Thursday, June 15, 2023

Newsletter Excerpt, June 15, 2023 -- "AL Central Notes"


This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider.

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Kansas City Royals

Some of the best stories in baseball happen when a team you never see coming throws it into gear and chases down the league leader with determination. That’s what the Royals have done, losing nine in a row to pass the A’s for the worst record in baseball.

Last September, I spent a weekend in Kansas City with my good friend Rany Jazayerli, second only to Paul Rudd among famous Royals fans, and aging just as gracefully. There was a lot of chatter that owner John Sherman would be making big changes, and he did a few weeks after the trip, letting longtime executive Dayton Moore and manager Mike Matheny go. This was supposed to be a fresh start for an organization that had stumbled into a championship in 2015 in the middle of a 35-year run of failure.

The confusing part was Sherman’s decision to retain J.J. Picollo, elevating him to GM in Moore’s absence and handing him the keys to the roster. Picollo wasn’t new blood; he’d been with the Royals since 2006, working first as director of player development and later as assistant GM. He had a big part in that 2015 team’s success, and also in the years of disappointment around it. If the Royals wanted a change, keeping the guy who had been Moore’s bobo for 15 years was a strange way to do it.

Piccolo has had the conch for about a year now, and it’s been a disaster. The major-league pitching staff has gone backwards. Piccolo lit tens of millions of dollars on fire and made the team worse by signing Jordan Lyles, Franmil Reyes, and Jackie Bradley Jr. The Royals’ best pitcher is 39 and their best player is 33. More than five years into a rebuild, one Piccolo has had a big hand in, the farm system ranks 16th and the MLB team dead last.

What are we even doing here?

The Royals have, at times, hidden behind the “small market” shield. The truth is, there was a time when the Royals were as innovative as any team in the game, playing exciting ball, developing superstars, and paying the best of them. The Royals are maybe my favorite example of the idea that it’s not your market that determines your fate, but your owner and his commitment to winning.

Does John Sherman have that commitment? We don’t know yet. He seems more focused on getting a downtown mallpark at the moment. It’s been nearly four years since he bought the team, and they are no better off than they were the day he arrived. The decision to retain Piccolo simply wasted a year. It’s time to sever ties to the previous administration and get a management team in place that will bring the Royals into the 21st century.