Kansas City Royals Could Be the Best AL Team of 2015

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The Kansas City Royals opened the gates of Kauffman Stadium Monday afternoon to one of the most anticipated home openers since it was still covered in Astroturf.  The last time the players, coaches, hot dog vendors, cotton candy flingers, and devoted fans occupied the blue seats, Madison Bumgarner popped up Salvy and the Giants got another trophy. 

A sense of well-deserved, bloated excitement followed the Kansas City Royals through the Winter; they brought home victory to a town that was in desperate need of baseball resurrection, even though they ultimately failed to get a companion for the ’85 Commissioner’s Trophy resting in the Hall of Fame.

Alongside this emotion was a mutual sense of anxiety and dread.  We got to the World Series with Billy Butler, James Shields, Nori Aoki.  All three left us.  How was it even possible to repeat last year’s success when our beloved players were replaced with a questionable mixture of hodgepodge talent and damaged goods?

The AL Championship Flag raised. The pomp and circumstance in full flourish. The bling distributed. The fond memories of a postseason to remember given their due.  And when Yordano Ventura took the mound as the newly minted ace of the rotation and threw the first pitch to Adam Eaton, Blue October was officially finally put to rest.

In just shy of three hours, all questions were answered.  Nagging fears put to rest. It was time to dig out the blue brooms out of storage; the Royals went on to destroy the Chicago White Sox on Opening Day and began the 2015 season with a massive three-game sweep of a so-called improved division rival.

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If it worked before…

There was never a doubt in anyone’s mind that Ned Yost and the Boys would bring back the small ball arsenal that gave them such a high degree of success last year,  On Monday, Lorenzo Cain blooped a dandy of a soft single in between of a trifecta of defensive dunces.  In an example of utilizing mini-golfing skills, or blind luck, Alex Gordon putted a ball up the middle that through divine intervention, managed to pass in between two passing defenders.

Pressuring the defense into submission, the Kansas City Royals stole six bases in the series.  Using a deceptive delayed steal, even beloved goofball Salvador Perez participated in second base thievery.  It’s welcoming to witness they haven’t lost their edge in such a key component to their defense: manufacturing runs.

Who are these Royals???

The Kansas City Royals may have held onto their established identity as free-swinging Kings of the BAPIP, using their winged feet to will groundouts into singles, but they finally got the memo on two other methods of run production: Walks and Dongs. 

We all remember the frustration of looking at box scores from last year and seeing the BB and HR columns continually filled with a fat goose egg. Last year, the Kansas City Royals were last in both categories.  On Monday, they walked five times and hit the ball out twice. 

On Tuesday’s game, Duffy pitched one too many mistakes and destroyed the lead his offense carefully donated.  A year ago, this would have probably given us a definite sensation of failure. Instead, Lorenzo Cain decided it would be best to launch a two-run blast and call it a night. 

What does it all mean?

The sensational opening games of the first act of 2015 give Kansas City Royals fans a reason to be confident.  They’ve pulled out the rug from an AL Central rival intent on usurping the Crown.  They’ve gotten on base and hit for power.  They walked. All that worked so perfectly well last year hasn’t changed one iota.  Our shutdown bullpen continues to instill fear as the Three-Headed Triumvirate of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland retained their fine form and have yet to allow a run.

During Monday night’s blowout of the Children of Comiskey, the sellout attendance chanted “Let’s Go Royals” with the same fervor and volume that echoed through the K during the World Series.  The stadium is our church and the chant is the prayer.  It’s as if the blue blood of October still pulses through the veins of fans and players alike.  The same sense of joy carried over whenever any run was scored, making it feel that the season was at risk…on game one.

We must be cautious.  The players must be cautious. Yordano Ventura gave us all a mighty scare with a insignificant thumb cramp, but it reminded us all of the fragility of high velocity pitching in the Tommy John era.  Lorenzo Cain nearly broke his foot off racing to leg out a single on one day and on Thursday, wracked his body in order to catch a fly ball.  There are still 159 games left in the regular season.

I don’t want you all to think I’m the one guy at a great party who’s standing in the corner, checking his phone, making judgements towards those having fun.  I am far from it.  I screamed with unbridled, childish joy when Mike Moustakas sac bunted for the first time. I screamed again when he did it for the second time.  The bombastic display of home runs and a the arrival of a modicum of plate discipline has given me a permanent, idiotic grin.

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And…the reality check

Here’s my point: It’s a long season that is barely out of the womb.  Eventually, and probably soon, the Kansas City Royals will lose a game.  Or two. Offense will dry up at times and the pitching and defense will occasionally slip up.  There is no such thing as a perfect season in Major League Baseball because, like life, it is long and full of challenges.  The Kansas City Royals need to continue to win series, even if they can’t always bring out the blue brooms of sweep. 

I believe the true test of the 2015 Kansas City Royals rests on how well they fair against Detroit, who’ll they finally face at the end of April.  Sweeping the White Sox is one thing, but outright unseating the Division Champion four years standing will be a bigger accomplishment; in fact, a necessary one I believe for a return to the postseason.

We know we have the defense.  We have the bullpen.  We have good starting pitching.  Edinson Volquez, who suffered a mediocre Spring Training excursion, gave up only a solitary run in eight and utilized his defenders for maximum effect.  Fans hesistant towards Volquez, hesitation not unfounded, breathed a collective sigh of relief.

If the walks keep up, the dingers keep donging, and Moose continues to have success in the two-spot, I believe the necessity of manufacturing runs can be used as a secondary weapon instead of the sole method of scoring.  The pressure placed on starting pitching will be alleviated and confidence given to the fab five in their outings.

If this gameplay works, then the Kansas City Royals will no longer be the beloved Cinderella team that nearly won a World Series:  They will be the most feared team in the American League with an arsenal of tools to pick apart any rival.  If what we have seen in this very minute sample size carries for six strong months, then the Royals will be the most complete team in baseball. Move on over, Washington Nationals.

For now, it seems that the lessons learned and the talent accrued from having postseason experience have paid off.  The core of raw talent, once so rough around the edges, have gracefully smoothed themselves into players at the peak of their ability.

I’m a hopeless romantic when it comes to the Kansas City Royals, and it’s far too early for such grandiose generalizations.  For now, I’ll be content with Moose dropping the bunts and Lorenzo Cain playing defense as if John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” blasts through the PA…

…and gatorade baths after every game.

Next: Ryan Madson Completes His Comeback?

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