It’s too early to get excited. I get it.
I get that the Royals are in first place at 6-3, but it’s NINE GAMES. A lot can happen in nine games, and even the most embarrassing squad of malcontent goons can appear to be something they most decidedly are not.
And I know that on more than one occasion, they’ve looked abysmal and flat against good pitchers, only to make their hay against washed out rejects like Chad Durbin. So far, they’ve only played teams who are mediocre to bad, and the true test will come against the likes of the Toronto Blue Jays and the Detroit Tigers of the world, serious contenders who won’t trot out a hive of scrubs. I understand that the starting pitching won’t be this dominant for the remainder of the year, nor will the offense continue to rally each night after it looks like it’s curtains, and yes, there will be many costly defensive missteps down the road.
But as it stands, on this gilded April perch, the Royals are in first place and I’ll be damned if they don’t look like they belong.
For the first time in forever, they’re fun to watch again (provided you find some alternative commentary to the awful Rex Hudler [Recommendations include “the radio,” or “mute” or even “open the window and listen to the knife fight between the two schizophrenic hobos who live in the alley beside your building .”] ). Unlike years past—recent years, and many of them—being down by two, or three or even four runs in the 6th inning and beyond doesn’t feel like a death sentence. There’s an unshakeable faith that these guys can claw back and still get a win. They’re (cliché alert) scrappy, and full of heart, and to trot out something that the aforementioned Hudler said FORTY-FIVE TIMES OVER A NINE GAME SPAN (ISWEARTOGOD), “they play for a full nine innings, Ryan, man. It’s like Charlie Manuel said in Philly in the post game, man, this team doesn’t quit, man, blah blah blah, I need a fucking muzzle, bro. Wouldn’t you agree?”
Anyway, these games feel different, and good, even IF everything hasn’t been completely Mogen David and carnations.
Closer Greg Holland is having issues and, well, maybe even isn’t the closer at this juncture? (Don’t look to manager Ned Yost for an answer—you’ll likely hear the well-worn “He’s our guy in the ninth. That hasn’t changed. But we’re taking things on a day by day basis.”) He picked up a save Monday night, but relinquished his duties to Aaron Crow on Tuesday, and the most-popular-guy-in-town-aside-from-the-backup-quarterback, Kelvin Herrera on Wednesday.
I still like Holland, and I think his strong performance over the latter half of last season warrants him a pass on at least a couple of hiccups this year (but that choke chain needs to be TIGHT, and ready to yank at any moment). The good news, however, is that the bullpen is strong and most of the guys in it are capable of closing out a game. I’m comfortable with Herrera, Crow, even Tim Collins. (I’ll pass on Luke Hochevar, though, because, come on.)
It would also be nice if Wade Davis can figure out a way to NOT throw 50 pitches in two innings, as that is clearly no way to be an effective starting pitcher.
So yes, there are bumps, but they are few and far between, and ultimately, the Royals are banging on all cylinders. At the very least, it appears that they are slowly working their way out of perennial punching bag status with victorious little baby steps.
I still don’t think they win the Central this year—I’m not certifiably crazy, after all—but I think they stay in the race for a majority of the year and end with their first winning season since 2003. I’d be okay with that this year, and expect real contention next.
Stay gold, Ponyboy.
I’m on Twitter @StanfordWhistle