Royals Review

15 Apr

“Potential.”

We often define this word as an amount of ability that should translate into success. Kansas City Royals fans have heard this word for many years, and this year, the team slogan forecasts more than just the presence of variables that should add up to greatness. It declares that they will.

As the Star-Spangled Banner floated from a saxophone and a B2 bomber buzzed overhead to kick off the home opener in Kauffman Stadium on Friday afternoon, the JumboTron flashed a mantra of immediacy –  “Our Time.”

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, though, it was Cleveland’s time. The Indians swept the Royals 8-3, 11-9 and 13-7.

Just nine games into the season, the Royals are 3-6 and have already lost two games in extra innings. The first such defeat came in 12 innings at Oakland after reliever Jonathan Broxton walked two batters and hit two batters to give the game to the A’s in a historic display of futility. The other heart-wrenching extra-innings loss happened on Saturday against Cleveland. The Royals trailed 9-2 going into the bottom of the fifth inning, but they scored seven runs and entered the ninth inning with the game tied 9-9. Broxton took advantage of an opportunity to redeem himself by pitching a scoreless ninth inning, but then Greg Holland relieved him, and the Indians promptly scored two runs. Cleveland won 11-9.

Far be it from me to say these shortcomings portend another mediocre season for the Royals. On the contrary, there are still 153 games to play in the regular season. With players like Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Jeff Francoeur and Billy Butler, just to name a few, a positive attitude about this year’s team is still absolutely justified.

However, a 3-6 start to the season is certainly not what the doctor ordered. Speaking of doctors, the long-term absences of closer Joakim Soria (ulnar collateral ligament) and catcher Salvador Perez (lateral meniscus tear) could also be reasons to despair. Outfielder Lorenzo Cain – whose replacement Jarrod Dyson was relegated to Triple-A Omaha after some rough outings this week – is currently out with a groin injury.

At this point in the season, you can make either a negative or a positive prediction about the team’s chances. I tend to look on the bright side, but in any case, here are a few of my scattered observations from back-to-back days at the ballpark during a weekend in Kansas City.

  • In the Royals home opener on Saturday, reliever Everett Teaford recorded four scoreless innings – the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth. That accomplishment certainly counts as a bright spot in an otherwise run-happy series for Kansas City’s opponents. Plus, the Royals are getting him for a relatively paltry $488,000 this year, so if he keeps pitching like that – maintaining an ERA of 0.00 seems unlikely, but you get the drift – he is a major bargain.
  • I wonder if Ned Yost has read “Moneyball.” This book, which many baseball traditionalists have rejected, describes how Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane never let players steal bases. The logic behind that seemingly odd rule is this: the worst thing you can do in baseball is make an out, and when it comes to stealing bases, statistics show the risks outweigh the rewards. To me, this makes sense. Baseball has no timer; it is not like a basketball or football game where the clock is ticking down so you have to attempt a half-court shot or do something equally desperate. On Saturday, Dyson attempted (as instructed) to steal a base when the game was tied 9-9, and the pitcher picked him off. Now, instead of a man on first with one out in the bottom of the ninth, the Royals have empty bases and two outs. Which puts the batter in a less stressful situation? The first, of course. So there you have my book-inspired beef on that particular managerial decision.
  • While Alex Gordon is still just 4 of 34 at the plate – a batting average of .118, if you were wondering – his early slump appears to be over. So for everyone who was panicking when he couldn’t get the bat on the ball in the first couple games after signing his new contract, you can relax now.
  • To the untrained eye, it certainly appears as if the Royals need to use their pitchers a bit more judiciously. Outfielder Mitch Maier took the mound for Kansas City on Sunday for the conclusion of the team’s 13-7 loss to the Indians. He had done so once before, but it was only the 11th time in team history that a position player filled in as a pitcher. That statistic seems to indicate that it is possible to employ pitchers in such a way that there are enough of them to go around. Granted, Maier pitched a scoreless inning – in fact, he was the only Royals pitcher to do so that game – but unless he is being added to the rotation, something needs to be ironed out here.
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