Let’s be honest. When it comes to the baseball off-season, aren’t we all just looking for ways to speed up the time between World Series and Opening day? I fill my time with with Mizzou football, Mizzou basketball, and the Chiefs. Obviously, that last name is particularly painful at this point in the season. I’ve felt a modest dose of incredulity as I’ve watched the Chiefs so far this year. Sure, they put that string of 4 wins together that made them 4-3 and first in the division but even then I had almost zero confidence that they’d be able to hold onto it. They just didn’t look that good. I’m not one of those overzealous fans that thought that we were going to be super bowl contenders after a relatively successful season last year. The Chiefs were graced with an easy schedule that helped pave their way to a 10-6 record and this year the schedule was a whole lot unfriendlier. I really wasn’t planning on the Chiefs even making the playoffs.
But I really wasn’t prepared for how bad they’ve been.
With the football that’s been played only amplifying my need for a good sports team to cheer for in Kansas City, I just want baseball to start now. So I’ve decided to make this list that melds my disgust with the Chiefs and my hope for the Royals. May the Royals 2012 season in no way resemble that of the 2011 Chiefs.
1. The Royals HAVE to stay healthy - Last year the Royals were able to stay away from the injury bug in an almost unnatural way which helped them keep their best players on the field. The Chiefs started the season without Tony Moeaki, quickly lost young stars Eric Berry and Jamal Charles, and eventually lost Matt Cassel. I refuse to allow that injuries are the main reason for the struggles of the Chiefs this year*, but I certainly can’t say that they’ve helped. You’ve got to have your main guys healthy. The Royals need to stay as healthy as they can and they need to have guys that can step in and play for short periods of time when guys inevitably do get hurt. That’s why this search of a backup infielder is so important.
*Side Note: Isn’t amazing how much the loss of Peyton Manning has affected the Colts? It’s ridiculous. They went 10-6 last year and have yet to win a game this year. I never would have guessed one player could make such a difference on a football team…even if he is Peyton Manning.
2. Don’t start slow - The Chiefs started out the season getting absolutely DECIMATED by the Bills and the Lions. The point spread was 89-10 in their first two games. Todd Haley made a big deal about taking it easy in training camp after the lockout shortened the off-season. Then when the Chiefs looked horrible in preseason everyone said “They just don’t want to show anything before the season starts.” Then the season started and they looked just as awful as they had in the preseason people suddenly realized that the team just might not be that good. That slow start against two teams they might have been able to beat really set the tone for the whole season.
Guess who the Royals start the season with? The Los Angeles Pujols.
There’s obviously a little bit of difference here when it comes to these two sports. One game in baseball is not as significant as one in football. If the Royals came out and got swept by the Angels in 3 or 4 games I wouldn’t be as disappointed as Iam when the Chiefs lose 4 straight. I wouldn’t be happy if that’s how the Royals start, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
However, I think it’s key for the Royals to start fairly hot over their first month to build up some quick confidence. I honestly don’t know if they can contend next year but if they can start playing with confidence early and maintain that throughout the season, I think some exciting things could happen.
3. Regression could result in some major shake-ups - We’ve all seen what happened to Todd Haley. He won the A.F.C. West last year and doesn’t even finish out the next year as head coach. The reason I think this relates to the Royals is the similarity of expectations for both franchises. The Chiefs thought they’d arrived after last season’s success. When reality (and ill-timed injuries) set in, they scrambled to find someone to blame and Haley was ousted. I’m not a Haley fan. I never was, but it’s pretty crazy how quick the emotional turnaround has been in regards to his ability as a head coach. Last year, he could do no wrong. This year, (according to everyone) he did everything wrong.
Yost has all of these expectations with no successful playoff year to fall back on. 2012 has been labeled a “year of contention” for awhile now, and fan expectation hasn’t been this high in a long time. If the Royals take a serious step back this year (don’t even think of it for too long), I wonder if Yost won’t be on his way out.
Obviously, some players are going to take some individual steps back.It’s unlikely that Francoeur is going to match his numbers from last year, for instance. But I’m talking about a team-wide regression. If that happens I expect somebody to lose his job and it’s not like Yost has been a guy who Royals fans have absolutely fallen in love with. If the Royals are really bad next year, I could see them showing Yost the door confident in the fact that the possibility of fallout will be slim to none.
So here’s to hoping none of these things happen to our 2012 Royals. I’m going to go finish watching the Chiefs and hope we somehow pull of a miraculous win against the Pack.