The news came at the bottom of a press release. They way bad news often comes.

The release was titled “Royals Award Luncheon Set for January 11.” It immediately struck me as odd. Because for the last three years, the team has handed out their post season honors at the annual FanFest held in Overland Park. Why would they do it at lunch on a Wednesday?

Then I got to the end…

In addition to the Royals Awards Luncheon, the club will also set out for annual Royals Caravan in January.  Royals FanFest, which debuted in 2008, will not be held in 2012 due to preparations for the upcoming MLB All-Star Game and related festivities, including the MLB All-Star FanFest.  Plans call for the event to return to the Overland Park Convention Center in 2013.

Boom.

Just like that, one of the best events in Kansas City during the winter (quick… name something else that is as well attended over the course of a weekend from December to February. I’m coming up empty.) was cancelled.

The Royals once again lead the league in public relations ignorance.

This is a move that is inept. Incompetent. Insane.

Seriously, how dumb is this? This organization spent the last three years cultivating and rebuilding a fan base where the annual FanFest plays an enormous role. It’s an opportunity for the fans to get up close and personal with the players and staff of the team. I’ve attended every year and have marveled at how accessible Dayton Moore and some of the players have been. It’s great to see. I enjoy rummaging through the game-used gear (I have a Rusty Kuntz game used Negro League cap. Authentic!), the crap they cleaned out from the clubhouse (anyone interested in a locker sign for Luis Mendoza?) and other assorted junk. I’m not a collector or anything, but it’s fun to browse. It’s like the best garage sale in the universe.

Really, FanFest is just a chance to hang out with a bunch of like-minded baseball addicts in the middle of a long, cold winter. I want to be clear about this: I don’t care about the memoribilia, the autographs or the other collectables. I’m always ready for baseball, but when I leave the FanFest, my craving jumps a couple notches… From “I wish it was baseball season,” to “If I don’t have a game to watch, I’m going to go on a tri-state rampage.” I kind of think that’s the point.

GMDM talks about building a “culture of winning.” I believe in that. Losing is contagious and it drags an entire organization down. Moore has done a great job rebuilding the baseball operations. Unfortunately, the business side of the team is still dominated by the Wal-Mart culture that demands every nickel and dime be counted and stretched as far as fiscally possible.

They basically abandoned their biggest and best event of the winter and the excuse for that is the All-Star Game.  Really? Someone needs to help me here because I’m having trouble. How does an event in July have anything to do with an event in January? Yes, they are both technically “FanFests,” but come on… The Royals FanFest is about preparation… It’s about getting pumped for the upcoming season. It’s for Royals fans. The MLB All-Star thingy is a celebration of the game as a whole. It’s about the star power of the entire league. These are two different events.

Yet, somehow the Royals have made it sound like they’re the same. Way to justify your cheapskate ways.

Here’s what I don’t understand: The Royals FanFest has happened for several years now. In other words, the mechanism to pull this event off and make it successful is already in place. They’ve been through this drill before. I could see if they were gearing up for their first one ever, and they needed to direct manpower and resources to the All-Star event, how they could decide to postpone for a year. But at this point, the Royals FanFest should be a drop kick. You have the stages, the layout, the staff… But you decide to stick all this in mothballs because of another event – a different event – that is scheduled for six months later? In what universe does this make sense?  Besides, MLB runs the show at the All-Star weekend. Sure, they’ll rely on the Royals staff for a few things, but by and large, there will be a huge contingent out of the commissioner’s office pulling the strings. Good thing, too. Can you imagine if the Royals were in charge of some of the All-Star events? They’d probably drop the home run derby because baseballs are sooooo expensive. Then they would play the futures game at Community America Ballpark because they would have to pay their grounds crew overtime to get the field ready. There’s cheap. And then there’s the Royals.

Supposedly, FanFest is a money loser for the Royals. Maybe, but can you put a price on going out into the community and developing relationships? Particularly with the younger fans who have never seen your team win? How many extra ticket packages, Blue Crew memberships and gear is bought because of FanFest? If you know me, I’m all about maximizing your profit margins, but this is a one time event that builds excitement and goodwill for your team. If you lose a few bucks in January, there will be plenty of opportunities to make it back down the road. Because that’s how these things work. You sacrifice a dollar today to earn two tomorrow.

I love the Royals, but sometimes their actions are difficult to understand. In the big picture, this isn’t a huge deal. We’ll survive and won’t even think about it once the season starts. But this is a huge PR fail by the Royals, and points to a team that is still cutting corners at the risk of alienating its fanbase. They haven’t learned from past mistakes and remain the Wal-Mart of baseball. Sad.

I thought we were past all this nonsense.