I first considered turning this into an analogy about finishing my first 5K today, and how the season is just too long for panic attacks. I considered getting in line to announce how Luke Hochevar was finally figuring it out before his ankle injury forced him to leave the game. Unfortunately, I think the disaster that was Opening Day at the K deserves a little more sincerity and a little less levity.
It started around 11:30 AM as I pulled into Lot F and checked my phone to see Ned Yost’s Opening Day lineup. Jarrod Dyson was leading off, Jeff Francoeur was hitting second, and Alex Gordon had been moved to the 6 hole. To say this was ominous doesn’t begin to cover most Kansas City Royals fans’ feelings about it. Dyson’s career .292 OBP and Francoeur’s .313 would be setting the table for the three best hitters on the club. In fairness to Yost, his #2 hitter just went on the DL, but still. There was plenty of argument about who should be filling in for Lorenzo Cain on a daily basis, none of those arguments made a very good case that whoever did should be leading off.
As much as the lineup disturbed me, I still felt pretty good about Friday. After all, Luke Hochevar was on the mound and you all know how I felt about him coming into 2012. The Indians came into the game with an offense that scared no one and Hoch was coming off a very solid performance. Of course, that good feeling didn’t last long as the first three hitters reached for the Indians. After two relatively quick outs, the next 5 batters slapped the ball around the park, and before I could get a beer vendor’s attention, the Royals were down 7-0. It is important to note that with a little help from Yuniesky Betancourt, the Royals probably get out of the inning allowing just one run. Or that Dyson’s speed wasn’t enough to make up for his atrocious jump, leading to triple on a deep fly that also could have ended the inning. Hochevar was bad, no doubt, but he didn’t get much help either.
Even after the worst start to a Royals game that I can recall, it was still easy for the Kool Aid Drinker to be his optimistic self when Dyson, Francoeur and Eric Hosmer started off the home half of the first with 3 singles of their own. Maybe, just maybe, Yost’s crazy lineup was the one thing that could overcome the disastrous start from Hochevar. Of course, Billy Butler returned to 2009 form with a 4-6-3 GIDP and Alex Gordon struck out in a 5 pitch at bat. Other than a 2 run blip in the bottom of the 4th (right after Hochevar left the game) Derek Lowe was on cruise control for the rest of the afternoon. There were positive signs in the box score, like Everett Teaford’s 4 shutout innings in relief, but overall it was a miserable day in Kansas City.
So, here we sit, 7 games into Our Time, and it’s tough to find much room for positive reflection. The Royals have lost their starting catcher and starting centerfielder from the lineup and replaced them with players that are worse both offensively and defensively. They lost a candidate for the rotation in Spring Training, and now Luke Hochevar’s next start is in question. Speaking of Hochevar, any illusions that he had actually “figured it out” seemed to be dashed on Friday, at least until his next dominant performance. Add to it the fact that Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Verlander are on desk for a lineup that is hitting .243 and ranks 13th in the league in runs scored? Yeah, it would be hard to blame you for panicking…assuming you forgot that you’re cheering for the youngest team in all of baseball.
This team will get better as the season goes on. Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, even Eric Hosmer…all of these guys will improve the more baseball they get under their belt. Has the injury bug bitten this team early? Absolutely. Am I disappointed in Luke Hochevar? Of course. Has anything really happened to change my mind about “The Process” or where this team is going? Not even a little bit.