It's likely you've had more important things to do with your time than keeping up with a losing baseball team in October, so you probably didn't hear. Baseball's regular season came to a close Sunday, with our Royals falling to the postseason-bound Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 in extra innings.
The team, a shell of its former, fresh out-of-spring training, just-as-talentless self, finished the season with a 67-95 record. Our boys in blue haven't fielded an above-.500 team since 2003, and that fluky season was the lone time in the last 16 years that anything close to winning baseball has been played out at Kauffman Stadium.
Yes, another lost season is in the books, and, yet again, we're not sure what to make of it or what we have to show for it.
It began with round three of the Trey Hillman circus (which ended abruptly with an early knockout from Dayton Moore), and is ending with new manager Ned Yost's attempt to justify the team's plans to cut payroll by about 14% for next season:
“We can go out and spend $10-15 million and for what? To get us to 70 wins? Or 75 wins? If it gets us from 70 wins to 80 wins, what does that do for you? Momentum? Forget momentum."
There was the grossly over-dramatized story about a leg injury from drama queen Jose Guillen, the Jason Kendall mediocrity show behind the plate, and the now annual Gil Meche, "I'm not hurt... Ok, I'm hurt" saga on the mound.
Oh, and let's not forget the dropped pop-up in the first inning of the first game.
Hey, at least (or at best) it was eventful, right?
And now? Yost seems to be in it for the long-haul, which isn't necessarily a negative - he did a formidable job after taking over for Hillman in May. The issue is that the team isn't likely to be competitive - still - for another two years. Moore and the fans will have shown some kind of patience if Yost is still around to see this rebuilding effort come to fruition (If it ever does).
Gullien's gone (playing postseason baseball in San Francisco), along with most of the other veterans, to make room for younger and cheaper alternatives like Mitch Maier and Kila Ka'aihue. Kendall - selflessly, as some put it, and selfishly, as I saw it - played about a month during the season with a shoulder injury* and will be out until May at the earliest, and that's if he doesn't retire (fingers crossed).
*Oh, so THAT explains why half his throws down to second went into centerfield. Glad we got that cleared up!
The rotation, once thought of as a team strength with this same personnel, is now in a complete state of flux. Meche, after having mid-season shoulder surgery, will likely play out the last year of his five-year, $55 million contract as an expensive, ineffective reliever. Brian Bannister, who's as likable as they come, regressed so badly this season he's unlikely to be with the team in 2011. The jury is still out on 2006 first-overall draft pick Luke Hochevar, who was on the disabled list for half of the season with an elbow injury.
Zack Greinke followed-up his 2009 Cy Young Award winning season with a less-than-stellar performance in 2010, although most of that can seemingly be contributed to the overall play of the team. It's obvious Greinke could care less about pitching for the Royals while they rebuild, and if his comments to The Star's Bob Dutton back in August are any indication, he won't be in Kansas City when the team is ready to compete. I'd put the odds that the Royals trade Greinke this off-season at 50/50.
So, it's ugly, but we already knew that. It feels worse now because, after yet another season of losing, we seem to be right back where we were in October 2009. And 2008. And 2007. And.. yeah, you get the picture.
The weaknesses on the roster seem to be everywhere, and, yet again, here we are asking ourselves that same, familiar question:
Where are the prospects?
This is where the real frustration sets in. Moore took over the Royals in May of 2006. The five-year point is vastly approaching. The current state of the major-league roster is completely on Moore's shoulders now, and it's as bad as it's ever been.
Sure, many experts around the game have tagged the team's minor-league system as the best in baseball, but that means nothing until the major-league team is playing meaningful games in September.* And if we're judging Moore on the decisions he's made to get us to where we are now, there's little reason to think the next flock of potential stars will realize their abilities.
*Hell, it's been seven years since the team has played meaningful games in June.
You want more? Mike Moustakas, the most popular of the Royals' sure-thing prospects, should be the team's opening day starter at third base this April, but probably won't be due to service-time issues as it relates to when the team would potentially have to start paying him the big bucks. It's a sham.
So this is what we have to look forward to in 2011 and beyond. We have a team that's shaving payroll after having fielded yet another embarrassment the prior season. We have a team, having shed that payroll, that's afraid to promote its most talented prospects in fear of a tighter-than-tight budget causing those players to be unaffordable several years down the line.
Overall, we have a team that, year after year, shows us absolutely no indication it has any clue as to how to realistically compete in today's major leagues.
This is life, as we know it, as baseball fans in Kansas City. For a very scary and disturbing number of relatively young Royals fans, it's all we've ever seen and known in regards to the sport on the professional level. The worst part is, the team seems to be doing everything in its power to see that it's all we'll ever know going forward.
It's sad, and that's not me apologizing for the Royals. That's me feeling sorry for myself and other loyal Royals fans who've watched a professional organization somewhat-successfully sabotage the game of baseball for an entire city.