, is a thing for a reason and it’s more likely that all will fail to make the majors than that any of them becomes a star. Bobby Witt Jr. hasn’t had enough time to show anything, one way or another but that’s just my point; he has no story worth telling yet, either.

Then I got to thinking about the one thought that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse wants you to walk away with. No, not “With great power comes great responsibility.” That’s a powerful phrase but the story to go with it has been told - something mentioned in ways that were simultaneously mocking and reverent in this film in a way that shows the creators of this film knew exactly what they were doing and where to find the heart of Spider-Man, regardless of incarnation. No I’m talking about the conversation Miles Morales and Peter B Parker have together right before the end of the film:

MILES MORALES: When will I know I’m ready?
PETER B PARKER: You won’t. It’s a leap of faith. That’s all it is, Miles. A leap of faith.

One of my favorite things in writing is when something is written so strongly and just ambiguously enough that each individual who reads or hears it can take it out of its original context and apply it to their own lives, too. This line is meant to be about Miles Morales learning to trust himself to be Spider-Man but it can be about literally anything you want it to be. There are so many things in life that we won’t know for sure. We can be paralyzed by fear or we can take a leap of faith. Hopefully when we leap it works out as well as it does for Miles, but the alternative can be to refuse to grow at all.

Dayton Moore showed an ability to take that leap of faith with the Royals back in 2013. That was the off-season he made the biggest trade of his career. He dealt a bunch of prospects, headlined by outfielder Wil Myers, to the Rays in exchange for James Shields and Wade Davis. At first, Dayton Moore appeared to have thrown himself into an abyss without a parachute but late in 2014 everything finally came together and justified the leap. We could argue all day about whether or not the trade was a good decision. But the impetus behind it - Dayton Moore’s belief that the team was finally ready to compete - proved to be an accurate assessment on his part.

But there is more than one kind of leap of faith. Dayton Moore seems unwilling or unable to take the one he needs to take, now. In the article I linked earlier about the Royals being boring, Matthew LaMar notes that the team could replace almost all of the most boring players with guys in the minors who almost certainly could not be worse but who each have at least a tiny amount of potential to be better. This is the leap Dayton refuses to take. Ironically, the Royals cannot grow up because the team is too old and the general manager refuses to do anything about it.

It is time for Dayton Moore to ask himself, “How will I know when those prospects are ready?” and then, since he doesn’t have an older, alternate universe version of himself to answer he’ll have to suck up the awkwardness of the moment and answer himself, “I won’t. It’s a leap of faith. That’s all it is, Dayton. A leap of faith.” For two straight seasons - more if you want to count the Royals refusal to deal their stars before 2017 - Dayton Moore has refused to allow this team to become what it needs to be. If he keeps it up much longer he will lose his chance to mature into a super hero for his fear of splatting onto the asphalt. And that would be a shame not just for him but for all of the prospects, near-prospects, and not-quite-prospects-anymore sitting in the Royals minor leagues, right now.