2013 was the type of season that we as Royals fans had been waiting for for a decade. The Royals, after their early season, specifically May, struggles, roared back to the edge of playoff contention, falling just short of the Wild Card. Yet, while the playoff drought remained, the Royals had won their most games since 1989, and it felt as though 2014 may well be the year that the Royals found themselves once again playing October baseball.
Dayton Moore and the Royals front office certainly appeared to embrace those expectations. Looking at the weaknesses on their roster, they went out and acquired Jason Vargas, Nori Aoki, Omar Infante and Danny Valencia. Vargas was tabbed to replace the departed Ervin Santana, filling in as the second starter until Yordano Ventura and the Royals top pitching prospects were ready to take over at the top of the rotation. Aoki and Infante slotted perfectly as the top two hitters, allowing Alex Gordon to slide back into a run producing role. Valencia was the perfect platoon partner for Mike Moustakas, someone capable of hitting left handed pitching while Moustakas could bat against righties. While it may not have been a traditional lineup by today’s measures, the 2014 Royals had the hallmarks of a team that could contend for the playoffs once again.
With a record payroll and what appeared to be a sudden commitment to winning, the Royals constant cry for patience had run it’s course. We had trusted, as much as possible, Moore’s process. We understood that, as a team with a decidedly limited payroll, the Royals would need to build themselves through the draft. We waited as the first wave of pitching prospects crashed and burned while the offensive players struggled to live up to expectations.
At some point, the waiting has to end. Last year appeared to be that moment, the time when the Royals had finally become the team that we had been promised for years. 2014 was to be the coming out party, when Kauffman Stadium would be rocking and the Royals would once again take their rightful place amongst baseball’s royalty. Instead, through the first quarter of the season, that has not happened. Inconsistent play, particularly from the offense, leaves the Royals a game under .500. While such a mark would be worthy of praise and a sign of better things to come last year, the Royals present 18-19 record is disappointing. We, and the Royals, expected better.
Yes, we, as fans, may be critical of the Royals as needed. That criticism does nothing to diminish our love for the Royals or the game of baseball. It speaks to our expectations for a team that set itself up for a run at the playoffs. It speaks to our frustrations when underperforming players are trotted out virtually every day without any signs of improvement. It speaks to our passion for the Royals and a desire to see playoff caliber baseball in Kauffman Stadium from the home team. And it speaks to our desire to finally, for the first time in a generation, have meaningful games played in October in Kansas City.
The Kansas City Royals, from their moves and actions this offseason, promised great things this year. The struggles of the past two decades should do nothing to decrease our expectations.
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