Sam Mellinger

The Royals are for sale, and here’s why that’s a good thing for Kansas City

At the moment, little is publicly known about the personality and priorities of the man who stands to be the next majority owner of the Royals. John Sherman probably prefers it that way.

He made his money in energy, starting and developing two companies in Kansas City that now generate billions in annual revenue. He has been involved in various community organizations here, including the Kauffman Foundation.

He is a longtime Royals fan and was a season ticket-holder before becoming a minority owner of the Cleveland Indians in 2016. He has a suite at Arrowhead Stadium.

Sherman’s discussions with Glass were first reported by The Athletic and later confirmed by The Star. Two sources described the talks as advanced, with one telling The Star that a deal could be finalized by the end of the year.

Glass will turn 84 next week and has never publicly talked about selling the club or a succession plan. He bought the Royals for $96 million in 2000. Forbes estimated the franchise to be worth $1 billion in April.

But even without a fuller picture of who he is and what he wants — we’ll continue to work on that — if his group is successful in purchasing the Royals from David Glass, it must be seen as good news here.

This is not a “Glass iz cheep” take, either. The Royals have long been limited financially by playing in Major League Baseball’s third-smallest market. Glass has said he operates the club to break even.

He deserves credit for investing heavily in the Royals’ farm system and organizational infrastructure after hiring general manager Dayton Moore in 2006, but the team has always operated in a lower spending sphere than most of its rivals.

Even in 2015, for instance, trades to acquire Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist were approved only if they did not add payroll. When the 2016 world championship encore stalled in part because of injuries, the Royals faced a critical decision: go all-in with the last season of the championship core, or trade pieces to jump-start the rebuild.

Glass wouldn’t bump spending, and the front office wanted to win. The result was one foot in each world, with closer Wade Davis traded for outfielder Jorge Soler but the rest of the core brought back in the name of one more run.

But, one more time: The optimism here is not about Glass being out, or based on any assumption of what Sherman’s spending might look like.

This is more about Glass not passing the team down to his son, and the assumption that an investment group headed by Sherman and deep with Kansas City connections will be committed to keeping the team here. Lets do these in order.

Dan Glass had long been thought by some to be the future boss. He took the club president title at his father’s purchase, though in practical terms his role has changed. He developed a reputation for meddling with baseball decisions in the early years, then was less involved, and more recently has served as a respected supervisor of day-to-day operations.

He has not had influence on major baseball decisions for some time and is generally held in higher regard now than when he did. Over the years, the picture of Dan from various sources has been of a well-intentioned man who wants the best for the Royals but would be overmatched as their owner.

That might sound more personal than intended. It’s just business, and the message from many who’ve worked with Dan over the years has been clear: nice enough guy, not ownership material.

The second part is even more important. The Royals have been in Kansas City for half a century. They have been here longer than our airport and most of our biggest employers. When Royals Stadium was built at the corner of Interstates 70 and 435, the latter was just four years old. Quinton Lucas, our new mayor, was in diapers when the Royals won their first World Series.

For most of us, the Royals have always been here. It can be easy to assume they always will. But that’s never been guaranteed. Franchises move regularly, particularly when their stadium leases are up, and the discussions of what to do with Kauffman Stadium ahead of the Truman Sports Complex deals expiring in 2031 have begun to take shape.

The Royals aren’t the A’s or the Rays — two franchises that are seemingly in constant rumors of relocation — but they are on that next tier.

Glass’ original directive as board chairman of the Royals in the 1990s was to find an owner who would commit to keeping the team here. He did that, and if he’s intent on paying that forward now, we should all be grateful.

Glass has taken a lot of criticism over the years. Much of it was fair, particularly in the years before he hired Moore.

But if he does indeed sell to a group that’s based in and committed to Kansas City, it will be his most important legacy here — even more than the 2015 parade.



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Sam Mellinger is a sports columnist for the Kansas City Star, where he’s worked since 2000. He has won numerous national and regional awards for coverage of the Chiefs, Royals, colleges, and other sports both national and local.
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