When you grow up with baseball teams in Kansas City you get good at predicting when managers will get fired. You just sense it. Enough games have been lost. The frustration pot is boiling and the lid is bouncing. Then comes some stupid play, a dropped pop up or not catching a runner who fails to tag up on a fly ball. The players seem to be running the team.
The breakdown grows, the frustration boils and eventually the steam blows the lid off the pot.
I predicted the firing of the Royals' skipper within three days in a post on the Kansas City Star's Web site. My softball skipper, Charlie Hiller, predicted it the night before in a postscript to his e-mail message to our motley crew of ancient mariners. He pushed the send button at about the same time the GM hung up the phone with the new manager, Ned Yost, who was in Springfield, Mo., watching the Royals' double A team.
He's watched Kansas City baseball as long as I have. It was easy.
You learn certain things following teams like the Kansas City A's or the Kansas City Royals.
- You learn when managers are about to be fired.
- You learn when a .260 hitter is about to end the hot streak that has his average up to .360.
- You learn to notice when a young pitcher with an early no-hitter has downed too many bottles of champagne. Especially with a name like "Bo."
- You learn to hate the Yankees.
- You learn to hate the Yankees for all the ways they can beat you in the bottom of the ninth.
- You learn to bring a good book to the ballpark in late August.
- You learn to always wish they would bring some kid up from the minor leagues who will light up the field for a month or two until he learns how to play the game Kansas City style.
- You learn to pick out a good team in another city to follow so you'll have a horse in the race come October.
- You learn to separate who you are from the team you watch. You don't often hear baseball fans use "we" when referring to the home team, at least not in cities like Kansas City. Football fans can't seem to avoid identifying with the team, living through it, gaining their sense of value from it. Baseball fans in places like this learn as children not to think of themselves and the home team in the same breath. My college buddy says he became an atheist for two reasons: 1) his best friend in high school gave him up for lent and 2) he always prayed for the A's to win when he sat in church on Sunday morning.