Royals Roller-Coaster Roars On


With barely over a month left in the regular season, the Royals lead the American League Central.  Every game is like a play-off game.  Every win is soaked in value, every loss is drenched in stress.  The most puzzling Royals team of my life-time  seems capable of any finish.  At this point, could they do anything to surprise you?

Their second half dominance leads one to believe they are capable of running away with the division. Their three decade legacy of losing whispers that the correction, the collapse, is near.  Their streaky track record from this season and last year, says it will go down to the season’s last game.

With barely over a month left in the season, the Royals lead the American League Central.

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This Spring, any Royals fan would have eagerly signed up for this scenario, and thanked his Royal Power in the sky.  But even those with the strongest of faith, would never have thought this possible if they knew Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer would have a combined total of 15 home runs.  Their faith would have been shaken by the fact that Mike Moustakas would struggle to hit .200.  How is this happening?

The Royals lead their division because their home-grown pitchers, Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy “arrived” as big leaguers.  They have a shot at the post season, because they have the best outfield defense you’ll ever see.  They can close out this crazy year with a bullpen that dominates like the Red’s Nasty Boys.  That pen that led the Reds to a World Series win in 1990.

The Royals leadership team, the one I like to dump on, has made some great moves. Picking up Jason Vargas, marrying him with the cavernous K and this team’s elite outfielders, has been huge.  Good move by Moore.  He looked goofy investing so many dollars on a  bullpen, while the rest of the team had holes.  Instead of making an average line up just a slightly above average line up, he made a dominant bull-pen.  He doubled down on his strength.  Good move.  Moore, at least briefly, over came his on base percentage allergy when he scooped up Josh Willingham.  Progress.

Ned Yost, despite his stubbornness and foot in mouth disease, has also grown.  Yost is shuffling his outfielders based on match ups, and not on hunches and principal.  Yost, who was comfortable throwing Billy Butler under the bus as recently as June, now says he’s not sure how he will handle Eric Hosmer‘s return from the DL.  Hosmer has always been a sacred cow.   For Yost to even hint at not automatically inserting him back in the starting line up feels like progress.  Sounds like a healthy dose of logic and reason. If he could just stop antagonizing the fans and making things up when he’s interviewed, some of us might actually learn to appreciate him.

Nobody can say the Royals have not grown this year. But nobody can tell us they can’t flush it down the toilet either!  We have seen this line-up shrivel up and die too many times. Ventura’s missing a start with a stiff back.  Shields just laid an egg.  What if Hosmer is forced back in the line-up, and it ruins Butler’s mojo?  Scott Downs is still on this team!  That’s crazy, Gordon’s walk-off last night has to mean this is finally our year.

If this reads like a child wrote it, it’s because, it basically was.  I flat-out don’t know how to handle a Royals pennant race like an adult.  I was twelve when the Royals last played in the post-season, and my baseball maturity, as it relates to this team, is barely twelve and a half.  I would really like to “act like I have been here before”, but the last time this happened, I still harbored dreams of playing for the Royals myself one day.

My wife has always known I was a baseball loving fool, but she’s never dealt with crap like this.  The game is on every night, and I’m avoiding social engagements.  I’m blowing through a half year’s worth of hall passes for the last four nights of the season.  (The Royals finish up in Chicago, where I live)  My 15 month old daughter has yet to watch a cartoon, but recognizes Sal Perez.  I’m booking travel arrangements for work, and really concerned they may conflict with play-off games.

I am now “worried” about many of the silly things I worried about when I was twelve, and that feels really good.  I don’t know how this ride will end for the Royals, and neither do you.  I do hope, regardless of the outcome, to be grateful.  I want to remember how fun this was, and how it made me, several nights a week, feel twelve years old again.  Isn’t that why we love things like sports?

With barely over a month left in the regular season, the Royals lead the American League Central.  Enjoy this rare ride.