Right now my gut is telling me the 2011 Royals are probably about a 95 loss team. Plenty of Royals fans will find that number optimistic. But strangely, I am feeling good about the organization as a whole right now. Here are a few reasons why:
∙ Digital Digest: The Royals made their first ever overture to the blogger/social-media community in the form of Digital Digest, a press conference for seven lucky souls who are used to covering the Royals from their computer screens at home, not face-to-face with management and players. The announcement of the event was kind of exciting in itself since it marked a progressive step in the organization’s attitude towards new media; I was even more encouraged when I saw who had been selected. The Royals could have chosen strictly “rah-rah” homers, but they opted for level-headed, passionate fans that can be critical at times. The bloggers got face-time with GM Dayton Moore, manager Ned Yost, and players Billy Butler and Jeff Francouer. (Ned Yost made me happy by using the word “sabermetric” while discussing how he thinks the ordering of a batting lineup is the most over-emphasized aspect of a manager’s job.) The participants asked some great questions and produced a ton of interesting content from the short conference.
According to participant Michael Engel of Kings of Kauffman, they were told that there will probably be at least one “blogger night” at the K this year, where “those invited/approved would be participating in pre-game media sessions and post-game press conferences.” These are some refreshingly progressive attitudes and steps by a franchise not usually known for them.
∙ FanFest: I attended the Royals fourth annual winter party, which is always good for an off-season baseball fix and pumping up of some unrealistic hopes for the coming season. The highlight of the event (other than watching my son play games) was the awards show, which included Royals legends such as George Brett, Willie Wilson and Mike Sweeney presenting awards to some of the minor leaguers we hear so much about but have not had much chance to see in person. Mike Moustakas cracked up the crowd when receiving an award from Brett: “I mean, its George Brett…holy crap!” It was nice to see other top prospects like Eric Hosmer and John Lamb, and get caught up in the hype surrounding the talent in the minors right now.
∙ Futures Game: The Royals announced another progressive, fan-friendly event: a Futures Game that will pit the Double-A and Triple-A squads against each other at Kauffman Stadium on April 2nd. It is a savvy move by the Royals, and shows they understand the interest the fan base has in seeing baseball’s top farm system in action. It is the must-see game of they year at the K.
∙ Billy Ray: Losing Zack Greinke this off-season was a tough pill for me to swallow, but the excellent deal the Royals reached with Billy Butler has taken the sting out somewhat. Billy is in some exclusive company as far as offensive accomplishments through age 24, and that he will be a Royal through what will hopefully be his peak years of ages 25—29 is exciting. He was born to hit baseballs, and it looks like he will be doing a whole lot more of it in a Royals uniform.
∙ Youth: Not talking about the minors this time—as Nick Scott has pointed out, the 2011 Royals are going to be truly young, and that is before any of the minor leaguers start making their way to KC. If 2011 is another losing year, at least we will be watching young guys learning and developing while losing.
So chin up, Royals fans…Good things are happening, and even better things are coming.