At the end of April, the Royals were 14-10. They were a game out of first place and everything was coming up daffodils. The pitching was invincible and the offense—while still not pounding out a ton of runs—was serviceable and wonderfully reliable in the clutch.
May started off with three straight victories—looking good, lads!—and then the bottom fell out. Hard.
Consecutive losses to the Baltimore Orioles. A masterful Jeremy Guthrie pitching performance that resulted in a win. Whoa!
And then, the rest.
Swept by the New York Yankees. Swept by the Oakland Athletics. Two losses against the lowly Houston Astros. Swept by the Angels. Swept by the Cardinals in KC.
Eight straight losses. Eight.
Eight wins and nineteen losses on the month.
Boom. Last place. Again. For the millionth time.
At first, I was frustrated.
What happened to the April guys, I wondered to myself on multiple occasions? How did it get so bad, so fast?
Well, walk-off victories don’t last forever. The mask that hid a grotesque offense’s deficiencies was cruelly ripped off, leaving a miserable, unlovable, deformed monster staring back.
A third baseman who doesn’t deserve to be in the big leagues. A right-fielder who doesn’t deserve to be a starter. A roving cast of second basemen who wouldn’t be everyday players on any other major league team. A first baseman with power not unlike that of a girl’s rotational league softball player. A hitting coach who doesn’t think it’s important to teach the finer art of hitting a fucking ball over the wall once in a while*. A manager who has tried and failed over and over again in his professional managing career.
(*and obviously, this has been addressed. George Brett was named interim hitting coach following the demotions of Jack Maloof and Andre David. There’s a lot that can be said about this– and I might do that at a later date– but for now, I’ll just submit the following: blah blah blah, the Titanic’s deck-chairs. Royals blogger/Grantland contributor/dermatologist Rany Jazayerli said it perfectly on Twitter: @jazayerli: I’m glad the Royals recognized their hitting coaches weren’t doing their job. But this is cosmetic. The problems go much higher than this.)
The blame is pervasive and equitable. With almost NO exceptions, this team has reverted to its natural state of “absolute embarrassment.” They’re used to it, and we are too, so I’m not really sure why this feels any different, really.
I said many times throughout their Cactus League dominance and into the foreign success of the early season that this team would NOT win the AL Central. I never expected that. Ever. I did, however, expect that the pitching would be strong enough (it is) and the offense would be just enough (it isn’t) to finish over .500 for the first time since 2003.
And while this *ahem* “achievement” is still a possibility, the odds grow longer with each first pitch swing-and-a-miss taken by the terrible, no-good, very bad right fielder. Each time the Royals try to manufacture their way to a win—in the process, allowing the opposing team’s starting pitcher to cruise through 7 innings of two-hit ball on a measly 80 or so pitches—another nail gets driven into the cellar door.
So maybe that’s why all of this comes as such an unfriendly cock-punch. Because for a little while, at least, Royals fans could pretend that things were different this time around. The pitching was new and fresh. The team was supposed to be young and exciting. A cautious sense of optimism hung in the air like the ghost of a thousand Gates BBQ baked bean farts.
But these are the Royals, and this is Kansas City, and anyone who has been subjected to the perennial disappointment of KC sports for any measurable length of time shouldn’t be surprised by anything, ever. (Well, except for that evasive thing known as “success.” THAT would be shocking.)
I usually spend this month-end wrap column highlighting the players who have performed exceedingly well for the past four weeks. Even when the Royals are their usual, shit-tastic self, there are typically a few salvageable bananas in the bunch. The thing is, nearly all of this month’s banana shipment is rotten and decayed. It’s teeming with maggots and infested with furry spiders and we’d probably all be a little better off if the goddamned banana boat just sank.
In any case, oh, let’s say Alex Gordon is doing a great job. At this juncture—and with the occasional bright-spot from the starting pitching staff—Gordon is the only legitimate threat on a day-to-day basis. He’s great at the plate and amazing in the field, and someday, I hope he wins a championship somewhere.
It certainly won’t be here, though.
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