As a baseball fan, I always look forward to the start of the season. You’ll hear announcers and writers talking about the “hope and potential of a new season” and bunch of other clichés about how everybody believes their team can win the World Series in April.
As a long time Royals fan, my response to that is “Yeah, right.” The Royals may start in first place on Opening Day, but I’ve seen enough seasons to know that KC’s April will usually go one of two ways:
- The Royals get off to a respectable start, flirting with first place for a day or two, before a six game losing streak drops them back in the standings. They continue to find new ways to lose, and they’re out of realistic contention by May.
- The Royals stink out of the gate, a lousy collection of washed up vets who don’t care and quadruple-A players who could not start for most major league teams. They may not go on a prolonged losing streak, but they probably will – just because they can. Any hope of contending is gone by Tax Day. After that, the focus shifts to not finishing last in the division and guessing who the token All Star representative will be.
But the 2013 season might just be different. General Manager Dayton Moore has built a young, but strong core of position players and spent the offseason bolstering a pitching staff that was painfully bad in 2012. The Royals dominated the Cactus League during spring training, and are a trendy dark horse pick to win the American League Central.
One month in to the 2013 season, and the Royals have been different. Good different. Like, a real big league team with pitching, hitting, and defense different.
And I’m not sure what to do with it.
Let’s not kid ourselves…there is still a ton of baseball to be played. Five full months and over 135 games, to be exact. But as I type this on May 1, 2013, the Kansas City Royals are in first place. They have won at home, won on the road, beat good teams, pounded bad teams, and have generally looked good doing so. At the risk of jinxing the team, I’ll say it:
If the playoffs started today, Kansas City would be in for the first time since 1985.
But that is looking too far down the road. I’m sticking to the same thing I said at the beginning of the year: I will be happy – hell, I’d be thrilled – with 82 wins. Get over .500. Anything beyond that is gravy.
Will it happen? I want to say yes, but history says no. Regardless, it should be a fun ride.
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Three Up (or “Why you might want to set aside some cash for a playoffs fund”)
- James Shields, Ervin Santana, and Jeremy Guthrie have brought stability to the starting rotation. Shields and Santana were the two key offseason acquisitions, and in April they were worth the price. Guthrie came to the Royals in 2012, and has been quietly dominant. Combined, these three are 8-3, with a 2.68 ERA.
- The offense is has serious potential. The majority of the lineup is capable of delivering an extra base hit at any point. Ned Yost has not been afraid to run – the Royals are third in the AL with 19 stolen bases – which has helped put guys in scoring position, and put pressure on opposing defenses. They’re not clicking on all cylinders, but if they do….look out.
- There is noticeable excitement and chemistry on the team. This is my favorite. For the first time in ages, the team is playing with passion. They look like they care, and they are having fun. Fans are starting to expect this team to win, instead of finding a way to lose.
Three Down (or “Why you should consider focusing on the NBA and NHL playoffs instead of baseball”)
- There is no consistent power threat. The Royals are last in the league with 14 home runs (the Yankees have 35). While several Royals can take you deep – nine guys homers in April – up and down the lineup there is not a guy who you fear going yard in every at bat.
- Will Moustakas and Hosmer produce? Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer are two cornerstones of the Royals youth movement. In order for the team to contend, each needs to be a key cog in the offense. So far in 2013, the two are batting a combined .221 with one homer and 13 RBI. Moustakas has been especially bad with a dreadful .195/.276/.299 line. At the end of April, both showed signs of heating up, but if they cannot produce, the offense will be challenged.
- It’s still the Royals. April was one of the better months in recent history to be a Royals fan. It has been a blast to watch the team play good baseball, beat good teams, and get our hopes up for what the rest of the season will bring. But let’s face it: the die-hard fans who have been through the 100 loss seasons, puzzling roster moves, and bizarre moments that can only happen to Kansas City are waiting for the other shoe to drop. As much as I want to believe in this team and their chances, an eight game losing streak would not shock me.
- I’m trying to give the guy the benefit of the doubt, but man, Rex Hudler is brutal. Especially when paired with the ultra dry wit of Ryan Lefebvre. I don’t necessarily miss Frank White providing a continuous Dr. Julius Hibbert laugh track every time Ryan made a joke, but surely there is somebody better out there.
- I’ve never understood why there are so many scheduled off days in April. You’d think a ballplayer would rather save those days off for August when the season is starting to grind and their bodies need extra rest – not five in the first 22 days of the season (not counting rain outs and the Friday the City of Boston was on lock-down).
- Jeff Francoeur: What the heck, dude?
Call to the Bullpen
“So, the Royals playing dominating baseball and the impending snow in May in KC don’t have anything to do with the apocalypse right?” – TJ Carpenter (@TJCarpenterWHB)