If you are not completely on board with the 2015 edition of the Kansas City Royals, then I do not know what to say besides “I’m sorry,” because I cannot help you. It is impossible to comprehend how anyone out there in baseball-land could not be any less than completely convinced that the Royals are not only for real, they are the very best team in the American league, if not all of baseball. At 15-7 the Royals are tied with the Houston Astros for the best record in the American league and they sit a half game back of the St. Louis Cardinals in the overall standings. However, make no mistake, as the calendar turns to May, we can unequivocally assert that the Royals are kings of the baseball world.
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How could this be anything less than true? After a performance like the one we saw on Thursday night in game one of this early season show-down with Detroit, how could we not confidently (and accurately) assert that the Kansas City Royals have risen to the top and are thus the team that the rest of the American League will be chasing for the next five months?
Let us look at the numbers. The 2015 Royals are a team that does almost everything right. They hit. Coming into Friday night’s game against the Tigers the Royals led the American league with a .302 team batting average and they led the league as well with a .360 on base percentage. Their +45 run differential is not only tops in all of baseball but the the Royals highest one month total since 1980. They were third in the league in slugging percentage (.446) and fourth in the league in RBI with 104 (112 now after the eight runs they put up on Friday night), and let us not forget that they lead the baseball world with 20 HBP.
They Kansas City Royals pitch. While the starting rotation has struggled at times through this first month (but how ’bout Danny Duffy on Thursday?!), the staff as a whole is second in the American league in E.R.A (3.20) and the bullpen is still unquestionably the envy of the rest of the baseball world. Of the nine pitchers that currently comprise the Royals ‘pen, only one of them (Brandon Finnegan) has an E.R.A over 2.00.
And finally, the Royals play legendary defense. Does this statement even need quantifiers? The Royals outfield is where fly balls go to die. Sportscenter needs to make a highlight reel that is solely dedicated to the Kansas City Royals. On Friday night, Jarrod Dyson alone had two “Top Ten” worthy catches and no one will soon forget Alex Gordon flying into the seats in Chicago to make what is not just the catch of the month, but probably the catch of the season. Kansas Citians will see that catch replayed on Opening Day highlight reels for years to come
And it is plays like the one Gordon made in Chicago that helps best explain why the Royals are in fact the top dog. The best part of the 2015 Royals is the stuff that the statisticians cannot measure. It is their intangibles that make the Royals special.
Do you remember in 2001 when the Royals rolled out the marketing campaign with the slogan, “You gotta love these guys!”? Well, no, we did not have to love those Royals, but America cannot help but love these Royals. Something happened last October that has carried over to this season and completely altered how the players and coaches in the Royals clubhouse understand themselves and the rest of the league. The Royals are good, and for the first time in as long as so many of us can remember, they know it (and so does everyone else). But the beauty of it all is that this newfound knowledge has not caused them to get complacent but has actually prompted them to get even more hungry.
If this first month (and 15 wins) has told us anything, it is that the Royals are on a mission. There is no quit in this team and their drive to win and to prove wrong all those who claimed that last year’s run was a “fluke” is personified in the multiple come from behind wins that they have already tallied here in 2015. The players genuinely seem to like each other and seem to like playing for each other. They trust their manager and they play the game hard. They possess a resiliency that is necessary for a winning team to sustain its success throughout the season. We have already seem this put on display with the injuries sustained by Greg Holland, Omar Infante, and Alcides Escobar and with the suspensions that have already or will soon take effect. The Royals have encountered an awful lot through these first 23 games and we have yet to seem them get rattled or deviate from doing whatever they can to win the game that day.
As the calendar turns to May and as the Royals prepare to square off against Detroit (then Cleveland and then Detroit again) we have no way of gazing into the crystal ball to see what the baseball gods will bring to Royals, but we do know, without any uncertainty, that the Royals are better equipped than any other team in baseball for the marathon that lies ahead. Consequently, we as fans have no reason to doubt that this will by anything less than a special summer.