The Kansas City Royals didn’t exactly fire Frank White this week. They just dumped him like last week’s garbage.
And that’s a completely classless act, given Frank White’s history with the franchise. Frank White literally helped build Royals Stadium–now Kauffman Stadium. He worked on the stadium construction crew as a teenager. He went to the Royals baseball academy, worked through the Royals’ minor league system in three years, then played 17 years for the Royals at second base, winning 8 gold gloves, appearing in five All-Star games, and hitting cleanup in the 1985 World Series. He did everything the team ever asked of him, and he did it well. After his playing days were done, he came back to the Royals in 1997, where he’s done various jobs but has rarely been appreciated.
He’s coached first base. He’s managed minor league teams. He’s done PR work, and broadcasting. He asked for the chance to manage the big-league team, but never got an interview. The latter is somewhat understandable. If he comes in and the Royals play well, it’s a better story than Hollywood could dream up. But if he comes in and the Royals don’t play well, how do you fire a hometown guy who spent more than half his life in the organization?
Then again, it couldn’t possibly be as awkward as they way they’ve jerked him around for the last decade or so. When a team is in last place, fans are always calling for the manager to be fired. If he finished last, they could fire him with little protest. In 1994 they fired Hal McRae, another former Royals great, for less.
And I don’t usually play the race card, but I’ll go there this time. Frank White is black. And this is an age when fewer and fewer African Americans are interested in baseball. There aren’t as many fans, and there aren’t as many players. I don’t know which came first, but one feeds off the other. And the Royals need as much goodwill as they can get. Maybe Royals executives haven’t noticed this, but the Royals haven’t won a thing since 1985, and they’ve been the laughingstock of Major League Baseball for about 16 years now. They’re on the verge of getting better, but it’s only the most dedicated of baseball fanatics who even realize that. To most people, they’re still the same team Jimmy Fallon made fun of in the 2005 movie Fever Pitch.
And that isn’t Frank White’s fault. Back when Frank White played for the Royals, the Royals were really good. And up until about age 35, he was one of their best players. That’s perfectly understandable. Modern statistical analysis shows most players start declining at about age 33.
The only thing I’ve seen that could be construed as a flaw is that Frank White is proud of his accomplishments and wants to be remembered. The counter-argument is that he’s not George Brett. Fair enough. He’s not George Brett. But George Brett is the only player in Royals history who played better for longer. It’s not ego if you can back it up.
Maybe the Royals are full of themselves, thinking since they’re about to start getting good, they don’t need Frank White anymore. And maybe that’s what they don’t like. Often what we dislike most about others is what we dislike about ourselves. But Frank White has accomplishments. The Royals have promise. Accomplishments win out over promise–at least until the promise starts delivering accomplishments.
There’s no good reason for this peeing contest. Frank White knows it. He’s done with the Royals.
Royals owner Mr. David Glass needs to find some class. In the meantime, I’m ashamed to share a first name with him. The more I have in common with Frank White and the less I have in common with Mr. Glass, the better person I’d be.