This time of year is typically a difficult one for Royals fans. We’re so busy avoiding 100 losses that it’s tough to remember the good times. When September also ushers in the start of the college football and NFL seasons, it’s easy to stop paying attention.
This year, it may be a little different. No, the Royals aren’t in contention, and only recently did they win their 63rd game to avoid that 100 loss season.
It’s just rough.
But here are the things I’ll be looking for the rest of this 2011 season.
I was surprised to see Salvador Perez get called up as soon as he did but since he’s been up, he’s hit better than anybody could have expected. After a good start in the minors this year where he hit .283 in Double A and .333 in a short stint in Triple A.
After a rough start to his major league career, Perez is hitting .318. Part of that is luck – his BABIP was .348 – but he hasn’t looked overmatched at the plate and is getting the bat on the ball. His control of the game behind the plate is advanced beyond his 21 years and I have this hunch that next season, he will be among the more popular Royals if he can maintain any part of this offensive production.
I’m also looking forward to seeing Johnny Giavotella get a shot every day. Coming into the year, with Chris Getz and Mike Aviles set to split time at second, my hope was that Gio would put it together and push both for a shot. Finally, he got the call.
The other night, I watched Giavotella make a play on a pop up that was headed for shallow right field. He made an over the shoulder catch and during the replay, I just watched his jersey and realized that the name I’d typed a couple hundred times was here in Kansas City along with Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Perez.
The rookies have arrived and for me, that makes each at bat an event. Comparing the team in April to the team now almost doesn’t look right. I get the hunch that in five years, I’ll say to myself “Matt Treanor was on that team?” The rookies have arrived.
There’s also next year’s starting rotation to consider. Already, Danny Duffy has been shut down to limit his innings. Jeff Francis‘s last start as a Royal was Thursday night, and apparently Luke Hochevar‘s was Wednesday. That leaves a handful of starts left for other candidates to get a look.
Teaford intrigues me and his next starts could put him in the lead for a slot. Luis Mendoza will get a look after Omaha finishes the PCL playoffs (hopefully Friday) and there’s always another look at Vin Mazzaro or Sean O’Sullivan. Of those, Teaford’s probably the only solid option but someone has to pitch, so what will it hurt at this point?
For the most part, the bullpen has settled down from a rough stretch and the continued progress of Louis Coleman, Aaron Crow and Greg Holland give the Royals a strong bullpen to look forward to next season (unless any of the three end up in the rotation as has been floated).
The Royals outfield made history as the first trio to each hit 40 doubles, and they’re also on a quest to set a new franchise record for outfield assists. The 1969 team had 53. Gordon, Francoeur and Cabrera have 50 (and Francoeur almost got 51 on another attempt at the 9-3 putout).
Along with that, the Royals have four players hoping to join Alex Gordon in the 20-homer club. It’s getting down to the wire, but such a feat would be unprecedented in Royals history.
What I find myself doing this time of year is taking each game on its own. The cliche “one game at a time” comes into play. While I want to see a consistent approach by the team, little things like attempting a steal or swinging 3-0 aren’t as aggravating as they might otherwise be in June when there’s half a season to go.
Maybe at this point of the year, I’m just grateful for baseball. You want to see good decisions but the sting of the bad ones aren’t as sharp. Or, at least, they aren’t to me.
So I’m watching Hosmer to see him rip another into the gap. I’m hoping Gio slaps a single down to right. Like Wednesday night, I’m hoping Moustakas blasts another bomb to center. It’s a consolation but each positive at bat gives me hope that next year will be the most exciting Royals fans have seen in a long time.