Over the past couple of nights, I saw something happen out at Kauffman Stadium that has been missing in 2012. It wasn’t necessarily the fact that the Royals won. It wasn’t even the fact that they came from behind to do so. They showed that they were capable of having something that has been collectively missing since last September.
No, not the band. They didn’t have a post-game concert or anything like that. Although, their anthem (if you haven’t heard it, turn on any radio station for 10 minutes & you will) might be or should be wildly appropriate for the 2012 Royals. “Tonight, we are young. So let’s set the world on fire. We can burn brighter than the sun.” I like it actually. This team IS young and they ARE so capable of doing great things. Think about what would happen if the Royals were to make the playoffs – it might actually set the world on fire.
Now, I’m sure that song is laced with drug and alcohol references, so you can’t look into all the lyrics. However, the chorus fits, so focus on that. But I digress. Like I said before I was distracted by addictive pop music, it wasn’t the band that is making me happy this morning. It’s the fact that the Royals had fun over the past two nights.
The Royals hadn’t had a walk-off win all season. After the rush of them at the beginning of 2011, we had begun to take them for granted. They disappeared from existence this year. They hadn’t come from behind at all after the 8th inning. For the fans, and even for the team it seemed, the game was over if they were behind heading into the late innings. It’s a disappointing feeling for everyone involved. Confidence packs its bags and hits the showers early.
One thing we’ve seen as a result is guys pressing. Trying to do too much. Everyone in that clubhouse knew that they hadn’t rallied late to win a game, and after that goes on for a while, you stop believing that you’re capable of doing so.
What happened is that you have a team of young guys who just played & had fun over the last couple of months in 2011. And they were winning games as a result. They played loose – without the burden of expectation and far from the possibility of a playoff run. This year, those same guys came into Spring Training with a new level of potential that they were supposed to achieve. Like a salesman who has a miraculous quarter & then is supposed to out-sell for every quarter going forward, the Royals’ bar was raised. It’s a good thing to have people expect you to win. To expect you to perform at that level for a 2nd year in a row. We all thought Alex Gordon was becoming one of the best players in the game after his 2011. Eric Hosmer was an unstoppable rocket on his way to the moon.
I thought that when those same fun loving characters showed up in 2012, they had wiped the smiles from their faces and were ready to get serious. The problem is, they lost their ability to have fun. In doing so, they gripped the bat tighter, swung harder, threw wilder, and ended up in a 6-15 hole a month into the season.
Last night, while I was still buzzing from the heroics of the two-out bottom of the ninth rally, I stayed with the FSKC broadcast to watch the postgame interview (as I had done the night before with Alcides Escobar). It isn’t often that I’ve watched those this year, usually because the game is decided well in advance of the ninth – win or lose. I’m either shutting the TV off because I don’t believe they’ll come back or I’m shutting it off because Jonathan Broxton makes me gnaw off my fingernails. Anyway – I’m watching Joel Goldberg interview Brayan Pena and Jarrod Dyson. Everyone is ecstatic. Things are good. Three game sweep.
That’s when I saw it. Alex Gordon – jersey off & sweat soaked t-shirt untucked – scamper out of the dugout with a jug full of gatorade. The cameras did a great job of capturing the scene. With a huge, mischievous smile on his face, he built up speed as he stuck up on the three men. His toss was true (as it usually is), and before Joel, Brayan, & Jarrod knew what happened, they were covered in orange electrolytes. Gordon, still smiling, quickly darted back into the clubhouse.
Fun. The Royals are still capable of having it. A couple of wins like this could do wonders for their confidence and will hopefully show them that they don’t have to come to the park with a scowl every night to prove that they’re big boys. They need to have fun like the kids they are and the wins will come. I think this team is well positioned to make a run right now. Help is on the way in the form of a healthy catcher. The team has built some good momentum as they travel down I-70 to take on the World Champions.
Wouldn’t it be fun to beat them at their place?