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I want to believe, but we need to see sustained results

A six-game streak is a start

Brady Singer #51 of the Kansas City Royals is doused with water by MJ Melendez #1 and Bobby Witt Jr. #7 as they celebrate a 9-2 win over the New York Mets at Kauffman Stadium on August 03, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Brady Singer #51 of the Kansas City Royals is doused with water by MJ Melendez #1 and Bobby Witt Jr. #7 as they celebrate a 9-2 win over the New York Mets at Kauffman Stadium on August 03, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Even after winning six consecutive baseball games, the Kansas City Royals are on pace for 110 losses. This is, frankly, an incredible feat. As a team, the Royals haven’t been good at anything. So has the organization. The farm system is bad, the big league team is bad, and it’s been a trying few months to say the least.

As a result, many fans have either checked out for the year or become so jaded that the Royals can do literally nothing right. And, hey, those fans have a good argument. When the team is so bad and when things look so bleak and when many of the same people from the previous administration are in the same positions of power, approaching everything from a position of extreme skepticism is absolutely valid and earned.

I have no intent on telling you that things are peachy and that everything is going to work out perfectly. It might not. In fact, it probably won’t. Again, that skepticism is earned. JJ Picollo was Dayton Moore’s right hand for over a decade. Nobody else in the front office was fired last year. Why should we expect things to be different? The team must show us, and you can wave your hands in the general direction of the team’s record to show how it’s been going.

But I think that this skepticism has somewhat curdled into something less objective. Again, the Royals have done very little to combat this turn of events. Still, it’s worth taking a deep breath and a step back. There are four areas in which a new front office can make splashes:

  • Offseason
  • Draft
  • Trade deadline
  • Personnel/administrative changes

Let’s go through them one by one here.

First, the offseason. John Sherman keeps shooting himself in the foot whenever he talks about a “year of evaluation,” but despite this somewhat insulting description, JJ and the team did the only reasonable move: wait. Sherman did not green light a payroll increase, so there was no chance at radically changing the team a la the Texas Rangers. Kansas City’s young position players and 2018 draft class of pitchers were in a weird spot—young, but not good enough to leverage into an organization-changing trade. The Royals could have made some trades, but seeing if the young players could build on last season was perfectly defensible.

Second, the draft. I lambasted the draft after they doubled down on the riskiest types of players possible, a strategy which seemed to fly into the face of the front office’s claims that they were going to be more analytical. But the frustrating truth of the matter is that we don’t know what the results will be. You don’t win the draft on draft night; rather, you win the draft years later. We can’t start to measure this draft class properly until next August. We can think we know, but we just don’t.

Third, the trade deadline. The Nicky Lopez trade was head scratching, but I agree with Max’s take on the deadline: it was a pretty good overall showing that clearly demonstrated some of the differences in JJ’s philosophy as opposed to Moore. JJ keeps saying stuff that just pops out to me in a “woah, Moore would have never said that in a million years” way. That the Royals were actively exploring a trade of Salvador freaking Perez is one thing. But just read these quotes from JJ:

“We were open-minded with some names that would hurt to trade,” Picollo said. “We let teams know that that’s something we would do. But we’re going to have to win the deal. Long term, we’re going to have to win the deal. We don’t need to trade certain guys that have three, four, five years of control. …

“Our approach will be the same in the offseason. Any deal with a player that’s talented and has a lot of control, we have to stick to what we think is the right return and get the most impact in return that we can.”

If you have a good memory, you know that there are two pretty huge differences. One, Picollo said that “we’re going to have to win the deal.” Moore constantly talked about making deals that were good for both sides. Two, Picollo said that they would stay on course for “the right return” for players with multiple years. Moore, on the other hand, constantly talked about how the Royals would have to be “blown away” to trade a player with multiple years of control.

Fourth, personnel and administrative changes. The Royals enacted a pretty huge overhaul of the big league coaching staff. Behind the scenes, front offices and titles and responsibilities shifted, and the Royals have quietly expanded the analytics & development teams under Dr. Daniel Mack.

Look: baseball moves at a glacial pace. You cannot draft or sign Baseball LeBron and instantly become a contender—just look at the Los Angeles Angels and Shohei Ohtani (and Mike Trout, to boot). The fact of the matter is that not even the smartest baseball minds in the history of the game could turn around the 2023 Royals organization in the span of 10 months.

The loudest critics of the Royals (myself often included among them) are critical because of three main reasons. First, the team sucks, so, so bad. Second, the people in charge were also here when the team imploded and couldn’t get out of its post-2017 rebuild. And third, the Royals have simply not make significant changes behind the scenes that would otherwise signal “we’ve got a new thing going on here.”

Ultimately, the Royals under Sherman and Picollo have told us to trust them. I want to. I really really want to. I think most fans want to. That is not the problem. The problem is that the results aren’t there, and the problem is that, on the outside, nothing seems to have changed.

Win games. Develop players. Draft better. I want to believe. But the Royals are in Missouri—you’ve got to show me.