KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Hiring a new manager might not be as
simple as finding the one the Kansas City Royals want. It will have
to be someone who wants the Royals.
This small-market franchise has fallen upon hard times. Deep
problems may prove sobering to any would-be successor to Tony Pena,
who resigned Tuesday night with the worst record (8-25) and
second-lowest team payroll ($36.9 million) in the major leagues.
Barring a miracle turnaround, the once-proud Royals are about to
go 21 straight years without making the postseason. They lost a
franchise-record 104 games in 2004 and this year, lacking power as
well as speed, could be even worse.
Fan interest in a town that once boasted such stars as George
Brett, Hal McRae, Bret Saberhagen and Frank White has been
Although aging Kauffman Stadium is still one of the prettiest
parks in the American League, it needs expensive renovations to
keep pace and help create new revenue streams. Yet voters rejected
a sales tax last November that would have raised the funds for the
Most galling to fans is that the Royals have developed only one
outstanding player the past 10 years who stuck with them -- first
baseman Mike Sweeney.
Gone to wealthier clubs are Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran and
"The Royals have made progress," owner David Glass said
Wednesday from New York, where he was attending owners' meetings.
"Now, our record wouldn't indicate that. But our record is
deceptive in that we've got some positive things on this team. You
can look at the young pitching and feel really good about it."
Patience will be a must for the next field boss. Hoping to
follow the same path to success as AL Central rival Minnesota, the
Royals are committed to enduring the lean times that accompany a
Pena, the AL Manager of the Year after a surprising 83-79 mark
in 2003, did help develop some promising pitching prospects. Zack
Greinke, Runelvys Hernandez and Denny Bautista could one day form
the core of a solid rotation.
There are also young prospects at several positions. But the
Royals, young and old alike, have fallen into bad habits as
boneheaded blunders became almost routine.
"The best way to get through this is stick with the plan No. 1,
stay together as a group and don't fracture," general manager
Allard Baird said. "You have to look through the clouds to see the
sunshine, but it's a very unique talent to be able to embrace so
many young guys who may not be physically ready and develop them at
the major league level."
Major league managerial experience may also be something the
Royals look for, which would work to the advantage of former
Phillies boss Larry Bowa.
"You absolutely have to consider [experience]," Glass said.
The hard-nosed Bowa was 337-308 at Philadelphia before being
fired after last season. He would be the polar opposite from the
upbeat Pena, who once showered with his uniform on after an
error-filled loss to "get the stink out."
Bowa hopes to talk with Baird.
"Because you're young doesn't mean you're going to get beat,"
Bowa said Wednesday. "Playing winning baseball is hard. You've got
to put in the time and the effort, respect your other teammates,
respect your manager and respect your coaching staff. It takes
Another possibility would be White, the gold glove second
baseman of the glory years who is now managing the Royals' Double-A
team in Wichita.
"If they're interested, then I'm interested," White told The
Associated Press. He was 73-66 last year in his first season at
The Kansas City native is beloved by Royals fans. There's a
statue of White outside the stadium, along with one of Brett.
The final consideration may be which candidate is best suited to
shepherd a roster full of youngsters through their growing pains.
The Royals have the No. 2 overall pick in the draft next month and
Glass has said they will take the best player available without
regard to signability.
"Young players have to be a big part of the equation. Going
young and developing talent through the system is the only answer
for small-market clubs like ourselves," Glass said. "We need a
manager to be someone who can work with young players, someone with
the patience to communicate with young players."