A month ago, I asked how harsh we should be on John Sherman. He bought a team during a pandemic, then was hit with a work stoppage and a broadcast streaming catastrophe. Less than savory circumstances in which to take over a MLB franchise that was on a steep downward trajectory after a brief, yet glorious, renaissance.
Now, he’s saddled with a team that is 10.5 games out of first, 11 games under .500 and virtually out of contention before Memorial Day for the fifth consecutive year.
He will soon have to sell Jackson County voters on funding a brand new, multibillion dollar downtown stadium during 10% inflation and the shadow of a recession looming.
He’s going to have a hard time doing that with the way things currently stand.
The Royals are adrift. The team is not good. We’re in year 16 of Dayton Moore’s tenure. Prospects like MJ Melendez, Bobby Witt Jr., Kyle Isbel, Emmanuel Rivera and Brady Singer have been good (sometimes great) for the most part. Yet, there is still very little surface level improvement to be seen. The sum is not greater than the whole of its parts. It’s a jumbled mess of a roster that lacks a central thesis or identity.
The team cannot call up Nick Pratto or Vinnie Pasquantino (both absolutely destroying AAA pitching at the moment), because Carlos Santana and Ryan O’Hearn are viewed as legitimate commodities worthy of playing time. Kyle Isbel has only played because Michael A. Taylor, a perfectly fine 4th OF shoehorned into an everyday role, has been in the covid protocol for a week. MJ Melendez will lose playing time to Salvador Perez, who (gasp) should be traded in the next year, comes back from the IL.
The inefficiencies of this roster are on full display. Payroll is $95 million dollars, and this is the result.
The Royals are in a precarious position. The lack of presence by ownership about anything concerning the product on the field is alarming. A month ago, I asked if you’d truly notice if the team was under new management if you’d just woken up from a three year coma. You would not.
This is not the first time I’ve asked for the Royals to turn over their front office. It’s a bad habit. My word isn’t worth a whole lot when it comes to the matter. I get it.
The Royals front office is flush with new leadership on the business side, but the product on the field feels like it is well beyond its shelf life. An uninspired team of mediocre veterans, a bipolar bullpen, stagnated first round picks, dotted with some spark plug prospects, with a manager who has a spotty past with young rosters and may not be trusted with the full blown youth movement that’s on the horizon. When someone shows you who they are, believe them. The leadership of this team has been showing us who they are for years.
The baseball operations department should have been put on a performance plan the minute a new ownership group took over. Instead, they were given eyebrow-raising promotions and important titles despite being five years removed from even sniffing the postseason or posting a winning record.
I recognize that I could be wrong and we could be at the moment right before the turnaround we saw in the second half of the 2013 season.
I also recognize that becoming wholly irrelevant in your sport for 6-7 years just so you can roll the dice for 2-3 seasons is an infuriating model for success that causes your fans to spiral into nihilism and ultimately, apathy at least once a decade.
As the PR and marketing campaign around a new stadium ramps up, it feels like an awful lot of window dressing while ignoring an elephant in the room. A new downtown ballpark would galvanize the city and reinvigorate the city for a couple of seasons, sure. Unfortunately, the cosmetic improvements would ignore the philosophical and competitive rot that has taken hold of this organization. The best campaign in sports marketing is a winning in product. Period.
Tearing down an aging, yet beloved stadium is pointless if you are not first going to address the biggest issue currently facing the franchise.