– by Matt Oates, Kansas City, MO.
“In all of my life, if I could do one thing differently I’d pick a different baseball team to love. A team that wouldn’t do me like this!! Don’t worry though; I won’t let my kids be Royals fans. No freaking way!! Maybe Cardinals fans but not Royals fans. I won’t let the Royals stink get all over them. It’s too late for their old man but not them…”
I spoke those words just about a year ago on the phone to my good friend and author of this site, Matt Whitener. The Royals had just lost another heartbreaking game and the season was already going down the drain and I had reached my genuine breaking point. I couldn’t take the losing anymore and not just the losing but the embarrassing ways we found to lose.
In the last decade or so, I’ve watched us trade away some of the most important players in MLB over the last decade (Jermaine Dye, Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran, etc) and get squat in return. I then watched us call up “Can’t Miss” prospects too early & flame out in The Show. I saw our pitching messiah, Zack Greinke, quit baseball because the losing sent him into a deep depression & social anxiety. I saw the Royals sign Mike Sweeney to a long-term deal and then suffer career debilitating injuries. I saw the Royals start a player no one on the Major League club had even heard of in a spot start in Yankees stadium & get pounded. I saw our manager, in an act to loosen up the team (or of pure lunacy) jump in the shower with all of his clothes on. He’d quit (not fired or forced to resign) as manager a few days later. I saw a cut-off man hit the secondary cut-off man in the back with the relay throw right between the numbers. I watched a routine pop-fly go to the outfield & then watched both of the outfielders running off the field as what should have been the 3rd out dropped to the outfield grass. They both thought the other was going to catch it.
In my time as a Royal fan, it’s suffice to say…I’ve seen a lot but for some reason, that day got to me.
After going to college and seeing other fan bases that got to actually enjoy the season, I had become envious. Furthermore, I was embarrassed.
So coming into this season, we traded our top player in Zack Greinke for what looked like the Brewers Pu-Pu platter. We signed a group of veterans off the scrap heap looking for a chance to re-find the magic that made them household names at one time. We went into the season with Luke Hochevar aka “Mr. Not Tim Lincecum” as our opening day starter & Kyle Davies, which according to some sabermetricians, is the worst starting pitcher in the history of Major League baseball as our #2. In essence, we were all told going into this season “Hey, this is a throw away year. We are going to suck and suck bad! In 2012, we will start integrating members of the top-rated minor league program in baseball history but you’ll have to suffer through this year”
*Deep Sigh* Here we go again…
Only this time, something was different. The Royals lost on opening day but then immediately went on a tear to start the season. They either won or tied their first few series on the season. I, of course, am ecstatic. Bruce Chen picked up where he left off last season & is still piling up quality starts. Billy Butler is still ripping the cover off the ball & now accepting the role as the face of the franchise. Mike Aviles, after struggling out the gate, seems to have found his swing again. He still needs to improve defensively though. His arm is not strong enough for 3rd base but he can’t pivot the double play from 2nd base either. Alcides Escobar, a product of the Greinke trade, is a sparkling defender at shortstop despite struggling at the plate. He should get Gold Glove considerations in his career. Wilson Betemit is still an extra base hit machine. Melky Cabrera & Jeff Francoeur have given the team some veteran leadership & also found their mojo at the plate. The young kids in the bullpen: Tim Collins, Aaron Crow & Co. have stabilized the bullpen & effectively cut 2 innings off each game they pitch. As of the morning of May 13th, the Royals have a 20-17 record. More importantly, the Royals & their fans aren’t a joke. No one laughs at me this season when I speak about them. The stadium is buzzing again. The city is talking about them and so are national sports outlets. Do I honestly expect the Royals to keep this up throughout the season? Probably not. Baseball is a long season & we have some serious holes in our starting rotation that still need to be addressed. But that doesn’t mean I won’t bask in this. That won’t stop me from taking this opportunity to brag about the Royals to our friends to the East on I-70.
Best of all, Royals fans…its going to get better.
The Royals have already started calling up parts of their stacked minor league program and inserting them into crucial roles on the team. Eric Hosmer, a recent call-up, is adjusting well to Major League ball after hitting .439 in AAA-Omaha. Aaron Crow worked 15+ innings before allowing a run. Tim Collins is proving to be more than a situational lefty & showing he’s effective on hitters from both sides of the plate. Down on the farm, Danny Duffy, Mike Montgomery, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Clint Robinson are tearing it up in AAA-Omaha and behind them are Wil Myers, Jeff Odorizzi, Chris Dwyer and more tearing it up in the lower levels! It’s an excellent time to be a Royals fan.
So, as you can tell by now, I made peace with the Royals. Matter of fact, I made peace with them last year shortly after the firing of Trey Hillman & hiring of Ned Yost. Yost is a product of the Atlanta Braves system, as I am also, as my family is originally fromAtlanta. He brings a steady hand to the bench & good leadership & old baseball strategy.
But I have never made peace with my unborn children. I’m sorry y’all. I was going to deny you what might be some of our greatest memories together, rooting for the Royals. I’m confident we’ll have some good times in the future rooting for the boys in blue once you get here.