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The first caller to KMBZ'S Sports Line show in Kansas City last Thursday still wanted to talk about Opening Day, which had been three days earlier. "The Royals have a good team," said the caller, "but they need better management of the pitching staff."
"Yes," the man said.
Welcome to the 1990 baseball season.
The next caller criticized the first for questioning K.C. manager Wathan's decision not to bring in Davis, the Royals' new ace reliever. Caller No. 3 backed No. 2, and so did the fourth caller. The fifth call was from a woman. "I think the people of Kansas City should support the Royals, win or lose," she said.
Welcome to Kansas City.
"That's the nature of the fans here," says Royals pitcher Mark Gubicza. "I was expected to have a big year in '87, but I lost 18 games. People came up to me and said, 'I know you'll be great next year.' "
In an era when other small-market owners bemoan their plight and often pinch pennies, Kansas City's front office does not run its team as if it's based in baseball's smallest town. But it is. The metropolitan market has 1.4 million people, which makes it smaller than the borough of the Bronx. According to owner Ewing Kauffman, the Royals' local radio-TV revenues will be $4.2 million this year, pocket change compared with the estimated $40 million from cable alone that will be raked in by the New York Yankees. But the Royals have the highest payroll in baseball—just over $24 million for 1990—after Kauffman's spending binge this winter, when he signed free-agent pitchers Mark Davis, Storm Davis and Richard Dotson to lucrative contracts and kept Gubicza out of the free-agent market with another rich deal.
Wathan adds, "Ever since I came here as a player in 1976 the expectations have always been high because the Royals have been contenders. We simply have more expectations this season."