Long time readers know, one of my favorite things is to quote the Buddy Bell Axiom:
Never say things can’t get worse.
It seems appropriate because we are now talking about a Royals team that has scored a grand total of two runs in two games against the Houston Astros. They have 15 hits in that time. All singles. Their last home run was May 18, 2014. (Yeah, I need to add the year as a qualifier. You never know.)
I don’t usually like to compare sports teams in different leagues. But last night something happened I thought was appropriate. The Royals were at home against the Astros. On the other side of the 435 loop, Sporting KC was at home to New York. Sporting, with their rebranding, new stadium and engaged ownership, are definitely in the ranks of major league sports. As such, both the Royals and Sporting will be spending the summer competing for the entertainment dollar of Kansas City. You can get tickets to Royals games for as low as $7. At Sporting, the cheapest ticket is $32. This makes sense as the Royals will have 81 home dates while Sporting will play a quarter of that at home.
Last night, Sporting drew an announced crowd of 19,221.
The Royals drew 17,862.
Let that sink in for a moment. On a Tuesday night in May, with all things being equal, more Kansas Citians chose to spend more money to attend a soccer game in KCK than a baseball game at The K. You could have walked up to the box office at Kauffman (or logged in to StubHub), bought a ticket for under $10 and basically selected where you sat once you entered your stadium. Or you could have bought a standing room only ticket at Sporting Park and squeezed along a rail behind the north goal.
Spare me your “But soccer sucks” rants. Whether or not you like soccer isn’t relevant to the point.
The point is, the Royals aren’t just losing on the field. They have waged a three decade long war against their fan base. Every time I meet someone in their teens or 20s who is a Royals fan, I ask them, “Why?” Why would you give your fandom to a team who shoves a subpar product in your face and otherwise treats you like the garbage that sticks to the bottom of your shoe? Myself? I’m a lost cause. I was there for the glory and I remember it and I think about how perfect it would be to get back to that level. I guess that makes me kind of dumb. Or hopeless. Or both.
This Royals franchise is at a crossroads. 2014 is the year it was all supposed to come together for Dayton Moore and his Process. And here we are, treading water in the dreaded sea of mediocrity. What is the cost of another failure? Wholesale firings? I’m not necessarily against that (I’ve called for Dayton’s dismissal and I continue to stand behind that. I wrote it, after all) but that likely means another complete rebuild. Or at least a rethinking. That’s probably a good idea, but how long would it take a new regime to affect change? One year? Two years? Do we have the stomach for that? Do we have a choice?
I don’t know anymore. And that makes me sad for the state of baseball in Kansas City.
Last year, we were at a similar point and the Royals went on a second half roll where they at one point won 15 of 20 games and wedged themselves back into contention. Can they do it again for the second consecutive season? Watching the hitters fail at an alarming rate and the pitching regress, I’m skeptical.
But I’ll keep coming back. Yet it increasingly feels like I’m in the minority. And that’s not a good thing for the Royals.