Royals Should Look East For Guidance

One of the great things about I-70 Baseball for me is getting to learn more about Kansas City. My job takes me there a couple of times a week, and the passion I see for the Royals always does a couple of things. It makes me wonder what happened to the storied franchise and how can it be fixed? Obviously the first part is much easier to answer, but a solution to the second part came to me while watching Thursday’s game with New York.

As a relative newcomer to American League style play, it never ceases to amaze me how much the Designated Hitter comes back to haunt the team. Whether or not it is fair to say, the way St. Louis goes about business should be the model that KC adopts. The Cardinals refuse to give up and have routinely made a habit of pulling off a rally that snatches the victory on a regular basis.

Sure it can be said that money is a factor or that management gets more done, but the biggest difference still has to be on the field. Need further proof, try this one on for size…

Jose Guillen, the DH for the Royals, failed to score a run in the top of the first inning due to a lack of hustle. He should have scored easily but jogged around third and tried too late to correct his mistake. The Yankees ultimately came back and won the contest, but it was over as soon as no one got in Guillen’s face. Not every team has an Albert Pujols presence on their roster, but you can not tell me that KC lacks even one veteran leader in the clubhouse. The TV crew made reference to Billy Butler’s shoulders slouching as soon as the umpire took the run off the board yet not a peep was mentioned about how a Major League player made a Little League error.

The question of why Guillen still takes in millions may never be answered, but the truth is that some players bounce from bad team to bad team for a reason. Their reputation as ‘non-team’ guys keeps the better organizations from wanting the headache. It is especially true of a young team — look no further than Tampa Bay for the perfect example. While the Rays have built from within, they have also parted ways with top draft picks Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes for a reason. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much talent you have if the attitude and desire are not focused in the right direction.

St. Louis knows a thing or two about dealing with tough personalities, but the franchise chooses to take action instead of waiting for more blow-ups to occur. Scott Rolen found this out in a hurry, as the Cardinals did not care how great he was defensively. Keeping the chemistry of a team intact means more than any one player no matter the talent. I have always believed in the saying “The name on the front of the jersey should be more important than the name on the back”, but sadly this is rarely the case in professional sports. Second chances can always help players like Rolen and Young in new cities, but how many more teams have to endure Milton Bradley before enough is enough.

Take this article for what it is; a precaution for those who feel Guillen can be part of the solution. The Royals have the beginning of a strong core group that will only get better with the addition of some positive veteran influence. As the roster continues to evolve, the Minor League call-ups need someone to follow in August and September. Should the next chapter in team history read as a comedy or a thriller? St. Louis may be about to make the biggest splash in the trade market two years in a row, but the Royals just cannot seem to deal away the right pieces.

And that is the main difference between Missouri’s two teams. Plays like Guillen’s mental meltdown are almost expected because Kansas City continues to employ the wrong type of competitor. Unless the culture changes from the ground up, the Royals will continue to be an afterthought for years to come, and the home for the 2012 All-Star Game deserves better.

7 thoughts on “Royals Should Look East For Guidance

  1. The reason the roylas have to live with a guy like guillen is simple. The LeBron James idea of getting all the good players on one team and making others take less has been around for years in baseball. Mid level players will take less to play in Boston or New York because they want to play with the superstars. This leaves the Royals playing the part of the Atlanta Hawks giving Joe Johnson a max level deal. Guillen is our joe johnson. He has talent, has a horrible contract, and was willing to get paid rather than win when he went shopping for a team. Joe Johnson will make more than lebron but is in no way better. To say you have to change the culture is simple but it is not as simple as just saying we want to win. The players have to break their love affair with six teams and be willing to play for the rest of the league.

    1. It isn’t so much that the Royals have to settle for players like Guillen, it is the fact that they have put up with his antics for so long. Yes I mentioned the Cardinals but also the Rays who have had success in moving players that didn’t fit in with the team model. Also it isn’t as simple as using Johnson as an example because KC could choose to trade him now and still get something back for him.

  2. It’s easy for Cardinals fans to look back at the Royals in hindsight and say, “Oh, what a poor, stupid little baseball franchise.” Yes, the Royals are going through a rough stretch right now, but to say the team needs to learn from the Cardinals is insulting. The Royals don’t need a “Big Brother” across the state. They’ll be just fine.

    1. “Yes, the Royals are going through a rough stretch right now, but to say the team needs to learn from the Cardinals is insulting.”

      How is that insulting? I don’t think that’s wrong to say at all. It’s not meant as an insult, and it should not be taken that way.

      I think you hit the nail on the head, Josh.

      Good read.

    2. I think you missed the main point of the story, and it isn’t that I look down on the Royals. Many teams struggle with certain personalities on their team but when does it get to be too much. When I was in KC for the Cards/Royals series last year, the majority of the fans were all calling for Guillen’s head due to his lack-luster play in the field. Maybe you chose to look at it from a in-state comparison, but I was looking at baseball as a whole. If clubs like Kansas City make the smart choice and cut ties with certain attitudes on the team, that is what will help the team grow far more the next decade. But hey, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

  3. Trying to model your franchise after another, long-established and successful one is a futile effort. There are too many variables to take into account to make such an attempt at benchmarking.

    Besides, it’s not as if the Cardinals follow an intelligent, long-term vision of player development; their strong-willed and stubborn middle manager would turn the Cardinals into something approaching the Royals and the team’s constant importing of mediocre, Proven Veterans, if he had the chance. And judging by this season’s moves, he has.

    The Royals’ success from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s was built on a foundation of scouting and player development, and a remarkable run of lucky trades. If they focus on the first part, they’ll have the raw materials for the second part, and eventually will return to prosperity.

    But following what the Cardinals are doing isn’t a right strategy. If the Cardinals continue to sign these high-priced contracts, they’re headed to a long string of mediocrity.

  4. I disagree with your premise. The Royals at one time had the best farm system in the Majors. They have had plenty of opportunities in recent history to draft the right players that would more like to succeed at the major league level.

    I do agree about Guillen. If he had Manny Ramirez career numbers he might be worth the trouble. However, not hustling makes me mad as a coach and as fan. These guys are paid way too much not hustle on every play. If he would have been at any other level of ball, he would have been benched. College, High School, and little league coaches reward hustle and effort. Maybe players should be fined for every time they don’t hustle down the line.

    Derek Jeter is closing in on forty and still hustles down the line regardless if its a slower roller to the pitcher or a chopper behind second. I’m not a Yankees fan but it is hard not to root for a guy who gives his all every day regardless of what happens. Very rarely will you see his jersey clean at the end of the game.

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