This was a lost baseball season for me. The Royals were shitty. For the first time ever, the MLB apps performed erratically at best, occasionally not at all. It was hard enough to find motivation to watch/listen to a bad team. When the tools that provide that access don’t work, you stop making the effort. Which is a shame because putting in the time in the bad years makes the good years even better. I don’t know how far off the next good run is, but I’d like to have thought following the Royals this year would be somewhat akin to the attention I gave them back in 2010–2012, when it seemed hopeless in Kansas City but there were guys developing in the system that I hoped would be good one day.
Alas, I could not match the attention I gave the team nearly a decade ago.
With another 100-loss season in the books, I thought I’d check in with some end-of-the-season comments since there has been some news.
This was out-of-nowhere and happened real, real fast. I figured David Glass would transition the team to his son Dan when the time was right. But quietly selling them to KC-area native John Sherman was a complete surprise. Sherman was alleged to have been a big part of Cleveland becoming more aggressive with their payroll since he became a part of the Indians’ ownership group. The natural hope is he will continue to be willing to spend money now that he has his own team. He doesn’t have to compete with the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers in payroll. I do hope he is more willing than the Glass family generally was to spend money. Sherman got pretty good reviews from those in the know. I hope he is both a good owner and can hang around for 20 or so years to keep the Royals stable.
There was immediate talk that the Royals were already quietly scouting areas in downtown KC for a new stadium. Word was this was very preliminary, with the idea being to have a downtown stadium ready to go when the current lease at the Truman Sports Complex runs out in 2031. I like the idea, though. The K is a wonderful park. But with downtown redeveloping over the past decade, a centrally-located stadium makes sense. Of course, I’ll be about 60 if/when this happens, which kind of sucks.
It wasn’t a huge surprise when Ned Yost announced that he would be retiring after the season ended. I didn’t expect him to hang on until the Royals were ready to compete again. But I did wonder if he would stick out a few more years, since his strength is dealing with young, developing players.
But I give him props for walking out on his terms, while he is still healthy, and while he can still do pretty much whatever he wants with his life.
I, like I think most Royals fans, came a long way with Ned. I didn’t love his tactical moves, his adherence to old school baseball, or the way he often dealt with criticism. I wanted him fired multiple times in 2014, as late as mid-way though the Wild Card game in fact. Check my Facebook feed for proof! But all that Royals Devil Magic of the 2014 and 2015 postseasons stemmed from his support for his players. He empowered guys to find their strength and do their thing. For that, they out-performed what most ever expected of them. By 2015 we had learned to love Ned despite his faults, understood some of his crustiness with the media was pure act, and adopted him as our oddball manager who got results. Winning the 2015 World Series meant we loved him forever and just chuckled and rolled our eyes when he did something crazy.
The biggest compliment I have for Ned is that he learned from his mistakes. Outwardly he comes across as very stubborn and sensitive to criticism. But it’s clear he learned from his failures in his first job in Milwaukee. He actually adjusted his style to adopt some modern analytics, although he would probably never admit it.
Despite his overall record and those maddening early years, he retires as a beloved franchise icon.
There are plenty of offseason questions the team needs to address as they approach the 2020 season, which should be the beginning of the climb from the bottom of the rebuild. I’m not sure if any of them are huge, given that winning is, at very best, one year in the future.
Thus figuring out what to do with Alex Gordon becomes the default most important decision of the winter.
It sounds like the Royals would like to have Alex back for another year, leaving the decision all up to Alex on whether he walks away or spends one last summer playing professional baseball.
I’d love it if he came back. His importance to the organization far outweighs his career stats, and it would be great for him to spend one more year helping transition to the next group of young guys. Even if that is in a reduced role.
But I keep thinking he will retire. He’s always done things quietly and on his own terms. Coming back would make it obvious that was the last run. I think playing out this season of uncertainty and walking off the diamond Sunday to a standing ovation is the way he really wants to go out rather than with a six-month farewell tour.
As I said, his importance outweighs his stats, or at least his offensive ones. The slow start to his career and then his wild swings between three weeks of being red hot and five weeks of being ice cold prevented him from ever being the offensive player he was expected to be.
But he was so good on defense. And, more importantly, the way he reclaimed his career by going to the minors and learning a new position without complaining, and his tireless work ethic are what we will remember about him. Honestly it’s a little difficult not to be disappointed by his career. He could have been a superstar. But that work ethic, his quiet demeanor, and the standard he set for every other player outweigh the slight disappointment you feel when you look at his numbers.
Oh, and then there was the biggest home run in franchise history.
Speaking of home runs, a quick shout out to Jorge Soler who not only set the franchise home run record, but became the first Royal to ever lead the league in home runs. Even in a juiced ball year, that’s amazing. You figure some Yankee would hit 60 in their bandbox. Or this season it would be someone from Minnesota. But Soler seems to be developing into the player the Royals thought he could be when they traded Wade Davis for him. Now hopefully he can actually be part of a winning team before he departs for a team with more money.
I’m hopeful over the winter MLB gets their shit together so their apps work right again in 2020. Because I think that’s when it will start to be both interesting and rewarding to start listening to the Royals on warm summer nights again.