As is tradition around New Years’, thousands of Americans will soon make resolutions intended to better themselves over the next year. Many will join a gym, quit smoking, or give up sweets, only to revert back to their old habits well before the end of January. It happens every year. It doesn’t stop us from trying.
What resolutions should Royals starters make? Because New Years’ resolutions are typically self-serving, this won’t be a list of things that will necessary help the Royals (such as "taking more walks"), although most will. These resolutions should help each Royal to become a better individual player, in 2015 and beyond.
Alex Gordon: Shake it off. Alex carried this team on his back for long stretches during the regular season, but during the postseason his bat failed him. You can’t really doubt Alex Gordon, though. He’s the hitter on this team you would want at the plate if you’re down by a run with two outs in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series, and those memories are still painful, so let’s move on. How about some Player A/Player B?
Player A is Alex Gordon in 2014. Player B is postseason Alex Gordon, extrapolated over the same number of games. Alex Gordon "B" isn’t terrible (the extrapolated RBI is kind of absurd) but he could definitely be better, and if this team is going anywhere in 2015, he can’t sit in the sixth spot in the lineup.
In the immortal words of Taylor Swift, Gordon needs to shake it off. I want to see Gordon rebound from his postseason performance, and I have no doubt that he will.
Alternative Resolution: Embrace the "Lo, Danger Ox" moniker. Put on a few pounds. Haul a covered wagon out to the plate. Start wearing a nose ring. Fans will love him. Pitchers will fear him.
Lorenzo Cain: Force them to give you a Gold Glove. Cain was certainly worthy of a Gold Glove last year, but because he split time in center and right field, he didn’t win one at either position. He’ll be in a similar situation this year, so Cain will simply have to replicate his postseason fielding performance and force the voters to give him a Gold Glove at both positions. So long as his bat holds up (because bats are such a large part of the Gold Glove award.), I see no flaws in this plan.
Alternative Resolution: Play at least one game as both the center fielder and right fielder, at the same time. If this works- and I don’t see why it wouldn’t- the Royals can move a fifth player to the infield. Shut. Down. Defense.
Alex Rios: Get paid. Somehow, Rios got a fairly hefty paycheck from the Royals for 2015. But after that, Rios’ future is up in the air. How he plays this year with the Royals will determine whether he gets a multi-year contract in the offseason or merely fades into the sunset. Rios has a declining skill set, but hopefully the Royals can get one good season out of him, convincing another team to spend millions on what will soon become a shell of a player.
Alternative Resolution: Find the fountain of youth. One of the fountains in Kansas City has got to be it.
Mike Moustakas: Bunt! We saw him drop a bunt to beat the shift in the playoffs and it was glorious.
I’d like to see him do this more often to force teams away from the shift. If they’re going to give you the option, just take it.
The other option is to just hit a bunch of home runs over the shift.
Alternative Resolution: On second thought, yeah, just hit a bunch of home runs.
Alcides Escobar: Hit leadoff- in September. If Escobar’s still hitting leadoff by September, it means he’s gotten through an entire season with an improved on-base percentage, and has become a serviceable enough hitter to go with his flashy glove. There are definitely other options for the Royals at the top of the order. Escobar needs to validate Ned’s inexplicable faith in him.
Alternative Resolution: Take out Andrelton Simmons. Escobar’s de facto description is "best defensive shortstop in the American League." It’s never "best defensive shortstop in baseball." It deserves to be the latter. Remove Simmons and there’s no discussion.
Omar Infante: Stay healthy. It might be too much to ask for Infante to recover the value that earned him his paycheck with the Royals, but there’s no question he was a better player when he wasn’t injured. Unfortunately, it only took about a month for him to land on the DL in 2014, and he was never truly 100% after that. Hopefully Infante has a full recovery over the offseason and comes back ready to earn at least a portion of his salary. If not, Ned had better have a non-oven-mitt-clad Christian Colon or another option ready to go.
Alternative Resolution: Actually, maybe Infante should start wearing the oven mitt. It did help Colon to a 1.000 postseason batting average. It couldn’t hurt, right?
Eric Hosmer: Get everyone drunk! As exciting as the postseason was, I’m not sure Hosmer buys drinks for everyone if he doesn’t hit all those dingers. Hosmer’s success in the postseason got him his swagger back. That swagger needs to continue into this season. Success breeds confidence breeds success (and free alcohol, apparently.) Remember the promotion years ago when the Royals would give out a dozen donuts if they got a dozen hits? This year, if the Royals get a dozen hits in a game, the next round is Hosmer.
Alternative Resolution: Use the exposure from co-hosting MLB’s Social Media Awards to earn a starring role in a well-funded detective drama (called "Crime Horse," of course).
Salvador Perez: Go to bed. In November, with finals looming, my roommate bought over-the-counter caffeine pills to help him stay awake and finish everything that needed to be done. I told him that this was a terrible idea, but he still used them. He pulled multiple all-nighters, and then had epic crashes the next day. When he was awake, he was dog-tired. It came to the point that when he said something dumb out of exhaustion (this happened a lot), I’d just tell him to "go to bed" regardless of the time of day or if he’d even taken a caffeine pill.
Perez played to much last season. The epic crash is coming, unless we get him enough rest this year. Go to bed, Sal.
Alternative Resolution: Reveal yourself to be a robot who has no need for rest, and only had a decline in hitting at the end of last year due to defective wiring.
Kendrys Morales: Break a leg. I’m not suggesting literal physical injury, although I’m sure plenty of us would like to see the Royals get out of Year 2 of that contract. Morales famously broke his leg celebrating a walk-off homer in 2010. His resolution for this year is to have many more opportunities to break his leg by becoming the DH the Royals expect him to be.
Alternative Resolution: Develop a killer barbecue sauce. With Billy Butler gone, someone has to fill that role. If Morales can’t hit it a ton, maybe he can at least knock a homemade barbecue sauce out of the park.
Yordano Ventura: Make us forget James Shields. If the Royals are going anywhere this year, Ventura needs to become an ace. He looked rock-solid in the postseason after the breakdown in the Wild Card game, so there’s reason for hope. One request: Could broadcasters not call him Ace Ventura? It’s just too easy. You can be more clever than that.
Alternative Resolution: Don't go into any more strip clubs with Bruce Chen.
Danny Duffy: Don’t touch your mechanics. I mean this in both senses of the word. I don’t want to see Duffy get anywhere near the team mechanic this year (or, in other words, the trainer). Let’s see how good he can be over a full, healthy season. I also don’t want to see a broken Duffy unable to fix his pitching mechanics at the end of the season. Find what works, and don’t touch anything.
Alternative Resolution: Don’t cut sandwiches into fancy triangles, because if any pitcher on this staff is going to injure himself doing that, it’s Duffy.
Edinson Volquez: Be good enough to pitch a Wild Card game, but don’t. Volquez did manage to start the Pirates’ Wild Card game last year, which is something that not many pitchers have done. Unfortunately, he had no chance against the Pitcher Who Shall Not Be Named. This year, I’d love to see Volquez be good enough to start another Wild Card game, but I’d rather see Ventura or Duffy take the hill instead. Or actually, I’d rather the Royals just won their division so we don’t have to worry about the Wild Card game.
Alternative Resolution: Invent the light bulb? It’s tough coming up with these for the new guys.
Jason Vargas: Make us forget about you. Vargas exceeded our expectations throughout most of 2014, but now he’s been shuffled towards the back of the rotation. The best thing that Vargas can do this year- other than having a remarkable year- is having an unremarkable one. Be a consistent starter near the back of the rotation who goes out and gets the job done. I’d rather forget that Vargas exists than spend time discussing his flaws and mistakes.
Alternative Resolution: Lure Jered Weaver to Kansas City because of the college connection.
Jeremy Guthrie: Make more boats.
Alternative Resolution: Nope, all I want out of Guthrie this year is the boats.
Bonus: Kris Medlen: Start a game in the regular season.
Actual question: Is it Tommy Johns or Tommys John? Since Medlen has had two, I feel the need to ask for the plural. I want to see Medlen out there on the mound to start a game sometime in August or September. Whether it’s for a double-header, or an emergency injury-related spot start, or something else entirely, I don’t care. This means that he’s recovered enough that- if he doesn’t aggravate his injury (important!)- he can be a solid starter for us in 2016. I would like that very much.
Alternative Resolution: Stay in an isolated, cordoned-off section of the clubhouse until we’re sure Tommys John aren’t contagious.
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Which player do you think has the best chance of sticking to his resolution? Any suggestions for the bullpen, bench players, or front office? Leave them in the comments section. I’ve already written 1,500 words too many; I want to see what you guys come up with.