Are you old enough to remember when Saturn cars were first introduced by General Motors? The makeup of these new vehicles was shrouded in so much mystery and secrecy that rumors of their design took on a life of their own. The public began to envision flying cars like those featured in the Jetson’s cartoons and automobiles that would drive themselves and change our lives forever. The anticipation of the Saturn unveiling in 1984 was so unrealistic and overwhelming that General Motors was forced to lower expectations with a public statement preceding the event which proclaimed the new cars would “not be nuclear powered.”
If you don’t know anything about the automobile market in 1985, there’s a good reason for that. There was nothing to know. Nobody collects cars built in the 80’s because they were stodgy, slow, and ugly. The market was starved for something exciting, a vehicle that could rejuvenate the industry. We all sat on the edge of our seats waiting for the reveal of the new S-Series, a vehicle that you don’t remember and probably have never heard of – for good reason. Have you ever seen an S-Series model Saturn? Yuck. It turned out to be an uninspiring piece of plastic junk.
The huge un-recouped investment in the Saturn Corporation by General Motors and subsequent lack of creative and groundbreaking design dulled all the luster on this once eagerly awaited car company. And as you know, Saturn is now long gone, relegated to the dust bin of history.
It hurts me to even say this, but what if Eric Hosmer is the Royals’ Saturn Corporation? The Royals of the past 20 years make a good comparison to the automotive industry of the 1980’s – underperforming, uninspiring, and underwhelming, with little hope of a turnaround. The fan base has been desperate for any sign of hope and are willing to fall over themselves (me included) when even one prospect appears to have the slightest chance of becoming the next big thing.
We’ve set ourselves up for a potentially huge disappointment with Eric Hosmer. When was the last time a prospect was so highly anticipated with an expectation that he could potentially turn the club around? Zack Greinke might be the closest player, but I don’t think anyone expected Zack to elevate the entire team the way we believed Hosmer would impact the organization.
Hosmer was a #1 draft pick, the 3rd player selected in the 2008 draft. He tore through minor league pitching like Bo Jackson through an Seattle Seahawk defensive backfield. He carried himself like a veteran with one of the most magnificent and picturesque follow-through swings Royals fans have ever seen. He had all the makings of a potential Superstar. Many of us pinned our greatest hopes on him simply because we have been looking for light at the end of the tunnel for so long, even a spark would send us into a frenzy.
Our good looking young first baseman was ranked as the #8 overall prospect by Baseball America in 2011, batted .439 during his 26 game stint in AAA (that is not a misprint), and he impressed nearly everyone with his talent as he made his way toward the majors. He debuted last year to oohs and ahhs, just the same as the Saturn S-Class did years ago. But now that we bought our Hosmer sedan, drove him to work and parked him in our driveway every night for a few months, the bloom is beginning to come off the rose and we’re not quite as excited about him as we were a year ago. I’m beginning to have just a tiny little bit of buyer’s remorse.
Royals fans have been making excuses for Hos for months now. “He’s just in a sophomore slump, he’ll come out of it”, “as soon as he starts hitting to the opposite field, things will come together for him”, “he makes good contact, his hits are just finding a lot of gloves”, etc., etc. We’re making excuses because we don’t want to admit that he may not be as good as we’ve hoped, because giving up on Hosmer is tantamount to giving up on the Royals. Because we’re loyal true-blue fans, we keep waiting, and watching, and hoping for any sign that Hosmer’s bat will find its way again and reignite our passions the way our expectations of his future performance did a few months ago. Because we love the Royals, this creates a situation where we CAN’T give up on Hosmer.
Let’s be realistic for a moment and say that other players have pulled out of worse sophomore slumps, although I can’t think of any right now. Even on our own team, Alex Gordon took a few years to find his way and now he’s a strong contributor, although not a Superstar. And this is really where the problem lies – Eric Hosmer can eventually be a good player, he might even be an All Star (someday, maybe), but because of our high expectations, he’ll end up as a stunning disappointment if he isn’t a Superstar. Face it, if Hosmer were a newly premiering Fall Television Series, his ratings would have already forced the networks to pull him from the schedule.
So here’s what I think – the race for the 2012 pennant is over. The winner hasn’t been decided yet, but there can be little doubt that one of the losers will be the Kansas City Royals. We’re threatening the Twins for last place; Danny Duffy, Felipe Paulino, and Joakim Soria will be on the shelf until at least 2013 or later; and the season is more than half over. Let’s start preparing for next year. Let’s stop worrying about bruising Hosmer’s psyche and let’s send him to Omaha and let him earn his way back to the majors. It’s worked for other players, including Alex Gordon, it certainly couldn’t hurt Hosmer.
Let Hosmer spend some quality time with the club’s hitting instructors and see if he can recapture some of the magic he experienced in 2011. And while they’re at it, maybe they can coach him to stop that stupid swipe-grab he tries to make at first base every time there’s an errant throw. I’m not sure if he is just putting on a show with this move, or if he honestly thinks it’s a proper way to play a short hop. It looks very amateurish to me and he’s going to clown-suit himself eventually when one of these throws skips past him and down the right field line. This technique has burned him at least once this season that I’ve personally witnessed, and will probably come back to bite him and the Royals some day when the game is on the line if he doesn’t stop it.
I remember sitting in the stands last Spring in Surprise Arizona, eager with anticipation for Eric Hosmer’s at bat. I even snapped a picture of his flawless swing that resulted in a Cleveland Indian pitch being deposited over the Center Field wall – it was a thing of beauty. But something happened to Hosmer between that day and the start of the regular season, and the result is that he’s lost his way and he can’t seem to find it again. Let’s face the facts, and let’s treat him the way we would treat anyone we love – tell him the truth and send him to get help. It’s either that, or we all need to admit that he may not be as good as we hoped he would be.