We are now a month into the baseball season and there is no getting around it anymore, the Royals are bad. For many, many of you this is a return to old familiar, perhaps even oddly comforting territory. For another large group of Royals fans this is a bold, new world. For the last four years the Royals have been competitive right up into September. It’s the first time the Royals have played .500 or better in four consecutive years since 1977-1980. More than 30 years of ups and downs - mostly downs - led to that period of winning. It’s not normal, but if you’ve only been watching since 2013 or later it might seem that way, to you.
If you’re in that latter group you might be wondering what the point of even following a team that’s playing like this is? The bad news is that if you’re hoping for some sort of Major League or Angels in the Outfield type of miracle, you’re probably going to be disappointed. The 2014 season taught us that it’s at least possible, but it is still incredibly unlikely. The good news is that there’s still something to watch for if not every night, then very frequently.
Did you know Eric Hosmer is fewer than a dozen hits from 1000? How about that Alcides Escobar needs only 15 more runs to reach 500? Brandon Moss is eight home runs from 150, Salvador Perez is seven from 100, and Mike Moustakas is only a dozen away from 100 of his own.
You might not see wins, but those are all very likely to happen at some point, this season. And individual milestones can be a lot of fun. It’s also not outside the realm of possibility that some team records may fall. I’m still predicting Mike Moustakas will break the home run record, for example.
Some other milestones to keep an eye on: Alex Gordon is a mere 17 doubles from hitting 300 in his career. Hosmer and Moss might play in their thousandth career games this year. If Ian Kennedy returns quickly and then dominates he might strike out batter number 1500 for his career, though that would take a truly special season.
One thing that the modern fan has that the Royals fans in the mid-2000’s didn’t have was recent memories of excellent teams. The Royals aren’t going to let you forget it, either. They’ve already had one excellent Rusty Kuntz bobble-head give-away but there are plenty more to come. The Royals have a Memorable Moments bobble-head series this year, and there are some great moments, including one that commemorates Eric Hosmer’s “Mad Dash” to tie 2015 World Series Game 5.
They’ve also got their T-Shirt Tuesdays and Gordonation Thursdays promotions. Another great one for students or people who want to discover more about the local music scene are the Student Night/Local Music Showcase games on Wednesdays. So maybe the team won’t win, but there’s no such thing as a bad night at the ballpark - at least not for fans - and there are still plenty of great promotions coming up this season.
Some really great individual performances
This may be a controversial statement for many, but it’s also a true one: Eric Hosmer is actually not a good baseball player. Here’s another factual statement for you: When Hosmer is hot, there are few players for whom the ball looks prettier off the bat. If you only watch games when Hosmer is streaking, it’s still worth it. Check out this mammoth home run from last Friday.
Mike Moustakas has mostly been striking out, lately, but earlier he was putting on a power clinic and might start again at any time. Danny Duffy rebounded from a couple recent bad starts on Sunday and has otherwise has looked really good. Jason Vargas has looked unreal. Kelvin Herrera still throws close to 100 MPH and has a slider and change-up to match up with the nastiest of their kind in baseball. Maybe you won’t see a win, but some of these guys are freaks of nature, even for major league baseball players and that’s something to see.
Goodbye tour with favorite players
The guys leaving this team at the end of the year - or sooner - angle has been done to death. You all get it by now. Almost certainly none of them are coming back. So watch them play a few more times and remember all the wonderful memories they’ve given you the past 4 years. You’ll want to have cherished every moment with them when they’re wearing different uniforms, next season.
If Dayton Moore actually gives in and starts trading some of the guys who won’t be on the team next year for prospects, you’ll probably see some fresh young faces get promoted. We’ve already seen Raul Mondesi, Matt Strahm, Scott Alexander, and Jorge Bonifacio - players who will probably all be here for years to come and are making their mark on this team. Miguel Almonte and Jakob Junis were here for a couple days already, too. As guys get traded you might get to see Hunter Dozier, Bubba Starling, Eric Stout, Jonathan Dziedzic, or Josh Staumont. Maybe even Corey Toups or Ryan O’Hearn!
Any of the old hands will tell you that one of the most exciting things about the bad teams was the vast number of young guys making their debuts all the time, and any of them could be the next savior of the team. It’s a lot of fun to see those fresh faces and dream with them.
Who knows? On paper the Royals are so abysmal they’re practically eliminated, already. But, if you’ve been paying attention the last few years, you know that it ain’t over until it’s over. And the Royals aren’t going to give up until it’s over.