I’ve literally nothing to add when it comes to the outcome of Sunday’s season finale—a drubbing which guaranteed the Kansas City Royals a losing record for the first time since 2012. The Arizona Diamondbacks, who are a very, very good baseball team and legitimate threat to bring a World Series back to the desert, soundly handled a Royals team which was a shell of its former self. Don’t begrudge either team anything that happened Sunday; the Royals aren’t as bad as we witnessed on Sunday and it’s possible the D’Backs aren’t as good as Sunday’s result.
Nothing about that previous paragraph comes as anything resembling a surprise to anybody who spent 2017 obsessed with the day-in, day-out of Ned Yost’s charges. Despite a ho-hum start from a Cleveland team widely expected to waltz through the AL Central, and despite a late-July push which likely sent the franchise from selling to buying, the numbers don’t lie—this was a team whose Pythagorean record put them below 75 wins and who allowed 85 more runs than they scored. A passing knowledge of baseball stats and advanced numbers could tell even the most casual of observers that this team was playing far above its station. You didn’t need David Lesky for that.
(<3 you David.)
(Also, fine, because this is an analytics-based site, yes I’m bummed Vargas couldn’t keep the ERA under 4.00, yes I’m bummed that Whit Merrifield didn’t get to 20 homers and yes I’m elated that Peter Moylan finished the entire season without factoring into a decision.)
But #RoyalsDevilMagic will never die, and that belief more than anything kept people thinking maybe. Maybe the rotation can hang on, maybe the bullpen didn’t need Wade Davis, maybe the obvious holes in the lineup just aren’t that obvious. Maybe, maybe, maybe. At a certain point, when the same faces in the same uniform keep coming through, you start expecting that trend to continue, despite all logic to the contrary. Then it doesn’t and you have to be surprised.
The 2017 Kansas City Royals finished 80-82. For good and ill, Sunday was the last time this group would take the field together as a unit. Somebody will retire. Somebody will get a big-money contract. Somebody’s last day as a big-leaguer was Sunday afternoon, and they’ll go on to a lucrative career as an insurance adjuster. To quote Ben Lindbergh quoting various Pirates players, “Such is this game, and such is life.”
And so instead of dwelling on that, or the inevitable glance at what’s shaping up (in a vacuum) to be a bleak 2018, let’s take one last chance to appreciate the Royals as they were.
From a baseball standpoint, I dovetail from Ned Yost regarding some things. His approach to managing will occasionally drive me batty. But what he did in the fifth inning—removing Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain at the same time, to a thunderous ovation—was orchestrated perfectly. Ned’s sense of the moment is probably an actual strength of his as a manager—it probably helped him net a title in 2015, to be honest, which is just one of the reasons trying to inject anything resembling analytics when talking about this team is a fool’s errand.
Ned provided one final, vital and signature moment for the era. The 2011 boys won’t all be back (if Esky is the only one, I’m burning down a village); if even half are wearing Royal blue again next season, that’s a bit of a win. But Sunday provided closure, a last chance for Royals fans to serenade the most important players of the last 30 years with their adulation and prove, definitively, that they will always be Royals.
— Today in the MLB (@TodayintheMLB) October 1, 2017