Corban Goble is a Royals fan. He writes about music for Time Out New York.
I’m a Royals fan. And yeah, I’ve taken plenty of shit about it. To people more well-versed in the regal baseball traditions of the East Coast, saying the RoyaIs are your favorite team is a little like saying that Pavement is your favorite band—no one’s going to take you seriously.
But, that’s all just chatter. I can’t claim to be the enthusiast I was in my youth, but I still rep my team in perpetuity. For example, I’m really into royal blue, the color, right now, and naturally that has coincided with the acquisition of many choice vintage Royals items per eBay. When my worlds collide, I seize the day. I up the chaos coefficient and create some real high-concept obnoxiousness. What’s more obnoxious than a white guy in New York wearing a Royals Starter jacket, and acting snotty about it? My point exactly—if that kid weren’t me, I would almost certainly kill him in cold blood.
The last couple Royals seasons were not crushing in any particular way. They were mostly just numbing slates of spectacularly subaverage baseball, muted further by my growing personal disinterest in all things powder blue. The presence of some of the league’s most hateable players like Rick Ankiel, Kyle Farnsworth and Jason Kendall wasn’t exactly an incentive to pay more attention.
What’s more obnoxious than a white guy in New York wearing a Royals Starter jacket, and acting snotty about it? My point exactly—if that kid weren’t me, I would almost certainly kill him in cold blood. The man who brought them together, Dayton Moore, is a product of Atlanta’s John Schuerholz’s front office tutelage. The lessons have only half-stuck. He knows his way around a minor league scouting notebook but filling out a major league roster is his kryptonite. His speech is pocked with phrases like “knows how to win” and “locker room guy.” He’s always pointing to characteristics that are impossible to quantify. And yet he employed left fielder/genuine insane person Jose Guillen at the cost of $11 million for several seasons. He gave Willie Bloomquist (“can play anywhere” but secretly sucks everywhere) $7 million. And then Scott Podsednik for $1.75 million which doesn’t sound bad until you remember that he’s Scott Podsednik.
And for all of his minor league success – he’s taken one of the very worst developmental wings and made it one of baseball’s best (nine prospects in the top 100 as ranked by Baseball America, that’s a record) – Moore has also stifled the prospects he inherited. Remember when Alex Gordon was can’t miss? I do. You’re only as good as your front office allows you to be—Knicks fans who are currently experiencing the baffling re-emergence of Isaiah Thomas know what I’m talking about – and Dayton Moore doesn’t even allow mediocrity.
There have been plenty of reasons to turn my back on the Royals. But that would partially mean forsaking one of my favorite arguments: a debate that starts out as Royals vs. Cardinals but always devolved (evolves?) into whose town is better – and in the past ten years, one town has clearly surpassed the other (unless you’re into seedy riverboat casinos, in which case advantage: the Lou).
And man, it would also just feel weird. Growing up in an environment completely obsessed with its sports teams – my family’s mutual admiration of the Green Bay Packers being an honest-to-God explanation for us getting along, relatively smoothly, for decades, ditto the Kansas Jayhawks – something about my life would feel a little empty without the Royals. Only a year ago I was enslaved by the Zack Greinke march on the AL Cy Young Award, something I, perhaps childishly, I identified with; he’s a weird guy and so am I, and I always root for large-scale success by inordinately strange people (see Wayne, Lil).
Now, I’m only attracted to the roster on a farcical level. Moore’s ensconced in a decade-long dare to assemble the raggedest, most unpopular teammates in one room and see if that counts as a baseball team. It’s like “Major League,” except the fact that Charlie Sheen is absent, practically erasing any hope that some strippers show up. At the end of the day, they still trounce out of the locker room into the sea of pavement that surrounds the Truman Sports Complex, Garmins set to Lenexa, Hallbrook, the Plaza or otherwise.
And yet, as much as I decry, and as much fun as I have decrying for the pure enjoyment of decrying, I still sort of believe it can turn around. The relevant talent evaluators still cite the Royals as maintainers of baseball’s best minor league system, a trove so rich with talent and hard-throwing lefties that not even Isaiah Thomas himself could fuck it up. And while, yeah, a lot of those guys aren’t even going to sniff the majors until 2013—this year’s Springdale Naturals are going to be fucking sick—at least it seems like Dayton Moore appears to be aware they’re going to just have to suck it out until then.
Will they suck? Sure. But, at the end of next year, the payroll will have shrunken to $33 million, thanks to Gil Meche’s weird abandonment of guaranteed cash, expectations will be low, the Mexicutioner nickname will be a long-forgotten relic of the past (he’s a man of honor, Joakim) and Albert Pujols will be shopping for powder blue homes in Mission Hills after signing a 20-year, $600 million dollar deal replete with a line of children’s cleats only available at WalMart.
When you love something that can’t love you back, its hard to shake, because without the give-and-take of some kind of relationship, you really can’t get burned too bad. The extremes are limited; you either don’t care or care too much, and either way, if you get pissed and go away for a while they’ll be there when you return like nothing ever changed.
Also, starting in 2014 or so, PROTECT YA NECK, American League.