It’s time to take a step back from all the “Royals minor leaguers are super-unbelievably-awesome” talk and bring everyone back to earth and take a second to remember that we are after all, Royals fans, and good things don’t happen to us.
Negative? Sure. But what has been lost in the rainbows and butterflies over Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas so far in spring training is that we still have a full season of nonsense and losing to put up with before we get to the good stuff. Or at least, what we hope is the good stuff.
Some of that nonsense is already in full-gear as it was announced last week that Jason Kendall feels great, is ahead of schedule, and just may in fact start Opening Day. Oh joy.
Never mind the lunacy of Kendall even being allowed to put on a big-league uniform anymore, the fact that the Royals continue to portray Kendall as the linchpin for success, is completely maddening. We get it, we’re supposed to believe that somewhere in the course of nine innings a night, amidst a sure 0-4 with four, sixteen-hoppers to short, Kendall provides that little something extra that’s sure to push the Royals to victory. Or at least teach them what “winning” is all about, as if “winning” comes hand-in-hand with being really, really bad at baseball.
No what’s going to be more worse this year than the JK=Awesome love affair Moore and Co. have with the tattooed man – if only because we know it’s going to happen – will be something far more annoying: Alcides Escobar’s defense.
Let’s get one thing straight, I’m not saying this because I think Escobar is going to be a bad defensive performer. I’m hopeful, if not eager, to have an actually athletic shortstop with range as opposed to the ones we’re just told are athletic and have range like the Royals have had in the past.
What I’m most worried about, or in fear of, is just how much we’re going to hear about how great Escobar is. The superlatives will fly how supremely athletic he is, how great of range he has, and how “not many other shortstops in the majors can make that play”. It’s coming. You and I both know it’s coming. And there’s nothing we can do about it.
This kind of thing has happened before. Two years ago when the Royals got off to a decent start (18-12!) with Coco Crisp playing center, his defense is all we heard about. The announcers went on and on about how great Crisp was defensively, how his defense made the entire team better, and how the Royals had a real luxury with this great a center fielder.
Sure, Crisp was a pretty good defensive player, but it wasn’t like he was Prime Andruw Jones (we need to distinguish Prime Andruw Jones from Fat Andruw Jones), and it wasn’t as if his abilities deserved the gushing and raving we were showered with non-stop. Crisp was a nice player whose defense was pretty good, but it was nothing more than that. However the Royals made it seem as if his talents were the missing ingredient that made all other things fall into place. They were the secret to life.
This is going to happen again this year. It’s inevitable.
Escobar has 177 games under his belt at the big-league level and really hasn’t been what you would consider spectacular with the glove. He’s been good enough – even though you can’t really tell much with that small a sample size – to be considered at least a top-half-of-the-league shortstop. At least. Maybe even top-third, which, when you consider the history of the Royals, is pretty damn good. But he hasn’t been as good as what we’re about to be told he is.
I’m hopeful that we’re about to see the second-coming of Omar Vizquel. I really am. But you can bet the number of stories in the cooker for this season explaining how the Royals are so vastly improved defensively because of Escobar, are enough to fill up even this guy’s plate.
And everyone knows how many times the Royals tried telling us he was a good defensive shortstop.