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Royals Flushed: Talking Kansas City ball with Jay Sparks

I sat down to talk Royals baseball with my friend and fellow Columbian Jay Sparks this last weekend. Jay is a lifelong Royals fan, a general sports enthusiast, and an all-around excellent dude. You can find him on twitter @SparksJay, over at Rock M Nation as Tigerbartender, and discussing the Royals and Sporting KC on KFRU's "The Closers" show, which also features some guy named Larry Borowsky.

Please, no Moore.
Please, no Moore.

Let's start things out on a pleasant note. Joe Posnanski wrote last week that the Royals are the hardest team to love in all of sports. Is it true?

Yeah, I read that article. I think it's true. Ponsanski wrote about how long the dry spell has been, and that's part of it, but the worst part is that here in 2014 the team isn't THAT bad. The Royals are not going to lose 100 games like they used to, but there's just no hope that the franchise is on the path to truly contending, so I'm left with this terrible ambivalence. I love the Royals, and I want them to win every day, but every time they win, it reinforces the belief that maybe Dayton Moore might turn the ship around, and he won't. So when they lose, it's terrible, but if it leads to Moore's departure, I'm happy. And when they win, it's great, but I can't be too enthusiastic about that either. It just really, really sucks. Add that to the last 29 years, and yeah, I think they're the hardest team to love in sports.

So is Moore then the problem? Why?

Well, I liked Moore initially. He got the big picture stuff right. He said early in his tenure that he didn't care about the Kansas City Royals. He cared about the Omaha Stormchasers and the Wilmington Blue Rocks, and the rest of the minors. Given salary constraints, this was the right way to go about things. Luhnow is doing it in Houston. And then he drafted a bunch of guys who looked good, and they mashed in the minors, and then it's been nearly all busts at the Major League level. I don't think Moore put the right coaches in place to prepare these prospects. Butler's power never happened, Moustakas is a mess, Hosmer is just guessing, Hochevar was bad and now he's broken, and don't forget Kila either. Bubba Starling can't hit, of course. Gordon turned it around, though he was a Baird pick, and Sal Perez is wonderful, but there have been so many busts that I don't think Moore can do this. He has the right big picture, seems to draft well, but he doesn't know how to build an organization that can properly develop, and that's poison. He needs to be fired. (editor's note: After this interview was complete, hitting coach Pedro Grifol was re-assigned and Dale Sveum was hired for the job.)

What were your thoughts on the Myers trade?

It was the breaking point for me with Moore. He made the trade not to help the team, but to save his job. And now Shields needs to be traded. Also note that Myers was a mess when he got to Tampa. They immediately sent him down to work on his swing and didn't bring him back until long after Super-Two. It wasn't about money, it was about rebuilding what the Royals coaches messed up with him.

This is getting depressing, Jay. Let's talk about cheerier things, which unfortunately probably doesn't include Yordano Ventura right now. What's there to like about the team?

Well, Ventura is something. His elbow is not damaged. He might need to change some things, but he's legitimately good. I don't think the league is going to adjust to him, and he's not really injured at this point. Alex Gordon is a good guy to have on the team. He's not a superstar, but he's a good hitter, and his arm in left-field is a joy. It's at the point where I'm always hoping to see opposing 3rd base coaches waving guys in against him (editor's note: We watched Gordon nearly throw out a Blue Jay at home during the interview. Gordon has a gun, and the throw would have been successful had it not hit the runner). And finally, Salvador Perez is fantastic. He's like a young Yadi, and yes, I know how good Yadi is. Truly great behind the plate, outstanding contact skills, and developing the rest of his batting game. Plus his head's on straight and he has one of the most team-friendly contracts in baseball. Can I also mention we have really great sportswriters who care about the Royals? Posnaski, Rany, and others too. I think all the losing and ennui leads to artistic depth.

So, living in Columbia as a Royals fan...

It's really hard looking East and seeing everything done the right way, and then looking West. Putting on a Royals hat every day and walking around, I think some of us fans feel like we have PTSD. It's hard. Every time someone walks up (usually a Cardinals fan) and says "so you like the Royals?" you just flinch. There are lots of ways that conversation can go, and most of them are bad. Older Cardinals fans are generally fine, but a lot of the younger guys don't even know what failure is like. Hell, before things got really good with Albert, even those medicore teams with McGwire were exciting. You guys were in the national media, it was fun. But the worst is when Cardinals fans nod their head like they know what it's like. They don't. It's awful. The best things you can do is just listen and say "Man, that sucks." Misery loves company, and we like to talk about how much it sucks. So that's a good way to talk to a Royals fan. Just listen and agree how terrible it all is.

Do you get excited for the I-70 series?

Not really. What's the best that could happen? The Royals split or win 3 of 4 and then both teams go back to their ways. It's not like that's going to cost you all a playoff appearance. And Kauffman gets awfully red for those two games. It's embarrassing.

That all sounds terrible, but the worst thing about the Royals is Rex Hudler.

Oh man. He's like a wrestling announcer or something. Dude, there are 162 games. Settle down. Jay proceeds to do an uncanny Rex Hudler impression, at which point I make him leave my house.

It was a lot of fun talking ball with Jay. We watched the start of the Royals getting beat up by Toronto and the start of the Cardinals unveiling Oscar amidst another stellar Wacha start. The differences are startling. It's really hard to avoid being spoiled by the Cardinals success. Jay mentioned how stupid twitter looks when Redbird fans bitch about minor issues among a model organization which is still probably the favorite in the division, and even should they lose will likely be favorites once again next year. There's no one way to be a fan, but if you're not appreciative of the run the Cardinals have been on and probably still are in, some perspective is nice. Dayton Moore is a smart guy who understood the big picture, and he failed. It's a thin line, and the Cardinals will not always be on the right side of it. Enjoy that they are right now.

Many thanks to Jay for his time. He's well worth a twitter follow for those inclined.

Series Schedule

  • Shelby Miller and Danny Duffy pitch tonight at 7:10 (all times central) at Busch.
  • Jaime Garcia and James Shields go tomorrow evening at 6:15.
  • The series switches to Kauffman Stadium Wednesday as Adam Wainwright and Jason Vargas pitch at 7:10.
  • Michael Wacha and (hopefully!) Yordano Ventura are set to start Thursday at 7:10, in what could be an electric pitcher's duel to close out the series.