Aug 1, 2014, 1:45 PM EST
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.
Dec 19, 2014, 7:28 AM EST
Can someone justify this sort of golden parachute? Will anyone even bother to try?
Dec 19, 2014, 6:50 AM EST
The Giants haven’t gotten many of their sought-after targets this offseason, but they keep one of their starters.
Dec 18, 2014, 11:27 PM EST
It took long enough, but Matt Kemp has finally been traded to the Padres.
Dec 18, 2014, 11:00 PM EST
Get excited, I guess.
Dec 18, 2014, 9:30 PM EST
The Padres continue to overhaul their lineup while the A’s continue to unload.
Dec 18, 2014, 8:46 PM EST
Young, 29, batted .302 with seven home runs and .779 OPS (120 OPS+) over 255 plate appearances this past season.
Dec 18, 2014, 7:50 PM EST
Lowe began his career with Seattle and had his best season with the club in 2009.
Dec 18, 2014, 6:41 PM EST
Is this the beginning of the end for the Tampa Bay Rays?
Dec 18, 2014, 6:07 PM EST
Johnson missed the entire 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in late April.
Dec 18, 2014, 6:00 PM EST
Does Ichiro really have one more year left in him?
Dec 18, 2014, 5:40 PM EST
Veteran catching depth.
Dec 18, 2014, 5:17 PM EST
Giavotella is a career .315 hitter with an .835 OPS and as many walks as strikeouts in nearly 2,000 plate appearances at Triple-A.
Dec 18, 2014, 4:47 PM EST
He’s probably not the one who knocks. Indeed, this crew seemed so amateurish he probably called first to make sure it was a good time for everyone.
Dec 18, 2014, 4:17 PM EST
It started with an argument over candy.
Dec 18, 2014, 3:34 PM EST
Between Cuba and North Korea, it’s been a big couple of days for communism. Let’s see what communists thought about baseball once upon a time.
Dec 18, 2014, 3:18 PM EST
Medlen missed all of this year recovering from his second Tommy John elbow surgery.
Dec 18, 2014, 3:00 PM EST
What a difference a day makes.
Dec 18, 2014, 2:38 PM EST
Rollins is not tied to Kemp, at least not entirely.
Dec 18, 2014, 1:06 PM EST
Baseball card collecting in the post-bicycle spokes, pre-crash world of the 1980s.
Dec 18, 2014, 12:17 PM EST
And the Padres “continue to consult medical experts.”
- Bud Selig will get a $6 million a year pension. Which is obscene. 7
- Jake Peavy agrees to a two-year, $24 million deal to stay with the San Francisco Giants 3
- Matt Kemp has officially been traded to the Padres 23
- Padres acquire catcher Derek Norris from Athletics 33
- St. Petersburg City Council votes down deal to allow Rays to look for new stadium site 87
- What will the future of Cuban players in MLB look like? 25
- Royals sign Edinson Volquez for two years, $20 million 29
- Rays, Padres, Nationals agree to 11-player trade 97
- Baseball’s highest-ranking Hispanic woman employee sues for discrimination (163)
- The United States will seek to normalize relations with Cuba (144)
- Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers, Padres, Rangers, and Astros interested in Phillies’ Cole Hamels (111)
- Rays, Padres, Nationals agree to 11-player trade (97)
- Chase Headley signs a four-year deal with the Yankees worth at least $52 million. (95)