Every once in a while we get a strong reaction to a post that results in a lot of responses. Occasionally, we post a response or two. We encourage anyone send in their thoughts to [email protected] or put something in the comment section. Today’s letter is in response the post “Royals Start is Closer to Reality than Hope.” You can read the letter below the jump.
FROM: Kyle in Kansas City
When I hear all the enthusiasm around Kansas City about the Royals 6-3 start this year I can’t shake the memory of May 19, 2009. That was the last time I can remember the city being this excited, because it’s the last time a Royals game was memorable enough for me to remember where I was and what I was doing when I watched it.
It was a Tuesday night, and I was out at the Levee Bar & Grill in Westport celebrating a friend’s birthday. The Royals trailed 5-2 going into the bottom of the 9th inning, and the general expectation of people in the bar was that the game was over.
But it wasn’t.
After a Jose Guillen groundout, Mike Jacobs started the rally off with a solo shot off Kerry Wood. There was still not much excitement, as Jacobs always seemed to hit his home runs in low pressure situations. But then Mark Teahan hit another solo shot to pull within one. All of a sudden people started dropping their conversations and paying more attention to the game. Miguel Olivo then walked*, setting the table for a David DeJesus game tying triple. At this point, the entire bar had its attention on the game. With only one out, all the Royals needed was a long fly ball from Willie Bloomquist. Bloomquist delivered with a sacrifice fly, and the bar went crazy. The Royals had won, and at 21-18 pulled within 1 game of first place. Friends were high fiving, enemies were buying shots, and strangers were kissing.
*Editor’s note: After further review, I can confirm that Miguel Olivo did, in fact, walk. Here is the box score from the game.
Little did anyone know that May 19 would be the high point of the 2009 season. The next day, radio hosts and columnists alike were raving about the comeback. They kept saying things like “this team is different” and “previous Royals teams never won games like this”. But then the other shoe dropped. The Royals lost 15 of their next 18, and dropped from one game out of first to dead last in a matter of three weeks en route to a 65-97 record and 4th place finish. After a July loss, things got so bad that I put myself on a self-imposed one year ban from spending money on the Royals to protest (I’m sure they noticed).
After the Royals 6-3 start, I have been hearing a lot of the same things as I did in May 2009. After a late comeback to win the home opener, people started talking about how previous Royals teams don’t win games like that. This team is different. The pitching problems of last year are fixed. To those people, I would respond, “We’ll see.”
Since 1995, this is only the 5th time that the Royals have started the season 6-3 and better, so I can understand why Royals fans are getting their hopes up. There hasn’t been much hope in Kansas City over the last two decades. The truth is, in a 162 game baseball season, you cannot determine much of anything from any nine game stretch. The previous four times the Royals have started 6-3 or better, they ended up with 77, 83, 75 and 71 wins. I realize that a good April for Kansas City has been almost as rare as a playoff appearance over the last 20 years. But don’t get your hopes up just yet.
A’s General Manager Billy Beane is famous for saying “My shit doesn’t work in the playoffs.” His point is that in any small amount of games, there is as much luck involved as there is skill. For the regular season, everything evens out over the course of year, and players will trend towards their talent level. I’m not going to go into specifics of how the Royals pitchers are stranding an abnormally high amount of runners, or how their batting average for balls in play may be unsustainable. I’m just going to say that no nine game stretch in baseball will get my hopes up too much. I’ve been let down by the Royals too many times before.
But I don’t want to be too negative. I really do believe that this Royals team will finish with the most wins of any team since 2003 (of course 75 wins is not a very high bar). They may even eclipse the 2003 win total of 83. But I don’t think this team as constructed can make the playoffs.
So what would get me excited? There are a few simple things that the Royals can do to draw me in. First, they need to be competitive at the All Star break. If they are within four or five games of first at the break, that would be a good start.
Next, if they are competitive at the break, they need to make a serious move at the trade deadline to try to make the playoffs. I’m not talking about “upgrading” to Yuniesky Betancort. I mean David Glass opening his pocket book for a front line starter or big time bat, even if it’s only a half season rental. The Royals could definitely use help in right field or second base. Over the years, Glass has paid lip service to spending money if the team is in contention, and this year may be the year for him to put his money where his mouth is.
The final thing the Royals need to do to get me excited is make sound, in-game managerial decisions. I believe the decisions the manager for a major league team makes only swings about five games per year. But the Royals need to be on the winning side of those five games. For American League teams, this mostly has to do with the bullpen. On Sunday Ned Yost pulled Greg Holland in the 9th inning with the game on the line in favor of Kelvin Herrera before Holland could blow the game. If Yost continues to play to win, and not worry about who the official closer is, or if someone is going to get their feelings hurt, then the Royals just may be able to get over the hump.
Could this year be special for the Royals? My answer is maybe. I’ll get back to you in July.