Royals and Jackson County official discuss possible downtown baseball stadium

The team, downtown interests and a county official met recently to discuss the idea of a downtown stadium.
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The team, downtown interests and a county official met recently to discuss the idea of a downtown stadium.
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Royals

Ask Rustin: A downtown baseball stadium, Alcides Escobar, the Royals’ remaining schedule

By Rustin Dodd

rdodd@kcstar.com

August 01, 2017 01:12 PM

BALTIMORE

The Royals concluded the month of July with a 16-10 record after a 2-1 loss Monday in Baltimore. They are 55-49 overall, two games behind first-place Cleveland and 2  1/2 games ahead of Seattle and Tampa Bay in the race for the second wild card.

This is where we are. For the first time since July and August of 1991, the Royals have posted a winning percentage better than .615 in back-to-back months — that stat courtesy of Dave Holtzman of Fox Sports Kansas City. They will close out a nine-game road trip with two more games here in Baltimore before returning home to open a four-game series against the Mariners on Thursday.

Let’s get to the post-trade deadline mailbag. The music recommendation is the new album from Waxahatchee.

Please tell me the Royals aren't going to give up anything of value to obtain Francisco Liriano.

— Mark Rerucha (@rooka21) July 28, 2017

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I can tell you they did not.

Do you think people will be able to find places to park at a downtown stadium? (I'd say, yes. But burb folks really freak out about parking)

— taco sal (@TheTacoSalazar) July 28, 2017

The idea of a downtown baseball stadium in Kansas City was thrown back into the public consciousness last week after The Kansas City Star Editorial Board reported that downtown business interests recently met with the Royals (and others) to talk about the prospects of a ballpark in the city.

A couple things: The Royals did not make a public comment for the story and remain uninterested in a downtown stadium. Kauffman Stadium recently underwent a major renovation that was completed in 2009. The stadium has an existing lease that extends through 2031.

Here are my incomplete thoughts on a downtown baseball stadium:

1. If the city did not have a Major League Baseball stadium and it needed one, I would endorse breaking ground on a downtown baseball stadium tomorrow.

2. At the moment, Kansas City has a very good baseball stadium and it seems like a colossal waste of money to replace Kauffman Stadium anytime soon. (This conversation, however, will probably sound a lot different in about 7 to 8 years.)

Not to make this too personal: But when I was a kid growing up in the Kansas City suburbs in the 1990s, downtown was a ghost town. To travel downtown for a basketball game or musical at Municipal Auditorium was to venture into a city that didn’t really exist after 5 p.m. I’m sure so many others my age and older have similar memories. I now live in a neighborhood adjacent to downtown and I am filled with pride when I think about how far downtown and the surroundings areas — the River Market, the Crossroads, the Westside, even the Bottoms — have come in the last 25 years.

In my current job, I’ve also seen what a downtown stadium can mean to a city. It’s like a permanent source of life during the summer months. It creates daily pedestrian traffic and parties and fun and, sure, some inconvenience, too. It’s great, though.

You’d miss the tailgating at Royals games — which is not anywhere close to Chiefs, of course, but still a nice option. But you’d make that up by enjoying a beer with friends at a bar and walking a few blocks to the game.

The parking issue would be a difficult one. And for most of the season-ticket holders that come in from Johnson County and Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit, to drive downtown for a baseball game might be less convenient and comfortable than the current setup. There would need to be more garages.

But here’s one thing I’ll point out: Parking is so easy in Kansas City — especially in the suburbs, but even in the city, relatively speaking — and people here are so conditioned to the idea that the only good parking spot is one in a lot right next to where you’re going.

If you have to park in a lot/garage downtown and then walk 10 blocks, that’s not so bad. The distance is probably not all that different than parking on the outer reaches of the lot at Kauffman and Arrowhead. And in this case, you have city blocks to enjoy.

What stands out more: 10 games to play against Cle.? Or possibly facing Grienke when we play DBacks the last weekend if the reg. season?

— Chris McCurdy (@chrisjmccurdy) July 28, 2017

The 10 games against Cleveland would well decide the division. The Zack Greinke subplot would be fun, but here’s what (I think) might be the most important games down the stretch:

The Royals have 22 games left against Minnesota, Chicago and Detroit — three teams that have cashed it in over the last couple weeks.

The Indians have 20 games left against the same teams.

A hat tip to my friend and rival Flanny for coming up with this analogy. But those games are kind of like easy Par 5s in golf. You need to birdie and eagle those holes to be in the hunt.

On the other hand: Those games could also help the Royals in the wild-card race against teams in the American League East, where Boston, New York and Tampa Bay are all still fighting for a playoff spot.

How big of a factor is Escobar's consecutive game streak in the decision not to rest him?

— Cbuck (@_cbuck) July 27, 2017

I think the biggest reason is that the Royals value Alcides Escobar’s defense more than most fans. Escobar also takes pride in playing every day.

Some numbers: Escobar has been the fifth best defensive shortstop in baseball, according to FanGraphs’ Defensive Runs Above Average. He ranks eighth in Ultimate Zone Rating, per 150 games.

On offense, he has been the worst overall offensive performer in basebal. Since June 1, however, he has actually been somewhere between below average and bad for a shortstop, a marked improvement. He’s hitting .278 with a .299 on-base percentage and 82 Weighted Runs Created Plus during that span. Much like Alex Gordon is left field, the Royals can live with that production from Escobar because they truly value his defense and the bats at the top and middle of the lineup have produced.

Any chance Esky will be benched at all this year in favor of Mondi or Torres?

— Nathaniel Money (@theNateMoney) July 26, 2017

See above.

Who are some underrated prospects in the system?

— Andrew Stockmann (@astockmann8) July 26, 2017

This is a difficult question. Underrated in whose eyes? I will say this: The Royals like to point out that players like Salvador Perez and Kelvin Herrera never really appeared on any top 100 prospect lists. Yordano Ventura did, but it took until his final years in the minor leagues.

So if you’re looking for underrated players, you might start with some of their better international prospects: Samir Duenez, Seuly Matias (who is ranked pretty high in the system right now), Gerson Garabito. Then move to their younger international guys.

But, of course, if we’re really taking this question literally, it’s probably somebody even more off the radar than that.