You did this. If you are a Royals fan, you had a hand in the team thats playing in Kansas City for the first time this afternoon. This is your team in a meaningful, intimate way that goes well beyond tickets and T-shirts and summer evenings on the couch.
By Sam Mellinger
The Kansas City Star
Kansas Citys sports passion specifically, joy for last years baseball All-Star Game and disgust over the horrible Chiefs created this years Royals team.
Nobody with the Royals will say this out loud, but its the truth all the same: Ownership had no plans to extend the payroll to a franchise-record $80.5 million this year until you made yourself heard.
Royals owner David Glass is often erroneously and unfairly accused of being absentee and out of touch. But he heard you. Saw you. Felt you. And he changed because of it.
Now, this isnt to suggest anyone should present a trophy or ribbon to Glass. One of the biggest payroll jumps in baseball (up about $16 million, or more than 25 percent from a year ago) means the Royals rank 19th in spending slightly ahead of the Twins and Indians in the division but well behind the big-market White Sox and Tigers.
But the point here is that Glass continues to do what he thinks is best for the Royals, and that opinion has been shaped by you.
This started a year ago, with the All-Star Game. Ticket sales spiked. More people paid to watch the Royals last year than any season since 1993, save the first year of renovated Kauffman Stadium and the fluke of 2003, when the team was in a pennant race. That was the first sign of Kansas Citys long-suppressed baseball passion reemerging.
When All-Star weekend finally arrived, Royals fans might as well have grabbed the sport by the neck and screamed: THIS IS WHAT WERE CAPABLE OF IF GIVEN A WORTHY PRODUCT!!!
You packed the stadium for the Futures Game, and that just doesnt happen. You took over the Home Run Derby with a fierce loyalty, booing a Yankee who said hed choose a Royal to play alongside him ... and then didnt. You showered your only All-Star with so much adulation that Billy Butler said it made him want to run through a brick wall for this city.
That drew the attention of the Royals front office. You could say their ears perked up a bit. And you could say their eyes opened in the fall, when they saw and heard and felt the anger that Kansas City directed at the Chiefs.
Kansas City has this national perception as sort of the capital of Midwestern kindness. And in most cases, we are a kind people. Need directions? Help with the door? Restaurant recommendations? Sure, absolutely, happy to assist.
But reward our sports passion with incompetence? Follow up promise with failure? Then this city will boo without mercy, flood every line of communication with raw criticism heck, there might even be a plane flying banners over the stadium calling for jobs.
Again, nobody within the Royals organization will say any of this out loud. But they observed the anger across the Truman Sports Complex parking lot last fall with a bit of shock and a touch of fear.
With a few exceptions, the Royals have avoided the kind of unapologetic vitriol that defined the Chiefs last season mostly because expectations have just never been that high. Thats changed in the last year or so thanks to the maturation of The Greatest Farm System Ever.
Dayton Moore and his Process will celebrate their seventh anniversary this year. Baseball lifers will tell you thats the absolute minimum amount of time needed to rehab a rotten organization, but long-time Royals fans will tell you thats about all the delayed gratitude they can muster.
When Glass said he set a $70 million soft cap for 2013, the reaction was strong and quick. The Kansas City sports fan would not accept this, and the events of the last year made it clear that the rules of engagement were changing, too.
The 2013 Royals did not want to be treated like the 2012 Chiefs. Last years All-Star Game showed Royals leadership what Kansas City could look like given a little meaningful baseball.
Glass green-lighted a payroll some $8 million above his previously set limit. Thats how they were able to completely remake their starting rotation. Thats how they were able to field, on paper, their best team since the strike.
You forced this change.
And this afternoon, for the first time, you will see the product of your passion in person.