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All I want is for the Royals to not stink right out of the gate

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It’s so much more fun when they’re good, even for just a bit

Ryan McBroom #9 of the Kansas City Royals reacts to striking out against the Minnesota Twins during the sixth inning of the game at Target Field on September 20, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Royals 4-3.
Ryan McBroom #9 of the Kansas City Royals reacts to striking out against the Minnesota Twins during the sixth inning of the game at Target Field on September 20, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Royals 4-3.
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

There are a lot of wish list items for the first full length Kansas City Royals season following the shortened 2020 season, which itself followed back-to-back 100-loss campaigns. The Royals are certainly going to be better than they have over the last three years, and to what extend—and how they do it—is going to be the biggest focus for the Royals this year.

However, that is not at the top of my personal wish list for the 2021 Royals. Look: the win count for this year is ultimately not going to be truly indicative of the future of the team. Rather, it is how the young core of this team does that will matter the most going forward. A Royals squad that wins 80 games based on great seasons from Whit Merrifield, Danny Duffy, Mike Minor, and Carlos Santana is probably a worse long-term outcome than a 70-win season that is powered by breakouts from Adalberto Mondesi, Brady Singer, Daniel Lynch, and Bobby Witt Jr.

So, no, wins are not the biggest deal for me. Even a strong rebound from the last few seasons isn’t likely to propel the team to the playoffs this year. But you know what is at the top of my personal wish list for the 2021 Royals? For the Royals to not step on an upturned rake and slap themselves in the face immediately after the starting gun sounds.

Recent history has proven this wish to be just that—a wish. The Royals have been absurdly effective at destroying fan interest before the second week of May, and in some cases have managed to disincentivize turning on the TV before the second week of April.

It may seem that I am being unreasonably critical of the Royals. I promise you I am not. Let us review:

2020

In a shortened 60-game season, it was especially imperative to get off to a strong start, and the Royals did not do so. A mere 13 games into the season, the Royals stood at 3-10 and somehow had already scraped together a six-game losing streak. And in what would have been only the second month of a regular season, the Royals strung together a seven-game losing streak to sink their record to an insurmountable 14-28 after 42 games.

2019

The Royals sucked from the start this year, which is actually the kindest way I can refer to this club. After winning their first two games, the Royals lost 10 games in a row. Ten! To have a 10-game losing streak in the team’s first 12 games is impressive. Later in the month, they’d assemble another losing streak, this one at five games, which put the team at 7-17 after 24 games. For those who stuck around to watch, the worse had yet to come. After a pair of three-game losing streaks and a four-game losing streak, the Royals would stand at 19-43 after 62 games.

2018

On April 9, the Royals won a 10-0 game against the Seattle Mariners. It was the last joy Royals fans would feel for a long time. After a doubleheader on April 28, the Royals somehow stood at an unbelievable 6-20. They got there by losing nine straight and then five straight immediately afterward. Somehow, they found it within themselves to put up another five-game losing streak followed immediately by a three-game losing streak that saw them at 14-33 after 47 games.

2017

The last decent Royals team, the immediate failures here were particularly sad because they sunk their last chance for postseason glory right out of the gate. It started with them losing three in a row to kick off the year, a feat they would match a second time within the first eight games. They then closed out April by losing nine in a row to stand at 7-16. And while that team played good baseball the rest of the year, starting off the season nine games under .500 is usually a death sentence for non-elite clubs. It certainly was for the Royals here.


Yes, it’s true that the Royals haven’t had good teams recently. But lots of things can happen in a 30-game stretch, and recent Royals team have managed to drastically underperform their final record, regardless of how poor that final record is. Overall, over the Royals’ first 30 games in each of the last four years, they played at a worse level than they did overall by a sometimes shocking margin.

Royals Early Season Woes

Year First 30 Games Wins First 30 Games Losses First 30 Games Win % Final Winning %
Year First 30 Games Wins First 30 Games Losses First 30 Games Win % Final Winning %
2020 12 18 .400 .433
2019 10 20 .333 .364
2018 8 22 .267 .358
2017 10 20 .333 .494
TOTAL 40 120 .333 .412

Over the last four seasons, the Royals have played at a 108-loss pace during their first 30 games, a winning percentage of .333. And this early season sleepiness isn’t just in extremely recent history—only twice have the Royals actually eclipsed their final winning percentage over their first 30 games since Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Danny Duffy’s debut year in 2011.

Note a few things that I am not saying. I am not saying that I prefer big losing streaks later in the year as opposed to earlier in the year. I am not saying that distributing wins early is inherently better for a team than doing so later. And I am not saying that I prefer Kansas City crashing out of postseason contention by playing their worst ball at the end of the year rather than at the beginning of the year.

Rather, the point that I am making, and the reason why this is at the top of my wish list, is that there is a limited window in which your team is still in it. When your team is in it, everything is more fun, and every game feels more meaningful. For the handful of clearly good teams, that state is true for them all season. But for everyone else, that window is precarious, being only held open by a couple of sticks comprised of the UCLs of their pitching staff and the blessings of the BABIP fairy and LOB% minotaur.

It straight up sucks to see your team 10 games under .500 before the first lap of the baseball season marathon is over. Once your team is out of it that far, there’s no getting out of it. And when your team is that far out of contention so early, well, it saps the morale of everyone, no matter how outwardly chipper they are or how much they claim they love baseball for baseball’s sake.

Baseball is certainly great for its own sake, but losing five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten games in a row before Memorial Day—sometimes more than once—is significantly less fun than making a good early run and providing higher quality entertainment. My wish is for the 2021 Royals to make it competitive out of the gate, even if they ultimately aren’t at the end.