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.