Yes, you had to watch the Royals slap singles until your eyes bled. And, yes, you had watch them be maybe the worst overall team to ever win a World Series. And, yes, you even had to listen to Tom Hamilton get all drooly over anything that Eric Hosmer did.
But you have a duty now. A duty to root for the Royals to be a great team — heck the best team in baseball — over the next month. It might hurt, it might make you feel icky, but it’s the right thing to do. Whatever it takes to make them hold onto their fleeting stars until it’s too late to trade them is your sacred duty as an Indians fan right now.
The days of the Royals making runs at the division are likely winding down, with the majority of the Royals’ core entering their walk years. It’s a reality every competing team has to face eventually, especially when you sold your soul like the Royals did to get to where they did a couple years ago. Nothing wrong with doing that, of course, and I sure wouldn’t care if I was a Royals fan and got to watch my team win a World Series, even if it meant dumping the farm system into James Shields.
But just look at all the players heading into their last year as a member of the Royals:
- Eric Hosmer, unrestricted free agent in 2018
- Mike Moustakas, unrestricted free agent in 2018
- Alcides Escobar, unrestricted free agent in 2018
- Lorenzo Cain, unrestricted free agent in 2018
- Jason Vargas, unrestricted free agent in 2018
Even with Hosmer, Moustakas, and Cain intact for 2017, the general consensus was that the Royals would be selling at the deadline. There just wasn’t enough pitching there to compete for another World Series, so it wouldn’t make sense to hold on. FanGraphs projected the Royals to finish 80-82, for example — good enough for second in the American League Central, but far enough behind the Indians where it probably doesn’t make much sense to hold onto all your trade pieces and jeopardize the future for one longshot at the playoffs.
The Royals seemingly knew it, too. While not a complete fire sale, they did at least set up the kindling for the fire when they traded Wade Davis to the Chicago Cubs prior to the season. A team going all-in for a World Series one last time probably doesn’t make that trade, especially one with a bullpen as weak as the Royals’.
Kansas City started the season looking like they wouldn’t even come close to that 80-win mark, let alone a shot at the playoffs. Their offense was abysmal in March/April, scoring a league-worst 63 runs with a .210/.270/.336 slash as a team. Their troubles continued, and through May 31 they were dead last in the Central with a 22-30 record. If things kept on the way they were, the decision to sell at the deadline would be easy. Hosmer, Moustakas, and Cain would probably be dealt, and suddenly the Royals farm system would be stocked for another run in a year or two. But then something weird happened. They started winning, the Indians started not winning, and the division was suddenly up for grabs. Hope infected the Royals, and it just might kill them.
In almost any other division, the Royals might have been dead in the water on May 31. But the AL Central was (and still is) extremely weak, especially when the Indians aren’t playing well. A little over a month later and the Royals are 42-40 and 2.5 games back of the division-leading Indians. Is that enough to entice the Kansas City front office to say screw the future and go for it all one more time? I sure hope so, and you should too.
Going for it now would almost guarantee doom for the Royals for the next 4-5 years, at least. Teams can compete for more than one cycle of core players, but it requires drafting well, something the Royals have not done recently.
From 2004 to 2008, the Royals had a series of great first-round draft choices — Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Luke Hochevar, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer were all drafted in that span and built the foundation for their World Series runs. Since 2009, though, it’s been a series of first-round flops, headlined by the fifth overall pick in 2011, Bubba Starling. At 24 years old, Starling could still theoretically turn it around, but he is no longer considered a legitimate prospect for the Royals, with his offense crumbling once he reached Double-A. Christian Colon, 2014’s fourth overall draft choice, was lost on waivers to the Miami Marlins after a disappointing minor-league career in Kansas City.
Trading away big prospects and not drafting well is not a good combination for a team’s future. Minor League Ball rated Kasnas City’s farm system as one of the worst (25th overall) prior to the season with a bleak outlook for the years to come. If they are going to compete down the road, it will have to come from within, just like they did with those late-2000 drafts. And right now, with their poor drafts of late, the only way they’ll do that quickly is by restocking via trades.
If the Royals do decide to forfeit the season at the deadline, they wouldn’t be the first to do so in the division. The Chicago White Sox traded away Chris Sale and Adam Eaton in monster deals prior to the season, and they will likely trade Jose Quintana soon if he remembers how to pitch. Chicago made great deals and turned their struggling farm system into one of the league’s best overnight. The last thing I want is for another division rival to do the same thing.
That’s why I’m calling on you, fellow Indians fans, to join me. Join me in helping keep the confidence of the Royals up for the next month. You got this, guys. You can totally win the division and make a run at the World Series. Please don’t sell off at the deadline and restock your farm system.
To quote one of the great organizers of the hugely successful Fyre Festival*, “Just do it and be legends.” Just go for it, man. Go for it and be legends.
*Don’t Google it, just trust me on this. It was a success, just like you will be. Please do it.