A Winning Narrative

I started writing for this blog about 2 and 1/2 years ago and in that time, I feel as if I’ve learned more about baseball than I ever thought possible. I discovered the ridiculous amount of quality internet baseball content that had somehow escaped my notice until then. I started reading everything I could and was/am lucky enough to write for a blog that employs quality writers…individuals who love the Royals to the point of psychosis. After I’d been writing for awhile, I started using Twitter and got punched in the face with an entire new stream of baseball content and knowledge. Royals twitter is hilarious, knowledgeable and a little bit weird. The good kind of weird.

Most of the Royals fans I follow/know/interact with were advocating that the Royals sell off their assets to better prepare themselves for next season. It makes/made sense to me. I didn’t see how the Royals had even a shot at competing. In my heart of hearts, I still don’t. I had a conversation with a friend who couldn’t understand why trading Greg Holland for the right package didn’t sound so bad to me. He wasn’t alone. Many other Royals fans I’ve seen on Twitter are talking to Royals writers much more knowledgeable than me and saying things like,  ”Don’t you want the Royals to win? They’re supposed to make the playoffs this year! They’ve still got a chance.” Phrasings of that nature.

People are entitled to their opinion, of course, but what gets me is Royals fans questioning other Royals fans about whether they want the Royals to win. If that’s the case, then wanting the Royals to be good now and for many years into the future is apparently a sign of hating the Royals. Wanting the team to cut ties with players possessing unwanted character traits* they insist on playing for unknown reasons is a sign of hating the Royals. Choosing to be cautious about a player’s sudden ability to hit or pitch because previous months or years have shown the exact opposite is a sign of hating the Royals. Ridiculous.

*GRIT 

I like stories. I like hearing them and I like telling them. I like thinking about each Royals season as a narrative. The story of how Miguel Tejada proved people wrong. How Hosmer got his swing (and his groove) back. How the Royals won nine games in a row in July/August and made everyone wish that each month of the baseball season was like a test you took in one of your college classes so you could drop May. The narrative of your team is what makes you unique as a fan because you’re always going to be more in tune with your team’s narrative than that of fans other teams.

Caring about stats and how they show a player’s skill set over time doesn’t destroy the narrative. It merely gives us more background knowledge about our characters. Using this background knowledge as a means to temper enthusiasm about a team doesn’t make you less of a fan. We’ve all had our hearts broken too many times over the years. Forgive me for being unwilling to go all-in just yet.

I have enjoyed the Royals winning games both against teams they’re supposed to beat as well as a few that they’re not. I hope they continue to win. I look at the A.L. Central standings as well as the wild card and I squint and hope. But I can’t just look at those teams ahead of the Royals, then look at Kansas City’s roster and ignore the fact that I think it would take a Mel Clark-worthy miracle for them to pull it off.

But I will wake up every day and I will watch the Royals and I will hope that they win. I will root for whoever is playing against Cleveland, Detroit, Boston, New York, Texas, Baltimore, and anyone else who might get in the way of the team.

And if the Royals somehow were to find their way into the postseason, you could point and laugh at me and I would care not at all. You can point to how long it took me to get really and truly excited about things. I don’t think I can emphasize how little I would care. I love being right. I love when the people I respect are justified in the things they say. But being right is not and never will be more important than the Royals being good. Never has been and never will be.

I hope the current narrative of winning continues. I wake up every day hoping it does. I hope I’m smiling ruefully by the end of September. I just can’t commit yet. I guess I’d rather be surprised than let down.

Topics: Kansas City Royals

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  • jimfetterolf

    There is a stream of thought that wants the Royals to lose so that Ned Yost and Dayton Moore get fired and so that Billy Beane and Casey Stengel get hired and George Steinbrenner becomes owner. They fear that an over .500 finish means Dayton Moore finishes his contract, Ned Yost gets extended, and David Glass has a chance to spend contract savings and new media money and up the payroll to $100 million and stay competitive. It’s a small but noisy niche, but it gets some attention because it’s such a consistent drumbeat.

    As for trading Holland, not sure there was a lot of resistance to it if the return was big enough, a cheap top-end closer under control for a few years has value to the Royals, so needs to generate greater value in return. I favored that idea, but the return didn’t materialize. That happens in real baseball.

  • James

    Good article. In many ways it encapsulates me as a Royals fan. While I still don’t think the Royals will make the playoffs (or really even finish that close), I am loving watching their play of late. I find myself not only watching the Royals play, but I’m keeping very close tabs on every team in front of them. I’m hoping…but I’m not disillusioned.

    I wouldn’t say that I “wanted” the Royals to lose so we could get rid of Yost or Moore, but I certainly feel like they’ve both shown they are not the answer for this franchise. I want the Royals to win every game, but if my choice is between KC finishing with about 80-85 wins and fighting for 2nd & 3rd place every year, or having a bad year and improving substantially for the future I will take the 2nd option every time.

  • Marcus Meade

    I love this line: “But being right is not and never will be more important than the Royals being good.” Hits it right on the head, and I know no one who loves being right more than me.

  • Ethan Evans

    Jim: I’m not saying that I was on some island saying Holland should be shopped. There were plenty of people saying it and I’m sure if, as you say, the return was big enough, there would have been a larger group of people who would have been reasonable about it. I didn’t want to trade him for the sake of trading him. I just think that teams overpay for closers and the Joakim Soria situation should have made the Royals at least see what was out there. I’m not too bummed they didn’t trade Holland. Heck, I’m not even super-frustrated about keeping Erv. I like Erv. I do wonder why they held on to Hochevar, but other than that, I would want good return for Holland and Erv and with the extra wild-card team this year, I think less teams were willing to part with pieces. I think things turned out okay.

    Marcus: Agreed. I love being right. Too much some time. But when it comes to the Royals, I have to attempt to rearrange my priorities. Even though I love the Royals, it isn’t easy most days, haha.

    James: I’m with you. It doesn’t feel right “cheering” for your team to lose. But yeah, I don’t see how being a few games over .500 and a 2nd or 3rd place finish would breed confidence at the end of year 7. We cheer for the Royals and if they can prove us wrong, I tip my cap to them for it. Otherwise, I don’t know what happens. All I know is that the picture Dayton Moore painted when he was hired has gotten reworked several times since then. It’s hard for me to trust him.

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  • jimfetterolf

    Ethan, James, that is pretty much what I was talking about and it may be valid, depends on whether we can identify a magical GM and manager that we could get to come to KC, not an attractive destination for them or front line FAs, but in both cases much more attractive today than a few years ago.

    Some might feel somehow betrayed that injuries and under performance of in-house options have slowed the Process, I don’t. While disagreeing with some moves and two areas of philosophy, program training and band box minor league parks, I like the organization that has been built and the talent being produced and would keep Dayton Moore, unless some other owner decides to outbid David Glass after ’14. There’s a good product on the field, most fans are responding, as shown by broadcast ratings and I think attendance is strong, and the future looks even brighter with money available after the season to extend Shields and Santana just with expired contract savings, plus several young pitchers close who open up trade possibilities to get value in return. Would have been nice to happen last year, but losing our two best arms and three of the four most important defensive players kind of threw a monkey wrench into ’12, so I’m not holding that against anyone.

  • KCMOWHOA

    The fan base has been mollified by a near .500 performance so far, but it’s sad because we deserve more after two+ decades since the last playoff appearance. The truth is the ownership is a hindrance and I’m beginning to question Dayton Moore as well. To be fair, he’s made some really good moves (the Grienke trade, the Santana trade, signing Perez and Escobar to team friendly contracts) and he’s made horrible moves (the Kyle Davies signing, keeping Hochevar around as a starter for so long, and in general his drafting and development of pitchers). But he’s had plenty of time to turn the organization around and we’re only now seeing a glimmer of that. The Myers trade looks like it’s going to haunt us for years. He had a plan set out (which he kept referring to) that involved the Royals finally being competitive in 2014. Instead he jumped the gun and traded Myers for Shields/Davis, most likely because he was starting to fear for his own job.

    Now the team is clearly better, but at what cost? We need a corner outfielder that hits for power….but that’s what we just traded away to TB. I think the media in KC and some of the fan base are so desperate for a .500 team that they’re willing to overlook the fiasco that the Myers-Shields deal is becoming. The KC Star published some horrible, pandering piece of trash over the weekend about how the trade had to be done, but it’s basically just enshrining a poor move for a fan base that needs to hear that. We could’ve probably re-signed Santana in the absence of Shields and might’ve had a decent looking rotation next season with Myers in RF (Santana, Guthrie, Duffy, Paulino, Ventura) and still been on track to compete.

    I like this team, but I don’t realistically see how we can make the playoffs this season. Finishing .500 is a good start, but losing Myers (and most likely losing Shields after next season) is too much to overlook. I’d like to see Yost leave after his contract is up this season, but I’m not sure who we could replace him with. I could go either way on Moore the following season,

    • jimfetterolf

      We still can resign Santana, quite easily based on half the savings from expired contracts, which makes an offer of $20m each for both Santana and Shields quite easy to handle.

      As for Myers, extrapolated for the amount of games David Lough has played, he’s been worth an extra 0.2fW over David Lough, so that hardly compares to the 4.0 we’ve gotten from Shields and Davis. Without the trade we would have a David Lough who strikes out and Chen and Hoch/Mendoza in the rotation. Myers may grow up to be a stud, he may be Alex Gordon, he may be Jeff Francoeur. We won’t know that for several years. What we do know is that the pitching has made the team competitive.

      • Michael Engel

        Man, I’m sorry Jim, but give me nine Wil Myers vs. nine David Loughs and I’m gonna take the Myers side. I like Lough. Very glad he’s getting a chance to play and that he’s taking advantage, but his fWAR is skewed quite a bit by his pie slice and bin defensive stats.

        • jimfetterolf

          Sure, nine Myers would be great but probably wouldn’t have last year’s pitching staff over .500. I like Myers as a prospect, but I like Shields, Davis, and Lough better as members of this year’s team, which is what the trade accomplished, and look forward to the three of them next year, also. Myers may turn into Harper or Trout, but only plays one position and won’t pitch two in five days while he’s also simultaneously playing right field.

          As for Lough’s defense, the eyes like him. He’s saved two or three games with circus catches so far. I would suggested that so-called advanced defensive metrics actually under rate Lough, as they also do Cain.

          • Michael Engel

            One thing on defensive metrics — FanGraphs uses UZR which is developed from Baseball Info Solutions which is compiled from visual collection of data by watching every play.
            The eyes DO like him because that’s how the metrics are built. They use other models to then compare relatively how player X gets to a ball vs. how player Y gets to a ball, figures up the average of all players getting to that ball and then can figure up who’s better or worse than average. No need to dismiss it. It’s just using the visual info and turning it into data. Just had to point out that you’d tossed out defensive metrics in the past as being lesser than the eye when they’re derived FROM the eye test at a fundamental level.

            Lough’s very good in the field, but there’s a reason teams will overlook Jhonny Peralta’s defensive issues when he can hit the ball and create runs while Brendan Ryan can’t hit a lick and is the best defensive shortstop in the game, but no contender will rely on him. I’ll take passable defense and extraordinary offense over very good defense and average offense all the time.

          • jimfetterolf

            I’m one of those “a run saved is a run made” guys.

            As for the metrics, they are getting better over the years, but if my eyes disagree with the metrics I’ll trust my eyes. Maybe I’m just old school, but if UZR was good I don’t see MLB investing the money to create FieldF/x. Last year was an example, UZR didn’t like a few of our players who were finalists for Gold Gloves. This year UZR loves a couple of them and looks to me like the same players. Maybe UZR evolved, maybe their metrics have a hole in them.

          • Michael Engel

            Field F/X is entirely different though. 30 groups have access to that info and Fangraphs is not one of them. It’s entirely proprietary still. Probably a couple years from getting that info yet.

            Also, I would figure you’d be able to see that the Gold Glove nominations are one part defense, one part name, and a dash of offense tossed together. If it was purely on defensive ability, Brendan Ryan would win at short every year instead of Derek Jeter.

      • KCMOWHOA

        I would be shocked if we re-singed Santana, but of course it’s possible. He’s going to want 4-5 years at 10-12 million a year I would guess. I don’t even know what a Shields contract after next year would look like. What you’re forgetting is that both of them probably don’t even want to be here and they can get more money somewhere else.

        The Myers vs. Lough argument is silly and you know it. I’m tired of hearing the wait and see on Myers. He’s proving himself right now, and making Moore look stupid. Even if he regresses next year, he’s still worth more than Lough and ultimately Shields (partly because of money, but partly because we’ll continue to be desperate for a power hitting corner outfielder).

        The improved pitching staff is obviously better for the team, but it’s still unlikely we’ll make the playoffs so in the long run the starting staff this season will end up being irrelevant except in the minds of fans that can’t accept we made a horrible trade.