The Kansas City Chiefs are playing a postseason game today, the first time they’ve been in the playoffs since 2006 and the first time they’ve earned it since 2003. Kansas Citians are ecstatic over this, and rightly so: the Chiefs came out of nowhere to win the AFC West.
But over on the other side of the Truman Sports Complex, the sad-sack Kansas City Royals have not been in the postseason for twenty-five years. They came within spitting distance in 2003 before falling back into oblivion.
So what can the Royals learn from the Chiefs? And in what ways are the two teams already similar?
Let’s take a look:
1. Build through the draft.
Largely under coach Herman Edwards (and, more recently, under GM Scott Pioli and coach Todd Haley), the Chiefs have built a strong core of young players, including Jamal Charles, Tamba Hali, Dwayne Bowe, Eric Berry and the Brandons – Carr and Flowers. Those players now form the foundation of the team.
The Royals have not been so lucky in the draft. The organization, as bad as it has been, has only claimed one No. 1 overall pick in the draft – Luke Hochevar, who has proven to be a below-average Major League pitcher. Other first-round draft picks have flamed out completely. Zack Greinke, perhaps the Royals’ greatest first-round success, has been traded. Under GM Dayton Moore, the Royals have seemingly made more solid draft choices, including recent acquisitions Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. Hopefully, they’ll be able to do what the Chiefs have done.
2. Make smart free agent signings.
This may be the area where the Royals could learn the most from the Chiefs.
On the current Chiefs team, two free agent signings in particular have been essential for the offense. Thomas Jones has provided stability to the running game, although many fans say Jamal Charles should be getting more carries. And Matt Cassel, who was practically Public Enemy No. 1 in fans’ eyes a mere year ago, has proven to be one of the best quarterbacks in the league this season.
During the current offseason, the Royals have signed three significant free agents: Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera. I wouldn’t be surprised if they also added a pitcher in the next few weeks. Francoeur and Cabrera are castoffs from their previous teams, and it’s doubtful they would have received contracts – or virtually guaranteed starting positions – with any other team in the league. Last year, the Royals paid millions for Jason Kendall, a once-great catcher who is way past his prime.
The Royals must sign more viable free agents if they ever want to turn the team around.
3. Sound fundamentals.
This one’s short and sweet. The Chiefs have played this season with relatively few penalties and stupid mental errors. The Royals, quite obviously, have a lot to learn.
The Royals are at least a season away from playing .500 ball, and maybe a season or more past that before they come close to the postseason. But it they can learn from the Chiefs in those three simple areas, they’ll be playing November baseball in no time.
Matt Kelsey is a Royals writer and the associate editor of I-70 Baseball. He can be reached at email@example.com.