What it was like being a Royals fan from 1986-2013

If there’s one thing I’ve heard this week, it’s that people can’t imagine what it’s like being a Royals fan through their 29-year drought without playing in a postseason. I can tell you what it’s like. We’ve had some highlights, but mostly we’ve put up with endless parades of really bad players and really bad managers.

Those of you who enjoy looking at gruesome things, keep reading. These are the players we’ve spent 2.9 decades trying to forget. But keep this in mind: My hair started going prematurely gray in 1986, the same year Dick Howser died and the Royals started fading.

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This is another lame Johnny Ramone tribute

Johnny Ramone died today. That name might not mean anything to the majority of you. That’s OK.

Johnny Ramone was the guitarist for the Ramones, a punk rock band that got started in the ’70s. His bandmates Joey Ramone and Dee Dee Ramone have already passed, all way before their time.My only public Ramones experience was in 1996 or so. I was at Royals Stadium, and the Royals were playing another miserable game under the watch of manager Bob Boone. I don’t remember what the score was and I don’t remember who they were playing. All I remember was the other team brought in a left-hander and Bob Boone pinch-hit for Johnny Damon, and at that point, I was done.

And then the sound of the Ramones came on the PA system: the famous opening to Blitzkreig Bop. "’Ey! Oh! Let’s go! Ey! Oh! Let’s go!"

I responded by singing out another Ramones song, much to the dismay of those sitting around me:

"Bah bah bah bah, bah bah bha bah bah, I wanna be sedated!"

The Ramones recorded simple music. Their songs were really short, really fast, and for their time, really loud. And they never took themselves seriously.

They printed a story in the sleeve of their first retrospective compilation. I guess most would call it a greatest hits collection, except the Ramones didn’t really have any hits. The story was about their first gig. Joey, Tommy, Dee Dee, and Johnny Ramone walked into a bar, tall, lanky, long hair, wearing t-shirts and leather jackets. The bar owner didn’t know if they were a band or four thugs looking to steal sound equipment. They got up and played a few numbers, all of them really fast, really loud, none over two minutes. And at the end, the bar owner didn’t know if they were a band or four thugs looking to steal sound equipment.

I’m sure the pair of alternative stations in St. Louis in the late ’80s and early ’90s, far on the left side of the dial, played plenty of Ramones. The problem was you couldn’t hear either 89.7 or 89.5 FM if you were more than about two blocks from their dinky little towers. The first station with any kind of power that would play the Ramones was 105.7, which started playing alternative music in 1993. Back in the days before it turned into all Bush, all the time (which was just before it turned into all Korn, all the time), they mixed in some Ramones along with Nirvana and Matthew Sweet and Sugar and The Pretenders and the Gin Blossoms and the dozens of other bands the Ramones had influenced. But it was too little, too late. In 1996 they released an album titled "Adios, Amigos!" And they meant it. No more tours, no more new records, no nothing. And they vanished. I think I heard about Joey Ramone doing a few cameos on sitcoms or something. But the only time I heard the Ramones on radio again was on a retro station right after the DJ announced one of them had died. Which was fairly often, now that I think about it.

But now there’s no retro station in St. Louis to play the Ramones as a tribute to Johnny. And the record industry doesn’t have the patience these days for bands like the Ramones. The Ramones were like the Velvet Underground, in that they were the kind of band that would sell a few thousand records, but everyone who bought one of those records would go start a band.

I read today that Slash learned to play guitar by listening to Johnny Ramone. Slash! Of Guns ‘n’ Roses!

Ten years ago, they’d have let the Ramones record the first album. Some executive would have liked it. It wouldn’t have sold any better, and they’d have let them record a second album, but only because that first album showed some promise. When the sales figures for the second one came in, they’d tell them to hit the road.

Today, if that first Ramones record didn’t sell a million copies, there wouldn’t be a second Ramones record.

I don’t know that we’ll see another Johnny Ramone again. The world’s changed too much since his day. For the worse.

It’s time for Tony Muser to hit the road

You lost me, Tony Muser.
I used to think you were an OK guy. I have a quote from you hanging on my cubicle wall at work. Last summer, you said something about how energetic, outspoken people who smile a lot bring everybody up and energize the people around them. I copied and pasted it into my word processor, put it in a big, obnoxious font, and hung it where I’d see it a lot. I figured those would be good words to live by.

You’re a hard-nosed, old-school baseball guy. I like old-school baseball. A lot of the players today are more concerned about looking like supermodels than they are about playing baseball. You’re gruff, but my best baseball coaches were gruff.

But you couldn’t manage your way out of a paper bag. You inherited a terrible Royals team, I’ll admit that. Your biggest offensive weapons were Jeff King and Jay Bell. You only had two starting pitchers, Kevin Appier and Jose Rosado, who would have been starting pitchers for another team. The team was going nowhere.

Under your leadership, that’s changed. Jay Bell signed with Arizona. So much for loyalty. Jeff King retired suddenly. Dean Palmer, a hard-hitting third baseman, came and went under your tenure. But you showed confidence in Jermaine Dye and he became an All-Star. Joe Randa came home to play third base, and while Palmer put up better power numbers, Randa’s proven to be the better all-around player. Johnny Damon blossomed into the best leadoff hitter in the game under your watch, and it wasn’t your fault that he left for money. And Mike Sweeney, the backup catcher you said would never catch for you again, got a second chance as a DH under your watch because you were out of options, and he started hitting like George Brett. Then he got a third chance as a first baseman because you were out of options, and he became an All-Star. You pulled Rey Sanchez off the scrap heap and turned him into a respectable everyday shortstop. And three young hitters, Carlos Beltran, Mark Quinn, and Dee Brown, are now making names for themselves.

Yes, you’ve turned this team around. On paper, this is a much-improved team.

But that much-improved team isn’t winning games. Your career winning percentage is .430. Your predecessor, Bob Boone, was a terrible manager. But during his worst season with the Royals, he had a .444 winning percentage. I’d love to know what he’d do with what you have to work with.

After a series in Cleveland where the Royals were outscored 30-10, you lost your cool, and you took a rip at Mike Sweeney, your best player. “Chewing on cookies and drinking milk and praying is not going to get it done,” you said.

Yeah, Mike Sweeney only batted .182 during the series and only drove in one run. But it’s not like anyone else was getting on base ahead of him. Even if Mike Sweeney had driven home those four runners he left on base, the Royals still would have been outscored 30-14 and would have lost all three games. And Sweeney’s hitting .280 for the season. Just two years ago, Mike Sweeney hitting .280 was a miracle. Now it’s a slump. What’s going on? Mike Sweeney hitting .280 isn’t the reason the Royals are 10-18.

The Minnesota Twins are in first place. Statistically speaking, their lineup reads like this: .273, .198, .275, .293, .287, .239, .407, .190, .264. Now here’s the Royals’ lineup: .283, .255, .310, .260, .280, .300, .185, .183, .250. Aside from one hot bat, it doesn’t look too different, does it?

The Royals won the World Series in 1985 with a lineup that looked a lot like this year’s. Granted, that team may have had better pitching. But without comparable coaching, it’s impossible to know.

I used to be a believer, but now the only thing I believe is that you’re mostly interested in appearances, and looking right doesn’t necessarily translate into winning.

A number of replacements have been suggested for you. Your predecessors Bob Boone and Hal McRae have jobs elsewhere. McRae used his last-place team to mop up the floor with your next-to-last-place team earlier this week. John Wathan is available, and his career record was better than yours. But my pick would be Cookie Rojas, an old fan favorite with a little managerial experience, tons of coaching experience, and plenty of leadership.

But I’m not sure I care much who replaces you. Just as long as it’s someone. It’s time for you to go.

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