The Kansas City Royals and Their Assault on Optimism


I like to think of myself as an optimistic person. I am usually able to find a silver lining to any dark cloud, which is probably a skill I’ve attained over years as a Royals fan. Even in the midst of this putrid stretch of baseball, I can see some things to be happy about.

James Shields is pitching like the guy we expected.

Alex Gordon is playing at an All-Star level.

Luis Mendoza has pitched much better over his last 5 starts.

But right now, attempting to put any kind of shine on the last month for the Royals is just pointless.

August 05, 2011; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost (left) with general manager Dayton Moore (right) before a game against the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Calling this team a dumpster fire doesn’t sufficiently portray how awful they have played in May. Maybe if it was an Olympic pool-sized dumpster full of kerosene-soaked sweaty gym socks, on top of a ton of sawdust and old tractor tires, and someone threw a match on that, then that might be a good enough image of the disastrous past 4 weeks. Maybe.

Of course, this month is just a culmination of the past 7 years  under the Dayton Moore regime. Year after year, fans have been told to be patient, and that winning was just a couple of years away. Fans were told that this rebuild would take time, and that Moore’s experience from his time in the Atlanta Braves front office would bring similar results to Kansas City. Fans were told that all the talent this organization was stockpiling was about to break down the door to the major leagues, and the Royals were going to be a force to be reckoned with for many years to come.

And I bought every word of it.

Prior to the last season or so, I had spent a lot of time defending moves made by the organization. I told other fans to “just wait, these guys in the minors are going to be good.” I was convinced that Dayton Moore knew what he was doing, even if he did a few things with which I personally disagreed. I knew that the organization, overall, was in terrible shape when Moore came along, so I expected it to take a few years.

3 years? That’s not bad. There were almost no legitimate players or prospects here in 2006.

4 years? Meh, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

5 years? Ok, the winning has to start soon, right?

6 years? Alright, now we’ve got enough talent to win. It’s time to break out.

We are now in year 7 of Moore’s leadership, and the Royals are in last place in the AL Central, 8 games below .500.

I have finally arrived at the conclusion many other Royals fans have settled upon over the last few years: Dayton Moore just isn’t a good general manager. I’m sure he’s a nice guy, and I do appreciate the work he’s done to improve the talent level of the organization, but he’s proven, time and time again, that he doesn’t have what it takes to lead a major league franchise to a high level of success. I guess you could say he doesn’t know how to win.

Sadly enough, the losing isn’t even the most frustrating part of this season for me. In the past 3 days, two separate members of the Royals’ coaching staff have said things that I found nothing less than insulting to my intelligence as a fan of this team. On Tuesday, when asked what he could do to hold players accountable, Ned Yost replied with a snide question of his own: “What are you asking me to do? Take my belt off and spank them?”

As if, being a manager of a major league ball club, Yost has literally nothing he can do to reprimand or punish poorly performing players. Hitters allow a pitcher to throw 10 pitches in 2 innings? No big deal. Make bad decisions on the basepaths? Don’t worry about it. Field a ground ball cleanly and throw it 8 feet away from the first baseman? Meh. Holding players accountable is apparently not in Yost’s job description, or at least, it’s not something he feels is necessary. Granted, when his boss has been in charge of a franchise that has yet to top 75 wins during his 6 (going on 7) year tenure, accountability may be somewhat lacking in all organizational levels.

On Wednesday, then-hitting coach Jack Maloof said some of the most illogical things I’ve heard from someone involved in the coaching of major league baseball. Kings of Kauffman’s own Jeff Parker has a great breakdown of the comments here, so I won’t go into too much depth other than to say that he must feel like Royals’ fans are some of the most naïve people on the planet. To think that it’s not only ok to have the fewest home runs in the league, but that it’s actually expected to happen, seems like a good strategy if you’re looking to lose your job (It worked!). I just can’t understand what would go through Maloof’s mind to make him think, “You know what? I’m going to tell everyone that trying to hit home runs is bad. Great idea, Jack!” He probably high-fived himself after that, too. How could Maloof think that fans are that dumb? Well, his boss has been telling fans that it takes 8-10 years to rebuild an organization, despite numerous examples showing that to not be the case for many other franchises. If the general manager thinks fans are dumb enough to buy his ludicrous statements, why should the (former) hitting coach miss out on all the fun?

I’d like to give Moore credit for removing Maloof from his role, but the fact that Maloof will still be working in the organization, and will actually be working with minor league hitters, proves to me that this move is nothing more than a public relations maneuver. If Moore was truly disappointed with what Maloof said, he would’ve been fired completely. As it is, it seems like Moore isn’t upset with what Maloof said, he’s just upset that Maloof said it. It will remain to be seen what kind of an impact new interim hitting coach George Brett will have, and I guess it is possible that Maloof may work better with prospects at the lower levels of the minors. I personally would prefer if Maloof and his home run-hating ideas were as far away from developing hitters as possible, but I suppose I’ll settle for this.

This brings me to my final point. “I suppose I’ll settle for this” is perhaps the best summary of my life as a Royals fan. As angry as this organization makes me, and as much as I complain about so many things they do, I could never stop rooting for this team. With every Yuni signing, and with every Hochevar contract tender, I get so angry that I can hardly see straight. But I always come back and hope for the best. Even now, as I know that more losing would likely only hasten the firing of the many problematic figures in the front office, I still want the Royals to win every single game. I completely understand those who have begun rooting for losses to pile up, and I don’t pass judgment on those wanting to jump ship altogether. I get it, I really do. The life of a Royals fan is a frustrating one. This organization hasn’t reached the postseason since the year before I was born. People who followed this team during their heyday have seen a once proud franchise become a laughingstock of baseball. As for me, I simply can’t imagine a day where I begin hoping for failure. No matter how much my head tells me the team has no hope of making the playoffs this season, or any season under Moore, there’s still that optimistic, cheerful, puppies-and-rainbows-everywhere, tiniest part of my heart that thinks TODAY is the day they turn it around. TODAY is the day they start a nice winning streak. I know that doesn’t make sense, but the optimistic side of me will always be there, and I can’t help it. Granted, after this much losing, that optimism has been beaten down like, well, like the Royals in the last 4 weeks. But it’s still there, even if I don’t allow it to shine through during times like this.

At some point, probably in the not-so-distant future, Dayton Moore will be fired, and another process will begin (though hopefully the new GM won’t mention that 7 letter curse word at any point in his tenure). I’m sure that whoever replaces him will have some kind of plan to get this organization back to where it once was. And I’m sure that at that point, my full-blown optimism will be renewed, and I’ll buy in completely once again. Because at the end of the day, I’m just a fan who wants to believe his team has a chance to win. No matter how delusional that belief may be.