R’s: Time to Sell?

Logic often gets thrown out in sports in favor of emotion. We mask over flaws in players and teams we love because we love them. And we ignore brilliance among rivals simply because they wear the wrong color of jersey.

The Kansas City Royals are in a dangerous situation when it comes to emotion right now. All of us who are fans, and everyone affiliated with the organization, hoped the core of players who got the franchise to the ’14 and ’15 World Series had one more run in them this season before the dismantling began. Off-season moves to bring in Jason Hammel and Brandon Moss were largely based on giving the team a chance to play this October.

But a brutal April made the team’s postseason prospects slim at best.

May was better. A few guys who were ice-cold warmed up. They went 15–14, which isn’t great, but is at least trending in the right direction. More importantly, no one else in the AL Central seems interested in running away with the division. Despite all the Royals’ struggles, they sit just 4.5 games out of first. After finishing a series with Houston tonight, the Royals travel west to face San Diego, Anaheim, and San Francisco, three teams that are all struggling as well.

Emotion says if they can get hot on the West Coast swing, they can climb right back into the division race. Emotion says that Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon, Alcides Escobar, and Sal Perez deserve a few more weeks before the team starts selling off its most valuable parts. Emotion says the Whit Merrifield and Jorge Bonifacio are real deals and not young guys with holes in the swings the league is about to discover. Emotion says this team has come back before, why not one more time?

But logic, as always, is a bitch.

The Royals offense has been better over the past three weeks, but there are still gapping holes in it. Escobar and Gordon in particular seem mired in perpetual, horrendous slumps. Moss has been pretty terrible as well. Perez is fighting it right now. The rotation has been flat out weird, with everyone other than Jason Vargas having wild swings of good starts balanced with brutal ones. And the once vaunted bullpen has regressed to a more typical group where you never know what you’ll get from night-to-night.

Danny Duffy being out of the rotation for at least another month and Jorge Soler being such a disaster he’s now in Omaha are two more sobering pieces of logic.

Every time logic seems poised to win the argument, though, emotion defies it. The Royals sweep Baltimore. They win 2-of–3 from Cleveland twice. They come back from six runs down to beat the best team in baseball. Just enough moments for us to think, “Well, maybe if…” and start imagining scenarios in which the team is suddenly a half game out of first.

Plenty of writers have given up on the Royals and suggested they begin selling now. I see that logic. I might even agree with it to a large extent. But I don’t see any advantage in moving Hosmer, Moustakas, Cain, etc. right now. Wait until multiple teams are in the market for making big additions for the stretch. Wait for a major injury that forces a contender to make a panic move. Wait for Houston and Washington to cool off a bit and put their divisions back in play, increasing the number of potential trade partners.

I feel like I have a very pragmatic view of the Royals at the moment. I understand they’re going to trade guys sometime in the next six weeks, but I don’t think they should do so out of desperation. Still, I admit my view is still clouded by emotion. I want to watch Hos, Moose, and Lorenzo play in Royals uniforms as long as possible. Baring a series of miracles, I know this isn’t a World Series or even playoff team.

But keeping those guys around another month or so will make the memories of their October runs seem not so distant. And will keep the reality that the next October run is far off in the unseeable future at bay, too.