Being a Royals fan and seeing a pair of related (and unfortunate) incidents/trends this week, and being Catholic and remembering Lucifer means “light bearer” in Latin, I did some quick research to see what “bearer of stupidity” translated to in the venerable language.
“Aquilifero stultitiae” doesn’t really lend to any nicknames. It doesn’t even lend to an easy pronunciation.
I was hoping it would at least be fodder for a good nickname.
OK. Here’s the setup. The Royals have sucked for the better part of a generation. Twenty-five years of baseball misery. Every effort made to compete with the Yankees and Braves and Red Sox of the MLB world has faltered badly, if not blown up in their faces like a 1920s gag cigar. Royals fans have been subjected to old-fart free agents and fresh-faced, overmatched youngsters. We’ve had stars like Mike Sweeney and Jermaine Dye and Carlos Beltran alongside malcontents such as Neifi Perez and Mike Aviles and Jose Guillen. We’ve had pitchers ranging in age and skill levels from Tim Belcher to Jose Lima to Jose Rosado to Dan Reichert to Mike MacDougald to to Hiram “Kyle” Davies to Eduardo Villacis. Don’t remember Villacis? He’s the guy who was called up for one start against the Yankees when other arms were available from Omaha, gave up like a billion runs in two innings and went deep into the International Witness Protection Program (more like the Witless Protection Program with this franchise). Managing magicians like Tony Muser (no prior MLB managing experience), Buddy Bell (losing record before KC enhanced markedly upon his exit) and Trey Hillman (no prior MLB managing experience and it showed) have patrolled the benches as well.
We’ve had excuses after excuses fungoed towards us. We don’t have enough money. These guys aren’t that old. Yes, they have been problems elsewhere, but they will work here. Believe in what we’re telling you. We don’t have enough money. This is the right direction for the franchise. It’s somebody else’s fault who has more money.
The latest incarnation of a plan has been Dayton Moore’s “Process” of building from within and sprinkling the developing lineup with seasoned character-laden veterans. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Especially considering the Royals payroll, at one point among the highest in the game, has for years been scraping at the bottom of the barrel along with the Rays and (occasionally) Marlins. Especially considering the total scatter-shot direction so expertly planned by prior GM Allard Baird.
The Process hasn’t done squat at the KC level, mainly because the kids weren’t ready yet, but for several years it was doing swimmingly in the minor leagues. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and others flat-out tore up lower-level pitching. More to the point, a pitching staff which has been woefully short on talent and promise developed a lot of both, with Danny Duffy, Mike Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi leading the way.
Praise was heaped upon the Royals. At long last, Kansas City was moving from their shack on the wrong side of the baseball tracks to the working middle-class neighborhood of Relevance.
Well, a funny thing started happening last year. Montgomery couldn’t find the strike zone, either at Triple-A Omaha or AA Northwest Arkansas. Hosmer was completely lost at the plate. Moustakas roared to life during the middle of the season, but a late knee injury totally took the starch out of his finish. Duffy blew out his elbow. Suddenly, the greatest minor league compilation of talent Major League Baseball had allegedly seen in years started to resemble a lot of Royals teams from the past 25 years — occasionally long on promise, abysmally short on wins.
It was like somebody overcharged the credit cards and took away the 26-foot U-Haul (and a whole bunch of full boxes) in mid-move.
Which leads to this past offseason. Moore parked the lumbering The Process to hitchhike with Win Now, By Gum. Wil Myers and Odorizzi exited stage left to make room for Rays pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis. Good move by most accounts, but with Shields’ track record and with the disparity in contract control between Shields and Myers, there was no mistaking the Royals direction. Win Now. Summary of early news conferences from Manager Ned Yost: We’re taking off the training wheels because we can Win Now. Spring training results, when it didn’t count, mind you: the Royals won.
Which leads to the past two weeks. The Royals, after a great start, are no longer Winning Now. They are Losing Now. They have lost something like eight of 10 and done so in mainly pitiful fashion. In fact, they resemble the Royals of the past 20-plus years. Can’t hit. Can’t field. Can pitch — some — but with meltdowns at key times.
Which leads to earlier this week, when Yost said Royals fans are upset because they want “instant gratification” — and, apparently, they shouldn’t be. For whatever reason, we fans should back off our long-festering desire to Win Now. We should return to the perpetual sunrise days of The Process until the team actually Wins Now.
All indications from you, Mr. Yost, and Mr. Moore were the Royals were geared to push for the first playoff berth the franchise has seen in nearly 30 years. That was supposed to be this year. Supposed to be. Suddenly, this team looks like it could just as easily have a hard time pushing the 70-win plateau which has been the company standard for oh, let’s see, the last 20 years. No progress from the supposed stars of the future (regressions by SS Alcides Escobar and Moustakas plus the suddenly powerless Hosmer). An abhorrent backup in defensive acumen and execution (Escobar, Moustakas, Jeff Francouer). A lineup that has, aside from Alex Gordon, seen its collective batting approach get worse instead of better with new hitting coaches on staff.
New expectations, fostered by none other than yourself.
Same old Royals. Fostered by misfortune, missed opportunities and misplanning. By none other than yourself.
So, instead of holding you accountable for the expectations you laid down on this season, instead of holding you accountable for the absolute chasm between said expectations and visible on-field results (again), we’re supposed to ignore that. Just push that aside. We’re supposed to suffer through another year which would be substandard for just about every other franchise in Major League Baseball. We’re supposed to let The Win Now Process revert to The Win At Some Undetermined Point Down The Road When We Catch Lightning In A Bottle Twice Process. And we’re supposed to sit there in our $20 to $75 seats, pay our $30 for T-shirts, buy our $8 beers and hot dogs, watch a brutal, increasingly clueless product (again, for the roughly 25th straight year) and take it.
Seventy wins. 70-92. Good enough to continue The Process.
Not in my world. Not after seven years of this regime, and not after a generation of unfulfilled hype and hope.
Ned Yost et Dayton Moore. Aquilifero stultitiae.