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Drawing a line in the sand

It’s time to try something new.

Right fielder Matt Beaty #27 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the ball after he and Samad Taylor #0 (R) collided while trying to field a hit by Spencer Torkelson of the Detroit Tigers in the eighth inning of a game at Comerica Park on June 21, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan.
It’s beginning to look a lot like oh-five....
Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

I think we’re all familiar with the pop culture definition of insanity by now. Of course, that isn’t the real definition, but it remains part of the cultural zeitgeist because it’s pithy, yes, but also because it feels honest. That said, after years and years of meeting that definition, the Royals finally decided to change things up this past off-season. Not much, but a little. Many Royals fans, including myself, were figuratively dancing in the streets at even this small progress.

We should have remembered the wise words of Buddy Bell.

It’s one thing to root for the team when they’re bad. Even when they’re very bad. Many of us endured the early aughts. Modern technology makes it easier than ever, too. If it’s too painful or boring to watch the games, we all have easier access to score updates, highlights, and box scores than ever before.

But this team isn’t just bad. Their problems go well beyond being bad at sports. They barely spent any money during the off-season and chose to give a chunk of it to a player who committed domestic abuse and has not been apologetic. The fact that he’s been mostly good for the Royals does not absolve him of his behavior nor them of their choice to employ him despite his history of violence.

Things haven’t improved since the season started. The team has now been charged with negotiating in bad faith with their stadium employees and those same employees complain about lack of access to water and unfair payment to which the Royals’ response was, allegedly, “Ushers get paid to watch the game.”

If that were true, I’d have to wonder why the Royals don’t just eliminate those positions. But I digress.

You might be tempted to dismiss the accusations of bad-faith negotiating with their employees except the Royals are also alleged to be doing the same thing with local politicians and communities in their attempts to get a new stadium - and surrounding real estate development - project in motion.

And, as I learned in our own Matthew LaMar’s excellent piece earlier this week summarizing recent news reports about the Royals, there are even multiple accusations - both from former employees and from would-be customers - that the Royals are mismanaging the Royals Urban Youth Academy and catering to wealthier players from the outlying suburbs instead of what it was initially designed to do - provide an opportunity for kids from urban Kansas City to play baseball who might never have been afforded that chance otherwise.

So, yes, it’s one thing to root for a bad team. But it’s another thing to root for an incompetent team. And it’s still something else to root for a team that seems determined to not even pretend to care about its community members and employees. The old saying goes, “Where there is smoke, there’s fire.” and there’s enough smoke coming out of the Royals' offices to wonder if they could have paid better attention to Smokey the Bear.

I can’t help but think about how, if this were a TV show, it would be about a community organizer trying to ensure that things get better in Kansas City while fighting against the evil super-corporation that cannot be stopped. I’m not a community organizer, and I’m not much of a protagonist, but I still find myself unwilling to just keep blithely continuing as a fan of this team and essentially advertise for them every time I write about their play, even when I write articles talking about how poorly it’s going.

And so, I have decided to form a protest against the team by refusing to write about their on-field production. My weekly articles will be about anything but the team. I might write about baseball in general, other teams, or maybe other topics altogether. Game threads will be posted at the correct time for the Royals but will either be about the MLB.TV Free Game of the Day when feasible or some other topic. Ditto for recaps. The space will still be there for y’all to talk about the games as you wish, but I won’t give them my attention.

This will continue until such a time as the Royals start behaving more appropriately. What might that look like? Completed negotiations with their stadium workers, for one thing. I’d also like to see some positive news about the Urban Youth Academy or some follow-through on their promises with community groups around KC in regard to their plans for the stadium (and surrounding real estate) development. Or, hey, why not both?

Some of you will ignore me until I go back to writing normally, if then. That’s fine. Some of you are going to leave angry or hateful comments because you don’t agree with my position. That’s too bad. But I hope some of you understand and agree with the sentiment that drives me. The Royals make a lot of money off of their community and I think they owe it to that community to treat the people in it better than they have been.

A constant refrain I hear from certain segments of baseball fans is that we need to “leave politics out of it.” But when the team’s actions affect people so profoundly and so directly, they are the ones bringing politics into the sport. My protest is a reaction to that. And for those asking me why I don’t just quit writing for Royals Review, that would be a punishment for me more than the team and that doesn’t make a lot of sense. I also have hope that the team can turn things around and this doesn’t have to be a permanent problem. If the problems carry on over the long term, I might have to consider it, but that’s an escalation that doesn’t need to happen, yet.

It is entirely possible that this is something of a futile gesture - I’m just a nobody blogger who doesn’t even live in KC anymore. Obviously, it would be awesome if many people joined with me in their own forms of protest whether they also stop talking about the team’s performance or stop attending games or whatever that looks like and the team felt real pressure to behave. But even if they don’t and despite my long fandom, I find I simply cannot continue to support an organization that so brazenly acts against the interests of everyone not in its own upper levels.