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Mental Ward: The Royals are going for it

The Cahill trade isn’t splashy, but it is an unmistakable signal.

Chicago White Sox v Kansas City Royals Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images

Monday nights are terribly unremarkable. It is the first day of the work week for most, after the tumult of Saturday hobnobbing and the abbreviated recovery of Sunday afternoon nap sessions. Mondays have a tendency to come and go with little in the way of decoration or celebration.

Yesterday was different, for a few reasons. The first being that Kansas City was celebrating the anniversary of the 1983 Pine Tar Game, an event made iconic by George Brett strongly desiring to rip the head off of rookie umpire Tim McClelland. The game began on July 24th, and ended on August 18th, with the Yankees deploying a left-handed player at second base and a pitcher in center field, because Billy Martin was, among many things, an eccentric and petty manager.

The second reason is that the Kansas City Royals pulled off a trade with the San Diego Padres. They secured the services of Trevor Cahill, Brandon Maurer, and Ryan Buchter in exchange for Matt Strahm, Travis Wood, and Esteury Ruiz, a promising eighteen year-old in rookie ball.

In return, the Royals picked up a starting pitcher who just this month was ranked as having the seventh-best arsenal in Major League Baseball. They also collected a reliever who has a 4.5:1 K/BB ratio and a bloated ERA caused by a fingerful of really bad games, and another reliever who strikes out eleven batters per nine innings.

But the trade is more than that. It is more than the sum of its parts, of additions and subtractions on spreadsheets and bottom lines, of inputs and outputs. It is a declaration, one so clear and consuming that to call it anything other than an unequivocal proclamation would be to do it injustice.

Three months ago, Kansas City could not buy a victory. Over the past week, they have not lost. On April 30th, the Royals were 7-16. Since May 1st, they have the second-best record in the AL. They now have sole possession of the second Wild Card spot and are only 1.5 games back of Cleveland for the Central division.

Kansas City is going for it, and they are daring the American League to stop them.

It is hard to understate it. It is hard to overstate it. 2017 is, in all likelihood, the last hurrah for most of this team. Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are likely to shuffle away for more money and more years than what the Royals can promise, leaving Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon as the only recurring offensive members to have participated in the splendor of 2014 and 2015. Danny Duffy will still be here, too, but 2016 was the twilight and 2017 is the dusk of a very good team of professional baseball players. New names will shuffle in and The Process will recycle.

But that is not now. Not yet.

In a world of cold analytics, of tanking and min-maxing and market inefficiencies, it is easy to forget the human element. When we boil out the personality and the flaw and the dysfunction and eccentricity of baseball into a game of raw statistics, we tend to miss a lot of the beauty of the sport. One of the greatest strengths of baseball is its paradoxical nature; what we perceive in the box score and on statistics websites is daily and repeatedly betrayed by the indifference of improbability.

And what had once seemed so improbable, that the 2017 Royals would be anywhere near contention, is now so much a de facto reality that to consider it otherwise is to deny what once was so patently true. Your facts are immutable until they are not. The Earth was flat and the center of the universe. It was turtles all the way down. Now, we are just spinning in a spiral arm of one solar system in one galaxy among a plethora of solar system and a multitude of galaxies.

And it could still be turtles all the way down.

Dayton Moore is not perfect. And if you wanted to be pessimistic, you could easily place the blame of the current predicament squarely on his shoulders. The questionable nature of will they sell or will they go for it was in large part a result of the past two seasons of roster moves, most of which have come out poorly. This could adversely effect the timeline of the next great gold rush in Kansas City baseball. It could extend well beyond the contracts of Danny Duffy and Salvador Perez, who may never play another meaningful game for the Royals after this year, and this year is more uncertain than any other recent year of success.

But we are past it. We are at now now. And soon, then will be now, and this could all turn out to be a really bad idea. Today’s truth becomes tomorrow’s I told you so. But for now...

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”