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John Sherman needs to act decisively, the sooner the better

Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.

Kansas City Royals owners group principal owner John Sherman applauds during warm ups before the game against the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium. Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Munny versus Daggett

William Munny stood over a writhing, bleeding, gut-shot Little Bill Dagget.

Daggett, a crooked lawman and the villain of Clint Eastwood’s 1992 Western Unforgiven portrayed by the incredible Gene Hackman, pleads, “I don’t deserve this...to die like this. I was building a house.”

Munny, played by Eastwood, holding a rifle on Daggett, responds: “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.

While Daggett had more to say, those were the last words ever spoken to him.

Arguably, truer words have never been spoken, either on- or off-screen.

The good Dolan

Paul Dolan, for all intents and purposes, owns the Cleveland Guardians, a role he’s held since about 2013. He’s been with the franchise since his father, Larry, took it over back in 2000.

Dolan is also the cousin of James Dolan, the—how shall I say this nicely?—eccentric owner of the NBA’s New York Knicks and the NHL’s New York Rangers.

I bring that up because John Sherman, the controlling owner of the Kansas City Royals, first bought into the Cleveland organization back in 2016—August 19, 2016, to be exact—and stayed with the team for a shade over three years before buying the Royals from the Glass family. He cut his teeth working alongside with Paul Dolan.

During Sherman’s time in Cleveland, the ballclub made the playoffs in 2016 (lost the World Series in seven games), 2017 (lost ALDS in five games after finishing 102-60), and 2018 (lost ALDS in three games). In 2019*, when the team missed the playoffs, they still finished 93-69.

*MLB approved the sale of the Royals to Sherman’s group in November of 2019, but news broke about the deal that August.

Back in 2018, Terry Pluto wrote an insightful column about Sherman buying into the franchise, even quoting Dolan as saying about Sherman, who owned a minority stake in the team, “John is my partner.”

The column goes how into how Sherman became interested in buying a share of the Cleveland franchise, how he connected with Dolan, and how he learned about being a baseball owner.

At one point, the column delves into Cleveland’s 2016 acquisition of left-handed reliever Andrew Miller from the Yankees for four prospects. Said Sherman about Cleveland’s President Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff (both of whom remain in those positions today):

“I’ve spent my business career underwriting acquisitions. I didn’t expect to see this level of analysis and detail. How Chris and Mike presented it was so impressive. They had logic, reason and numbers to back it up.”

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

In the years in which Sherman owned part of Cleveland, the team made cold, exacting (i.e, business) moves to remain in contention. In addition to trading four prospects for Andrew Miller, Cleveland made the following deals, among many, many others:

  • Signed Edwin Encarnación before the 2016 season only to trade him before 2018.
  • Allowed Jason Kipnis, a nine-year veteran and two-time All-Star, to leave in free agency after 2019.
  • Traded starting pitcher Trevor Bauer as part of a three-team deal.

And as I’m sure Sherman noticed even after taking over the Royals, his former team made a trio of trades beginning in September 2019 in which Cleveland sent out four fan favorite players to re-stock the farm system instead of losing these players for nothing:

  • September 2019: traded starting pitcher Corey Kluber to the Rangers for two prospects.
  • August 2020: traded starting pitcher Mike Clevinger and a PTBNL to the Padres for six prospects.
  • January 2021: traded starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco and shortstop Francisco Lindor to the Mets for four prospects.

Toward the end of Pluto’s column, Dolan shared his philosophy about his front office, one he suggested Sherman shared:

Dolan doesn’t believe in meddling with his baseball people, and he wanted a partner with the same philosophy. “Our approach has been identify good strong leaders and let them do the job,” said Dolan. “We are involved, but we defer on baseball and even the business side to those who are engaged on a full-time basis.”

Sherman needs to make his mark on the Royals—now

Surely, Royals employees are good people. Dayton Moore seems like a genuinely nice person, and Mike Matheny seems to only want what’s best for his team, as long as it’s his decision. Terry Bradshawfired in the time I started writing this—seems like a good dude, as does pitching coach Cal Eldred.

Lonnie Goldberg? Seems like a nice man.

Ryan O’Hearn? Seems cool.

Carlos Santana? Totally good dude vibes.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Sherman must ask himself two two different questions about all of these guys: 1) Should they lose their jobs?, and 2) Do they deserve to lose their jobs?

Sherman can’t think about the answer to the second question when considering the answer to the first question. He truly needs to only consider the answer regarding front office members and let them decide about the coaching staff and players, but when the front office gives the rest of the organization as long of a leash as Moore has...well, that’s got to be worrying.

As my colleague Jeremy Greco wrote, the Royals have a severe accountability problem. Instead of promoting guys with poor track records, instead of sending out guys onto the diamond as their performance deteriorates, move on. Hold them accountable. For the good of the team, don’t worry about whether they deserve it.

Make the move.

Dismissing Bradshaw is a start, albeit a minor one. It shouldn’t—it can’t—be the entire solution.

The guy running the team who’s only crafted two playoff teams in sixteen years, and none in the last seven? So long.

The man playing veterans to the detriment of developing young players, even though the elder statesman is slashing .143/.310/.229? Farewell.

The former starting pitcher who can’t seem to connect with his young starting pitchers as well as his counterpart in Omaha? Auf wiedersehen.

O’Hearn? Santana? Goodbye.

John Sherman needs to do what Paul Dolan did in Cleveland. Find smart baseball people, hire them, let them run the show, don’t interfere.

He needs to put his stamp on this franchise. He needs to remove the remaining baggage from the Glass Era.

Sherman needs to significantly shake up the front office and allow the new front office to insert a coaching staff of its own and mold this roster as they see fit.

The current nice guys just aren’t getting it done. Maybe they deserve it, maybe they don’t. But remember, especially in professional sports:

Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.