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The Royals are comfortable with being an embarrassment, and that makes me sad

I thought things could be better. I was wrong.

Jul 25, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Royals owners group principal owner John Sherman applauds during warm ups before the game against the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium.
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

If you’ve ever been in a frustrating argument with someone and want to try something different, here’s a trick: ask who you’re arguing with if there was any evidence that would convince them to change their position.

You’ll learn a few things thanks to this nifty reframing device. But most of all, you’ll learn if the argument is worth pursuing at all. If you get a response along the lines of “there’s nothing that can convince me otherwise” or a demand for overwhelmingly specific evidence, you can probably stop arguing. There’s no point.

Here we sit, almost a full week into June and about a third of the way through the MLB season, and I can’t help but be depressed about the Kansas City Royals. That’s not because they’re bad—I didn’t expect them to have even a winning record this year—but it’s because we have learned the answer to the question of “how bad do the Royals have to be in order for significant changes to be made,” and the answer to that question is “the limit does not exist.”

We have rather definitively learned this season that there are no depths that the Royals can fall to in order for there to be any accountability. Dayton Moore is comfortable with incompetence, and John Sherman is apparently comfortable with his billion dollar franchise being an utter embarrassment. This, more than anything, makes me sad.

Sure, there is a record that the Royals could slip to that would trigger significant institutional change. If the Royals lost all the rest of their games in June, that would probably do it. If the Royals lost, say, 130 games on the year, that would probably do it. But while technically possible, these results are so remote as to be impossible.

We all know Buddy Bell’s perhaps most well-known quote: “Never say it can’t get worse.” Unfortunately for Royals fans, Kansas City has found rock bottom this year. Yeah, yeah, they could always lose more games. However, what the Royals can’t do is become the 31st-worst team in baseball. They are already the worst team in baseball. At this point, whether the well is 100 losses deep or 110 losses deep is sort of irrelevant.

And the Royals don’t just have a bad record this early in the season; they have a historically bad record this early in the season. We have all just witnessed the worst 50-game start in the 16-season career of Dayton Moore as head honcho of baseball operations.

This season hasn’t completely been without casualties. On the morning of their 33rd game of the season on May 16, the Royals fired hitting coach Terry Bradshaw. They had a .375 winning percentage at the time, good for 61 wins over a 162-game season.

However, the Royals had a bigger problem at the time: pitching. It is one that they still have, by the way. Incredibly, the Royals’ rotation has been one of the worst rotations in Major League Baseball history, and not just “oh they’re bad” but “out of 3,015 squads they rank 3,013th” bad.

Since firing Bradshaw, the Royals have had ample opportunity and cause to make further changes. Immediately afterward, they dropped 8 of 10. Over their next 18 games, the Royals posted a 6.12 ERA as a staff, the worst in baseball, a stretch that has contributed to the historically bad numbers the club is putting up. And among the 20 games since canning Bradshaw, the Royals have only won five (5).

Again, things could still technically get worse—the Royals could be 3,014th out of 3,015 historical teams in FIP-. But it is as bad as it could reasonably get. One might think that Cal Eldred could be on the hot seat. This is not the case. On May 18, Lynn Worthy kicked off an article in the Kansas City Star with a few sentences that are somehow even more frustrating:

Kansas City Royals pitching coach Cal Eldred’s job is safe. Despite this week’s move that ousted Terry Bradshaw from his previous post as major-league hitting coach for sub-par results, the club’s front office decision makers are standing by the coach responsible for a staff that entered Tuesday with the American League’s worst team ERA, WHIP, strikeouts per 9 innings and strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Other organizations in far less dire straights are making the kinds of moves that one would have expected the Royals to do given the lack of big league results. The Phillies just fired manager Joe Girardi after a slow start. The White Sox cut Dallas Keuchel even though they owe him over $14 million over the rest of the year. The St. Louis Cardinals promoted Nolan Gorman, one of their top hitting prospects, who was raking in Triple-A.

Even if John Sherman cleaning house is the right move, it isn’t something I expect to happen. Fortunately for the Royals, there is a wide range of moves that they could enact that would show some commitment to improvement. Sure, they could fire Eldred, but they could also keep him on the coaching staff and bring a new voice as the official pitching coach. They could promote Vinnie Pasquantino. They could release Carlos Santana. They could officially move Michael A. Taylor to the bench and name Kyle Isbel the starting center fielder.

Unfortunately for the Royals, they have done none of those things. They have had ample opportunity and reason to make even a token change over the past three weeks. That they have done absolutely nothing to improve the product they are putting on the field is insulting and disrespectful to anyone and everyone who has spent time or money on trying to pay attention to a thorough embarrassment of a team.

Loyalty, confidence, and patience are good qualities to have. The Royals are not exhibiting those qualities. Rather, they are exhibiting favoritism, pride, and cowardice. The onus is on Sherman to do something about it. Just don’t get your hopes up.