This past week the Kansas City Royals ended a twelve game losing streak. A streak that was so bad it included a winless ten game home stand. Twelve games! That’s hard to do. The Royals have had more double digit losing streaks than any other team in Major League Baseball history! As Royals fans we’ve come to expect stuff like this, but for some reason this losing streak was especially hard to swallow.
Royals fans have been hearing for thirteen months about how their organization has the best farm system in baseball. If it wasn’t the best it was certainly near the top. This was not Kansas City media and Royals Public Relations saying this trying to make the Royals more relevant that they deserved. This was baseball experts from multiple organizations, whose job it was to opine on all things baseball, giving the Royals organization some genuine positive feedback. Since Kansas City has nowhere near the largest fan base in baseball, and thus these experts were not trying to boost advertising numbers, I have to assume that their assessment is genuine. Then you add the momentum of the first crop of prospects arriving at the big league level and playing well. I looked back to some of last season’s stories and you can see the momentum building. Royals fans, and even some non Royals fans began to buy in. I thought the days of 19 game losing streaks and other historical futility were behind us…at least for a few years. As it turned out, “a few years” was only three games on a west coast road swing.
That’s what made this losing streak so hard to take. After six years of the Dayton Moore Era this what Royals fans have? Players getting picked-off bases left and right, opponents scoring seven runs in the first half inning of the home schedule, bad starting pitching, bad bullpen, untimely hitting, and fielding lapses so preposterous little leaguers should know better? This is what the first harvest from the best farm in baseball looks like?
This losing streak certainly ran off any casual Royals fans for the entire summer. It made me and other die hard Royals fans that I know question why we are Royals fans in the first place, and whether we should remain a Royals fans going forward. The Royals have done a good job of dwindling it’s fan base over the years. It seems like in the last six months, starting with the Frank White firing, that the organization has tried to chip away at the bed rock of it’s fan base on purpose.
I’m a firm believer that once you’re a fan of a team, you are a fan of that team for life barring contraction or moving to another city. So I shall remain a Royals fan, it’s part of my identity. However, sports franchises are businesses. The relationship between fan and organization is more complicated than just a strait business-customer relationship. There is some non-rational emotional attachment involved. You can get mad and write David or Dan Glass, call a sports radio station, complain on blogs and message boards, or tweet “You Suck” to the Royals organization. You can do all those things. In this case I’m going to treat the Royals like I treat any other business that makes me mad; complain with my wallet. If the Royals think I’m going to drive three hours to watch mistake filled deplorable baseball while paying outrageous prices for concessions they are sadly mistaken.
It’s not just the losing; it’s the losing in spectacular fashion. It’s the annoying and astonishingly misplaced “Our Time” slogan. It’s the rambunctious cheerleading in the broadcast booth and social media. Everything about this organization seems to miss the mark with me. I would be lying if I said I’m never going to go to another Royals game, or buy anymore Royals gear. But I am a scorned and bitter fan right now, and it might be a while before I do any of those things. Three wins isn’t going to solve this. An exceptional twelve games winning streak probably will. That’s the funny thing about winning baseball games, it solves a lot of problems for an organization and it’s fans. However, this organization does not have a track record of quick recoveries on the field or being progressive in reaching out to fans off the field. I don’t know why I would expect a new behavior to start now. To me, the Royals have a long way to go, but they won’t be using my time or money to get there.