Kansas City Royals fans are excited for the coming baseball season. I’m not sure if they’re excited to have any kind of baseball back, or they think the Royals have a legitimate shot at winning games during the 2012 season. Like most either-or situations the truth is most likely in the middle. I’m excited too, and I have been since the end of the regular season.
I have not been this excited during a Royals off-season since the winter of 2003-2004. Remember that? I do, and it has me slightly worried. The Royals finished the 2003 Season 83-79. While the 2003 Royals faded down the stretch, and dropping their last three to White Sox there was lot to be excited about that fall. The Royals had a collection of young guys. Angel Berrora was the 2003 AL Rookie of the Year. He flashed some leather in the field, and was surprise at the plate. Surely Berrora would get better during the off-season? Ken Harvey had a good first half of the season and became an All-Star. Even though he faded during the second half of 2003, surely he would figure some things out and get better? Mike MacDougal would learn some control. Jose Lima had eliminated his demons and was back to being a productive starter. Mike Sweeney will get healthy over the winter. Runelvys Hernandez, Brian Anderson, Jeremy Affeldt, DJ Carrasco, Jimmy Gobble, would all come back in 2004 and be better. Because that’s what young ball players do. They get better. They don’t ever regress? Do they?
Not only was the current roster going to improve but Allard Baird signed veteran free agents Benito Santiago and Juan Gonzales. Zack Greinke was waiting in the minors. Some national media prognosticators even picked the 2004 Royals to win the division! The Royals future was bright, and the Royals fans had to wear shades to even look at it. How could anything go wrong?
The 2004 Off-Season concluded with one of the most exciting Opening Day’s in franchise history with Mendy Lopez hitting a home run off Damaso Marte in the bottom of the 9th. I was at that game, and it’s one of my favorite Royals memories. The Royals march to October was underway. I went to two more games that opening week. The Royals finished up the opening home stand 4-2. Of Course, we don’t need Paul Harvey to tell us what happened to Ken Harvey and learn the rest of this story. The Royals only won three more games the rest of April, finishing 7-14. This included a six game losing streak. May got even weirder with Tony Pena fleeing the country and the wheels officially coming off the wagon. Thus began even darker days for the franchise and it’s fans, and truthfully I don’t know if we’ve ever fully recovered.
This season does look promising. But years, and years of disappointment have dulled my optimist’s blade a little. After all, the 2003 Royals won twelve more games than the 2011 Royals. I claim to not be a very big statistics person. But one statistic that came to my attention during the 2003 season was the Pythagorean Win-Loss Formula. You use total runs scored and total runs allowed for a team to determine what a team’s record should be. The 2003 Royals had a better record than their Pythagorean W-L: 78-84. Their actual W-L was 83-79. In other words, the 2003 Royals were lucky. Any team that got to play the 2003 Tigers 19 times was lucky. The 2011 Royals Pythagorean W-L: 78-84. Their actual W-L was 71-91. The 2011 Royals were more unlucky than the 2003 Royals were lucky. This tells me that last season’s Royals weren’t all that far off from being a .500 team.
Knowing that last season’s team was better than perceived sort of eases my mind. However, a lot of assumptions on 2012 being a good season for the Royals are dependent on the same things that made us think 2004 was going to be a good season. Youth taking a step forward, no major regressions from the established roster, and new additions being as advertised or better. I’ve been this excited before only to see the worst team in franchise history trotted onto the field. There are always a lot of ifs for a baseball team this time of year. Too many times the answer to those ifs has been wrong for the Royals. That’s what has me worried. If this group of players doesn’t turn things around for the organization the only thing we’ll have to look forward to is another GM and another process. For once it would be fun to be excited about the Royals, and not worry that the wheels might fall off. Of course, like a lot of Royals fans problems only consistent winning will take care of that.