For most of the time they’ve shared Kansas City, the Chiefs and the Royals have been nothing alike. They were like the bizarro versions of one another. When one was bad, the other was good. The Chiefs ruled the 60s and the 90s, and in the late 70s and most of the 80s KC was firmly Royals country.
It’s not like one team was just a little better than the other at any given time, either. When the Chiefs were good, the Royals were awful, and vice versa. The two teams have never been to the playoffs in the same year. It’s like there was some kind of rule that Kansas City was only allowed to have one competitive team at any given time.
But at least we had one. In 2007, even that changed. Kansas City, for the first time in its history, had two consistently terrible teams. Both were among the worst in their respective leagues for the next three straight years. Our futility as a sports city was unmatched during this time. We became a joke, and the fan base became embittered. Both reacted in different ways. Royals fans fell back on the self-deprecation they’d honed over the preceding 20 years. Chiefs Nation, not as used to humiliation and defeat, reacted in a much less mature fashion*. We shut our eyes, insisted everything was on the right track, swallowed every excuse fed to us, and broke out the torches and pitchforks every time someone dared to suggest all was not well. It was a dark time in Chiefs fan history. A dark, shameful time.
Every team has bad stretches, and every sports city goes through disappointing times (except Cleveland, obviously). What made this stretch so frustrating for me was that our teams were sucking in exactly the same way. Despicable owners, unintelligent coaches, outdated strategies, bargain-basement payrolls, and underneath it all an inexplicable smugness. “Uh, we know what we’re doing, Kansas City. Our eyeballs are never, EVER wrong.”
The free agent signings were remarkably similar:
- Jason Kendall=Mike Vrabel- Old, slow players who perform poorly by all evaluations and yet start every game and receive endless praise from the organization. Experience, grit, intangibles, blah blah blah.
- Jeff Franceour=Thom Jones- OBP and YPC among the worst in the league, respectively. But yeah, leadership!
- Horacio Ramirez=Mike Goff- Both brought in to be one starter of five (SP, OL). Neither lasted close to an entire season.
- Rick Ankiel=Mike Brown- Both were promised their sport’s version of center field in order to lure them here. Away from their many other suitors, presumably.
more after the jump:
The spin from both sides also sounded exactly the same. “It’s not our fault, its this damn small market. So unfair! But don’t worry, we’re really, really great at our jobs, and know how to overcome this unjust system. The intricacies are too complex for the likes of you, but suffice it to say it involves spending less than everyone else, and takes many, many years. How many? We can’t answer that. Just know that however long it takes, its the last regime’s fault.”
They even started behaving the same way towards the media. Like a**holes, for lack of a better description. The Royals pulled credentials, the Chiefs attacked reporters for “speculation.” Dayton Moore threatened to seize employees’ cell-phones, Scott Pioli put Arrowhead on lockdown. It began to look like the teams may even have been consciously imitating each other. Things looked bleak, in just about every way they could.
I doubt things turn around for the Royals any time soon. Dayton Moore is hopelessly behind the times. While good GMs are studying sabermetrics, he’s studying his Bible. He trusts his eyes above everything else, and thats a disastrous strategy for a baseball GM in the year 2011.
The Chiefs, on the other hand, have a chance to reverse their fortunes and end some of these troubling similarities. If they do, this turnaround will be for real. If not…..
The first thing they need to do is end this Royals-like obsession with locker-room leaders and intangibles. I’m not saying such things don’t exist, but their effect on the game is vastly overrated by announcers, beat writers, and old-timey football men. And really, can we ever be sure who these stalwart captains of intangibility even are? No, we cannot. If something cannot be measured, then……it cannot be measured. Sorry for the redundancy, but I couldn’t think of a better way to put that.
The next step, and this is something I’ve been saying for a while, is that we need to stop pretending spending less is somehow smarter. Mark my words, this attitude will have disastrous effects down the line. And this isn’t just another “Clark needs to spend more” rant. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how much we spend if we win. The problem is that spending less puts a team at a competitive disadvantage. Yes, some teams that spend a lot make poor decisions with their money. But thats a reflection of their own incompetence, not of spending $ in the first place. Willingness to spend is an advantage. There is no way around this.
Teams can win with low payrolls. To think your team is winning because of a low payroll is insane. Yet this is what some Chiefs fans honestly seem to believe. Does Pioli believe that? Hard to say. Clark Hunt knows nothing about football and cares only for profit, so of course he’ll want a low payroll no matter what. Pioli, on the other hand, is harder to read. Maybe he just hasn’t found guys he wants to spend on yet, or maybe he was ordered to spend less in anticipation of the lockout. But if he believes in low payrolls as a matter of course even post-lockout, then essentially he just thinks he’s smarter than everyone else. Unless he actually is smarter than everyone else, thats a serious problem.
This brief free agent free-for-all, if it ever happens, will be extremely important to watch. If the Chiefs pinch pennies, bring in has-beens, and talk about what great leaders they are, I expect last year’s 10-6 record will end up looking like a mirage in the long run. If Pioli rolls up his sleeves and jumps into the fray, even if he misses out on the top guys, I’ll be taking that as a VERY positive sign.
My gut tells me to expect a heaping helping of intangibles and another dead-last payroll. But my gut has been wrong on Pioli before. He just might surprise us here. And if he does, he’ll have me firmly in his camp.