Yosted

My overt and public hatred of the Kansas City Royals has led several people to ask me a justifiable question: why the Royals, of all teams? I will admit: I, too, am baffled. If you had told me five years ago that I would spend the entire 2014 baseball season in physical pain over the Royals being contenders, I would have laughed it off. They are a hapless, recently unsuccessful franchise (in the historical sense) that does not obviously deserve to be hated.

But here I am, legitimately thinking about quitting sports for a few weeks because I hate the Royals and their (relative) success so much.

And so, to help explain my prolific anti-Royals propaganda, I have attempted to lay out some general reasons as to how I arrived at this unfashionable bias, and I will now summarize it here for those that are interested:

1) I don’t like the way the Royals players act. To be honest, this is the most petty of foundations for my position, but it is the one that cuts at me the hardest: I know it is irrational to hate Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, James Shields, Greg Holland, Wade Davis, and Billy Butler for being white, bearded men that don’t “play the game the right way” — in that they celebrate in obnoxious ways and generally piss me off with the way that they look — but I would be lying if I told you I don’t hate them for those reasons anyway. Their very faces make me cringe. When they succeed — as they often do against my Cleveland Indians — the muscles in my jaw tighten, my hands form fists, and I swear to God I would fight them (and undoubtedly get my ass kicked) if I could. I do not think this is exceptional behavior. I tend to think sports fans hold irrational, uncontrollable, contempt toward the teams that often play, and/or beat their favorite team. I deride the Royals because they have emotionally abused my psyche for some time now, even when they weren’t actually good.

2) Ned Yost is the worst manager in MLB. This whole “The Royals play smallball, and succeed at doing it!” thing is getting old very fast. Ned Yost makes awful decisions that often put his team in adverse positions, and they sometimes win in spite of those decisions — not because of them. The speed of the team is an undeniable difference maker. Is that relevant to Yost and his managerial decisions? No, it is decidedly not. Is having them steal at will related? Yes and no. Any manager, given those players, would let said players run wild on the basepaths against teams that do not hold runners on with any sort of efficiency. There are too many links I could point you to here, so I will instead urge you to search “Ned Yost” on Fangraphs and start reading. And before you bristle at the idea of reading what sabermaticians have to say about a “smallball manager,” know that the writers at Fangraphs are basing their findings on statistics and research, as opposed to their gut. Did you not know that about sabermaticians? They are kind of like the scientists of the baseball world: it’s not that they don’t believe in the beauty of baseball, it’s that they believe in it enough to learn about it, and celebrate it through the knowledge gained. This is in direct opposition to those that have “faith” in their hunches being correct.

3) The national perception of the Royals is as off-base as Billy Butler was the other night. I’ll be John Lester, here: I see you wandering off of first, thinking to yourself, “this Royals team is so exciting to watch!” Allow me to step off the rubber (because I literally have not thrown over to first base since June of 2013): yes, the Royals steal lots of bases, and generally play a throwback style of baseball that was justifiably written off a couple of decades ago. They stole the most bases this regular season. They drew the least amount of walks, while also striking out the least. Both of those stats would say “old school, but inefficient,” but more on that later. How about this: they also hit the least amount of home runs and scored the ninth-most runs in the American League. And despite what we learned from last night and my personal assumptions about Yost, the Royals somehow only successfully bunted 33 times this year, just seventh-most in the American League. That does not sound “exciting” so much as “strange.” I am not one that needs the long ball to be stimulated by a baseball team. I am a former pitcher (and below average hitter) that can appreciate a low-scoring affair. The Royals have a middle-of-the-pack pitching staff, however: their FIP ranks exactly 15th out of the thirty MLB teams. The Royals greatest asset is that they are the best fielding team in the majors. This is not to be discounted, but it does make you wonder: is this what America is getting all excited about? To watch a slick-fielding team that often bails out its mediocre pitching staff and lineup that cannot hit for power? The reason America has hopped on the sex organs belonging to Kansas City Royals must be due to some kind of perverse nostalgia: “these guys play the game the right way, the way we played it back in my day even though I’m like 35 and was terrible at playing baseball and prefer to watch football these days.” 

More importantly, the country’s attachment to how long it has been since this team made the playoffs is ludicrous. It is irrelevant. “You would have to be about 35-years-old to remember the Royals making the playoffs,” we have been told time and time again. That does really suck — for Royals fans. Look, I’m a Cleveland fan and I do not ask you to pity me. I chose this life (and don’t kid yourself, no matter where you were born you chose to be a fan of the teams that you cheer for. It is not some inherent sentiment you had no control over.) Do I occasionally compete in “whose team is more sad than whose” debates? Of course I do, I am a human being that wants you to respect my strife as a sports’ fan. But ultimately, I don’t want fans of other teams to bandwagon onto my Indians, or Browns, when the teams have their moment, particularly if that moment is “making the playoffs.” Who cares? If the Royals make the World Series, that would be quite the story. Them making the American League Wild Card Game (and then winning it) is hardly an accomplishment. Ten out of thirty teams make the playoffs now. Also, if you really want to play the “this is how old you would have to be to remember this” game, THE ROYALS STILL WON THE WORLD SERIES 29 YEARS AGO. Thirteen other teams cannot say as much. So let’s not act like Kansas City fans are bereft of something they are entitled to.

4. Finally, and most importantly, these Kansas City Royals are a threat to the progression of the way baseball is played. The fact that they struck out the least, by far, and walked the least, by far, this season is ridiculous. It is ridiculous that they have made this work. Owen Watson had a wonderful article the other day, published by the Hardball Times, about pitching and hitting efficiency, and how our understanding of those things will ultimately drive us toward a more productive way to play baseball. The general thesis is one that I view as inalienable: the more pitches a teams sees, the more walks they draw, the better pitches they see, the more runs they score, and the more games they win. For the Royals to have ostensibly contradicted this all season long is anomalous: again, they have won baseball games in spite of their plate discipline, not because they are aggressive hitters attempting to make contact as much as possible. Theirs is a formula not built to last.

And yet, here I am, writing thousands of words to explain why I hate the Kansas City Royals. Perhaps, in a lot of ways, they have already won.  And if other teams emulate their “winning” formula, who am I to complain?

For the last time this season: Fuck the Royals.