Addressing the media just before the mid-point of a 22-58 season, John Sherman conveyed his disappointment with how the team had performed, but expressed “total confidence” in general manager J.J. Picollo and manager Matt Quatraro.
“I think the results are worse than we thought they would be. We knew it’d be challenging,” said Sherman, who stressed it was an evaluation season. “It’s a pretty young group, but I did think we’d be farther along. That’s also why its important - when we say evaluation we need to understand very clearly where we are.”
Sherman said that there could be more young players on the way in the second half, particularly pitchers, and while they felt good about the pitching development in the minors and the re-engineering of their pitching system, it would not be a “quick fix.”
#Royals owner John Sherman: "I feel accountable for where we are right now with our baseball team. We are committed to do what it takes to return to form. ... This is a real year of evaluation, and that evaluation right now is painful."— Anne Rogers (@anne__rogers) June 29, 2023
While fans have asked why ownership is not spending more money on the team, Sherman says his focus is on securing the future of the team with a long-term strategy. In his mind, signing a big player would not make sense until they have a nucleus to build around.
“We are ready to spend some money, but its about really the missing pieces of the puzzle to make sure we’re ready to compete and get back to the post-season.”
He denied the team was intentionally tanking, although he did cite examples of the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, and Baltimore Orioles as teams that lost a lot of games before getting into contention.
“Sometimes to rebuild something you have to tear it down a little bit. Sometimes you have to get worse before you get better.”
Most of the press conference was dedicated to questions about a potential new downtown ballpark. Sherman said that while he thought Kauffman Stadium was beautiful and renovations in 2006 had improved fan-facing cosmetic features, it had structural and mechanical problems and was not competitive with other ballparks in MLB in terms of clubhouse space and premium areas. The team is planning on playing at Kauffman Stadium for the next four or five seasons, with a new ballpark not likely to be ready until 2027 or 2028. He acknowledged feedback from fans that a new ballpark would need to be easy to get in and out of, and be in a safe location. But he also made the point the current stadium was in the wrong location for baseball, saying “It’s time to leave the K.”
Sherman addressed a recent report from the Star that accused the team of dragging their feet and failing to communicate their needs with the county and city by saying they had recently talked to Mayor Quinton Lucas. He told reporters, “no one is waiting on us, we are the urgent party.”
Sherman said the team would likely ask voters next April to extend the 3/8 cent sales tax that is currently funding improvements to the Truman Sports Complex until 2030. He said polling on that idea tested very well, although he later admitted that it was because it was tied to the Chiefs. Extending the tax could raise $300-350 million for each team, with private financing likely to provide $1 billion of the $2 billion estimated costs for a ballpark district. Sherman has also talked to Missouri Governor Mike Parson about potential support from the state.
The East Village site remains one of two sites the team is considering, with the North Kansas City site idea a recent one that the club is taking very seriously. That site would be 80 acres and a more “horizontal” development that Sherman saw as a way to extend the idea of “downtown”, connecting with more river development and the new KC Current stadium. An East Village site would be around 22 acres and would be more of a “vertical” development. Sherman said they had moved at “warp speed” with the process, and they hoped to settle on a site by the end of the summer.
The owner also touched upon recent stories about allegation of bad faith negotiating with the stadium worker unions, saying they are negotiating in good faith and are in agreement on wages. In response to a story on the Urban Youth Academy using its facilities for affluent players from the suburbs, Sherman asserted they had to “get it right.”
In all, there was no ground-breaking news in the hour-long presser. The Royals have a process, and believe they are on the right track. Those expecting big signings this off-season may be disappointed, as Sherman seemed to indicate the team needed revenues from a new ballpark district to keep their spending competitive with other clubs. But Sherman also noted that he is a fan, that losing stinks, and that he, ultimately, is accountable.
“We have great fans in our community. We need to give them something to cheer about.”