(Ed note: This was written prior to last night’s game. In all sincerity, hat tip to the Indians for an amazing streak.)
Fans of the Kansas City Royals are keenly aware that the door is about to slam shut on some of the most popular players the franchise has ever seen. Some have already left. The torch has already been passed on to the Indians, who won the division last year and took their first American League pennant since 1997, coming one win shy of winning their first championship since Truman was still president.
Unfortunately, in other more Cleveland-leaning corners of the internet, I’ve seen things like “I hope we clinch in front of the Royals”. You would think there would be less animosity and more understanding between fans of the Royals and Indians, what with each being a small market Midwestern team that each recently fell painfully one run short of winning it all in a grueling seven-game World Series.
Cleveland fans are getting tired of the whole sympathetic loser shtick? They watched the Cubs blossom into “Evil Empire: Central Time Zone Edition” on their own field so maybe that changes a team and a fan base. Maybe they’re tired of the old tropes like how rivers aren’t supposed to catch fire or racially insensitive mascots or how their sports community desperately came running back to LeBron after he spurned them. Or the Browns. Some even seem to obsess about our little corner a lot more than I’d expect from anyone except a crazy ex.
Knowing, of course, that no one lives in a perfect place and the worst of fans don’t represent an entire city or fan base. Ever city has those season ticket holders who get drunk before entering the stadium, those snarky bloggers who like to troll others, those Facebook fans that are, well, Facebook fans. We fall into the same traps in the Royals fan base and at RR.
“Lucky”. That’s another one I’ve seen a lot in reference to the Royals. Occasionally some overzealous fan here will ascribe everything the Royals have accomplished the last few seasons to luck. More often it’s from other fan bases. Well, of course, every team that wins has a fair amount of luck. I remember last World Series watching some manager continue to lean on one reliever so much in the last three games (really, needlessly in game 6) that he was ineffective when most needed in Game 7. We sometimes think that because a team is not built the way we want or because we don’t understand why a move was made, that it can’t be right or that it was done by a buffoon. This for a team that has outperformed PECOTA for eight straight seasons. Maybe there’s something not being accurately captured by those projections. Maybe this is an opportunity to improve projections rather than sticking one’s head in the sand and ignoring actual results.
Gee, wasn’t “you can win by doing something differently than every other team” the moral of that Brad Pitt movie? You know, the one about the team with a really long winning streak that didn’t win a World Series? Heck, isn’t that almost imperative when you have a smaller budget? Being a contact team with great defense and a dominant bullpen before those things are overvalued seemed a good way to zig while other teams zagged. Maybe it’s not all luck or the BABIP fairy smiling when you have a roster constructed to be an extreme contact team during an era of increased TTO. Maybe it’s not all luck when less opposing hits fall in because of historically good defense (or here or here or...). Maybe using fewer pitchers during clean innings rather than a pitcher for every batter to gain a platoon advantage has its positives, as well. Maybe, just maybe, some of that is by design. But I digress.
The Royals are on their way out. The rest of the season will feature curtain calls for a beloved team and then a mass exodus. Then a long, dark winter of rebuilding. We’re working our way through the stages of grief. For the Royals, there will be many years for Cleveland to kick them around the Central. Poor Tigers - they put together such a great team only to fall short. And who knows if the Twins are going to find pitching. The White Sox seem to be putting together a monster but we all know about the failure rate of prospects. So savor every moment and be wary when prognosticators anoint you a team that will be here for a long time. Baseball has that nasty habit of leveling the playing field or regressing to the mean, over long seasons and especially in short series. Well, even if the Indians don’t win it all this year, you’ll always have that title they won in Major League. Sorry, I couldn’t resist the silly little dig. Lineup time:
#Royals 9/16 Lineup— Daily MLB Lineups (@DailyMLBLineup) September 16, 2017
W Merrifield 2B
L Cain CF
E Hosmer 1B
M Cabrera RF
M Moustakas 3B
B Moss DH
A Escobar SS
A Gordon LF
D Butera C
The Royals have activated Joakim Soria.— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) September 16, 2017