Kansas City Royals: A nontraditional mid-season report

We’re well past the mid-way point in Major League Baseball’s (MLB)
2015 season; and this should’ve been written immediately following the All-Star break in mid-July. But, let me just take a moment to say:

Kansas City is killing it this year!

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After last fall’s Cinderella playoff run, I firmly believed the Royals would continue their success into this year. Yet, I’m a little shocked that we’re first place overall in the American League through the beginning of August! Within the last five years, I dreamed about our division rival, the Detroit Tigers (currently third place in the AL Central) chasing us for a change.

So, as baseball heads into the final stretch of the regular season, here are three topics currently on my mind:

1. 2014 post-season run

Last October still feels like a dream. Living in Baltimore at the time, my entire life was filled with non-stop playoff baseball. Most of my coworkers, who were Orioles fans, made remarks like, “We’re gonna kill you guys” and “Detroit was our only real test to getting into the World Series.”

Being the soft spoken fan that I am, I wisely chose to ignore those comments and let the Royals do all the talking for me.

After the insane extra-inning comeback victory over the Oakland Athletics during the wildcard game, I was just happy to see the Royals win a playoff game for the first time in my life. But, after watching them sweep the following series against the Los Angeles Angels, I started to feel the momentum swinging our way.

Before the Royals came to Baltimore for game one of the American League Championship Series, I was so nervous. I just kept imagining how much crap I would get from friends and coworkers if we ended up losing the series.

Yet, once again to my surprise, the Royals were able to find their magic. I remember watching the end of game one from a sports bar in Towson, MD, and having to contain all of my energy after Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas homered to take the lead in the top of the tenth inning.

The Baltimore series was definitely the most stressful, because even after each game we won, I was worried the Orioles would come back from behind to win the series. I just had one of those “no lead is ever safe” feelings. Once we finally closed out game four in Kansas City to sweep them and move on to the World Series, I was ecstatic.

From there, the rest is history. Despite coming up short in the end, I’m still incredibly proud of how far the Royals got — especially considering no one predicted them to be a championship contender.

2. Royal spotlight

This year got off to an interesting start. During the off season, many sports reporters and baseball analysts labeled the Royals’ 2014 playoff run a fluke. Others believed they got lucky and weren’t truly good enough to do it again.

After we beat Baltimore in the playoffs, my girlfriend’s cousin — who is a big Orioles fan — was baffled by the Royals’ base stealing efforts. I simply responded by quoting speedy outfielder, Jarrod Dyson, “that’s what speed do.” Outfielders like Dyson and Lorenzo Cain were rarely caught stealing last year, and not to be outdone in the field, they frequently ran down fly balls that other fielders weren’t able to get to.

Coming into this season, the Royals played with a huge chip on their shoulder. After a few brawls, bench clearings, and other heated incidents with the Chicago White Sox, Oakland A’s, L.A. Angels, and Toronto Blue Jays, they developed a negative reputation around the league. Now seen as baseball’s “bad guys,” the Royals seem to have transformed from last year’s fan favorite during the playoffs, into this year’s new villain. And, a lot of it has to do with them playing with more swagger.

I’ve enjoyed the scrutinizing media attention, fights, and trash talk involved in this season’s drama. I actually enjoy hearing people complain about us. Some of my friends criticize starting pitcher, Yordano Ventura, for being a hot head. Personally, I cheer for him when he retaliates against opposing teams. That’s what I love about this new era of baseball in Kansas City. Every guy on the team has each other’s back and they’re not afraid to make a statement with their actions.

During the All-Star voting  controversy (in which KC players initially led the ballots for seven of eight starting fielder positions), a Boston Red Sox fan asked me jokingly, “What, are you guys a bunch of cheaters?” I didn’t say this, but I wish the starting roster for the American League All-Stars would’ve been represented by seven Royals. MLB’s voting rules (this year) allowed fans to vote 35 times per one email address. Therefore, I used ten different emails (between myself, friends, and relatives) to vote approximately 350 times for Kansas City’s eight starting fielders. Sure I went overboard, but as manager Ned Yost put it, “If you don’t like it, go out there and vote.”

3. This could be the year for a Royals World Series and Chiefs Super Bowl

After acquiring the following additions, Kansas City’s playoff picture is looking brighter than ever:

  • Kendrys Morales, Designated Hitter
  • Edison Volquez, Starting Pitcher
  • Ryan Madson, Relief Pitcher
  • Chris Young, Starting Pitcher
  • Alex Rios, Right Field
  • Ben Zobrist, Utility Fielder
  • Johnny Cueto, Starting Pitcher

Still atop the American League at 20 games over .500, the Royals are holding down the fort just fine until gold glove left fielder, Alex Gordon, is slated to return from his groin injury later this month.

Now, it’s just a matter of being able to get on a hot streak once October rolls around.

In terms of looking toward the fall, I’ve never been more excited. It finally feels like this could be a championship year for professional sports in Kansas City. The Royals are the second best team in all of baseball, and the Chiefs are confident they have all the pieces to the puzzle to make a legitimate super bowl run. But, I can only dream at this point. Hopefully, the Royals keep winning and the Chiefs start off the coming season with a bang!

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