Most Royals fans have felt disappointment with the 2016 season thus far. There has been good reason, but please, just sit back for a moment…and think about perspective.
Imagine, if you will, the Royals are a team together pulling a sled in a race. The sum of all the parts being the speed they are capable of reaching. Only the fastest teams move on to the next leg of the race.
Last season they almost to a man found a way to provide to the group effort as a whole. Omar Infante and Alex Rios were possible exceptions. Jeremy Guthrie found himself out of gas as he limped towards the twilight of his career, but all in all it was a united effort. Whenever one or two found themselves struggling to keep up, there were always plenty of others doing more than their part to make up for the slack. The 2016 season has proven different.
As the year started, all Royals players shot out of the gate with the intentions of doing their part. Some lagged behind. Omar Infante stumbled alongside the sled and before long was no longer just not helping the team towards the finish line, but was acting as an anchor slowing the whole thing down.
It still worked in 2015. The team was strong enough to withstand his weight being added, but this season with so many others unable to pull, he had to be let go. It’s got to be hard for a team, watching a teammate fall behind because you can’t pick up their slack no matter how hard you try but that’s the way this game goes.
Usual leader of the pack Alex Gordon found himself stumbling at the beginning, often dragging behind yet still keeping up and helping where he could until an injury took him out of the race completely for a while.
To make up for the two open spots on the team, Whit Merrifield and Brett Eibner were called in. It’s a daunting task to be thrown in to a well-knit Championship team with high expectations, but despite barely any experience, they grabbed on and more than did their part. They have fallen at times, and that’s expected. They are new at this, still trying to get their sea legs in a whole new world like a newborn deer when wobbling as he takes his first steps. (or puppy paws…or baby bird…pick your metaphor…sorry /r/KCRoyals)
As they all trudge along, teammates who never seemed to struggle before find themselves no longer pulling for stretches. Wade Davis blows a save or two; Kelvin struggles to keep the opposing teams off of the scoreboard. The years of extra wear and tear are finally taking their toll, or possibly it's the inevitable short lifespan of the typical reliever beginning to rear its ugly head.
New guys like Joakim Soria were brought in to help counteract some of the departing pen from the 2015 season like Jason Frasor, but he has been inconsistent at best. Pulling for stretches and sometimes seeming to almost stop the sled entirely on his own as he falls in fantastic fashion.
At times this year the entire sled has crawled to a near stop. Losing 8 in a row, and being almost inept at playing baseball in any form on the road, they have slid backwards almost as far as they have pulled ahead. It would be easy to be angry with them, wishing to whip them like a pack of pull team dogs not doing what they are supposed to.
This team isn’t quitting. They haven’t laid down….and they sure as hell aren’t done.
The Royals near the All-Star break and sit tied for third in the division. They have lost 6 of their last 10 games and currently sit 7 games out of first place and only 3 games above .500. The cynics can easily find reason in the overall body of worlk to paint a dire picture of doom and gloom.
That would be folly however. At no time this year has the team fallen so far back that they must abandon the race. For every slip back there is a teammate stepping up and pulling harder to try and move the sled themselves, even with the weight of so many weighing it down.
Danny Duffy stepped to the front and took lead reigns alongside Eric Hosmer. Kendrys Morales seemingly put the entire sled and team on his back for a stretch, almost willing the team to wins. Ian Kennedy and Edison Volquez have come back with electric starts after being disappointing, showing that they aren’t ready to give up.
No, this is no time for pessimism. For a team that has had so many dysfunctional parts, so many injuries, so many disappointments, and setbacks, it is a testament to who and what they are that they still have the leaders in sight.
They aren’t slowing down now. After a quick break during All-Star week, I expect a leader like Hosmer to simply say “lets go” and they all go back to pulling. Some will fall. Some will lag behind. But as more and more get experience and know how……..as more and more overcome injuries, and disappointment……as more players step up to carry the load themselves……….this team will slowly start moving faster.
Anyone willing to give up on this bunch hasn’t watched them race before and they certainly haven’t been paying attention to what they are doing this year, nor any year for the past three.
Adversity? Please. Look at that flag in the outfield; it says World Champions. If you want to say the best baseball team in the world is a bad team, you better look again….it's going to take a lot more than what has happened to keep them down. Many of the names and faces in the lineup are new, but they still have the patch on their arms. It's still their flag to carry also and behind Eric Hosmer I still expect them to get to the finish line.
So run ‘em down if you want. Give up if you want. But I’ve seen what this team has had to overcome this year….and STILL they keep moving. Stop Racing? Why? We haven’t even gotten going yet….and today is not a good day to be a pussy.