It’s only natural to lose interest this time of year. For a brief time, the Royals weren’t mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. With 12 games to go, they could have tied the White Sox with an epic 12-game winning streak and equally epic 12-game losing streak by Chicago. It would have set up a tie for the AL Central. That’s as late into the year as the Royals have made it without being eliminated since 2003.
Then, once that 82nd loss occurred, the intrigue really stopped. There wasn’t enough time left for Billy Butler to make a run at Steve Balboni‘s franchise record for homers. There wasn’t time left for Alex Gordon to chase 20 homers. There wasn’t time for Eric Hosmer to turn it around, get hot, and pull his batting average above .250 (and he’s hurt anyway).
Time’s about run out.
Yeah, there are two games left now, but the Tigers have clinched the division after Monday’s win. The next two games are effectively meaningless. The only milestone left is to win one more game and surpass last year’s win total – by one game. That will make 2012 the second winningest season since Dayton Moore became General Manager. It’s been a lot of rebuilding and I chant my mantra of “Trust the Process” and I’ve seen improvement up and down the organization, but that still leaves a sour taste in my mouth.
Now, it’s about enjoying the game, enjoying the team. Everyone here is a fan. Everyone who stops and watches the Royals this late in the year has to be a fan. There’s no rational reason to watch otherwise but that crazy devotion that brings you back every single year even while you ask yourself “why the hell do I do this to myself?”
It’s difficult to be optimistic, but to be otherwise is even less fun. Even in maintaining objectivity, there’s a strain of “what if?” hiding around. There was a piece on Royals Review today looking in hindsight at the Royals season asking that question. What if the Royals had let Francoeur go? What if they’d gotten Edwin Jackson and passed on Bruce Chen? What kind of moves might have helped more this year? It reminds me of something written by Joe Posnanski (or perhaps it was Rany Jazayerli?) a few years ago where he drank the Kool-Aid and made up a season recap of the moves that worked out and led the Royals to the World Series.
Those are the moves that we’ll look at over the winter. What if the Royals can sign Zack Greinke? What if Dan Haren joins him? What possibilities exist? What corners can be turned? What slates can be cleaned?
There isn’t enough time to learn much about the players on this team. Eight more at bats by Johnny Giavotella isn’t going to say much at this point. One more inning of Tommy Hottovy isn’t going to secure or lose his place on the roster. It’s just not a big enough sample size. Hosmer is injured and shouldn’t play the next two games. Mike Moustakas reaggravated a groin injury and probably won’t play the last two games either. We can watch and see if Butler can reach 30 homers for the first season since Jermaine Dye in 2000. Jeremy Guthrie and Luis Mendoza have one more start apiece to add to their career resurrections. There’s just not a lot to keep track of at this rate. It’s like every other season – just wait ’til next year.
But it’s still baseball. And while we watch other teams take the field later in October and it gets a lot colder out, a meaningless October 2nd game would be a welcomed sight.