Bottom line: at this point of the season, a couple of series past the All-Star break, the Royals look like a team teetering on the brink of a precipice.
In the columns I have previously written about the Kansas City Royals, I have tried to make it a point to do some research and be able to back up my statements with facts and/or statistics.
To those who appreciate actual journalism, I apologize in advance, because this column is going to take on the tone of a wild-eyed, lunatic rant. It’s just going to be a guy irrationally spewing venom with no supporting evidence other than what he has observed in recent weeks. I’m going to come across as a slobbering, raving, crazy man who has no data to go on, just emotional reaction.
So be forewarned. I will not be submitting this column to the Kansas Press Association as an example of responsible journalism. I will probably not be proud of this column, but it’s going to accurately reflect the way I feel about my favorite team right now.
Bottom line: at this point of the season, a couple of series past the All-Star break, the Royals look like a team teetering on the brink of a precipice. At any time, I fully expect them to go into freefall and possibly even finish this season with a worse record than last year. There will be screaming all the way down as KC plunges off the cliff, coming from the legions of fans (like me) who were swindled into believing that somehow this year was going to be different.
I predicted going into this season that the Royals lack of offense was a concern, that it would probably keep them from contending, but that they would probably finish about 6 games under .500 and 3rd in the AL Central. They would at least show some improvement and give us hope for 2014. I was way too optimistic.
Now I’m thinking that not only is this season destined for the ash heap of history, but there is no hope for the immediate future either. The Royals are nothing more than a house of cards, and that unstable structure is about to be toppled.
The Royals’ pitching has been the foundation that kept them within striking distance of the .500 mark for the first half of the season, but we can see now it is like the proverbial house built upon sand. The top of the rotation and the closer are the only pitchers that can still be counted upon.
The relief corps continues to struggle, with no “firemen” coming out of the bullpen to strand base-runners and squelch rallies. Inherited runners are scoring with alarming frequency against the Royals’ increasingly shaky pen.
Also, the back of the rotation has become problematic. Back in the day when the Boston Braves had only two pitchers they could rely on, the poem developed: “Spahn and Sain, then pray for rain.” With the Royals it has become “Shields and Santana, then get ready to throw up in your mouth for a few days.” Not as catchy, doesn’t rhyme, and a little bit disgusting I admit…but it’s true.
The offense is getting even worse, if that is possible. Alex Gordon and Billy Butler are just average major league hitters at this point. Hosmer’s batting stats have improved, but he’s still way too impatient when he comes up with RISP. Salvy is OK, but the rest of the order is just awful.
The Royals need to be sellers at the trade deadline. The problem is, they don’t have anybody that anyone else is going to want. Or at least not want them bad enough to give up anything of value in the deal. The only players the Royals have that are worth anything are Shields and Santana, Holland, Gordon and Salvy. And maybe Billy Butler.
If they trade Salvy, I will be done as a Royals fan. I don’t think they’ll deal Holland with no viable alternative at the closer spot. (Herrera’s incompetence has made Holland untouchable.) Even though he is currently slumping, I still can’t imagine Gordon, the All-Star Gold-Glover, being traded.
So what’s going to happen is, Santana is going to be dealt this year and Shields is going to be dealt next year. Neither is going to re-sign with KC once their contracts are up, so the Royals will undoubtedly trade both so as to at least ‘get SOMETHING for them before they become free agents’.
And what will they get for them? You know it will be “prospects”. I’m so sick of “prospects.” For years we have been holding out hope that our “prospects” would finally emerge to lead us into the promised land. Butler, Gordon, Moustakas and Hosmer have each in turn been touted as the Royals’ savior. To date, only Gordon has turned into a solid, 2-way major leaguer. And although a decent player, even Gordon isn’t a Miguel Cabrera— the type of guy that can transform a team, make everyone else around him better just by his presence.
No, what’s going to happen is that the Royals are going to have to trade away their star pitching, and then they’re going to be the same team they were last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. I think the Royals went “all in” this year, gambling that bolstering the pitching staff would turn the tide of the team’s fortunes. The bet was that the Royals’ position players would come around and that, with the addition of solid pitching, the team would become a winner— generating enough revenue that perhaps they would be able to afford to re-sign the pitching when their contracts expired (and that the pitchers would WANT to re-sign with KC.)
It is apparent now that the Royals went “all in” with only a pair of deuces in their hand. Their bluff has been called. You look at teams like the Indians or the Orioles, and it is glaringly obvious that the Royals are so far from being at that caliber, it’s dishearteningly ridiculous.
True, the month of July has been a tough stretch of schedule for KC. The worst team they have played is the Yankees. But you’re not a good team until you beat the good teams, and the Royals aren’t there. And without some cards to play, the Royals aren’t going to get there. And unfortunately, the cards the Royals have to play are very soon going to be wearing other teams’ jerseys and Royals fans are going to again be hoping and praying that a new crop of prospects will somehow turn into something.