Opening day for baseball fans is the start of a journey towards the pennant race. The start of America’s game, however, for Royals fans is bittersweet. Today, a sold out Kauffman Stadium will be packed with Royal blue and the intensity level will be high, yet probably not matched for the rest of the season.
Since the passing of Ewing Kauffman and the transfer of the Royals franchise to Major League Baseball and then to current owner, David Glass, the Royals have been out of contention well before the trade deadline. Heck, they are usually out of contention before the All-Star break.
Hope is the greatest weakness and greatest strength for Royals fans. Hope makes us show up 40,000 strong on opening day, 30,000 on buck night. But after blowing late leads, missing cutoff men and bobbing routine defensive plays, 40,000 turns to 20,000, turns to 12,000 by September.
Baseball in Kansas City has becoming a depressing topic. So, let’s stop talking about what will go wrong and hope for what might go right.
Last year’s CY Young winner, Zack Greinke, will take the mound today for the Royals. He brings the franchise a small amount of credibility nation-wide, but a large reason to hope for Kansas City fans. He’s added a change-up to his repertoire and looks to increase his wins from last year. Billy Butler is on the verge of not just being well-known in KC but a budding star in the league. He’s a over .300 hitter with a 100-plus RBI season potential. At the back of the bullpen, the Mexicutioner, Joakim Soria, is one of the top five closers in baseball. He’s converted over 90 percent of save opportunities since becoming the closer.
Now I know three players don’t make a baseball team. They can’t field every ball, throw every pitch or swing at every at-bat, but it is a start. You need a lot else to be a competitive baseball team, but ask other fans, coaches or players and they will tell you the same thing. You cannot have a good team without a great hitter in the middle of the lineup, a solid closer and a shut down, top-of-the-rotation, pitcher.
This is a year when we need to not focus on the middle of the Royals bullpen, Jose Guillen or the terrible middle-infield errors. Focus on the division. There is a great opportunity for this team. The Twins lost all-everything closer Joe Nathan and have just made a huge investment in catcher and last year’s MVP, Joe Mauer. The Indians might be in worse shape than the Royals. The Tigers and White Sox have proven players who have won division titles and World Series rings, but don’t have the talent to pull away from the pack in the division. Their aging rosters and lack of proven pitching make these teams success unpredictable. The Royals probably won’t win the division, but they certainly can win the division.
The negative Nancy’s of the world will tell you, “It’s just the Royals.” “Why watch?” “Worst team in baseball.” And if you listen, they are right. They will be the team that after a few weeks shows a glimmer of hope only to crash and burn into a last or second-to-last place finish in the AL Central. Why go to the games? Enjoy the hotdogs thrown at your eyes by Sluggerr? Watch fireworks on Friday nights? Because that is what being a fan is all about.
So today Royals fans, forget about the eventual collapse. Forget about 2003 and trying to replicate it. Forget about those 100 loss teams with last place finishes. Enjoy today, enjoy Greinke and enjoy the season. I might be right there with you pulling my hair out in mid-May while the Royals are in the midst of a 10-game losing streak, but until that point comes, enjoy it. Go out and enjoy one of the best stadiums in baseball.
It’s baseball season. There are 162 games to decide who the best teams in baseball are. If you don’t show up and support your Boys in Blue, then why should they believe in themselves? Show up, be loud, enjoy a cold one and hope. Because for Royals fans that is all we can do and its all we can ask they players to do. Play with hope, catch some breaks and maybe this team can take advantage of a weak division.
It’s baseball season. Let’s go Royals!
Cheering from Siesta Key,