I had the pleasure of attending the farewell game on Sunday afternoon. I don’t know what the score was, nor do I care. I don’t think anyone else did either. Thank you for continuing to be a first class organization and doing things the right way.
Usually, September and October Sundays are dedicated to the NFL. As we all watch the NFL product become a shell of what it used to be, or could be, it was refreshing to see a group of professional athletes who “get it”.
With so much politicizing, hatred, divisiveness and tragedy going on in our world, it was almost unusual to see the amount of love that was on display at Kauffman Stadium. That is both a compliment to the Kauffman Stadium environment on Sunday, and an indictment on what our society has become.
Two white guys, a black man and a Venezuelan all received standing ovations as each approached the plate in their first at-bats on Sunday. Maybe one ovation was louder than the others, but I sure couldn’t tell.
This is why baseball, or maybe just Royals baseball, is so great. No one looks at any of those guys as anything other than Royals. Those are OUR guys. Each certainly imperfect, and each has weathered some tough times in their Royals years, but each were absolutely vital to championship runs in ’14 and ’15. You really can’t take any one of those guys out of the equation, and come out of 2015 hoisting that World Series trophy.
What we saw yesterday, whether you were at the stadium, or watching at home, was a rare level of mutual love and respect between professional athletes and fans. I commend the players on handling the situation with such class and grace, and really taking time to understand the impact they’ve had on the Royals organization and Kansas City.
And kudos to the fans for “getting it”. The type of ovation and treatment given to Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar is usually reserved for players that are retiring, not potentially going on to play in a different uniform, and possibly becoming a foe.
We Royals fans understand the business of baseball and have no expectation that all, or maybe even any of their pending free agents, will return. The fans know the finances simply aren’t there, and rather than being bitter about it, they showered those players with applause, cheers, tears and signs stating how beloved they are.
I, for one, appreciate the closure that yesterday’s game brought about, and the manner in which it was carried out by Ned Yost. It probably isn’t going to hit me until Opening Day 2018, and potentially seeing a new body out in center field, or short stop, or first base, or third base.
The closure was needed, because this was a break-up that lasted a lot longer than just yesterday’s game. This break-up started in December, 2016, when the Wade Davis was traded to the Cubs for Jorge Soler. I’m not knocking Soler, and still hold out hope that he’s going to be a good player for the Royals, but you don’t simply replace the type of dominance Davis provided.
Yes, we had a need at the corner outfield position, but let me remind you that we went to back-to-back Worlds Series with Nori Aoki and Alex Rios as our right fielder. Trading Davis was the first signal of the Royals turning the page. Yes, they hoped Kelvin Herrera’s 8th inning dominance would transfer to the 9th, but that’s not a gamble you make if you’re truly going for it.
The break-up continued, unintentionally, with the untimely passing of Yordano Ventura about a month and a half later, on January 22nd. Obviously, the Royals had big plans for Ventura. This was going to be the year of Yordano and Danny Duffy shouldering the load.
Toward the end of Sunday’s drubbing by the Diamondbacks, I turned to my wife and said, “Give me Wade and Yordano back, and this season doesn’t go down like this.” We may have still lost the division, but I don’t see us missing the wild card with those two.
I’ll end this by stating again that I don’t believe the Royals were ever really “going for it” this season. Rather than keeping the unit intact, and truly “going for it”, they seemed to rely on that Royals devil-magic that worked so well in ’14 and ’15. We saw that luck start to fade in ’16 with a lackluster .500 finish, but everyone still believed. This season, unfortunately, was a very clear illustration of the magic running out.
The steady starting pitching, the dominant bullpen, the “keep the line moving” offense–all of it was gone this year, and the finishing product was a shell of the team’s we remembered from ’14 and ’15, both in terms of production and personel.
2017 wasn’t absent of positives. The emergence of Whit Merrifield was amazing. Moose breaking the Royals home run record–FINALLY–kept us all entertained. Jorge Bonifacio showed that he can produce at the major league level. Scott Alexander gave us a glimpse at what could be the first piece in establishing another rock solid bullpen. Jake Junis showed not only solid effectiveness, but also a level of composure on the mound that we haven’t seen from a home-grown talent in quite a while.
If we are indeed out with the old, and in with the new, then we have some exciting young players to watch develop–Raul Mondesi, Jorge Soler, Hunter Dozier. Cheslor Cuthbert and Jorge Bonifacio likely have earned an increased role as well.
Hosmer and all the other pending free agents may, in fact, wear a different jersey next year, but they will ALWAYS be “Forever Royal”.
Thank you, Kansas City Royals, for turning this city blue again. Thank you for allowing Kansas City to be the baseball town it always has been, even before the Royals were here. Thank you for taking us on those magical rides of ’14 and ’15. Lastly, thank you, for shining a light on Kansas City, and allowing the players and the fans, to show that this world isn’t entirely cold and ugly.
Because of guys like Hosmer, Moose, Cain and Escobar, not only will I continue to bleed Royal-blue, but so will my sons. There’s not a thank you card big enough to express the warmth and joy that provides me, and many others like me.
So proud of my Royals and fellow Royals fans. Like those pending free agents, we’re all different, but we’re all one big Royals family.