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MLB hater nation: Kansas City Royals

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It’s been a rapid fall for the 2015 champs

Kansas City Royals v New York Yankees
Jakob Junis giving up runs was a common sight in 2019
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

In preparation for a potential 2020 season, I’m going around the major leagues and writing some mean things about each team. This edition will go to the wonderful state of Kansas Missouri to hate on the Royals.

Brief history of the franchise

After the glory days of the 70’s and 80’s - including a loss to the Phillies in the 1980 World Series - the Royals hit a bit of a rough patch starting in 1986, going 28 straight seasons without making the playoffs. Then in 2014 they qualified as a Wild Card team and made it to the World Series. The following season, they returned to the Fall Classic and won it.

The prosperity did not last. Three years after winning the title, they lost over 100 games, and then repeated the feat last season.

Occasionally, you’ll see people ask: Would you rather your favorite team be consistently good, but never win a title, or would you rather the team be awful most of the time, but then pull out a championship every twenty-five years or so? In other words, would you rather be the post-1995 Atlanta Braves or the post-1985 Royals?

What happened in 2019

The Royals lost 103 games - which was somehow only the fourth highest total across baseball. Their biggest problem was an anemic offense which ranked 14th in the American League in runs. They somehow also finished next-to-last in home runs, which is amazing considering that designated hitter Jorge Soler hit 48 by himself.

Speaking of Soler, there’s already talk of trading him before he gets too expensive. (There’s a reason why the Royals have such long stretches of dreadfulness.)

Even though the offense sucked, we shouldn’t let the pitching staff off the hook. Not when the rotation was led by luminaries such as Homer Bailey and Jakob Junis. Junis has won nine games in each of his three big league seasons, but his loss total and ERA have gone up each year. If this continues, he’ll be up past 6.00 this season. At least he’ll have company there, as rotation-mate Glenn Sparkman checked in at 6.02 last year.

The manager

Ned Yost was there for the World Series teams, and there for the 100 loss teams. Now he’s gone, and he’s been replaced by Mike Matheny. Matheny won a lot of games in St. Louis, and even led the team to the World Series. But there were a few concerns about his strategic acumen as well as handling of clubhouse matters.

Seriously, Mike. It’s Bud Norris. If you’re not going to discipline Bud freaking Norris, then just come out and say that you’re not going to have any discipline.

Alex Gordon: Where does the time go?

Seems like just yesterday that outfielder Alex Gordon was considered one of the top prospects in baseball. He made his major league debut in 2007, and by 2010, he was considered one of the biggest busts in baseball history.

And by 2015, he was a multiple time All-Star and Gold Glove winner, and being held as a cautionary tale for not giving on prospects too soon.

And then by 2018, he was called overpaid, and was held as a cautionary tale for not overpaying players because they were on championship teams.

That expensive contract is now over and he’s reasonably paid, but his main contributions come on defense.

The lesson learned by all this: Never grow old.

Maik-ed up

The Royals’ outfield was really bad in 2019, but that should improve now that third baseman Hunter Dozier is expected to shift to left field. Unfortunately, this leaves a void at third base which the team is attempting to fill with former Phillie Maikel Franco.

Phillies fans will remember Franco as a former top prospect who never quite panned out. Every so often, it looked like he was going to fulfill his potential, like at the beginning of the 2019 season when he was being touted as the best eight-hole hitter in baseball.

Oh, but he was wrong. Franco spent the rest of the season doing the same thing he had done for most of his career: Frequently grounding out to the left side of the infield. Maybe the Royals will finally unlock Franco’s potential, but it was clearly time for a change of scenery.

What to expect in 2020

When your biggest offseason addition is Maikel Franco, that’s a good sign that you’re not planning to compete. The Royals swear they aren’t tanking, but they also don’t seem to be eager to spend a lot of money to improve things either. The presence of the Detroit Tigers might once again keep the Royals out of the Central division’s basement, but they’ll probably finish a lot closer to the bottom of the division than the top.