Let's just take a moment and appreciate what the KC Royals did on Monday. They made dreams come true. They did what even die-hard fans doubted they could. The Royals' decision to extend Bobby Witt Jr. beyond his prime years, no matter the length, gives the fans hope once again. I hope that this team will be different. I hope that winning baseball is returning to Kauffman Stadium. I hope that things will be better.
And owner John Sherman's role should not be ignored on this momentous occasion.
For as long as I have been alive (which isn't long), the Royals are known for letting talented players go. I heard about the Carlos Beltrán fiasco and Johnny Damon's departure to the East Coast. Those are just a few players the Royals left to go with one thing as a major factor: they wanted, and deserved, to be paid more.
David Glass, the late owner of the Royals, was known for his frugality, and there were times when the Royals had the lowest payroll in baseball. Heck, I have not been alive since they last had an above-average Opening Day payroll. The life of a small-market baseball team fan is a fiscally poor one, but c'mon. Imagine Glass springing for Beltrán or signing more than scraps in free agency year after year. Even if every move hadn't worked perfectly, at least fans would be interested and have a reason for hope.
Bobby Witt Jr.'s extension would not have happened without KC Royals owner John Sherman.
Sherman will not draw a 100% approval rating from Kansas City fans, but you would be hard-pressed to find a fan not approving of their moves this offseason. They have been one of the most active teams in free agency, committing a stunning $110 million to eight different players. Starters Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha address the rotational problems, while relievers Will Smith and Chris Stratton bring a winning pedigree to Kansas City.
All those moves came with a coordinated effort between the front office and ownership. General manager J.J. Picollo and his team can identify free agents and extension targets all they want. However, it is for naught if Sherman doesn't loosen the purse strings. Sherman already did that with free agency, but did so exponentially with Witt's extension.
"We’ve been committed to winning for a long time. There’s not a straight line between Point A and Point B. But I think at the end of the day, it can’t just be what you say, it has to be what you do. So I would hope that people would take from this and also this offseason, what [general manager] J.J. [Picollo] and his team have engineered, as indicative of our commitment to winning. We want to do something special for the fans of Kansas City."- Sherman, Feb. 6 press conference
I cannot speak to Sherman as a person; I don't know him. The Kansas City businessman's philanthropic efforts are well documented. He donated to community cornerstones The Sherman Family Foundation, founded by John and Marny Sherman, is a major vehicle for their philanthropic donations, with a strong emphasis on educational causes in the region. His awards and accolades stretch for decades, which means something to most. I never doubted his community involvement; it was his baseball investments that I was worried about. Now, I can put those worries away until the 68-year-old Sherman gives me a reason for concern again.
Does this make the upcoming April 2 vote easier? Probably. Does this make, say, ticket sales jump? Likely. Do I care about those things? At this moment, no. Because I never imagined it would happen. I love this extension. This was the top non-game-related moment in my Royals fandom. Recency bias puts this extension neck and neck with the 2015 World Series win, but let's settle down on that one.
This move is bigger than anything the Royals have ever executed. This extension bucks so many historical trends that we fans are accustomed to. It is the pinnacle of a historic offseason for the Royals, and the momentum should not stop after Opening Day. There are so many parties involved in making Witt's extension happen, but Sherman's financial commitment made it all worthwhile.