“Aren’t you looking for Ichiro’s autograph?”
That’s what George Brett asked me in Arizona during 2003 Spring Training. He was right: As a third-grader from Seattle, I would much rather have had Ichiro’s autograph. The greatest Kansas City Royal of all time was staying at my hotel . . . and I had no idea who he was. Luckily for me, my father — a native of Kansas City — made me ask Brett for his autograph. Thanks Dad.
The Royals hadn’t been relevant since the 1980s, and even George Brett knew it. The Royals were coming off of a 100-loss season heading into that 2003 season, and hadn’t won more than 75 games since 1993, the year Brett retired.
Fast-forward 11 years and the Royals are taking on the 2010 and 2012 World Series champion San Francisco Giants in their first World Series since 1985. Perhaps no team in baseball needed to reach this World Series more than the Royals, and here are three reasons why:
The Royals have ranked near the bottom of the American League in attendance each year since 1985. In fact, KC has finished 10th or worse out of 14 teams (15 with the 2013 addition of the Astros) each season since 1993. The Royals have struggled to average over 20,000 fans per game since 1993.
Clearly there is correlation between wins and attendance, though at times Kauffman Stadium still looked like a ghost town this winning season.
In 2014, the Royals ranked 11 out of 15 in attendance with just over 24,000 per game. Maybe fans were hesitant to buy into the team’s newfound success, or maybe it was just too late for fans that had stopped caring years ago? Whatever the reason, the Royals need this World Series to re-energize their fan base.
2. Team Value
In addition to low attendance, the Royals are also one of the smallest market teams in MLB. Kansas City is ranked 27th in MLB in sponsorship dollars and dead last in media rights value. The club resides in the second-smallest metropolitan area among MLB teams. Forbes valued the organization at only $490 million, just $5 million above the last-place Tampa Bay Rays.
With Royals fever sweeping through the Kansas City area and increased national exposure, the organization’s fan base is increasing right before our eyes. A World Series victory would mean more partnerships and awareness for the club.
3. Team Revenues
In March of 2014, the Royals were ranked second to last in MLB in team revenue at $178 million. Only the Miami Marlins rank lower. That’s compared to the first place New York Yankees at $461 million and the Royals’ neighboring St. Louis Cardinals at $283 million. Team revenues include all dollars earned for a team and its stadium where applicable.
The Royals are banking on their unprecedented World Series run to maximize revenues next year, meaning the team can invest more money in its roster.