On this date last year, the Kansas City Royals were 28-16. Even though they were just two games ahead of Minnesota (my goodness that has been a fall, hasn’t it?), life was easy last year. With the exception of an Alex Gordon injury that occurred after the Royals had run away and hid, the team had remarkably few bumps in the road. Baseball does not work that way very often.
The 2016 Royals find themselves at 24-22 today, two games behind the divisional leaders. They started the year without Jarrod Dyson. They then saw both Chris Young and Kris Medlen struggle with ineffectiveness and eventually go down with injuries. Mike Moustakas was hurt…twice, and now Alex Gordon is out as well. Along the way any number of players have struggled, notably Kendrys Morales and the aforementioned Gordon. You can be assured that 2016 will be a long, strange road. Baseball works that way quite often.
Remember 2014? You know, the first year the Royals made the playoffs since 1985 and came within 90 feet of tying Game Seven of the World Series? Perhaps you’ve heard Gordon was on third with two outs in that game. The Royals were just 24-25 on the morning of May 26th that year, a solid 5.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers.
How about 2013, the first winning season for the franchise since a fluky 2003? Kansas City was just 21-25 at this time that year and also 5.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers. Speaking of 2003, I bet you may have forgotten that despite a 16-3 start, that Royals team was 2.5 games behind Minnesota on this date in 2003 and just 26-22 overall. And yes, 2003 was the last time the Royals had a winning record on the morning of May 26th before last season.
Let’s go back a little further in time to 1994. That Royals team did not make the playoffs, as there were not any, but has long been held out as perhaps the Royals’ best shot at the playoffs during the long dark ages the franchise went through. They were 22-21 back then on May 26th and would finish 13 games over .500 when the entire game shut down.
So, we find our Kansas City Royals two games over and two games out today. They have not played particularly well thus far. Even during an 8-2 start to the season Kansas City was not playing all that well. They have been hurt and they have had good players endure big struggles. Truthfully, it could be a lot worse.
The Royals have had Cheslor Cuthbert step in and hold the line at third base. Whit Merrifield has done a remarkable Ben Zobrist impersonation as of late. Danny Duffy and Dillon Gee have managed to keep the back end of the starting rotation from being a complete disaster. Paulo Orlando is hitting .397! Players the Royals quite honestly had little expectations of have done enough to keep the team above water. I hate to make this comparison, but that is the kind of stuff the Cardinals have been doing for years and making the playoffs while doing so.
This organization is no longer fragile. They ride the peaks and valleys of a ‘normal’ regular season. They have more organizational depth than this writer expected them to have and, let’s face it, they think they are pretty good. Some have lamented the ‘resting on their laurels’ part that is often associated with thinking you are good, but it might well serve this squad well. We have seen frustration and maybe even a little laziness here and there, but I don’t think we have seen panic. They have played bad baseball and come back, despite injuries and slumps, to win four straight series.
Just now, we learn that Mike Moustakas has a tear in his ACL and will be out far longer that the ‘day to day’ we had previously been waiting out. Up comes the next guy in line, Brett Eibner.
All that and it is not even Memorial Day yet.