A universal ground rule came into play at the start of the top of the sixth inning with the Blue Jays batting against Royals starter Yordano Ventura in Game 2 of the ALCS. Josh Donaldson hit a foul pop-up behind the plate. The ball clipped a wire supporting the netting behind home plate, but catcher Salvador Perez still managed to make a nifty barehanded catch. As is the ground rule at every stadium, however, the ball was ruled dead and Donaldson remained alive. He beat out a ground ball to shortstop Alcides Escobar for a leadoff infield single.
Ventura then walked Jose Bautista before Edwin Encarnacion snuck a ground ball past Escobar into left field, plating a sliding Donaldson to extend the Jays’ lead to 2-0. Chris Colabello struck out, revealing light at the end of the tunnel for the Royals. Troy Tulowitzki had other ideas, sending an RBI double to right field to make it 3-0. Ventura walked Russell Martin to load the bases before departing.
Luke Hochevar took the hill in place of Ventura. He induced an infield pop-up from Kevin Pillar, then got Ryan Goins to hit an inning-ending 3-1 ground out to the right side. The Royals still have four turns to make up the three-run deficit. However, Jays starter David Price has been nearly untouchable. He has retired every batter since Alcides Escobar singled to lead off the game. The lefty has four strikeouts in five innings, having thrown 52 pitches.
Over the past several weeks we’ve heard a lot of news about teams furloughing front office and scouting staff, leveling pay cuts for those who remain and, most recently, ceasing stipends to minor league players and releasing them en masse. The message being sent, intentionally or otherwise, is that baseball teams are feeling the pinch.
The Kansas City Royals, however, are a different story.
Jon Heyman reported this afternoon that the Royals are paying their minor leaguers through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended, and unlike so many other teams, they are not releasing players either. Jeff Passan, meanwhile, reports that the Royals will not lay any team employees off or furlough anyone. “Nearly 150 employees will not take pay cuts,” he says, though “higher-level employees will take tiered cuts.” Passan adds that the organization intends to restore the lost pay due to those higher-level employees in the future when revenue ramps back up, making them whole.
While baseball finances are murky at best and opaque in most instances, most people agree that the Royals are one of the lower-revenue franchises in the game. They are also near the bottom as far as franchise value goes. Finally, they have the newest ownership group in all of baseball, which means that the group almost certainly has a lot of debt and very little if any equity in the franchise. Any way you slice it, cashflow is likely tighter in Kansas City than almost anywhere else.
Yet the Royals are paying minor leaguers and front office employees while a great number of other teams are not. What’s their excuse?