Are the Royals For Real This Year?
I believe the Royals will do well this year. I know, there’s been a few years when it seemed the Royals would do well and they fell flat (like 2004, 2009 and 2012). If there’s any team out there who crushes fan’s expectations and pulls the rug out from underneath their fans, it’s the Kansas City Royals.
But 2013 isn’t like the hopeful mirage of the 2012 season. Yes, there was optimism in 2012, but with the exception of the bullpen, the team wasn’t that good. Throw in the injuries, the dismal play of Eric Hosmer and Jeff Francoeur, the inconsistent play of Mike Moustakas and the 12-game losing streak in April, it’s a surprise the Royals finished as well as they did.
But this year, things are different. The Royals overhauled the starting rotation by getting James Shields, Ervin Santana and Wade Davis and resigning Jeremy Guthrie. Last year’s Opening Day starter, Bruce Chen, is in the bullpen. So is Luke Hochevar. The bullpen is strong and should be stronger with the improved starting rotation pitching more innings. Except for the question marks of right fielder Jeff Francoeur and second baseman Chris Getz, the Royals have a competitive lineup, a lineup not relying on washed-up veterans like Juan Gonzalez or Jose Guillen (the jury is still out on Francoeur). And unlike the Injury Bug Attack of Two Aught Twelve which decimated a part of the team, this spring has almost been injury-free. And the Royals are Cactus League Champions, which doesn’t mean anything, but at least they played well.
And the team did things that made sense. Like moving Hochevar to the bullpen instead of forcing him to be a starter. Choosing Luis Mendoza over Chen as the fifth starter. Making Getz the starting second baseman (Johnny Giavotella didn’t play well enough to earn a spot). The Royals didn’t do anything this spring that made you go, “what were they thinking?” Well, Sluggerrr getting a lap dance at a 2005 bachelor party notwithstanding (Google it if you must, But I warn you it’s NSFW and a little, well, awkward).
But we are talking about the Royals. The Royals starters got roughed up in a few Spring Training games. Lately, lefty reliever Tim Collins hasn’t been pitching well. Eric Hosmer might be playing right field and Billy Butler might be at first base in Interleague games. Key players may suffer injuries. The momentum and winning in Spring Training may not continue into the regular season. The Royals might have another 12-game losing streak early in the season. Sure, all this happening is unlikely, but if any team can do it, the Royals can.
But not this year. I believe the Royals will play much better this season. Winning the World Series? Not likely. Winning the American League Pennant? There’s a slim chance. Winning the American League Central? Only if the Detroit Tigers suffer a rash of injuries and their offense, defense and pitching falter. A Wild Card Berth? With good teams in the A.L. East and A.L. West, it’s unlikely. Finishing above .500? I believe an 87-75 record and a second place finish in the A.L. Central behind Detroit is a realistic possibility.
I hope so anyway. I am a Royals fan, after all.