Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (35) follows through on a swing against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
A postseason appearance. We’re really not asking for much. A generation ago, it was expected. At this point, Kansas City Royals fans would probably take just about anything. We just want success, something we haven’t experienced for far too long.
Royals fans would be thrilled to find a way to play in the one-game Wild Card playoff. Anything, just give us something to get excited about in October, something that hasn’t happened since 1985.
I’m sick of talking about 1985. The memories will never go away, but on some level, we need to let it go. I was barely old enough to know what was occurring when it was happening. My biggest memory of 1985 is being scared to death as my mother celebrated the 11-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in game seven. I remember going to the parade with my father and it was great. But I was four. I thought all parades were exciting.
We don’t need to forget 1985, but we’ve long passed the time where it’s okay to celebrate it at nearly every turn. The occasional reunion is okay, but no more t-shirts, no more “Revive ‘85” nights at Kauffman Stadium. I want the opportunity to take my sons to a parade and not the kind with marching bands and floats.
The last time the Royals were the sexy pick to win the American League Central, as they seem to be this season, was exactly 10 years ago. I’m the first to admit that I bought in. I thought it was our year. Fresh out of college, I purchased a partial season ticket package. We were so desperate as fans, that it actually sounded exciting to sign a washed up Juan Gonzalez and Benito Santiago.
Sadly, 2004 opening day was probably the single greatest Royals game I’ve ever attended. The 9-7 victory over the Chicago White Sox, highlighted by a pair of home runs by Mendy Lopez and Carlos Beltran and a six-run bottom of the ninth inning. From that point forward, the entire season was a disaster. Like far too many seasons in the previous two decades, opening day was the highlight of the year.
I think we’d all agree that in 2014, history will not repeat itself. The 2004 example was a desperate team, run by a desperate general manager, and owned by a useless owner.
Yes, David Glass still owns the team, but whether we like it or not, he’s a vastly different owner than he was 10 seasons ago. He’s still not perfect, not by a long shot, but he now appears to want to win. That was a team with little to no pitching and an offense built around and aging Mike Sweeney, a washed up former MVP and a catcher that was nearly 10 years past his prime.
This year’s team has a much better pitching staff, is built around the game’s best defensive outfield, power-hitting corner infielders and has probably the best catcher in baseball in Salvador Perez.
It’s a huge difference.
Why can’t this team win? Well, there are obviously dozens of reasons, the first one being rather simple: they’re the Kansas City Royals. Regardless, isn’t this franchise due for some sort of luck? We’ve been through the “Our Time” debacle of 2012, which was a public relations disaster.
Why not 2014?
It’s been too long. It’s time that things go right for this fan base that for the first 20 years of existence, was spoiled by success, just to watch disaster after disaster for the next 25 years-a 25 year span that the Royals have averaged finishing 21.5 games behind the division winner. That number has been smaller and smaller in each of the past three seasons, but it still hasn’t been good enough to play playoff baseball.
Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore (left)Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
The Royals appear to have a legitimate shot at playing meaningful games for an entire season this year, and that means more pressure on everyone. No more excuses.
For the first time since Glass officially took over ownership of the team, he lost money last year. This year, he’s likely to lose even more, with the payroll at a franchise-record $92 million.
The lion’s share of the pressure lies squarely on Dayton Moore’s shoulders. This is his baby and his vision. But there is plenty of pressure to pass on to the players on the field as well as Ned Yost in the dugout.
Eric Hosmer needs to be the player he was from June on in 2013. The pitching staff is expected to take a step back from a phenomenal year last season, and that’s fine, as long as the offense picks up the slack, and then some.
Patience for Yost’s head scratching decisions won’t last long. There are real expectations now. Good teams and good players thrive under pressure.
The scariest part of expectations and the pressure that comes with it? The chance of failure.
Baseball is forever called a game of failure. It’s perhaps the only thing the Royals have been good at in the game for nearly 30 years. The scariest part of failure at this juncture is the thought of what the Glass family will do if and when this team fails. They’re capable of anything. Ideally they would sell the team, but we aren’t that lucky. I certainly don’t want to find out.
For thousands of reasons, we need this team to be good. The World Series victory in 1985 was awesome. But it was nearly 30 years ago. It’s time this team created new memories so its tortured fan base isn’t forced to grasp to ones three decades old any longer.