For the Kansas City Royals, 2014 was as magical as it gets. From a broken 29-year playoff drought to a stunning walk-off Wild Card win to the AL Pennant to 90 feet from a world championship at Kauffman Stadium, the Royals' season was extraordinarily memorable.
In this weekly series, I will interview a fan, writer, or member of the Kansas City community about their thoughts regarding the Royals' 2014 and their place in it. So far, I have interviewed:
Chris Kamler, Twitter personality, blogger, and author
Sam Mellinger, sports columnist for the Kansas City Star
Bryan Busby, Chief Meteorologist for KMBC
Sung Woo, Korean superfan, Twitter personality, and selfie master
Rany Jazayerli, Twitter personality, blogger, and writer
Today's interviewee is Joe Posnanski, aka @jposnanski. Posnanski was a sports columnist at the Kansas City Star during the Royals' dark year as well as the Kansas City Chiefs during their most recent previous streak of legitimacy, the Dick Vermeil/Trent Green years. Posnanski graduated from the Kansas City Star in 2009, moving on to Sports Illustrated as a Senior Writer. Posnanski is now a national columnist for NBC Sports. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Posnanski maintains his own blog, Joe Blogs, and has authored books, most famously the 2012 biography of late Penn State coach Joe Paterno.
1. How did you become interested in the Royals?
I became columnist at the Kansas City Star in 1996. That is when my interest began. I, of course, grew up during a time when the Royals were annually one of baseball’s best teams and I was powerfully aware of George Brett and Frank White and Hal McRae and the rest. I rooted for them to beat the Yankees, but this was because as a Clevelander I despised the Yankees. It wasn’t until 1996 that I really dived into the Royals baseball world.
2. What was it like covering the Royals during the 29 year playoff drought?
It was generally entertaining, sometimes frustrating, usually interesting. There were some very good players to write about during that time — Carlos Beltran, Mike Sweeney, Zack Greinke, Alex Gordon, Jermaine Dye, Johnny Damon to name a few. And there were a lot of good people in and around the organization. All in all, I loved it.
Of course, there were some drawbacks. There were really bad from 2004-2006. I mean, not the normal kind of bad but deliriously terrible. That did get old. Allard Baird, a good baseball man, really got swallowed up and so did some managers and scouts and players. The clubhouse became this depressed place. During their epic 19-game losing streak I got this idea to write these "columnist held hostage" columns where I promised to stay with the team until the won a game. That joke turned on me pretty quickly.
3. What did the AL pennant and World Series appearance mean to you?
Well, what I thought about a lot was how happy I was for Kansas City. I love Kansas City, a part of my heart will always be there. And I know what the long, long, long drought did to baseball fans in town. Summers in Kansas City are hot and muggy and hard enough without having a hopeless baseball team — and for most of those 29 years the Royals were hopeless. So seeing the team play well enough to get into the postseason and then seeing all the bad karma turn and give the city those magical three weeks — I just loved it for Kansas City.
4. From a national perspective, how has 2014 changed the way reporters and fans have looked at Kansas City and the Royals?
I think 2014 reminded a lot of people around the country that Kansas City even HAS a baseball team, and that the city really has a baseball town’s soul. There’s a certain storyline that builds around baseball teams, and for so long the storyline of the Royals was: They can’t do anything right. The Royals honestly brought this on themselves by doing so many things wrong, but the narrative was that they couldn’t do ANYTHING right, and that’s wasn’t true. The Royals caught some bad breaks too. They made some smart decisions that were overshadowed by their losing.
Now, the storyline has shifted somewhat. I suspect that many people think 2014 was a fluke and that the Royals will go back to mediocrity now — and maybe they will, who really knows? But the Royals did a lot of things right and they caught quite a few breaks. That has led to a different story being told about them now.
5. Which player did you enjoy watching most on the 2014 AL Champion Kansas City Royals?
To be honest, there were quite a few players I really enjoyed. I can’t tell you I enjoyed Lo Cain’s outfield defense more or less than I enjoyed Wade Davis blowing hitters away or Yordano Ventura reaching back and throwing an easy 102 mile per hour. There were so many exciting players, especially in October. But if I had to pick one, I’d pick Alex Gordon because I was there when it began for him. I was there when it looked like he would be a bust. I was there when the Royals, somewhat in desperation, moved him out to left field. He’s now one of the really good players in the American League, a defensive wizard, a good hitter, and he worked for all of it. I enjoyed seeing him get his World Series.
6. Do you think the Royals can sustain this energy going into 2015?
Well, they will definitely sustain the energy. The crowds will be good. The city will be excited. Can they keep winning? I don’t know. They have quite a few good young players — like Eric Hosmer and Salvy Perez and Ventura and Danny Duffy and, to a lesser extent, Lo Cain (who will turn 30) — who could emerge even more than they have. They also have questions and I wasn’t crazy about their offseason moves. The Royals are a good team; I don’t believe they will fall off the map the way some believe. But will they make another World Series run? Look forward to seeing them try.