Skip to content

Empty Yesterday: Kansas City’s trade deadline day

Aug 1, 2014, 1:45 PM EST

Dayton Moore, David Glass Getty Images

Before we begin to talk about why Thursday felt like SUCH a disastrous day for the Kansas City Royals – and, possibly, your hometown team too — we should probably offer two qualifications. One, Major League trades are hard things to pull off. They sound so easy on talk radio and fantasy leagues. But in real life, a thousand things have to come together, enthusiasm has to be spread all over the teams, momentum has to drive forward. Any tiny blip can nix the whole thing. A thousand trades are talked about for every one pulled off … and that ratio goes up exponentially when talking about major trades. Teams may really, really try to pull off a trade and for any number of reasons it just doesn’t happen. So that’s one.

Two, the Royals might not have been able to change their fate no matter what they did. The Royals, it seems to me, are the very essence of an eh-not-bad team. The lineup is average-conscious and cannot score runs. The pitching staff is pretty good but bullpen heavy and it relies heavily on a No. 1 starter who, best anyone can tell, will not be around after this season. A move, even a bold one, might not alter that at all.

With those two caveats: The Royals just had an infuriating trade deadline day. Infuriating. Because – and here’s where the opinion begins – this was the time for the Royals to make a choice. They needed to be buyers. They needed to be sellers. They needed to be SOMETHING. And instead, like it has been for most of the last quarter century, they were nothing. And that is hard to take.

See, for those 25 or so years the Royals have been … so … impossibly … irrelevant. They have had one player voted All-Star Game starter – ONE BLEEPIN’ PLAYER VOTED ALL-STAR GAME STARTER – since 1991 (and Jermaine Dye was traded two years later). They have not hired an interesting manager in forever. They are never in on the biggest free agents. They are never talked about in the biggest trades. They are just one of those teams that don’t matter much. The Royals are an opponent. They are a placeholder.

The last couple of years it seemed that finally, finally, finally the Royals were not going to be background music any longer. I did not like their bold trade of big prospect Wil Myers for temporary ace James Shields – still don’t like it – but it WAS bold. It was a statement. “Win now!” general manager Dayton Moore was saying. The minor league system was being touted as one of the best ever. The Royals won 86 games last year. They jumped their payroll significantly to make this year even better.

These Royals were wallflowers no more! Act! Do! Win!

Except … well, they could not quite break a few of the bad old habits. They did raise payroll, but mostly to bring in those 30-something veterans like Nori Aoki and Omar Infante that almost never actually help the team (and neither has helped much). They fired another hitting coach but did nothing to really alter the way the team is run. Billy Butler fell off the age cliff. Eric Hosmer lost his mojo. Mike Moustakas reveals himself more and more to not be an everyday big league player. A few good things have happened too – the solid pitching of young Yordano Ventura and emergence of Danny Duffy has helped and the late innings have been clamped down by a dominant bullpen. Because of this, the Royals have hovered around .500 despite a dreadful record in one-run games. They’ve shown just enough to make the optimistic believe they are a better team.

Dayton Moore is one of those optimists. All year long he has talked about the Royals having the talent to be a much better team. Even though he seems to believe this, he also believes that manager Ned Yost and one of the 384 batting coaches he has hired the last three years are doing a great job. Those two thoughts don’t seem to correspond, but we move on.

This week, the Royals are on the brink of SOMETHING. They are just on the good side of .500, and they are not in playoff position. Their ace, James Shields, probably has two months left as a Royal. Their offense is lousy and out of tune with the modern game. Their bullpen is probably their strength and everyone in baseball knows that bullpens are fickle beasts. The Royals had to decide: Go for it now with a few pieces in place? Back off and recharge for next year’s fight? What?

The Royals boldly decided to do … nothing.

Nothing. According to the Kansas City Star’s Andy McCullough, the Royals did have discussions for David Price but decided they couldn’t afford the contract. They kicked the tires on a couple of more 30-something veterans and decided they too were too expensive. And … that’s it. They did nothing.

Shortly after doing nothing, they lost first baseman Eric Hosmer to an injury that could keep him out for six weeks – or, essentially, the rest of the season. That’s bad luck. But in my experience bad luck, for some reason, does tend to follow inactivity.

Nothing. Of course the American League teams that are pretty unanimously viewed as smarter than Kansas City – Detroit, Boston, Tampa Bay, Oakland – did something. They divided as buyers or sellers and made bold moves to either (A) Win a World Championship this year or (B) Build their talent base for next year. You might or might not like the moves, but there is no doubt that there’s an active plan in place. The Royals, meanwhile, just drifted in the ocean.

It’s hard to say exactly what is happening behind the scenes in Kansas City. I don’t know what the Glass family’s commitment level is – I suspect the Royals management would have liked to do more, a lot more, but ownership’s commitment level is probably at Defcon 4 already. I also believe that Royals management skews conservative; the Myers for Shields deal was about as wild and crazy as they get.

That said, I think often of the line from The Music Man: “Pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you’re collected a lot of empty yesterdays.” The Royals are world-renowned collectors of empty yesterdays.

And this empty yesterday leaves its mark. The Royals might get hot against a relatively weak schedule and win enough games to slip into October. But they probably won’t. The Tigers have David Price now, Oakland has Jon Lester, the Angels have finally gotten out of their own way, the Blue Jays and Orioles are probably better, the Yankees added a few pieces, even the Mariners did something. The Royals keep the faith that the meek will inherit the earth. Maybe that will happen. But the meek ain’t winning the American League.

Latest Posts
  1. MLBPA will be monitoring how Cubs handle Kris Bryant

    Feb 27, 2015, 6:05 PM EST

    Kris Bryant Kris Bryant

    MLBPA executive director Tony Clark will be keeping a close eye on how the Cubs handle the eventual promotion of prospect Kris Bryant.

  2. The Pittsburgh Pirates issued a statement about “Jihadi John” wearing their cap

    Feb 27, 2015, 4:51 PM EST

    pirates logo

    Note: they’re not fans of this particular bit of product placement.

  3. Derek Lowe is talking to the Red Sox about a coaching job

    Feb 27, 2015, 4:35 PM EST

    Derek Lowe Red Sox AP

    Lowe pitched for the Red Sox from 1997-2004.

  4. Juan Pierre officially announces his retirement

    Feb 27, 2015, 1:06 PM EST

    Juan Pierre Getty Getty Images

    Pierre was a singles-hitting, base-stealing machine.

  5. Johan Santana’s deal with the Blue Jays has an April 28 opt-out clause

    Feb 27, 2015, 11:19 AM EST

    johan santana getty Getty Images

    If he’s called up to the majors Santana will get $2.5 million in guaranteed money.

  6. Aramis Ramirez says 2015 will be his last year

    Feb 27, 2015, 11:03 AM EST

    Aramis Ramirez Getty Images

    When he’s done he’ll have played 18 years in the bigs and will be pushing 400 homers.

  7. Royals are only looking at Joe Blanton as a reliever

    Feb 27, 2015, 10:47 AM EST

    Joe Blanton AP

    “The only way he is really going to help us is in the bullpen.”

  8. Bartolo Colon may be the Mets’ Opening Day starter

    Feb 27, 2015, 10:35 AM EST

    Bartolo Colon

    Yes, this is mostly just an excuse to post a picture of Bartolo Colon

  9. Giants sign Ronny Cedeno

    Feb 27, 2015, 10:15 AM EST

    Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies Getty Images

    Cedeno had a brief stint in the majors last season with the Phillies.

  10. Didi Gregorius is probably pretty grateful for the A-Rod circus

    Feb 27, 2015, 9:53 AM EST

    Didi Gregorious AP

    Everyone worried that A-Rod would be a “distraction.” Well, he has been. And that’s a good thing.

  11. We need Kafka to cover Yankees spring training

    Feb 27, 2015, 9:24 AM EST

    Kafka

    Cashman and Girardi were poked constantly yesterday. They eventually responded. And the media seems to believe this is A-Rod’s fault.

  12. Craig Kimbrel is messing with a changeup

    Feb 27, 2015, 9:00 AM EST

    Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 8.24.38 AM AP

    Because he wasn’t dominant enough as it was.

  13. Report: Josh Hamilton could get a suspension of “at least 25 games”

    Feb 27, 2015, 8:30 AM EST

    Josh Hamilton Josh Hamilton

    But Major League Baseball is also trying to be “compassionate,” and is thus still not close to a decision.

  14. Wanna hear Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig attempt a comedy routine?

    Feb 27, 2015, 7:41 AM EST

    Ruth Gehrig

    Gehrig on going to Columbia: “I was seven years in the Freshman class!”

  15. Mets don’t intend to talk extension with Daniel Murphy

    Feb 26, 2015, 11:02 PM EST

    Daniel Murphy AP AP

    While Daniel Murphy would like to discuss a contract extension with the Mets, it looks like a foregone conclusion that he will test free agency after the 2015 season.

  16. Nick Markakis apologizes for his comments regarding contract talks with the Orioles

    Feb 26, 2015, 9:49 PM EST

    Nick Markakis AP AP

    Braves outfielder Nick Markakis recently expressed frustration about how contract talks with the Orioles broke down over the winter.

  17. Shane Victorino is ready to go back to switch-hitting

    Feb 26, 2015, 8:40 PM EST

    Shane Victorino Getty Getty Images

    Victorino gave up hitting from the left side late in 2013, but he’s ready to give it another shot.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. J. Hamilton (4920)
  2. Y. Moncada (4249)
  3. F. Rodriguez (3753)
  4. Z. Greinke (3741)
  5. M. Harvey (3720)
  1. E. Cabrera (2938)
  2. B. Beachy (2640)
  3. A. Gordon (2579)
  4. B. Moss (2498)
  5. A. Wainwright (2468)