The Royals' hopes for making the playoffs have been bulldozed, but don't panic, it is not the end of the world. For those of us that suffered through more than two decades of self inflicted torture during the dark ages of Royals baseball, the simple existence of meaningful September baseball is a revelation that has yet to be muted by the recent success of the team.
Many of us are still adapting to the idea of having a winning team to root for and it feels strange that we won't be making a mockery of the English language this fall by proclaiming that it is always oKCtober. As fans, we have truly experienced going from the outhouse to the penthouse. Humans have an amazing ability to adapt to their current environment and Kansas City fans have settled into winning in a way that would make Darwin all tingly on the inside.
For about a quarter century, Royals fans were the real life embodiment of Joe Dirt pulling around a big ball of frozen crap while trying to convince the world it was a meteorite. The culminating championship of 2015 was equivalent to Joe getting his Hemi and hooking up with Brandi. We had a sweet ride and an amazing girlfriend, only to subsequently find out the car needs work and that relationships aren't perfect and take a lot of effort to succeed. Now is a good time to reflect upon how lucky we are to find ourselves here at all.
It is not normal for your baseball team to make back-to-back World Series. It is even less common when you have sat at the lunch table with the Detroit Lions, Philadelphia 76ers and Chicago Cubs for much of your formative schooling. The run from 2014 and 2015 has given Royals fans an exuberant high that would have Perry Ferrell moving to town if you could somehow inject that Forever Royal into your blood. It is of little surprise that coming down from such a euphoric high affects different people in different ways.
There are people legitimately angry at Dayton Moore for disrupting their supply of Royal Blue Ice by failing to ensure there were enough quality position players to cover the gaping holes left by injuries. Cromulent performances by the AAA replacements have allowed the team to hang around and rally to relevancy late in the season, but having to rely on 'young' players in their late 20s with minimal MLB experience has highlighted the lack of quality depth. It is understandable that the team's minor league pitching is a barren landscape because of trades made for the World Series run, but it is reasonable to expect better results when it comes to the system's ability to develop an impact bat.
People are frustrated with Ned Yost for taking away their Blue Dream because of his maddeningly stubborn attachment to running out Joakim Soria in high leverage situations. This is where the price is being paid for acquiring Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist by trading away young powerful starting arms that would have been short term options for the bullpen along with Matt Strahm. Injuries to key pieces and a lack of options kept Soria in a late inning role even though it was painfully obvious that his 2016 performance was a huge flaming dumpster fire.
Ultimately, many of us are still trying to get a feel for what it is like being a fan of a baseball team during a season that has high expectations but mediocre results. The second half run in 2013 was a pleasant surprise for those of us resigned to thinking 2003 was the closest we would ever be to a pennant race, but it was far from expected. Following that up with back-to-back World Series appearances and a 2015 championship has given us the highest of highs, from which many of us are just starting to come down. For most fans, the success of the last two years has served as methadone and made this year a palatable experience.
This residual effect from recent success will only hold the dam for so long. This team has another opportunity in 2017 to compete for a playoff spot, but fans will become increasingly irritable as the 2015 World Series begins to fade and their body alone will be responsible for serotonin and dopamine levels. We have lived the extremes over recent years, yet are unfamiliar with what lies between; it will be interesting how the fan base adapts in the future. We are quick studies in supporting a winner, yet not far removed from the abusive relationship that provided the comfort of unsettling familiarity. It is the strange feeling of simultaneously winning games and being a failure that is unfamiliar and a difficult construct to grasp.
I for one am excited to see what the next decade may bring. I am preparing for late season collapses, wild card losses and 75 wins from a quality team. This is the plight for most baseball fans and this Royals season is more an example of the rule than the exception. Fans are now conditioned for either end of the success spectrum and will settle in easily to either outcome. It is the blurry open space in between in which we will have to learn our way.
I am more than happy to stick my thumb out and enjoy the ride.