Royal Wishes This Holiday Season


Ah, Christmas.

Family, celebration, cookies, peace on earth.  All that great stuff combines this time of year for what many consider their favorite day on the calendar.  That being the case, the idea of hopes and wishes coming true becomes even greater.

Asking for a World Series in Kansas City may be a particular Christmas miracle that even Santa can’t deliver, but here at Kings of Kauffman, we still compiled a list of things that we hope for – not just for the Christmas season, but for 2011.

Austin Alonzo leads us off with a letter to Santa:

Dear Santa,

It’s been almost 15 years and you still never brought me that Nintendo 64 and I’ve been waiting more than 17 years for Super Mario All-Stars. I’m beginning to think you’ve forgotten about me.

Was it because I was selfish? Is ten thousand dollars in mixed bills too much to ask? Maybe it was. I want to make up for my past transgressions by asking you for something all of the poor souls in Kansas City can enjoy.
You see Santa, the Royals have been terrible longer than I’ve been waiting for that N64 and people here are starting to think we’ll never be good. I’m never sadder than when I hear someone who used to swear by Mike Sweeney’s back they’d always be there just bought a new Colorado Rockies hat.

If it’s not too much to ask, here’s what I want for Christmas.

First and foremost, I hope with all my heart that Billy Butler and Joakim Soria are not traded. Butler is now the most accomplished graduate of the Royals farm system, the best bat on the team, and the face of the franchise. Soria is as close to a guaranteed save as you can get, he’s on a club friendly contract and he’s a favorite amongst Kansas City’s large Mexican-American population. Unless Felix Hernandez is on his way to Kansas City, please, please, please don’t let Dayton Moore try to trade these guys!

Next, I want our young players to be happy and healthy in 2011. More specifically I want to see Alcides Escobar turn double plays, steal bases and get hits all season long. Maybe you can convince him to change his name to something easier to spell, too. I also want you to convince Ned Yost to give Lorenzo Cain more than 350 plate appearances this year. I know he wants to play Melky Cabrera, but I think you could probably start over Melky, Santa.

While you are talking to Ned and Dayton, do you think you could tell them that Brayan Peña should start more often than Jason Kendall this year? Their offensive numbers were pretty similar last year (Kendall .256/.318/.297; Peña .253/.306/.335), but Peña’s knees aren’t liable to explode sometime in August.

Also, tell Dayton he did a great job turning Rick Ankiel and Scott Podsednik into prospects last year. Pull some strings so Frenchie or Melky have a good season and catch a high price come July.

It might be asking too much, but I want to see Luke Hochevar finally live up to his potential and emerge as a solid number one starter. If you can’t do that, do you think you could pull some strings so our starters can total more than 6 wins over replacement? At this point, Santa, I’d be happy to just see Bruce Chen under the tree on Christmas morning.

While you’re granting wishes, do you think you could turn the clock forward on Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Danny Duffy and Aaron Crow? If Moose and the Hoss are in the majors by August and hitting by October or if Duffy and Crow could be rounding out the rotation by September, I’d be so happy Santa.

I’ve got one last wish. Do you think you could get David Glass to lower beer and parking prices at the K? Us broke college kids have a hard enough time staying sauced for all 9 innings, and the little old lady at the gates that takes all my cash doesn’t help.

I think if you do all this, Santa, Royals fans will be able to keep the faith. Or maybe they will keep complaining. This is Kansas City after all.

I spiked the eggnog just the way you like it,

Gage Matthews has his set of hopes for the coming season as well:

There are a lot of things I could hope for in 2011. When I think realistically, though, there are a few things I hope for more than others.

I hope that the Royals are more open to giving their young guys playing time than they have been recently. The end of the 2010 season was a unique situation with the old-timers being traded or injured, but it was still nice to see Kila, Alex, Brayan, and Jarrod get some solid playing time. I want that to continue this year. The signings of Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur make it difficult, but Brayan, Luke May, Kila, and eventually guys like Mike Moustakas, Everett Teaford, Blaine Hardy, Louis Coleman, and Danny Duffy should all be able to get some experience. It may be a year with a lot of lost games, but watching the younger guys get their time in would make it much more watchable and interesting than it might otherwise be.

My biggest wish may be that Luke Hochevar finally settles in, stays healthy, and finds himself as a strong pitcher. With Zack gone, there’ll be a lot riding on Luke’s ability to lead the staff, as he really is the “ace” of the Royals at this point. He had some inspiring performances at the outset of the 2010 season, but has never been able to consistently nail down games. You might say I have a little bit of blind faith, but I still think Luke, like Alex, can straighten everything out and become the pitcher we had hoped he would. The pressure of leading the starting staff might do that, but hopefully the team settles in and works well together to have a great atmosphere. That could go a long way for Luke’s confidence and performance and could be pretty important for the Royals in the next few years.

Other than that, my hopes are fairly obvious. I want to see Alcides Escobar come in comfortable with Ned Yost and start to realize a bit more of his potential than he did last season. I think he definitely has more value than was evident with the Brewers in 2010, so it will be interesting to see what he does in a new environment. I hope we’ll start to see that value and potential in 2011, as it would be wonderful to have a competent starting shortstop for the coming years.

It’s already started to happen, but I want to see Billy Butler take the reins and leadership role with the Royals. I like the guy and it sounds like he may be wanting to take a more vocal role. I guess I only think of Shea Weber with the Nashville Predators when I say that, but for you non-hockey-fans out there, think Josh Hamilton with the Rangers or Justin Morneau/Joe Mauer with the Twins. I hope for continued and improved success on the field, but he’s the kind of guy that I want to see heading up the team. He’s young and seems dedicated to the Royals’ future, which is exactly what I want from a player like him. Hopefully, we’ll see more of that as the season progresses.

On a less specific note, I want to see the Royals fill some gaps that have traditionally been a problem with the team. The emergence of Alcides Escobar will help with that, but finding a solid set of outfielders would be great. I look to Alex to settle in this season and improve his production with the bat. Unfortunately, Francoeur and Cabrera are likely going to steal time from the guys I want to see, as I’ve said, but if the younger guys can get some time later on in the season and show some capacity to fill those spots themselves, that would be great. At second base, I want to see either Getz or Aviles solidify the defense and provide at least average output. There isn’t a second baseman lined up to jump in that spot for at least a year or two, so if either of those guys can put on a better show than they did in 2010, that would go a long way.

On the pitching side, I do think the bullpen has a reasonable chance of being solid this year. There are still some broken cogs like Jesse Chavez, but if the rookies can come on strong it could make games more interesting than they have been. I’ve described the Royals’ new ace, but seeing strides from Sean O’Sullivan or Vin Mazzaro from their past production would make for a much more fascinating starting corps. Of course, there will be some adjustments to the new team for Mazzaro, but both are young and have a few things to learn. If they can hold down spots as solid third, fourth, or fifth starters I would be plenty happy with that. There is a lot to watch as the season starts.

There are always lots of hopes, wishes, and dreams you can have for your favorite team. For instance, I hope the Royals don’t lose 100 or even 90 games this year. These above are some that I think have a likelihood of happening, and I can’t wait to see what plays out in the coming year.

Finally, I’d like to share my hopes for 2011:

I understand that for the most part, 2011 is going to be a lost season. Mike Moustakas has a realistic chance to log significant time this season, but otherwise, it’s not likely that we’ll see other prospects, other than a couple of bullpen arms, in Kansas City. I hope Moustakas comes out firing from the start in June, giving fans some hope and excitement. I’ve seen some projections by Bill James or Ron Shandler, for instance, that seem to think that Moose could top 25 homers in 2011. I’m not even THAT hopeful. I just want him to hit.

I hope this is the year Alex Gordon puts it together. Sure, he still plays baseball as his job and makes a lot of money, but I still feel bad for him. He had all of a city’s hunger for an icon forced upon him and hasn’t delivered. I know the best rise to that level, but still, as a person, that can’t feel good for Gordon.

I hope Billy crosses the 20 homer mark again. We know he’s a hell of a hitter, but he’s not taken seriously because he doesn’t mash homers, even though he has a homerun build. For that matter, I hope Kila Ka’aihue fulfills the promise we’ve seen from him over the past three years.

On a ballpark note, I hope they keep the KC Cantina. Last year I was almost in panic when I only saw one stand and a few kiosks. Those chicken nachos are downright amazing. I’d walk through mountains for them. Really. I know. That’s ridiculous, but they’re great.

I hope Sam Adams produces their White Ale in the summer again. Best quality tailgating beer I’ve found. Pair that with some jalapeno bratwursts on fresh rolls and I’ll stay out playing washers for hours.

I hope Luke Hochevar takes his new role as de facto ace and runs with it. There are some people who will keep treading water and some who recognize the opportunity and seize it. I hope Luke is the latter. I hope Vin Mazzaro allows us to rip off Billy Beane for a change instead of the other way around.

I hope Melky Cabrera does NOT get traded at the deadline. Here’s my rationale: if he’s traded, he’d have had to have shown value at some point. In order to do that, he needs at bats. I don’t want him to have at bats. I want Mitch Maier to have them. Or Jarrod Dyson. Or David Lough. Just not Melky. Jeff Francoeur‘s a foregone conclusion. He’ll make 700 appearances and get on base in 200 of them. Maybe he can get traded for a luxurious shuttle bus to drive prospects from Omaha to Kansas City in 2012.

I hope Dayton Moore makes a cagey trade or signing that the general baseball community (and Royals community) doesn’t berate him for.

I want to see Tim Collins make his big league debut next year. And I want them to play the theme from “Mighty Mouse” when he does.

I want to be able to ask the question “Is it time to promote Hosmer to KC?” in September. I think it’d be great to see William Myers in Omaha as a catcher, too.

If there was a way to shorten the drive, I’d like to sneak in a whole series or two at Arvest Park to watch the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.

I hope we land a few more great prospects in June at the MLB Draft. Further, I hope those are young prospects to keep the pipeline going. I don’t want Dayton to get tunnel vision on 2013 and beyond and go for college picks if a high upside high school pick is lurking about that we can draft and sign.

This isn’t a 2011 wish, but I hope in a few years, teams are adopting the Kansas City model of player development. Not because I want teams to use our tricks against us, but because it’ll mean that the Process worked.

And while we’re at it, I’d like to stop having to ironically capitalize the Process.

I hope Sam Mellinger, Bob Dutton and of course, Joe Posnanski keep the great stories coming. I hope Rany updates his blog more frequently.

I kind of hope that for every Jeremy Jeffress strikeout in 2011, they play “Ssssmokiiiin” from “The Mask” on CrownVision. I’d chuckle.

I would also totally throw out the first pitch again if I was asked to do so. That was awesome. Any chance to get on the mound is a fun opportunity indeed.

Most of all, I hope by the August heat, we haven’t all wilted and there’s still interesting baseball to watch in Kansas City.

Merry Christmas.

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