Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Excitement In The Air

I live in a small town in the middle of Missouri.  I was born in Columbia, and lived in the middle of the state ever since.  In 1985, when I was 3 years old, the Kansas City Royals won the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.  I wish I had memories of it, but I don't.  I didn't really get into sports until I started collecting cards in 1991.

It is now 2014, and the last time the Royals made the playoffs was... 1985.  PLAYOFFS!  Needless to say everyone in these parts that were Royals fans, are now Cardinals fans.  I can't blame them a whole lot.  Once George Brett retired only a few Royals have made any impact in baseball.  They never had "sexy" (as in talked about) players like St. Louis.  Sure they had Johnny Damon and Carlos Beltran and a few others, but it was understood that we would never be able to afford them, and both became major stars AFTER they were traded.  Meanwhile the Cardinals had Ozzie Smith for a couple years after Brett retired, and then they got Mark McGwire. By the time the luster of McGwire was gone, Albert Pujols came along.  Then a World Series appearance, then a World Series title, and so on.

The most talk the Royals received outside of Brett retiring since 1990 had been about players they traded away.  Johnny Damon was once a Royal.  So was Carlos Beltran.  So was Zack Greinke.  Those are just a few.  In the Royals fanbase, and I'm sure everywhere else, Kansas City is considered a discount team.  It makes sense since the owner is a Walmart guy.  Until about 2008, owner David Glass was a penny pincher. even since then, he has held close to his wallet. That's not bad if you can still win, but KC wasn't winning.  Oakland was winning.  For a time, Minnesota was winning.  WHY WASN'T WE WINNING?  We had the talent, we just couldn't keep them.

Since the 1985 World Series, the Royals has only sniffed the playoffs a handful of times.  The best chance might have been in 1994.  The last time the Royals had a lead in their division was August 12th, 1994.   Then the baseball strike happened.  The Royals dreams were dashed, and it would remain that way for almost a decade.

In 2003, the Royals created some buzz, and gave fans a bit of hope.  In the end, they didn't make the playoffs, but there was hope for next year.  Next year didn't happen until 2008.  2008 was more of a fluke, and while people had some hope, they didn't expect anything.

Then last year something happened.  Maybe David Glass (the owner) realized he had enough money, maybe Dayton Moore saw an opportunity, maybe Ned Yost wanted to keep his job.  Whatever it was, Kansas City "mortgaged their future to win now".  They traded the farm to get pitching.  They sent Wil Meyers, Jake Odorizzi, and a couple other guys for James Shields and Wade Davis.

The result was Wil Meyers became a star in Tampa, Odorizzi was tearing it up in AAA.  Meanwhile, Davis fizzled, and James Shields kept being solid.  Royals fans were disappointed but we was use to it.  They made a short run for a wild card spot, but ultimately failed.  It wasn't a complete loss, at least they didn't finish last, hey I was happy with that.  Shoot, I was just excited to have a winning season.

Then 2014 came and excitement was in the air for the diehards, but didn't have high expectations.  Luke Hocheaver started to become a solid reliever in 2013.  Then he got hurt, and is out for the season. Management decided to put Wade Davis in the bullpen, and it has proved to be successful.  Overall despite a couple hiccups and questionable signings (Raul Ibanez, Scott Downs?) they Royals finished the first half decently.

After the all-star break, Royals fans demanded to get some upgrades and make a run at the playoffs.  In true Royals fashion, Kansas City didn't do anything but talk.  The deadline passed and we still had a DH who couldn't hit, a 3B who would make Mario Mendoza blush, and pitching that couldn't get past the 5th inning.

Then something sparked.  Their first basemen (Eric Hosmer) got hurt and the DH (Billy Butler) had to take over first.  Butler suddenly learned how to hit a home run.  The 3B (Mike Moustakas) realized .180 wasn't a good batting average and started to hit.  Overall the team started to win... A LOT!

The Royals have won 7 straight series.  They have won 8 in a row.  EXCITEMENT IS IN THE AIR!!!!  ESPN is talking about a small market team! The outfielder is doing backflips!  The talk of the town isn't about the Chiefs yet.  Chiefs talk should have been started by now, but I'm not mad.

I wanted the Royals to make the playoffs this year.  That's all I want.  Now it looks like it is possible. Oh and that trade for Shields and Davis- Shields is still solid, Wade Davis is a lights out 8th inning pitcher.  For Tampa- Odorizzi is doing great things in Tampa, and Wil Meyers is having an injury plagued year on top of a slumping sophomore campaign.

Maybe Kansas City is going to return to greatness.  Even if it is for one year, I'll take it.

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