Jun 21, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (35) hits a home run in the sixth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Every Royals fan had certain expectations before the season began, ranging from optimistic to pessimistic to extremely so on both sides.
This season has played out to show both sides of that coin. Start out hot with a 17-10 record. Follow that up with a dismal May. Then, they hire George Brett and rattle off a winning streak.
Royals fans have suffered the slings and arrows of every swing. The Royals were never as good as their 17-10 start and not as bad as the awful May that followed. Even with Brett in the clubhouse, they still didn’t really improve much on offense as a team. Then, the Royals lost two to Cleveland and followed that up with two losses to the White Sox. Only a late-inning comeback on Sunday salvaged the White Sox series. After storming back to .500, the team was starting to fall back again.
Up and down. Up and down.
Every loss results in desperation. Every win inspires a parade. I think that points to fans really investing in 2013. In the past, every season began with high hopes, but realistically, few fans really felt the Royals would contend. The 2003 season inspired new fans to join the club, but it turned out to be a mirage in a desert rather than a renewal of winning. It’s been rebuilding the rest of the way – and slow rebuilding at that.
So the moves this offseason addressed the main problems, and fans expected changes on the field. While I didn’t agree with every change the Royals made, I felt the team would be better than last year. Still, I had them pegged as an 84 win team. So that mild improvement leaves me a little calmer when the Royals lose. I didn’t have the expectation of the playoffs. I also wanted to spend this year being less reactionary to losses. It’s baseball. It’s a marathon of 162 games. No other major sport plays more games and that day-in, day-out pace requires some perspective.
They say that teams will win 50 no matter what and lose 50 no matter what and it’s the games in between that tell you about a team. The Chicago Cubs won 116 games in 1906 but still lost 36.
That being said, the Royals have shown what their formula for success is. Solid starting pitching, stringing together hits in an inning or two, and turning it over to the bullpen. If they get a lead early, it feels safe. If they fall behind, they don’t have an offense that can make up big deficits without a bit of luck. If any one of those elements is missing, the Royals are not great bets to win. When they have all three, it’s a lot of fun. When they don’t, it’s miserable. The Royals have played 73 games. They’ve had a starter go five innings or more in all but seven of those games. For some perspective, Jonathan Sanchez had five games of less than five innings out of his 12 starts last year as a Royal. And had he not been placed on the disabled list, I bet he’d have had a shot to get that sixth and seventh short game.
So yeah, they’re better, and there are plenty of bright spots. But the same temperance that holds me back from joining the riot after a loss also holds me back from getting too fired up after a win. I certainly enjoy them, but I’ve seen a lot of bad baseball as a Royals fan and I know that you never let your guard down in a horror movie because the monster is just about to jump back out.
My expectations haven’t changed. The Royals could turn it on for two weeks and surge over the .500 mark and get to within a couple of games of Detroit. They could just as easily tumble down some more. Jeremy Guthrie is starting to show regression. Many expect Ervin Santana to come down a bit, as well. By that same token, Wade Davis is doing his own regression, but in a positive way for the Royals and Luis Mendoza has been a perfectly fine back end starter, despite my protests in the past. And you know what? I’m happy for him.
Now here’s to hoping everyone turns the light switch on at the same time for a while. I wonder what Kansas City would look like in a pennant race again.