An afternoon Royals baseball game and an Alcides Escobar start proved to be a combination that set FanGraphs senior writer Dan Szymborski into a Twitter tirade about the franchise’s fall from the 2015 World Series championship.
It began harmlessly enough with Szymborski tweeting a common lament among Royals fans: Escobar starting at shortstop. It later evolved into a full-throated rant blasting key members of the Royals, from manager Ned Yost to general manager Dayton Moore to owner David Glass.
The reason for Szymborski’s diatribe about the Royals is what he sees as the franchise blowing a chance to build off the success of the 2014-15 seasons and creating a strong and loyal fan base.
Through 52 home games this season, the Royals’ average attendance is 20,871 per game, down nearly 7,000 from a year ago. They are on pace to draw more than a million fewer fans than in 2015 and win just 50 games.
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The sudden decline has angered Szymborski.
“People ask me why the Royals make me fume — what makes me angry is just the waste,” he tweeted. “The Royals had essentially jerked the fanbase, made excuses and sold a poor product for 25 years. They finally have a decent product, roll through the playoffs and win the World Series.
“Baseball was *big* in KC, fans were more invested in KC baseball than anytime I remember since the 1980s. I said after the World Series that the team’s biggest challenge wasn’t winning the World Series, it was the next step, how they continued to push forward.
“Because just hotshotting a playoff run or two doesn’t create a new generation of fans. That’s the opportunity the Royals had. They never had 2.7 million fans before in attendance. They never almost broke the All-Star voting. People were mad about the Royals.
“Then they have the trophy. What they needed at that point was a serious investment in the next challenge, keeping a generation of fans. Never had the Royals had such a surplus of goodwill and it took them a year to fritter it away.
“The team rode on the crest of the World Series and the organization never cared about catching the next wave. They just hoped to keep everything the way it was and ride the cash wave for a couple of years, like an 18-year-old that scored on a scratch and win and headed to Vegas.
“And after two years of treading water and relying on inertia to keep them in contention, that ended and now they have a new challenge: Rebuilding and finding the next core of a good Royals team. But they’ve been slow, inconsistent, with no move other than nostalgia.
“They’ve squeezed every last dollar out of the 2015 nostalgia. Nobody’s coming out to see Escobar. The fans are *gone*. It’s taken them all of two years to lose a *million* fans. The fanbase dropped off as quickly as the Marlins did in 1997-1999.
“And that’s not the fault of the fans. The Royals successes in 2014-2015 could have been the start of a new story, one of revival, in which the Royals invest in the franchise and over the long-term, develop a similar regional fanbase to the Cardinals.
“It wasn’t start of anything. It wasn’t a pivot to a new way of thinking in Kansas City. It was a pivot to nothing, with a manager, a general manager, and an owner, none with the imagination, the ability or the competence to make Royals baseball continue to matter.
“I think it’s terrible and very sad. I’m lucky enough to have a platform to speak my mind and if I won’t vehemently call out a screwing over of the fans, one part con job and one part clown job, then what’s the point of all this?
“And if me being mad about how the Royals are run, how they squandered the gift they were given is something that annoys you or enrages you, you’re following the wrong dude.”
At this point, I’d encourage you to read Sam Mellinger’s excellent analysis of the Royals’ problems since the World Series parade, which explains why things have gone south.
Szymborski’s criticism of the Royals, as noted, was preceded by a mini-rant about Escobar, who is batting .203 with an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .528 and has played in all but two of KC’s 101 games.
A free agent after 2017, Escobar signed with KC before the season and was given $2.5 million for one year, with a chance to earn up to $1.5 million more in bonuses if he reaches 600 plate appearances. He has made 376 plate appearances to date.
“Alcides Escobar’s plate appearance incentive clause is really weird — the *Royals* pay *him* every additional 25 PA he gets when by all logic, it should be the other way around,” Szymborski tweeted.
“In other words, the Royals signed Escobar to a disincentive clause but the organization is too grossly incompetent to even notice the situation.
“The Royals are like a the dog who chases a fire truck and then catches the fire truck and doesn’t know what to do so the dog signs Alcides Escobar and plays him forever for not a single coherent reason.”
Apparently, Szymborski got some feedback from fans, and that’s when he tweeted that the Royals’ 2015 World Series title and 2014 American League pennant were basically dumb luck.
“I’m just amazed that there are people out there that think the Royals won the WS because of some genius planning. No, they’re some guy who discovers gold in his backyard when trying to blow up gophers with homemade fertilizer bombs in his backyard for a Youtube video,” he wrote.
He later commended the Royals players for overachieving, but said, “Moore has shown little ability outside of those two playoff series to sign predictable overachievers.”
When a fan tried to give Moore credit for recognizing Lorenzo Cain’s potential, Szymborski smacked that down and said Cain wasn’t an obscure prospect. He also wrote about the Royals and Escobar: “A team that’s 31-69, won’t compete for years, and can’t figure out how to stop playing a veteran that’s one of the worst players in baseball for *years*? That’s not a competent organization, period.”
Szymborski said his rant, which continued for hours as he responded to fan questions, wasn’t about bashing the Royals, per se. “Frankly, my thread was motivated because I feel you guys deserve a lot better,” he tweeted.