Things have been pretty good lately, relative to the past. The Royals are stocked with young talent that will likely be around for several years. There are more great guys in the minors, enough for the Royals to rank as the fifth-best farm system, according to Keith Law. And many baseball types predict quite a bit of future success for the team, even more than the more expensive Detroit Tigers, placing the Royals on top of the Central in years to come.
The success is all lined up. We’re primed to experience the joy of winning baseball, of division titles, of playoff games and World Series contention. We’ve been told about what players can be, can do, and should do in the next five to ten years. We know all about the potential and the talent.
But every silver lining has a cloud, and I’m going to be cloudy for just a second. In this time of optimism (what time of recent Royals seasons is more optimistic than Spring Training?), it’s hard to force negativism. It’s always hard to think about, but what if things don’t work out? What if injuries strike to a horrible degree or players simply don’t pan out? What if the team loses all of the young guys, like so many fans would have you believe will always happen based on the past front office? What if?*
*Knocking on every piece of wood within reach.
Can we deal with that swing from extreme positives to extreme negatives? I know it would be hard for me to take. If we get that close and the team falls through or the glaring holes in the roster create problems that Dayton Moore can’t solve, I’m not sure if I can stick through that. I’ll always be a Royals fans, but I don’t know how strongly I’ll be dedicated if I’m let down now.
So, can Royals fans deal with being let down again? I’d like to say that we can. We’ve been through the negatives long enough to know how to deal with any future negatives. We know what it’s like to see 90- and 100-loss seasons for years and years after some positives give us hope for the future. But we’re reaching a point in the Royals’ history that will be crucial.
I’ve had this theory for a while. When the Royals won the World Series in 1985 and experienced success throughout the 80’s and into the very early 90’s, they locked into a fanbase. They won over any fans they hadn’t before that point and nailed down the young kids and soon-to-be born kids of that generation in the area. I was a 1987 baby, and I like to think some part of me was always tied to the Royals be being born in that time. So, there’s this fanbase of really strong Royals fans from about 23 on up that is very dedicated, always longing to see the return of the old days. Then there’s a gap. Sure, there are lots of Royals fans at younger ages, but maybe not as many as there are in older ranges. And that’s a problem.
Success now means tapping into a new group and new generation, regenerating a fanbase that’s been needing a boost. Of course, that’s just my crazy theory and it could be completely baseless, but I think it’s right. Missing out now would be losing that momentum and not tapping into a fresh group, potentially losing lifelong fans to the Cardinals or Red Sox or Rangers. The organization loses gas and ends up sputtering. It may be a stretch, but hey, it’s possible.
So, can we as a fanbase survive failure? Can we deal with a giant letdown? I really, really want to say we can, but I think it would be a huge loss. Getting that inspired and optimistic only to experience defeat would be devastating for any fan of any team. We’ve built this up to become a near-legendary turnaround, and while realists (like I try to be) can temper expectations, it’s always easy to get carried away. And feeling that downswing when everything’s been telling you for years that the light at the end of the tunnel is getting nearer would be unspeakably difficult to bear.
Of course, that’s just how I think of it. I think that, for a baseball town, losing the potential future would be a tremendous loss for the team. I can’t speak to how that would affect them economically, but I would think this would be damaging for the team itself. A loss of faith in all aspects of the organization is the last thing the Royals need at this point, and it seems like that’s the potential future should things go south.
Royals fans are ready for a turnaround. We’ve been told it’s on the horizon. But should things fall apart, we may never recover. And I truly think that could be a horrible sign for the ballclub and ownership.
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