Royals 2011 in Review: Kings of Kauffman Looks Back (Part 1)


Hey, another year in review article!

In all seriousness, 2011 was a remarkable season for the Royals. Sure, they only finished fourth in the AL Central, but enthusiasm for the team hasn’t been higher since the summer of 2003. Unlike that crazy year, this time the excitement is based on something beyond smoke and mirrors (or at least we hope so).

It’s made for an exciting time in writing about the team, and as I reflect on the last 12 months, I’ve been reminded of many past articles that have shaped the narrative of the year, offseason and all. I wanted to compile those that I was particularly proud of. All of us here do this in our spare time – we have a group of regular guys who have jobs, families, classes (in some cases) and share our opinions and passion for the Royals because we can’t help it.

If you’ve had half the fun reading Kings of Kauffman in 2011, well, we’ve had twice as much fun writing as you have had reading.

If you’d like to take a trip down memory lane with me, check out a month-by-month rundown of our best links for the year:

January

  • Literally minutes into the new year, I was contacted by Josh Kusnick, agent of Lorenzo Cain and Jeremy Jeffress, both newly acquired for Zack Greinke. He was generous enough to give me an hour or two of his time to talk about his clients, the Royals and baseball. Negotiating Royal Blue Waters is the result of that interview.
  • Kevin Scobee joined the crew and shared his background in pitching and relating it to Zack Greinke. There’s No Crying in Baseball links Kevin’s own social anxiety with his previous experience as a pitcher in high school and college to try to understand the much-publicized condition of Greinke.
  • In Leading the Pack, Gage Matthews analyzed who might end up as the Royals leadoff hitter in 2011. His prediction? Lorenzo Cain and Chris Getz as the top two in leadoff at bats. Oops. Hindsight. 20/20. Then again, nobody really anticipated Alex Gordon leading off most of the year, if at all.
  • The Royals are one of many teams these days embracing social media, blogs and other sources of baseball discussion. This led to their reaching out to a group of bloggers to cover events at Royals FanFest in the winter. I was fortunate to represent the Twitterati in this initial event hosted by the Royals and my account is presented in Let’s Get Digital.
  • Kevin Scobee is a big Alex Gordon fan. Follow him on Twitter during the season and the adoration is obvious. He wrote a letter to Alex stating that, at the time, he was Still Believing in Gordon.
  • As the offseason progressed toward the regular season and prospect rankings started popping up everywhere, the Royals, obviously, were at the top of almost every list. Gage broke down the implications for the Royals in light of how other top-ranked farm systems developed in recent years in Seeing the Crown for the Jewels.
  • I think it’s a little embarrassing that the Royals are the only team with a single-season home run record below 40 homers. I looked at who was close in the past, as well as who would be Chasing Balboni in 2011 and beyond.
  • Luke Hochevar had one of the most effective sliders in the game in 2010. Meltdowns aside, that’s pretty impressive and with that in mind, I analyzed his use of the pitch, advising him to Use the Force, Luke.
February
  • My big project in February was profiling our top 25 Prospect Rankings.
  • Gage took an extensive look at pitching staffs of previous seasons in Make the Pitch, pointing out trends and what it could mean for the 2011 season. In hindsight, he was a bit pessimistic, as the rotation wasn’t as bad as he was expecting – but they weren’t that good either, of course.
  • Was Kevin finally Trusting the Process?
  • This is the fun part of looking back over these articles, because nobody expected a relatively poor season from Joakim Soria, especially considering that he looked like the next great closer going into the year. Gage asked Is So the New Mo? and compared Soria to future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera.
  • Gage also asked about the potential of signing free-agent-to-be Albert Pujols. He wasn’t too far off on the eventual contract that Pujols signed with the Angels.
March
  • As the season grew closer and the roster started to take shape, I became outraged at the thought of the Royals offering Promises, Promises to Melky Cabrera for playing time over Lorenzo Cain. I was wrong about Melky’s eventual success, of course, though I still don’t like the way the Royals came to find out he would be great in 2011.
  • With those roster construction questions in mind, I looked at how  Timing is Everything when it comes to rookies and service time.
  • Because he’s stuck behind both Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer, I pitched the idea of Clint Robinson as trade bait. After another big season in Omaha, he’s still a good piece to include in a deal, I think.
  • The cliches of “best shape of his life” and “so-and-so has turned the corner” are nearly as traditional as the chalk on the baselines and pine tar on the bat. Kevin dug into those Sounds of Spring in relation to preseason cheerleading for the Royals.
  • I tried – in vain – to draw a parallel to the career paths of MVP Ryan Howard and Kila Ka’aihue. Let’s just move on from that Tale of Two Hitters.
  • Ryan Wood started off discussing the Royals as a Faceless Franchise. He suggested Billy Butler or Joakim Soria as potential “faces” – of course at the time, we didn’t know that Eric Hosmer would be advancing so quickly.
  • In what would become a theme in 2011, I asked if Billy Butler could or should change as a hitter.
  • As opening day approached, Alex Gordon became a hot topic. It seemed everyone was discussing him. I compared him to Howard Johnson, another highly-touted prospect who took a while to turn into a star.
  • FINALLY, opening day arrived. Gage Matthews produced an awesome infographic and I compared opening day starters for the Royals over the years.
April
May
June

That covers the first half of the year. The second half of the Royals season saw a lot of turnover and the debuts of many, many more rookies. The record didn’t get much better, but excitement picked up as the year went on.

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Billy Butler Bubba Starling Danny Duffy Eric Hosmer Kansas City Royals KC KC Royals Lorenzo Cain Luke Hochevar Melky Cabrera Mike Moustakas MLB Royals Wil Myers Zack Greinke