What is the value of patience? How much patience should be granted to one organization versus another? Is there a set standard, or is it more intangible, and you know it when you see it?
As the 2022 season trudges on, many of the conversations fans are having now feel all too similar to the conversations that were being had during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Rebuilding clubs don’t often take six to eight seasons to turn things around, but is there a different set of rules to view a rebuild when speaking specifically about the market in Kansas City versus another? The local media and the organization itself would have you believe there should be.
But when evaluating the path forward for the Royals as more and more of the minor league prospects make their debuts, it’s important to know how we got to this point and the missteps along the way.
One obvious example, and perhaps the most damming, is the roster decisions at the major league level in regards to how the money is spent and the types of players it’s spent on. Since 2018 the Royals are 28th in all of baseball in total wins. The significance of that number isn’t necessarily relevant in the count itself, it’s in how the resources were allocated to get to that number.
Fans are often told the economic limitations of the Kansas City market is why the Royals can’t build a consistent winner. Fans are told the payroll restrictions of being in a small market are why a “rebuild” was and is necessary after winning the World Series in 2015. Fans were also told that no matter what rebuilding may look like, the Royals do not believe in tanking and would do their best to put a competitive team on the field.
It’s these three sentiments that do not square with one another given what has actually transpired.
The Royals rank 13th in lowest cost per win (total salary / wins) at $1.66MM in MLB since 2018. That number alone isn’t egregious, but when judged against the teams spending less per win than the Royals, a different picture is painted.
|Team||Total Salary||Wins||Cost Per Win|
|Tampa Bay Rays||$ 250,687,942.69||347||$ 722,443.64|
|Oakland Athletics||$ 311,825,543.09||331||$ 942,071.13|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||$ 257,481,821.40||246||$ 1,046,674.07|
|Cleveland Guardians||$ 354,554,527.07||315||$ 1,125,569.93|
|Miami Marlins||$ 274,243,736.52||233||$ 1,177,011.74|
|Milwaukee Brewers||$ 413,604,795.60||331||$ 1,249,561.32|
|Chicago White Sox||$ 396,891,298.11||278||$ 1,427,666.54|
|Minnesota Twins||$ 446,168,735.99||308||$ 1,448,599.79|
|Baltimore Orioles||$ 279,521,665.32||192||$ 1,455,842.01|
|Seattle Mariners||$ 462,485,472.37||290||$ 1,594,777.49|
|Atlanta Braves||$ 530,214,951.04||326||$ 1,626,426.23|
|Cincinnati Reds||$ 435,287,494.73||265||$ 1,642,594.32|
|Kansas City Royals||$ 380,093,231.15||229||$ 1,659,795.77|
The Rays, Athletics, Pirates, and Guardians have all spent less and won more games than the Royals. In the case of the Rays, Athletics, Guardians – three teams fans should feel comfortable comparing the Royals to – these teams have spent significantly less on payroll and won significantly more games.
On Twitter, I posted a few polls to gauge the fans’ current point of view of the direction of the club. The results, while mostly unsurprising of a team barreling towards its third 100-loss season in five years, tend to show a fanbase is fed up with patience of being expected to wait eight years in between above .500 seasons with the same group running things.
Most telling of these two polls is the almost half of those who voted believe 2013-2015 was largely a fluke. Hard to describe this as anything other than what it is from the viewpoint of today’s state of the franchise: with Dayton Moore running things it’s more likely he got lucky to put a winning team together than it being part of any kind of intelligent design.
And it would be hard to argue against that, if we’re all being honest with one another. This is the same leadership that’s lost 95-plus games more times than they’ve finished above .500 since they took over full time in 2007. This is the same leadership that’s never put together an offense that’s finished above 23rd in walks or 20th in home runs.
This is the same leadership that’s had the misfortune of building a competitive team in a small market during the era of the Tampa Bay Rays. For all the “flags fly forever” snarking Royals fans can do towards the Rays and A’s fans out there, it’s hard to justify the bottoming out in the standings and slow burn to winning when those two franchises don’t have the same issues. This is the same leadership that’s paid about double per win over the past five years, after all. But…
Change is apparently coming. I asked in this space a couple weeks ago if the all the names in the organization needed to change in order for change in the standings to start taking place. Today brought news that at least one name is changing effective immediately –
If there’s been a positive over the past few seasons it’s been the growth in the Royals minor league hitters. Nick Pratto and MJ Melendez enjoyed significant turnarounds in their development, Bobby Witt Jr. became the best prospect in baseball, and Vinnie Pasquantino has gone from 11th round pick to a legit potential middle-of-the-order bat.
It makes sense at this point to pair Alec Zumalt, the person most responsible for the turnaround in the organization’s hitting development in the minor leagues, with the major league roster to see if he can unlock a similar type of improvement there. To have a familiar face around in the big leagues for the younger players when they get their call-up makes sense as well.
But this can’t be the only place there’s change in the organization. A new voice as hitting coach is a good first step but something more needs to be done because…
No matter how much improvement there is in the minor leagues on offense with the new approach there, the same group of people are still in charge of acquiring and supplementing the major league roster with quality free agents and trades, two things they haven’t been very good at in a long time.
Roster and playing time decisions continue to baffle. Ryan O’Hearn is a mainstay on the roster despite years of poor performance while others are let go despite far better production. The best run organization in baseball can find use for a platoon outfielder with a goofy laugh, but the Royals traded him for a no-hit middle infield prospect, something this organization has had in abundance for its entire existence.
The Royals may have something here with hitting prospects coming up and some new blood being promoted into roles that are more heavily relied upon, but the warning signs are still there. The same people are at the top. Patience can be requested but it is not required.
Trust in a process that has resulted in three 100-loss seasons out of five after a decade in charge is not required.