Frank White has been fired by the Royals.
Consider that if you will for a moment. One of the greatest living legends in the relatively short and mostly un-legendary history of the Kansas City Royals has been told to walk away from the franchise. It’s clearly the quick and dirty version of what has happened and it doesn’t approach the many and varied nuances involved in the situation, but most people aren’t going to care about the nuances. Even if they were to know all of the small things that went into this very large decision, few minds would be changed. The bottom line is as stated above. The Royals told a local legend to “get bent”.
Only a select few will ever know what went down behind closed doors and at this point only one is talking: Frank. He’s been vocal in saying he was fired because he said some “negative” things while broadcasting games. I’m sure it likely goes further than that and the Royals have a longer list of things that they would trot out if it didn’t make them look like bigger schmucks than they already do. Hell, some of them are probably even justifiable reasons to fire someone.
Frank White though, isn’t someone. He’s Frank God Damn White! The man literally helped build Kauffman Stadium and subsequently helped win a World Championship. I believe that he is that butterfly that if you squash in the past, the future is radically different. Royals history without him is incomplete, it’s changed, it’s unrecognizable. Frank White’s don’t come along all that often, for most franchises they never have existed. From his accomplishments on the field to his public demeanor to his willingness to do public relations and work with the players. He’s a franchise’s dream come true.
I’ve met Frank White a few times and I’ve met hundreds of people who have known him professionally and personally. I’ve never heard anything negative about him. I’ve never heard anyone with a bad Frank White experience. I’m sure there are some that exist, a few people who rubbed Frank the wrong way or cought him in a foul mood. But the guy was always pleasant when I saw him.
I knew a man who was a normal guy. A very sweet man whose name was Floyd. He wasn’t rich, he wasn’t a public figure. He was just one of those great guys that you know. He’s passed on now, but in the 80’s and 90’s he was a regular fishing buddy with Frank White. I got to hear stories about Frank from this man (those he felt didn’t betray Frank’s confidence) and even got to have some first hand experience with some of those Gold Gloves you hear so much about.They needed to be repaired, and my family does that kind of thing.
However as a young baseball fanatic who grew up in a nearly all-white suburb, it was jarring to hear of a white man like Floyd and a superstar black man like Frank White fishing together. I’m not saying I grew up in the Jim Crow south or was ingrained with some type of racism, but it broke down some stereotypes for me. It helped personalize the man to me. He wasn’t just second-baseman Frank White. He was fisherman Frank White, buddy with Floyd. This is just one of thousands of Frank White stories of this nature that exist.
These little stories, these experiences, they help tie people to the franchise of the Royals. It’s unquantifiable, but it’s real and it’s valuable. The Royals can’t afford to NOT have Frank White. They’re throwing away a gift that so few franchises are given. So whether or not the Royals had any justification for Frank White short of some Isiah Thomas like sexual harassment, you keep the man involved as much as you possibly can. You deal with the idiosyncrasies, the un-asked for comments and all the rest.
The biggest issue here is that I don’t think that Frank White is exaggerating about how or why he was fired. I’ve seen the Royals many, many, many times over-react to criticisms and perceived slights. I know of multiple examples of the Royals front office at the highest levels being upset about things that bloggers write on Twitter. Not just opinions either, but facts and quotes from Royals front office members. They are terrified of all media members in the press box, which is why they are doing their best to keep out anyone they possibly can. There’s some kind of belief that if you can stamp out any negativity about the franchise, that it doesn’t exist.
They are a notoriously tight-lipped organization with an us-against-the-world mentality. There’s something to be said about that as a management technique, but ultimately it breeds paranoia and over-reaction. Two qualities the Royals seem to have in spades. They continually trip over their own feet trying to prevent public relations issues by creating them. Why does Dayton Moore read what a blogger writes on Twitter and then actually care about it? Why do they care that a legend points out a few things that even the least adept fans can criticize. Why would you cancel the best non-game event of the year in FanFest? Why do the Royals have to so often try and defend the indefensible? Why do they think it’s a good idea to kick Frank White out of Kauffman Stadium?
I’m a baseball fan. I’m a Royals fan. I’m a Frank White fan. Criticism is healthy and it’s interesting. The people who read criticisms are the same people that go to the stadium and buy tickets. It’s not the criticism and the negativity that leads to poor ticket sales, it’s the things that we’re criticizing. Frank’s very couched criticisms didn’t drive fans away. It was the poor play, the losing and things like firing Frank White.
This is the most excited I’ve seen this fan base in years and they are completely justified. This front office has turned one of the worst franchises in professional sports into a budding contender. They’ve maintained fan support when they should’ve had empty stadiums. They’ve done a lot of things right. But we all make mistakes, sometimes we make wrong decisions. Sometimes we say or do things that we regret. Trying to white wash them out of existence is only going to magnify them.
So I say to the Royals:
When you’re given a gift, you celebrate it. You don’t say out loud that you wish it were slightly better or different. It’s a gift! When you have a passionate fan base, you celebrate that with a FanFest. You don’t shut it down because you are having the All-Star game later that year. When you have a man who came from Kansas City, helped build the franchise both literally and figuratively, you don’t wish he was more like George Brett. You celebrate him, you help him help you.
You aren’t fighting against the world. Nobody is trying to make you fail or make you look bad. Fans want you to win. Bloggers want you to win. The traditional media wants you to win. Frank White wants you to win. Don’t fight it. Accept it. Enjoy it. Love it. It’s a privilege to have fans, bloggers and Frank White. Just imagine if that butterfly had been stomped and there is no Royals. If the confluence of events didn’t allow for a present that has this franchise. It’s a reality we don’t have to face because there was a Ewing Kauffman, a Frank White and millions of Floyds who buy tickets. Celebrate all of it in every way you possibly can. Sometimes you can be so used to fighting the current, that you know no other way. You don’t stop to realize that riding with the current can take you to your destination easier and faster.