The I-70 series is always crucial to both teams in Missouri. Cardinals fans may laugh it off and say it’s the least of their worries, but everyone knows that’s not true. The rivalry is heated and neither team wants to go away from the series a loser. Royals fans love nothing more than to say that they’re the best team in Missouri while Cardinals fans love to point to their somewhat recent success and the fact that they are usually in contention to at least reach the postseason. Win or lose, Cardinals fans will point that out and scoff. And as much as I hate it, when it comes to recent success, they’re right.*
*They’re wrong about everything else, but considering recent success…well, I’ll acknowledge that begrudgingly.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m tired of acting like winning a measly six game series with the Cardinals every year is enough to give me peace as a Royals fan. Of course we certainly don’t win it every year, but even when we do there’s still a bitter taste in my mouth. What do we really get from winning a few games against the Redbirds before ending up in the cellar for another year? When October rolls around and I’m watching another Royal-less postseason, I can assure you that I don’t soothe my frustrations with the cool balm of victory over the Cardinals.
I’m not trying to say that the series has no meaning. I In fact, I think I’m trying to say the opposite. I love the rivalry and the atmosphere of the games and I really enjoy beating our in-state foes. I guess I’m just saying that in the grand scheme of things a win against the Cardinals still only counts for exactly that….a win.
So here’s my mentality going into the rubber match today. Imagine this first series with the Cardinals and the series in St. Lous June 17-19 as the two sides of a delicious oreo cookie.*
*Bear with me…or don’t if you’re on a diet.
Now the chocolately outsides of an oreo are verrry important. But as any notable cookie connoisseur will tell you, the most important part of the oreo is the creme filling* and in this ridiculous metaphor that I’ve constructed, that same theory holds true. The creme filling is the games between our two meetings with the Cardinals.
*Especially if it’s Double Stuf.
In the three and a half week time span between the two series with the Cardinals, the Royals face the Orioles, Rangers, Angels, Twins, Blue Jays, and Athletics. The Royals have won series against the Orioles, Angels and Twins already this season and have had missed opportunities when facing both the Rangers and Athletics. The only team they’ll face that they haven’t met previously this season will be the Blue Jays (23-22). To me, these are all winnable series that can give the Royals a decent shot at gaining some ground in the Central. If we can win some games before completing our Cardinal oreo and starting a longer stretch of interleague games, we can really make a move in our division. The Royals have traditionally been pretty good in interleague play, so if they can get to the bulk of it with a record above .500 I think that they can have a shot to make some more noise. Maybe even prove to the league that they can contend.
And that right there is the key question. Can the Royals contend? If you had asked me at the beginning of the season what the Royals’ record would be as we neared the end of May, I would not have said that we would be only a game under .500. I don’t think many people would have shot that high. We weren’t supposed to contend this year. People just accepted it as a given. But now there’s that vague possibility swimming blurrily in every Royals fan’s peripheral vision. Are we good enough? Is this an extended fluke? Management hasn’t seemed to think it a fluke as they’ve started bringing up some young bucks early in what seems to be an attempt to compete this season.
I’ll be honest with you…I don’t really know that we are good enough to compete THIS season. I want us to be and the longer we hover within striking distance of the Indians, the less sure I’ll be. I think the creme filling will give us a little heads-up. When we meet the Cardinals in our second and final series with them this season, I think that the possibilities in our peripheral will be a little less blurry. Whether that will be a good thing or a bad this is yet to be determined.
So in my opinion, this series with the Cardinals is just a series for the Royals to get back on track. It’s a series to springboard them into a stretch of winnable games that could really prove something. I’m sick of using a mere season victory or two as justification for the Royals over the Cardinals. I want them to literally BE better than the team from Eastside. I want them to contend so that they can get to the playoffs and win games there. Now THAT will be victory that I’ll take some time to savor.
Of course, I’d still like to win today and I’d like to win at STL in June as well. Beating the Cards during the season is just…uhh…icing on the cake.