As Royals fans wake up today and try to shake off their post All-Star hangover, I thought I’d share with you this awful dream I had last night. It seemed so vivid and covered a lot of ground. Since it had to do with the Royals and was so scary, I feel like I’ve just got to tell you about it.
In my dream, it was the offseason, and 2011’s team was another stinker. However, the young talent that was slowly integrated over the past few months produced a 15-10 record in September and gave us all reason to believe. It seemed like the stars were beginning to align, and if a couple of pieces could fall into place, this town would have a winner.
The outfield situation was going to be a tricky one. Alex Gordon was a lock to stay in left field, but the other two outfield spots were something that GM Dayton Moore was going to have to wrestle with. The supposed Centerfielder of the future, Lorenzo Cain, hit .312 with 16 HR in Omaha. He was deemed ready to come up in 2012, so room needed to be made in order to let him blossom. Moore was going to have to trade either 27 year old Rightfielder Jeff Francoeur or the 26 year old who occupied Centerfield in 2011, Melky Cabrera. Now, neither one of these guys had deep roots in Kansas City, which is why Gordon wasn’t considered. They were both sort of picked up off the scrap heap in an attempt to squeeze some of the last remaining drops of talent out of their stirrups.
They both responded well, having revival years. Francoeur was a leader in the clubhouse, a fan favorite, and had his best year since 2007 when he hit .293 and won a Gold Glove. Cabrera, who brought with him four years of post-season experience with the Yankees and Braves, was sometimes thought to not be fully committed to the game. He found his groove though, and had an outstanding year. He led the Royals in hitting at .305, had over 200 hits, drove in 87 runs and played solid defense. When laid out on paper, the two were very comparable, and it would be tough to decide to get rid of one of them.
Ideally, this would have been the point in my dream where I wake up and realize that the Royals just decide to keep them both, bring up Lorenzo Cain, and have four solid outfielders on their big league roster. But no…the dream continued.
In November, the decision was made – like a long, drawn out Ryan Seacrest American Idol delivery, Jeff Francoeur………….was safe. Melky Cabrera would be traded to the San Francisco Giants. Kansas City fans shrugged, thinking it was sort of a toss up anyway. Despite Cabrera’s offensive numbers being better, and him having more upside that Francoeur, Frenchy’s rocket arm in the outfield and ability to mentor all of the young talent was what ultimately kept him in Royal Blue.
In return for Cabrera, the Royals would receive minor league pitching prospect Ryan Verdugo and Giants starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez. For Royals fans, a cliff’s notes version of Sanchez’s career seemed to brew excitement. He’d thrown a no-hitter in 2009, won a World Series in 2010. We needed starting pitching, and this guy was a proven starter for a great team.
Again, my dream gave hints of misery, because it also told me that Sanchez had been injured for much of the 2011 season. Although he started out as the #2 starter, he had struggled mightily. Was he healthy now? A closer look saw many struggles in earlier years as well. ERAs over 5.00, three straight losing records, a league leader in walks allowed and HR per 9 innings. Scary stuff.
Still, he was now a Royal and Melky was gone. Shipped off to the West Coast to most likely revert back to his un-productive self and never to be heard from again. Surely, this Jonathan Sanchez would be the new-found savior that would mold the pitching staff together to carry the Royals to glory in 2012. It was deemed to be “Our Time”.
In my dream, Sanchez took the hill for his Royals debut in Los Angeles for the third game of the year. He bent, but did not break, giving up 2 earned runs in 5 innings of work. He left with a 5-2 lead and the bullpen helped deliver him the win. Welcome to the Royals – we’re happy to have you. In the same game, I gazed upon our new phenom centerfielder. He went 0-3 with a walk, seeing his average slip under .100 for the young season. Growing pains, I thought to myself…
Then, just a couple of days later in a dark, empty, rain-soaked Oakland Coliseum, I watched the young Cain track down a long fly ball and make a great catch. Then, as I shook my head in horror, I watched him limp off the field, apparently ruining everything below the waist. My dream told me that we wouldn’t seem him again until after the All-Star break. We’d be left to fill the all-important centerfield gap with the likes of Jarrod Dyson, Mitch Maier, and Jason Bourgeois.
This transitioned into the frightening montage portion of the dream – as I tried to wake up and shake off this disaster, I watched the worst case scenario play out. Sanchez lost his control, and apparently all ability to pitch as he was repeatedly shelled on the mound. He had lapses in judgment, walked as many as 7 batters in one game (in only 4 2/3 innings), and gave up run, after run, after run. The Royals would only win two more of the games that he started during the first half of the season – he would not factor in the decision. Calls for him to be sent to the bullpen, sent to Omaha, sent to Mars were constant. Whenever he’d take the mound – even if he showed small flashes of talent – the fans were up in arms. When the dust settled in early July, he’d be 1-5 with an ERA of 6.75. He’d have 43 BB to 34 Ks. Not possible…
Meanwhile, out in San Fran, Melky Cabrera turned into some sort of cyborg-strength hitting machine. His consistency was breathtaking as his average only dipped momentarily below .300 early in the season. His average hovered around the .350-.370 mark and by the All-Star game, he was one of the most popular players in the National League. His team was fighting for first place in the NL West, and he had settled into playing left field. By mid-season, he found himself leading the majors in hits with 119 and was second only to Andrew McCutchen in Batting Average at .353.
The trade had gone horribly wrong. Nobody could have seen this coming…right?
While Sanchez feared for his professional life, Cabrera would be voted in as a starter in the All-Star Game. Deservedly so, he’d be returning to his short-term home that had dealt him away. It was a good story for Melky, but a tough pill to swallow for Royals fans. As my dream slowed down, it was suddenly All-Star time. The scene was grand and the festivities were countless. Kansas City cleaned up nicely and put on it’s best face for the baseball world. There was some sort of strange incident at the Home Run Derby, but it wasn’t worth remembering. That part of my dream was a little foggy.
When the game started, I was disappointed to only see one Royals player on the roster. I was also bummed to find myself watching it from my living room, but oh well. Melky got a nice round of applause from the Royals fans, who held nothing against him. When he came up to bat in the first inning, he had to face Justin Verlander. He calmly stroked a single to left. I’m telling you, he was like a mechanical hitting robot. His hit started a rally in which the National League would eventually bat around and score 5 runs off of one of the best pitchers in baseball. Clearly a dream – this would never happen…
In the top of the 4th, Melky came up for his third at-bat and drilled a 2-run bomb into the home bullpen. The Royals’ bullpen. He flashed his famous Melk-Smile as he trotted around the bases, having put his team up 8-0 over the American League. After the home run, an injured and miked-up Matt Kemp was featured, telling Melky, “You can hit…you can hit”. He was replaced in the 5th inning, capping a great inaugural All-Star performance.
As the final nail-in-the-coffin in my dream, Melky was awarded the All-Star Game MVP award. Through broken English, he hugged his maternal family, and repeatedly thanked the fans. Then, he climbed into his brand new 2013 Camaro convertible that was parked on the infield, and peeled out, throwing up two fingers as he barreled right through the Centerfield wall and flew away into the night.
I awoke in a cold sweat. It couldn’t be real…could it? There’s no way that this has actually happened. I’m going to go check the Active Roster…