It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions the past couple of weeks, but Major League Baseball and the MLBPA finally came to an agreement on Thursday afternoon, on a snowy day in Kansas City:
I imagine a slew of free agency and agreement updates will continue to trickle out over the remainder of the evening, especially with players expected to report to Spring Training as soon as this weekend, also according to Passan:
Thus, with the work stoppage (hopefully) over, let’s take a look at three questions that should be on the minds of most Kansas City Royals fans.
When is Opening Day?
Last night, after Major League Baseball and MLBPA failed to come to an agreement, there was a report that another week of games would be canceled, meaning that April 14th would be the earliest date for MLB Opening Day:
However, after the deal was announced today, it seems like the April 14th date may have been a little rash (and maybe a bargaining chip utilized by the owners to spur today’s negotiations). According to Nightengale, not only will there be a full 162-game season after all, but Opening Day will be pushed up to April 7th.
If we believe the April 7th date, that means Opening Day for the Royals will be at Kauffman Stadium on Thursday, April 7th against the Chicago White Sox, which would be three days after the original Opening Day at Kauffman Stadium.
If we believe the April 14th date, that means Opening Day would be on Thursday, April 14th at Kauffman Stadium against the Detroit Tigers. According to my MLB Ballpark App, this is the soonest date I can attend a Royals game at Kauffman (my ticket package already had tickets for April 15th, Jackie Robinson Day).
Either way, Kansas City benefits from the first game of the 2022 season being at the K, rather than at Progressive Field in Cleveland against the newly-named “Guardians”, as it was originally going to be, had the season started on March 31st.
Will the Royals Make Any Major Moves in Free Agency?
So far, the Royals have been conservative this Winter on the free-agent market, even before the lockout occurred.
The biggest deal the Royals made this offseason was signing reliever Taylor Clarke, who was non-tendered by the Arizona Diamondbacks after the 2021 season. That being said, Dayton Moore has signed a lot of relievers on Minor League deals during the lockout in an effort to build some bullpen depth this Spring, including two recently who could make a push to make the Opening Day roster, should they be healthy.
The first is Daniel Mengden, a former Oakland Athletics pitcher, who pitched last year in the KBO (Korean Baseball Organization). Alec Lewis in a tweet noted how he performed well in Korea and could be a surprising breakout this Spring:
The other signing was Brad Peacock, who hasn’t been healthy the past couple of years, but was a key reliever for the Houston Astros back in 2019 when the Astros lost to the Washington Nationals in the World Series:
It will certainly be an interesting evening for Royals fans, for there still are some notable names remaining on the free-agent market. However, it does feel that the Royals roster, especially on a position-player end, is pretty settled.
And that is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if it means an easier path to the big leagues on Opening Day for Bobby Witt, Jr. this Spring.
That being said, Moore is known to surprise with a big splash deal leading up to Spring Training. Last year, it was Andrew Benintendi, who ended up being a productive player in the Royals lineup as well as in the outfield (he won a Gold Glove last year after all).
Does Moore have a similar deal rolled up his sleeve this time around?
How Will John Sherman Respond to Royals Fans?
There’s no question that the game was hurt overall by this most recent lockout. Even though a deal was made, it is likely that the league will see some blowback from fans who were already disenchanted with the game prior to the lockout starting in December.
And Kansas City may be one of the most affected areas, especially considering the Royals haven’t experienced a winning season since 2015; the neighboring Kansas City Chiefs are one of the most dominating teams in the NFL; and Sporting KC, which just had its home opener at Children’s Mercy Park last Saturday, is capturing younger and more committed fans.
This tweet from Bleacher Nation’s Michael Cerami certainly is sobering for Major League Baseball and their outlook in terms of gaining future fans:
All these factors aren’t good for owner John Sherman, who will be entering his third season as the Royals’ majority owner.
While Sherman has for the most part been a solid citizen who is committed to keeping the club in Kansas City and helping the local economy in the KC Metro in a variety of ways (including charitable), he also will be facing a lot of disgruntled season ticket holders and on-the-fence Kansas City sports fans who may be more encouraged to spend their money elsewhere this summer.
Furthermore, Sherman has hopes long-term for a downtown stadium, and he wants some public help for it in order to make it a reality.
Well, this lockout certainly didn’t help his case, especially with so many Royals fans being on the fence about a new stadium anyway, especially after it was renovated in 2009.
(This tweet I posted and the response it got proved that.)
Now that the lockout is over, Sherman will probably address the media at some point. Moore already did and seemed to connect with frustrated baseball fans. However, Sherman is the head honcho of this Royals organization, and what he says about the lockout, and the bitterness that ensued from it among owners, players and fans will be crucial.
If he says the right things and makes the right corresponding actions, he could lessen the blow that could possibly be felt this Spring and Summer at the K.
However, if he doesn’t address it properly, or skates around it?
Well, it could be a tough summer for Royals baseball…
And not just for the team on the field.
Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images