Running to stand still? (Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE)
Last year was an odd season for the Royals. The hype about the team's minor league peaked, but there was almost no interest in the 2011 squad. The Royals started 10-4, but quickly fizzled en route to a 71-91 campaign. Still, a number of describably good things happened: the outfield was a giant stuffed animal of revived career love, Eric Hosmer made his ballyhooed debut and showed promise, Mike Moustakas did the same (kinda), Alcides Escobar fielded many balls, and the bullpen showed depth. Salvador Perez had 151 magical plate appearances and was radiantly present behind the plate. Heck, the Royals even drafted Bubba Starling of Scoutlustville, Kansas. (He won't be in a Royal uniform til 2016, but who cares?)
There was no contention, and in fact, there was much to be annoyed about. Yet, the trajectory seemed clear enough. And when you factor in the seemingly inexorable merging of Dayton's bright young things into the Major League roster, there was reason to believe the Royals could contend in 2012. After all, that was what the team themselves had been saying since at least 2010.
But the Royals never made the starting rotation upgrade that so many felt was necessary. Moreover, the Yuni-bomb at second base reminds us of the lingering questions about Dayton Moore that never really went away. Can the man build a 25-man division winning roster? Thus far, he's shown a bad habit of giving away outs and giving away lineup slots.
While the losses of Joakim Soria and Salvador Perez to injuries will be problematic, it really comes back to the rotation. Bruce Chen is the Opening Day starter. The minor league system has provided the Royals with lots of bullpen options, but hasn't yet generated an impact starter, or even starting rotation depth for that matter. Was getting another 7th inning guy in Aaron Crow worth all but giving up on his chances of being a starter?
I suppose I'm just a black cloud kind of guy. Doesn't this new time of growth seem now like another year of waiting? Can we prepare for 2013? Can you wait?
Or am I wrong? The Royals may actually have pieces in place. Forget Yuni, you'd say, look at the rest of the infield. Nevermind Alex Gordon and Jeff Francoeur's likely steps back, look at where they're performance floor likely is. And remember Lo Cain. Surely, we can all remember when the Royals had almost nothing to build on.