Frustration and Royals Baseball


Every now and then I think about my fandom. This isn’t a crisis of confidence, but more of my assessment of where things stand.

I started the year trying to be less reactionary to how the Royals performed. Daniel Wesley on Twitter characterized a lot of reactions to Royals games by describing wins as parades and losses as meltdowns. I think that’s apt, as I recall the Royals losing two games in Chicago and many Royals fans reacting as if the sky was falling. Later, the Royals were 17-10 and another group (with some overlap) was ready to put down playoff ticket deposits.

May 17, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Kansas City Royals designated hitter Billy Butler (16) throws his bat after popping out against the Oakland Athletics during the ninth inning at O.Co Coliseum. The Oakland Athletics defeated the Kansas City Royals 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve been able to stay out of those swings for the most part. That doesn’t mean I’m not invested in the games or the results, but I think the teeth-gnashing, end-of-the-world goes too far, and I think the “we won’t lose again” crowd goes too far the other way. Teams lose games. Teams lose games they should have won. This happens every year, to every team, ever.

But the last two games are testing my patience.

The Royals invested heavily in this season. They added $12 million in payroll in snagging Ervin Santana from the Angels, a move that really shouldn’t have had long-term implications attached to it. The Royals didn’t get him with the idea of extending him (or I don’t think they had). They signed Jeremy Guthrie to a three-year deal, a pretty good move for this year (at just $5 million) but with two extra years. Then they made the big move, trading their top prospect (Wil Myers), a former top prospect (Mike Montgomery), and another darn good prospect (Jake Odorizzi) for James Shields and Wade Davis.

All three pitchers have been as advertised or better. Shields has pitched like the Ace Dayton Moore claimed him to be at the time of the trade. Santana has surprised just about everyone. Guthrie has been solid. And over the last two games, Shields and Santana were great with the exception of a couple of batters.

And the frustration comes from the fact that they shouldn’t have to fear one or two mistakes making the difference in the game. If fans are this frustrated, I can’t imagine what they feel, even if they’d never say anything. I’ve talked about Shields’s lack of run support before, but Santana has seen his team score 21 runs in his eight starts. Over his last three, he’s taken the loss after the Royals scored just three runs. Then just two runs. And last night just one.

This after the Royals had put up only one run in Shields’s start at Oakland. They both lost 2-1.

Basically, if Shields or Santana give up three or more runs lately, the Royals are likely to lose (even though, oddly, the Royals have won  a game when he’d given up four runs and three runs).

That falls on the offense. Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, and Salvador Perez have been good. Alcides Escobar started out hitting, and hasn’t lately. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are lost (and I think I’ve been among the more patient in regards to both of them). Billy Butler is making his way back. Right field and second base are pits.

The Royals biggest offensive acquisition was Miguel Tejada, who hadn’t even played in the majors in 2012.

They’ve shown some signs. In Baltimore they got some homers. Against the Angels, they showed more patience. But those are exceptions, not trends. They’re last in homers. They’re last in walks. So if they aren’t putting together a bunch of singles, they aren’t scoring.

And despite all of that, they’re still 20-19 going into Sunday’s game. It feels strange to be a game above .500 and feel like the bottom is going to drop out – this is the Royals after all – but that’s the feeling. As has been pointed out by Sam Mellinger, we’ve seen this before and the sequels to horror stories generally end in similar ways to the original. The Royals are 3-9 in their last 12 games.

There’s a point where it just gets old. Where optimism is just lying to yourself. When the best pitchers on the team don’t offer hope because you can’t figure the offense is going to fall apart again. I don’t want to be resigned to that. I want to feel good watching them play, but at some point, even the most patient fan can find themselves going Randy Quaid on their team.

I’m not there yet. But…