The Dividing Line

The 2012 season for the Kansas City Royals has been one of many ups and downs, so many that it would feel like a novel to go over them all right now with you. But maybe the biggest story to come from this roller coaster is the giant divide that is growing daily between Royals fans and Royals management. Speaking as a fan for close to thirty years, I have never seen such a strong division between the two. How did we get here?

This season started innocent enough. In fact, I would say there was more optimism in the air than there has been in Kansas City for a very long time. For once, this team looked like one who could at the least hold their own in a very weak division. But a massive trip and fall in the form of a12-game losing streak in April killed the buzz. Oh, and that ‘Our Time’ slogan. Man, that died a quick death. It did leave some nice wordplay of that slogan, including “Our Time to Lose” and “Our Time to Perform Below Expectations”. All that was really obvious was the expectation of just a .500 season was too much for these Royals. We went from just looking at the positive of things to the dog shit that you find on the bottom of your shoe. It was “Our Time” to reevaluate.

I think to many, this really was the breaking point. But to be honest, our story really starts in the offseason. When the Royals jettisoned fan favorite Frank White from his broadcasting duties, the backlash was severe. Was Frank great at his job? Not really. He was improving, but not great. But Frank is honest and that didn’t sit well with Royals management. Look, we get you don’t want your announcers talking trash on the team. But let’s put this in perspective a bit. The Royals have had losing seasons 17 out of the last 18. The last thing I want from my announcers is a sugar coating. So of course, that is what we got. Management has shown a tendency to be very thin skinned, which further alienates a fanbase that wants to win. Put a winning team on the field, and you don’t have to worry about criticism. At the end of the day, this was the beginning of the rift.

Obviously, the awful start of the season was strike two between fans and management. Hey, we didn’t expect them to go out and win every night, but we did expect them to be competitive. It took close to a month for that to happen, but by then things were already sour. Manager Ned Yost would comment that things were fine, which wasn’t the truth, and GM Dayton Moore would give out his vote of confidence. The truth is that is what leaders do; the problem is as fans, we have seen this story unfold so many times that it was too much to take. ANOTHER losing season. ANOTHER season of being the butt of jokes. More than anything, it felt like we fans were the only ones who cared. When you get the feeling that management doesn’t really want to fix things, it makes it difficult to want to be a fan.

Some of the good feeling came back at the All Star break, as the town of Kansas City rolled out the red carpet for major league baseball and really showed them that it is a baseball city. Even more evidence was at the home run derby, as a crowd mostly made up of Royals fans booed Robinson Cano for him going back on his word, while cheering for their guy, Billy Butler. As someone who was in the crowd, I can tell you the place was deafening and I have no doubts that is what it would be like if playoff baseball ever returned to Kansas City. You can’t create that sort of passion, and showed just how much the fans care.

Coming off that high, the Royals get back from the break and proceed to stink up the place. It felt like all the goodwill that was felt from the All Star break was now gone in one fell swoop. Management did acknowledge that starting pitching was a major problem for the club, but it took way longer than it should have to do something about it. Most fans were ecstatic when Jonathan Sanchez was sent packing to thinner air, and Jeremy Guthrie was acquired. It has ended up being one of Moore’s better moves, and Guthrie has helped solidify the rotation.

But I think that right there is where some of this discontent comes from. Jonathan Sanchez started probably a good 3-5 more games than he should of, when everyone was clamoring for them to either ship him out or at least quit having him go out to the mound every fifth day. Look at Luke Hochevar, a guy who is a former first round draft pick. The Royals have said publicly that they are bringing him back for another season in 2013, which blows the mind of most. The consensus is that if he hasn’t figured it out now, he isn’t going to. We see him as a pitcher with good stuff who isn’t consistent. Management sees him as a guy who is on the cusp of turning the corner…even though he has sat on that very corner the past few years. Look at the Yuniesky Betancourt signing. All are signs of what the fans perceived as trouble yet management continues to wait out until it becomes one big frakkin mess.

So we are just about a week away from the end of the season, and the Royals are saying all the right things. David Glass told Bob Dutton yesterday that he was willing to spend money this offseason to upgrade the starting rotation. He even said he was committed to building this franchise into a contender. All great words, and I truly hope he means it. But when that comes out the same day as word that season ticket prices are going up, that makes my skeptical radar go batshit crazy. Add in the letter sent to Royals fans for “their commitment”, and it seems as if the organization is going all out to butter us up. To be honest, if they mean it, I think that is great. I don’t think there is any doubt we are committed. I mean, we continue to venture to the ballpark and spend our hard earned money on a team that hasn’t won since 2003, and is the only team in the last twenty years without a playoff appearance. We are about as devoted as it gets. But even that is part of the problem.

At the end of the day, the disconnect builds from one simple truth. Actions speak louder than words. So the organization has given out a lot of lip service this season, but the play on the field isn’t backing it up. We want a winner. We want something to cheer for. Bottom line, anything less than that is unacceptable. For too long, we have accepted this team because we love them and want to be able to say we hung around in hard times and we were rewarded. In the end, we need the actions to speak to that commitment. Otherwise, it is just words blowing in the wind. I can honestly say that if I don’t feel like they put forth a good foot this offseason, then I am very likely to not be as involved next year. We have enabled this team long enough, Kansas City. Time for them to step up and hold them to their words. Otherwise, this endless cycle of losing will continue. Give us a winner, and we are yours.

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