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Great Lakes Royals


January 29, 2010 7:43 AM

In July, Royals will play on ESPN...the Televison Network

royals.jpgYeah, I know right?  Since when do the Yankees and Red Sox have an off-day?!

The Royals will be in Los Angeles for the 4th of July, when they will get to play their first Sunday Night Baseball game in the last fourteen seasons.

Given the history here, this doesn't figure to be a particularly compelling match-up.  For one thing, Zack Greinke is not currently scheduled to pitch on the fourth of July.  If Greinke is not pitching for the Royals, there's no reason to believe they will be a competitive game, and certainly, there's no reason to believe that the Royals and Angels will be very much of a ratings boon for ESPN.

But then again, who stays inside and watches baseball on the fourth of July?  Outside of myself?...now.  I guess as long as this game gets better ratings than SI gets to put NASCAR on the cover, everyone wins.

Ignoring the obvious mitigating factors, I think this choice by ESPN is a pretty big deal.  Over the last three years, it's been hard for the Royals to be mentioned by the Disney corporation (who once owned the Angels); just the fact that the Royals were even considered coming off a 97 loss season to be put in a primetime national spot represents a major development in the way the club is viewed nationally.

The team has a legitimate, bona fide pitching superstar, and--nationally, at least--the Royals are considered to be a young team with plenty of up and coming talent.  Maybe that last part is true, maybe it is fiction, but I think the national expectation is that Dayton Moore's tenure in Kansas City is ready to have this team compete in the AL Central on an annual basis.

The feeling within the Royals fan base is much more grim in the short term.  There is hardly any evidence that Moore can put together a big league roster, and this particular Royals team is so veteran-laden that any formula that has the Royals competing in the AL Central THIS season requires them to, first: badly outperform all of their relevant projections for the first two and a half months of the season, and then secondly: not just assume that they will sustain that level of performance, but rather, bring up some help from the minors to help sustain that.

Essentially, the Royals must be lucky and rational to compete, and historically, they have been neither.

But the assumption of the young talent being on the cusp is good for Kansas City's national image, which is the big, important take-away from this ESPN announcement.  This is a team that can be sold to the public as being interested in contending down the road because of the raw talent that has entered the organization.  It also suggests that the national media hardly care that the Royals spend about 1/3 of their team payroll on replacement level talent and their eventual replacements.

People, in general, simply do not know that the Royals spend $70-72 million annually in major league salary.  It's simply accepted that the team is a less publicized version of the Florida Marlins and their $30 million payroll.  And until this team starts winning, the public conscience will not be able to tolerate basic facts about the Kansas City Royals.  But when ESPN is willing to air a Royals game nationally, it's at least a major step in the right direction, and a sign that, if they want to be, even the Royals can be relevant again in major league baseball.


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