That’s all, folks. After the Royals finished up a disappointing season with a 14-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, little attention was paid to the outcome of the game or the fact that the Royals finished with their first losing season since finishing 72-90 in 2012.
Instead the attention was appropriately placed on the shoulders of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, and Jason Vargas. Each given a standing ovation, with Hosmer even homering in the first inning. Each leaving in the fifth inning to hugs and a standing ovation from the crowd. When the Diamondbacks finished doing the routine high fives after winning the game, the Royals came out to see in a celebratory montage of all the accomplishments this team could achieve together. Grown men, heroes, legends, crying in the middle of the field knowing that this was the final time they will be in the same locker room together. As always, you can’t help but think that Yordano Ventura was teary eyed watching his brothers on the field, together, one last time.
Joel Goldberg, the on-field broadcaster for Fox Sports Kansas City, even tried his best to do a post-game interview with Eric Hosmer. Fans cried because they were sad. They also had the emotions of what this group had done to this city.
Royals fans of my generation (I’m 32 years old) can remember always hearing the line “the light is at the end of the tunnel. Just look at the talent in the minor leagues”. Royals fans would watch players like Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran, and Zack Greinke come up and give the Royals some good years. They’d watch trades for Jermaine Dye and unlikely heroes like Mike Sweeney and Joe Randa pan out. These players would have great individual moments and win some individual awards. However, every October Royals fans would watch as their childhood heroes celebrated in the locker rooms of bigger market teams and the days of their time with the Royals seem like only a blip on their road to stardom. There was anger and disdain when a top player would want to play somewhere other than Kansas City. It was a yearly reminder that we were just a team and a fanbase that had been forgotten by the baseball elites.
We then heard about this group. A first baseman with pop and athleticism that could win Gold Gloves at first and be the catalyst for the franchise. A shortstop who had an amazing glove and whose bat would eventually catch up. A center fielder who had speed and athleticism to be a skillful player but was coachable to become a valuable player. A third baseman who could hit thirty-plus home runs for a team deprived of power. A catcher who had the fielding prowess of Pudge Rodriguez, the ability to handle a pitching staff like Yadier Molina, and could hit for power as well. Finally, a starting pitcher who had triple digit fastballs to be complimented with a hammer of a curveball and was often compared to fellow countryman and Hall of Famer, Pedro Martinez. These guys won at every level they were at and we were told it would be no different once they got to Kansas City.
There were bumps in the road. Fans, along with a prominent radio show hosts, were calling for the Royals to trade the likes of Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas when they started struggling in 2012. There was a sense of “here we go again”.
Then Dayton Moore made trades for James Shields and Wade Davis. Players like Alex Gordon, who was left as a bust after his failure at third base, fulfilled their promise as an impact player in left field. The rest is history. The Royals would win two consecutive American League Pennants and a World Championship.
That is what separates this group of players from the others that came before them. There were the teams of the 1970s, which had to deal with a little bit of the losing stigma when the A’s left for Oakland having never recorded a winning season in Kansas City. That was the golden era of Royals baseball. They made the postseason in seven of ten years, won two pennants and culminated in the World Series title of 1985. Then everything went downhill. The players aged, the young stars were inconsistent at best and total bust at worst. Trades were made that set the franchise back years at a time. Kansas City was left in the dust. Sure, there were glimpses of brilliance, especially in 1994 before the players strike. However, they never had that feeling of greatness. The Royals were losing in the age of bigger contracts and increasing salaries. A whole generation was either lost or lay dormant as a fanbase starving for winning baseball.
These players made us believe again. They made the older fans of an earlier generation remember the feelings of the golden era. They made the fans of my generation cry with joy. They made the new fans of a younger generation look forward to a game at The K with their friends and family. They became part of the community, rallying around an entire city when it lost two of its finest in October of 2015 or when one of their brothers was taken too soon earlier this year. They’d stop for pictures, pick up the bar tab for fans, hang out at Power & Light and would embrace this community as their own. The community, in turn, embraced them as their own. We watched them grow up from young kids fresh out of high school to grown men spraying each other with champagne. Every win we’d watch as they would make us remember when we played little league with our friends and baseball was fun. They rejuvenated a fanbase and a city in a way that hadn’t been done in three decades. We weren’t losers anymore, we were winners because of these guys.
I don’t know what will happen next. I believe it is too early for us fans to speculate about who could end up back here next year or where these players might go. We need time to reflect and celebrate the accomplishments of these young men and the joy that they brought to our hearts. What we saw with this group of players will never be duplicated again. That’s not to say the Royals won’t ever win again or that they won’t be back in the World Series. That’s just saying the way this core group transformed a franchise the way they did will never be done again.
You’ll hear this Dr. Seuss quote a lot in the coming days, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened”. That is a quote that is very appropriate for today.
I want to give you a new quote today from baseball legend Babe Ruth. “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” These players are legends and will always be “Forever Royal”.
The Kansas City Royals, after so many years of irrelevance, broke through in a big way from 2013-2017. They rejuvenated a dormant fanbase and rekindled a passion for baseball in a town starving for something good. There were many moments that defined this team throughout ... Read more