At the beginning of the 2015 season, the Kansas City Royals saw a shift in the way they were perceived. During the 2014 postseason, the Royals had become that Little Team that Could, somehow making their way through the American League and to within a game of winning the World Series. The Royals, who had burst upon the national stage, were the darlings of baseball.
This season, as we all recall, the Royals were supposed to fade back into irrelevance. The experts were not impressed with their moves in the offseason, and felt that the Tigers, Indians and even the White Sox would push the Royals back to their typical place in the second division. Only problem with that train of thought was that no one told the Royals. They came out on fire, ready to defend their crown and take on all comers, playing with a chip on their shoulders the size of Madison Bumgarner.
Then, at the beginning of the season, the Royals found themselves the target of quite a bit of ire. They were leading the universe in times being hit by pitches, and it was taking a toll on the lineup. Alex Rios, after a torrid Spring Training and start to the season, was drilled in the hand, missed a month and a half, and was not the same. Omar Infante was hit in the face and wore a half face mask for a few games. Yet, nothing from the Royals, as they sought to defend their crown.
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Then, Brett Lawrie had his
dirty questionable slide, taking out Alcides Escobar. While Escobar escaped serious injury, that changed the tone for the Kansas City Royals. Fed up with being hit and irate about Lawrie, they began to retaliate. Lawrie, understandably, was hit to even the score. When Scott Kazmir hit Lorenzo Cain on that Sunday, the Royals again retaliated. We saw the Royals go after the White Sox after Jeff Samardzja (another former A – see a trend?) hit Royals batters and attempted to revive bare kncukle pugilism.
Strangely, the narrative about the Royals changed. Suddenly, they were the bullies, a team incapable of dealing with success. Their emotional style of play, which had been endearing during their unexpected October run, was seen as cocky and unacceptable. Yordano Ventura became the poster boy for everything wrong with the way the Royals were. Kansas City, in the span of six months, had gone from the beloved, scrappy underdogs to the villains of baseball.
Over the past few months, that noise about the Kansas City Royals had quieted down. They went to Oakland to face the A’s once again, and despite Lawrie’s wishes that a suit of +4 plate mail could be transferred to reality instead of existing only in Dungeons and Dragons, nothing happened. Everything was quiet around the Royals, as they continued to mow down the opposition en route to the best record in the American League. The Royals, while not necessarily the darlings of baseball again, had seemingly shed their temperamental label.
Then came Friday. In the devastation that was the eighth inning against the Orioles, where the Royals bullpen gave up ten runs, including two grand slams. In that disaster, Frnaklin Morales, who was unable to get anyone out, hit Chris Davis in the back on an 0-1 pitch. Suddenly, the Royals were again Bad Boys of Baseball, eliciting such reaction as this piece, which sounds like something Hawk Harrelson would write if he was an Orioles broadcaster and was literate.
So, now, the Royals are back where they were at the beginning of the season, angering opposing fanbases and once again being everything that is wrong with baseball. Meanwhile, the Royals have been in a truly miserable stretch, winning only three of their last ten games. Kansas City needs something to get them back on the right track, and perhaps this villainous reputation being thrust upon them is exactly what they need to get out of the doldrums.
At the beginning of the season, when the Royals were playing with that chip on their shoulder, they were close to an unstoppable machine. When they acquired Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist, their path to October glory appeared to be paved in gold. Now, their recent struggles have led some to wonder if the good times are coming to an abrupt end in Kansas City.
The Kansas City Royals needed something to break them out of their malaise. Perhaps being considered the villains of baseball once again will send them on the right path. It is, once again, the Royals against the baseball world, which is right where they want to be.