When events happen the same they always do, year after year, it’s easy to recognize them, curl up next to them and wrap yourself in it’s comfortable blanket. It’s easy to fall back on old vices; they are familiar and you know how to deal with them and what’s coming next. But when things go awry…well, then it’s hard to know how to react. That’s why the way the Kansas City Royals are winning has been hard to just embrace. It’s not just that they are winning; no, it’s that they are doing it convincingly and trying to make even the most bitter of us fans smile again.
The Royals limped into the All-Star break, not giving us fans much hope that good times were just around the corner. No, in fact the opposite happened. After a hot April, a putrid May, and a better June, it was hard to tell just what we should expect from this team. Were they the team that made it look easy early in the year? Or the team that couldn’t hit the side of a barn if plopped right in front of said barn? The team who’s pitching was amazing early on? Or the team that forced the team to bring George Brett in to help the offense because everything else hadn’t worked? This team was all over the place, to the point I wanted to re-name them ‘Sybil’. So when General Manager Dayton Moore said this team could go on a tear and win 15 of 20, we laughed. We mocked. We snarked. We did everything but believe they could actually do that. But they did it, and in the process completely turned this season around.
Not only have they played better than 15-5, they are at 16-4 since the All-Star break and looking to win again as I write this. How have they been doing it? Well, it’s more than just one thing or another. Early on, the pitching was carrying the team. It’s no surprise, really, as the pitching has been a plus for this team all year, but when you have a few clutch hits, out comes an 11 game winning streak. Since June, Eric Hosmer has been red hot and looked more like ‘Rookie’ Hosmer than the abomination he was last year. Mike Moustakas flat out sucked in the first half, but so far in the second half he is hitting over .300 and found his power swing. But there’s more; Alex Gordon seems to be coming around, Billy Butler is picking it up, and Miguel Tejada doesn’t look like the 84 year old that he is. This team has started to hit and be a threat whether they are playing the Twins or the Red Sox.
I’ll even admit, I was probably a ‘Negative Nelly’ when this streak started. Not only did I not think they had it in them, I was angry about a move that occurred right before the second half. Royals management(read: Moore) said that when Johnny Giavotella was called up that he was going to be given a chance to win the second base job. As Royals fans, we had heard that before, and we thought the worse. But it was almost worse than even we could have imagined. Gio lasted ten games(those that he actually played; a number of games he was benched in favor of Tejada or Elliot Johnson) and 38 plate appearances before being sent down and (ugh) Chris Getz was called back up. Again. Look, it wasn’t even about Getz being called back up, although let’s be honest, it felt like they just weren’t getting why he WASN’T a real option. Getz is what he is. No, the problem was more being lied to by management about Giavotella being given a chance. So, I didn’t watch any games. To be 100% honest, I was pretty stress free during those first seven games or so. The Royals were winning, but I just couldn’t enjoy it, even if I had wanted to.
Then one night, the light bulb went off. Sure, I didn’t agree with management. Sure, I wanted Moore and manager Ned Yost fired, that wasn’t going to change. But all I’ve wanted the last 18 years is for this team to win again. Deep down, I wanted to have fun watching MY TEAM play ball rather than feel bad about how much they sucked pond water. The Royals were winning, and I was missing it! So, I tucked my pride away, tucked all the anger in the closet and started watching again. What a saw was a fun baseball team, a team that played with boundless energy and determination. This is a young team that doesn’t realize they shouldn’t be playing this good. They don’t realize the big bad Tigers in their division are playing EVEN BETTER, yet the Royals still go out there and win. At the end of the day, they are doing the one thing all of us longtime Royals fans have wanted to see: winning.
So now is as good a time as any to ask the question we are all wondering; is this team for real? Or more importantly, can they keep it up? I have no clue. The funny thing about baseball is that it never really follows a continuous pattern. Some things in the game just defy logic and you just have to go with it. As Royals fans, that’s what we should be doing. Just enjoy the winning and hope it continues. I know there was a lot of talk in the off-season that this team would contend for the playoffs, but most of us thought a record right around .500 was more realistic. The Royals are now 4.5 games out of the second Wild Card with right around 50 games left. Weirder things have happened, folks. It would be fabulous to finally have October baseball in Kansas City again. It’s what we all have yearned for. But even if it doesn’t happen, let’s all just promise each other one thing. Let’s just promise to enjoy every win. Because we are officially in uncharted territory. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know how to act.