It’s time for a painful reckoning. Even discussing this is not fun. But yes, it is time to prepare ourselves to say goodbye to many of our favorite Royals. Sure, they’ll come back to Kansas City from time to time, wearing different colors, and some people will boo them while others give them ovations for old time’s sake (not surprisingly, I tend to the latter).
While Jerry Seinfeld’s joke that we root for laundry is ultimately proven true, for various reasons, baseball is a little different—seeing players’ faces every day, and especially when they have been Royals since very early in their careers and spent six or so seasons here, makes us feel a little closer to them. We’ve seen them cry, we’ve seen them celebrate, we’ve seen them joke around, we’ve seen them succeed, we’ve seen them fail, we’ve seen them get injured and we’ve seen them overcome long odds on and off the field.
But yes, it is time, or soon will be, for the Royals to trade away their impending free agents for prospects. You might think it’s too early to punt on the season. I mean, Cleveland is only 19-14! But consider that Cleveland is on pace for 93 wins. The Indians won 94 last year, so that’s probably not a fluke. To match that 93-win total, the Royals would have to go 81-48 the rest of the way. Just getting to 90 wins and possibly—possibly!—being a wild-card team would mean a 78-51 record.
The 2015 Royals went 81-51 in their first 132 games, so if these guys magically morph back into that team, then it’s not impossible, and indeed, if we hadn’t seen this team summon up magic against long odds before, this wouldn’t even be a discussion. But have you seen any indication of that happening? Me either.
In a way, it will be refreshing to see some of the current Royals leave. Maybe not refreshing, but a bit of a relief. Of course I’ll miss them, but every strikeout, every popup, every weak grounder to second kind of tarnishes their past glories slightly. Eventually, that will fade and we’ll only remember the winning, but right now it’s like watching your pet get sick.I can’t prove it, but I feel like this team came out of the gate pressing, knowing this was their last go-round as a team. When they didn’t work, they tried even harder, and you can’t succeed in baseball like that. Now they’re…well, not buried, but in quite a hole as I mentioned. I don’t quite understand how more or less the same group that was on top of the baseball world 19 months ago can be one of the worst teams in baseball right now, but that shows you how fast the game can change.
And I’m excited to see some of the younger players get a shot. Bring on the kids, I say. We’ve already seen Cheslor Cuthbert be an effective major leaguer; I’m not worried about his poor numbers this season because I suspect this is the first time in his life he has not played every day. Jorge Bonifacio has shown some ability; let’s see if can make the needed adjustments at the plate and improve his defense. Ideally, we could see Matt Strahm stretched out to become part of the rotation. And those are just the guys already here.
I look forward to seeing Jake Junis, Ryan O’Hearn, Corey Toups, Josh Staumont, Ramon Torres, and Jonathan Dziedzic. And hopefully Hunter Dozier can make it back to the majors when he’s healthy. Oh, and Raul Mondesi again, which brings up the Raul Mondesi Corollary to this desire: I only want to see them if they’ve proven they can handle AAA ball. But the good news is several of those guys are off to good starts in Omaha.
Although the Royals have really only had a couple of full-fledged “youth movements” in franchise history, it has become something of a tradition among Royals fans to look ahead to the up-and-coming players of tomorrow. That was mostly because the players currently on the roster in the dark days were generally nothing to get excited about. This is obviously a different situation, and even after the impending free agents are gone there will still be plenty of links to the glories of the past few years: Danny Duffy, Salvador Perez, Alex Gordon, and maybe Kelvin Herrera. But adding some younger players to that group and watching them grow and develop can be fun too.
With a touch of sadness, I say, bring on the kids. It might be painful at first but it’s the only way forward.