Friday, June 02, 2006

Kansas City Loses Royal Status

The Kansas City Royals have endured a miserable season thus far, with a 13-38 record. This horrendous start comes on the heels of awful 2004 and 2005 seasons. Having seen enough of this ineptitude, Major League Baseball has taken a bold step. The league office has stripped the Royal status from the club, which is now known as the Kansas City Commoners.

The decision represents the lowest point yet for a once-proud franchise. The Royals won six division titles between 1976 and 1985, capped by the 1985 World Series championship. During that time, this Royal family was respected just as much as its counterpart in England. However, none of the six British kings named George were ever as powerful as George Brett. Kansas City’s George, like England’s George III, did lose some important battles to the Yankees. However, George III did not win three batting titles.

The Royals came into existence in 1969, due to the widespread assumption that the Kansas/Missouri border would be home to the world’s next great monarchy. The NBA felt the same way, so in 1972 the Cincinnati Royals made their way to Kansas City, renaming themselves the Kings. Similar to the Three Wise Men, NBA commissioner Walter Kennedy proclaimed, “A Tiny King will lead us.” Indeed, that season Kings star Nate Archibald led the league in scoring and assists. Ultimately, however, only one kingdom could truly rule in Kansas City. Therefore, the Kings began a new reign in Sacramento in 1985, blaming the Royals’ superiority on umpire Don Denkinger.

Unfortunately, the Royals have never been as regal after that 1985 World Series championship. Kansas City has not reached the postseason since then, and the club has finished with a losing record in 10 of the past 11 seasons. A successful monarchy is one that continues to develop respected world leaders. This organization has only been successful in grooming future New York centerfielders (Johnny Damon and Carlos Beltran).

After a surprising 83-79 season in 2003, the Royals fell back into misery with 58-104 and 56-106 records in 2004 and 2005, respectively. While not having the resources of Boston or the New York teams, the front office did make an effort to improve during the off-season. The signings of Mark Grudzielanek, Doug Mientkiewicz, and Tony Graffanino added valuable experience and ensured that Kansas City’s infield would be widely respected at the National Spelling Bee. The Royals also acquired outfielder Reggie Sanders, in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement’s clause that Sanders must play for every major league team during his career.

However, those efforts have not led to success on the field. The renamed Commoners are already 21 ½ games out of first place and 7 ½ worse than the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the second-worst club in the American League. Sadly, they truly deserved to lose their Royal status. Other monarchies have been abolished through legislative actions, coups, or wars. Kansas City’s is the first to be removed by Bud Selig.

Despite the bleak outlook of most observers, new general manager Dayton Moore is optimistic that the Commoners can regain their Royal status. He notes that Spain’s monarchy was restored in 1975 upon the death of Francisco Franco. Moore feels that the same scenario could unfold for Kansas City after the retirement of Julio Franco. Unfortunately for Moore, that retirement may never happen.