It's a high we haven't felt since. That amazing feeling in the postseason, watching your team, for the first and subsequently only time, pass around the trophy given to the World Series champion. To see champagne flow freely, to have President Ronald Reagan call the team to congratulate them. The music flows, the population of Kansas City is jubilant, and as you feel the moment excite you, with a blink of an eye...it's gone.
Since then, it's been painful. An unimaginable tailspin into mediocrity, and finally abysmal nothingness. A team that is mocked, made fun of, and picked every year to be dead last. The worst, and they have played this way showing they are well-deserving.
This is a refresher to those who have decided to join our ranks as Royals fans, thanks in large part to the talent that will be joining the team from the vast collection within the farm system.
I won't poke fun, I won't judge you for jumping aboard or coming back. This is how Royals fans are for the most part. We have taken our lumps and expect to as well through 2011. But 2012? Oh well, you can be sure there's going to be a different mindset. This team is changing, finally. The days of the broken down veteran getting a place to play will come to a halt, and the team will break out a "Prospect Tsunami", looking to sweep over baseball fans everywhere, and hope to pull many of them to our stormy sea that will soon be calmer and smoother. (This is not meant in disrespect for the recent tragedy, as I coined it the "Prospect Tsunami" last year sometime)
So why read this? Because as a new fan of the Royals, it may interest you to catch up on what this team has endured since that amazing moment in 1985. There are trials and tribulations, excitement and heartache, mixed in with just downright insanity. So enjoy!
1986: Kansas City plays into a 3rd place tie with Oakland, after learning that Dick Howser, the only manager to lead them to a World Series championship was diagnosed with brain cancer. The Royals draft Bo Jackson.
1987: The Royals enter the year with a new 3rd base coach, Billy Gardner who is fired mid-year and replaced with John Wathan, who went on to coach for 4 more years. Royals trade away David Cone, but get back quite the haul (in pure sarcasm), with Ed Hearn, Rick Anderson and Mauro Gozzo. Bo Jackson debuted, hitting 22 home runs with 53 RBI's.
1988: Infamous 1st baseman Bill Buckner joins the Royals, setting the way for them to release "Bye Bye" Balboni. Another Royals first basemen to be heard from was drafted, with Bob Hamelin being picked in the 2nd round. The Royals finish with a winning record, but in 3rd place.
1989: This was the end. Last great Royals record, 92-70, but finished in 2nd place behind Oakland. Bo Jackson hit a memorable leadoff homerun in the All-Star game and was the MVP. Bret Saberhagen won 23 games, and the Cy Young award. The avalanche begins...
1990: The Royals finish 27 1/2 games out of first. George Brett hit .329 for the year, taking over the lead from Rickey Henderson on the last day of the season. This made him the only player with batting titles in 3 different decades.
1991: The Royals finished over .500 for the season, but still in 6th place. That's right, everyone in the AL West finished .500 or over. No big fanfare ensued. Hal McRae took over as manager.
1992: Bret Saberhagen was traded away to the New York Mets for Kevin MrReynolds, Gregg Jefferies and Keith Miller. Other moves included bringing in Wally Joyner and trading off Kirk Gibson. Johnny Damon was picked in the '92 draft in the 1st round, but the Royals still stayed near the bottom of the pile, tying with the Angels for next to last place.
1993: Terrible year for Royals fans, as it marked the loss of one of the greatest owners, Ewing Kauffman. Kauffman and the Royals were such a greatly heralded team during his time, that late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner used to regularly complain to the commissioners office that Kauffman was driving up salaries. Imagine that? The Boss complained about Kansas City spending too much. The Royals made many moves, bringing back David Cone and Mark Gubicza. Kevin Appier had a great year, going 18-8 on a team that finished with a winning record. McRae goes ballistic in his office after losing his temper. Future Hall of Famer George Brett retires.
1994: The divisions change from a 4 division format to 6 divisions and playoffs now include the wildcard. The Royals had a good run towards the end of the strike-shortened season, winning 14 games in a row during the summer. Alas, what could have been. Players strike and baseball is gone for the year, including the World Series. Bob Hamelin wins Rookie of the Year. All that for nothing.
1995: The year of the Indians. Once baseball picked back up, the Royals and everyone else in the AL Central were futile, while the Indians tore apart baseball like a juggernaut, going 100-44. The Royals 70-74 record? SECOND PLACE! 30 games back. Everyone else pulled up the rear. Royals made several trades including trading off Brian McRae, Davis Cone and Vince Coleman. Johnny Damon makes his debut. Bob Boone was the manager from 95-97.
1996: The Royals finally settle into the position they would come to be known best. Last place. The worst part? This team hasn't even BEGUN to get bad yet. Wally Joyner is traded off for Bip Roberts.
1997: As soon as he burst on the scene, Bob Hamelin departs. The Royals show that last place is more suited to their style of play. The Royals trade for Jermaine Dye from the Braves. The Royals also traded away Joe Randa for Jeff King and Jay Bell. Tony Muser takes over from Bob Boone, actually coaching to a worse record the rest of the way than Boone had.
1998: Something different! Arizona and Tampa Bay join MLB. This brings forth an expansion draft where the Royals recieve an offer from commissioner Bud Selig. They can join the NL if they wish to. The Royals decline, so it goes to the Milwaukee Brewers. A little trivia not many know...had the Royals and Brewers both declined, the Minnesota Twins were the next team that would have been offered. Imagine if that had happened. Royals finish in 3rd place, no lie...boasted an outfield of Jermaine Dye, Johnny Damon and Carlos Beltran for several years. Oh, what could have been. Beltran and Carlos Febles become known as "Dos Carlos".
1999: Kevin Appier is traded for the equivalent to a "bag of practice balls". Nothing to see here, this season was terrible.
2000: Ricky Bottalico joins the Royals. Jermaine Dye cranks out 33 home runs with Mike Sweeney close behind with 29 and 144 RBI's, to go along with a .333 BA. Great season by both players gives Royals a solid under .500 season, yet again.
2001: Kansas City begins disassembling after David Glass officially purchases the team. Johnny Damon is traded to Oakland for a grab bag of nothingness that included 2003 Rookie of the Year Angel Berroa. Oh but we also traded longtime Oakland Athletic Mark Ellis along with him. Jermaine Dye is traded away for Neifi Perez. Let me repeat that. Traded away...for Neifi Perez. Paul Byrd joins the Royals via trade and signs as a free agent after 2001, and has a great year in 2002.
2002: Byrd's great season comes at the expense of the franchise's first of many 100 loss seasons. Zack Greinke is drafted in the first round. Chuck Knoblauch is brought aboard as a free agent. Beltran is the only remaining piece of what would have been an amazing outfield in baseball in 2005.
2003: Lima time! Jose Lima joins the team, which started the season an amazing 9-0. April was a good time to be a Royals fan, Beltran was electric, the pitching was incredible and we had a new closer, Mike "Mac the Ninth" MacDougal, who logged 24 saves by mid-season and was part of the All Star Game. Lima started out on fire going 7-0, but then the inevitable happened. Total collapse and the Royals, who were in 1st place most of the season, sunk like a stone and ended up in 3rd place, 7 games out of 1st. "We Believe" is Tony Pena's motto for the season. David DeJesus debuts with the team.
2004: "We Believe" is quickly forgotten as the Royals finish with 104 losses this year. Juan Gonzalez signed with KC to do absolutely nothing. Beltran is traded away for a joke of a haul, John Buck, Mark Teahen and Mike Wood. Tony Pena resigns, and Buddy Bell takes over the team. The first time since 85-86 that writers were giving kudos, as many of them picked KC to take the division. Not even close. But Zack Greinke debuts after making a huge jump from the farm to the major league club, while the Royals select Billy Butler in the draft.
2005: 106 Losses this year. Including a garish, terrible insanely long stretch of losing that totalled 19. The team looked, played and was terrible in every sense of the word. But we had Calvin Pickering, so everything was supposed to be alright. It wasn't. Alex Gordon was the #2 pick in the draft.
2006: The year "The Process" began. David Glass, humiliated by press lashings, fired GM Allard Baird after handcuffing him with payroll for years and swore to be a more concientous owner dedicated to winning. He brings in Dayton Moore from the Atlanta Braves, and this is where the turnaround begins. Luke Hochevar is drafted #1 overall. The Royals lose Zack Greinke, as he walks away from baseball due to social anxiety disorder. He returns but stays in the minors.
2007: Greinke returned to the Royals, and the team doesn't lose 100 games this year, but a big splash was made in the offseason and David Glass proves he WILL spend money, by signing Gil Meche to a $55 million, 5 year deal. The contract is mocked throughout the baseball word, with fans not understanding that KC has to overpay free agents to come play. The Royals also pluck A-ball pitcher Joakim Soria in the Rule 5 draft, a move that still resonates today. Mike Moustakas is picked #2 by the Royals in the draft. Buddy Bell retires. Billy Butler and Alex Gordon debuted.
2008: Trey Hillman is hired from the Nippon Ham Fighers in Japan to manage the club. The major league team isn't worth talking about much this year, aside from trying to grab Torii Hunter and Andruw Jones, but ended up signing Jose Guillen to a contract he had no business being offered. Dayton Moore took a lot of criticism for bidding against himself for Guillen, but continued with his crafty drafting, picking up Eric Hosmer at #3, then grabbing Mike Montgomery in the supplemental round after losing David Riske to free agency. Rather sneakily, Tim Melville is nabbed in the 4th round after dropping due to signing concerns. The Royals end up with 3 very highly ranked draft picks. KC's team? Last place. Of course.
2009: Aaron Crow is drafted #12 by KC, after failing to sign with Washington the year before. Kauffman stadium is renovated with what was at the time, the largest digital scoreboard in any sports arena (beating Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones by one year). The Royals brought in Mike Jacobs from Florida, and Coco Crisp from Boston, leaving many fans to ask "why?" as it cost them the two best set up relievers for Soria. This was answered with the signing of Kyle Farnsworth. The team was bad, tying with the Indians for last place at close to 100 losses. Gordon missed most of the season after hip surgery.
2010: Rick Ankiel and Scott Podsednik were signed to play OF, Alex Gordon was sent down to learn a new position, and Alberto Callaspo was traded. In return, the Royals received a 5'7" reliever named Tim Collins who many compare to Tim Lincecum from the left side. Time will tell if this is true, but it only cost Ankiel and Farnsworth. Gordon broke his thumb in Spring Training, and when he came back to KC, he was the new left fielder. Jose Guillen was traded to San Fransisco.
2011?: Zack Greinke and David DeJesus are gone. So where are the Royals? It is a new look team, new feel, excitement building. But that's a year away. This year, there is going to be low lows, with the addition of Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur, but new twists as the return for Greinke will be exciting with Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Jeremy Jeffress expected to be a big part of the club this year, and Jake Odorizzi working his way up through the farm. Tim Collins, the return for Ankiel and Farnsworth in 2010, should make the club out of Spring Training, and Mike Moustakas and daresay Eric Hosmer are making noise and forcing the Royals hand so far this spring but expected to start in Omaha, where Moustakas will be the first of many new and exciting faces to turn around this franchise.
I wanted to include some of the more embarrassing moments in Royals history, as there have been many to choose from, but I will let fellow Royals fans touch on those topics.
So from all of us fans, to all of you joining or re-joining the excitement...welcome to The Kansas City Royals.