We saw it coming a mile away, but the 2019 season is now officially the most homer-happy season of all-time. Collectively, players had homered 6,084 times this season, entering Wednesday’s action 21 shy of tying the 2017 season at 6,105. It only took a couple of hours to match it.
Athletics shortstop Marcus Semien hit the record-tying homer, a solo shot in the fourth inning against Astros starter José Urquidy to temporarily tie the game at 1-1.
There was a league-wide lull in homers for about 20 minutes before Orioles shortstop Jonathan Villar hit a three-run home run off of Dodgers reliever Caleb Ferguson, breaking a 2-2 tie in the seventh inning.
On a rate basis, the 2019 season blows every other season out of the water. We’ve seen an average of 1.4 home runs per game this year, quite a bit more than the 1.26 per game average of 2017. The 2000 season is in third at 1.17 homers per game.
With a few weeks left in the season, the league is on pace to finish the year with over 6,800 homers. There are myriad factors into the sharp increase in home runs, but far and away the biggest factor has been the baseball.
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?