We’re a few days from 2013, which means a few days closer to spring training and a few days closer to Opening Day.
The temperature isn’t even above freezing in the midwest. There’s snow on the ground. It feels like we’re as far away from baseball as we could be.
June 17, 2012; St. Louis, MO. USA; Kansas City Royals pinch hitter Billy Butler (16) celebrates with teammates after hitting a solo home run in the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Then, as if to taunt us all, Fox Sports Kansas City showed the majority of five Royals games from the 2012 season on Christmas Eve. In the middle of winter, there are replays of Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, and Mike Moustakas heroics. Heck, there’s even a go-ahead homer by Yuniesky Betancourt in the Cardinals game they showed.
To this point, most of the big free agents have signed. The trades that had the most steam have either been completed or have fizzled away as new options opened up. The Royals have their rotation revamped. The bullpen should have the same principals as it did at the end of the year. The only real roster questions will come down to if the Royals find a veteran shortstop/utility type and find a backup or platoon option for Jeff Francoeur in right field.
There’s something to watching these games on replay (I have them on the DVR but even if not, I’d be able to dig into MLB.tv’s offseason package for more). They’re all victories and all of them feature some sort of late-game drama – Moustakas’s barehand play to secure a win over the Yankees or Jarrod Dyson causing havoc on the basepaths against the Brewers – so you can’t help but be excited. But even though it’s baseball, and I’ll gladly watch an old Royals game over, say, the NBA, the result of the season is still on the mind.
In other words, I’m ready to get on with it. Enough arguing over if James Shields is enough. Let’s see him in a Royals uniform. I like looking at the numbers and thinking about what might happen next year, but I’d much rather see it happen to discover if Alex Gordon is going to continue his excellent play.
While visiting home for Christmas, I looked through some old boxes and came across thousands of old baseball cards and other news clippings, magazines, and books. A couple of these were 1990 season previews. I’ve discussed the 1990 Royals in the past (just over a full year ago, actually), and I remember the excitement before that season. The Royals had finished in second in the AL West with 92 wins in 1989, then went out and signed Mark Davis, the reigning NL Cy Young winner. With the AL’s Cy Young winner already in town in Bret Saberhagen, optimism was high.
This offseason, the Royals have significantly changed their rotation. While there are some good arms who might get a look at some point (I’m thinking of Will Smith and, to an extent, Everett Teaford), the Royals have put themselves into a position where they don’t have to go into the season worrying about if those arms that may not be ready will be ready. They have their top three starters locked in with Shields, Jeremy Guthrie and Ervin Santana in place and indications suggest that Wade Davis should get the first shot at the fourth spot. With the young crop of hitters, it’s exciting. I’m one of those types who don’t think that Shields was enough to make a difference for the playoffs this year, but there’s always that chance.
It’s the same chance that creates excitement when the Royals signed Davis before 1990, when they signed Juan Gonzalez before 2004, when every publication short of Better Homes and Gardens was touting the farm system before 2011.
I’m tired of waiting. I want the Billy Butler heroics (like his pinch-hit homer off Jason Motte in St. Louis) to have some meaning in September. I want to see if Big Game James has a reason to live up to the nickname in Royal blue.
There are 96 days until the Royals open the 2013 season at Chicago.
There are 58 days until the Royals face the Rangers in their first spring training game.
There are 48 days until the first date of voluntary reporting for pitchers and catchers.