Maybe you remember—or maybe not; it’s been a long season—but Humberto Arteaga debuted on June 20. The Kansas City Royals were playing the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals won, but Arteaga didn’t exactly impress in an 0-3 performance other than reaching on an error. I vaguely remember that.
What I do remember is Rex Hudler, the color commentator for the Royals’ TV broadcast on Fox Sports Kansas City, absolutely raving about Arteaga. About his offensive skills. About his defensive skills. About his makeup and commitment to winning. Something, something, “love of the game,” something. You would think from Hudler that Arteaga was the next great Royals All-Star.
The reality, of course, is far from that. To put it as kindly but as straightforward as possible, Arteaga simply does not have the skills to stick in Major League Baseball as a regular player. Not once in his nine-year minor league career has he put up average offensive numbers at even one stop. I’m happy that Arteaga made it to Kansas City; it’s a huge financial windfall for him, and he will forever be able to say that he was once a big league ball player. But dozens of Arteagas make their debuts and then are forgotten.
How much do you remember of Ramon Torres? Onelki Garcia? Juan Flores? Rey Fuentes? Jeff Moore? Brett Hayes? Pedro Ciriaco? And would you know if I told you two of those names weren’t even real?
The hard truth of the matter is that teams must field 25-man rosters for six months of the year, shuffling names around due to injury, performance issues, trades, and the like. Some of these players are just there to fill a spot. This is especially true for 100-loss teams like the Royals, who, by their very nature, are playing with a bunch of dudes just filling slots because they have no better alternatives.
Announcing baseball games is a borderline impossible job. Not only do you have to accurately discuss what is happening on the field (sadly not a prerequisite for some announcers in baseball), but you have to be engaging, smart, informative, witty, and knowledgeable enough to remain interesting through 162 games. When the team is like the 2018 and 2019 Royals—hopelessly awful and painfully boring—it’s not easy finding ways to discuss the team in ways that present the team in a positive light.
Further complicating the job is that announcers are the voice of the team, both literally and figuratively. The average Royals fan does not spend their lunch breaks perusing the prospect lists at Fangraphs or calculating Nicky Lopez’s OPS on Baseball-Reference over his last 18 games for fun. That fan listens to Ryan, Hud, Joel, and Monty when they tune into a Royals game. Some fans would be delighted if Monty would just eviscerate Jorge Lopez every time he misses his spot and leaves a breaking ball in the middle of the plate, but that’s not why most fans tune in. Most fans tune in to be entertained, and nothing is less entertaining than watching grumpy broadcasters say mean things about the players you like watching.
At the same time, a touch of realism would be nice from the broadcast booth. Focus on the Arteaga personal interest story, sure. Focus on the Nick Dini personal interest story. But pump the breaks on these guys being the saviors of the team. They’re not.
Look: the Royals are terrible for a reason, and that reason is that they have terrible baseball players. A whole bunch of them. The broadcast team does not have to rail on those players—nor should they. But it is grating being told about the greatness of random non-prospects when it is very clearly not true, and when the losses continue to pile higher than the upper deck at the stadium.