Commentary: A Royal Outlook
Well, from what we understand, another World Series is set to start next week. However, fans of the Kansas City Royals are looking ahead…a little further than that. Commentator Victor Wishna elaborates in this October edition of “A Fan’s Notes.”
Oh, somewhere in this favored land…the playoffs are still going on. But for baseball fans in Kansas City, the calendar has already turned to that mythical time of the year when anything is possible. Not the postseason. Not the preseason. The offseason.
Sometimes the fortunes of an entire franchise can turn on a single moment. Salvador Perez’s crazy Wild-Card-winning line drive comes to mind. But really, change—like most things in baseball—happens a bit more gradually, through some crafty drafting, patient prospect development, and, every once in awhile, a bold move from the front office.
This Royals’ offseason is already shaping up to be one of the more transformative in recent memory. A new owner. A new manager. And, well, the same old GM, who has been known to take a chance or two.
Even before new ownership takes over, the Royals have some money to play with. They could add 40 or 50 million to next year’s payroll and still be well short of recent peak spending. Sure, the prudent thing is not to waste that cash while continuing to rebuild. But that was also the smart move heading into 2013, when—instead—general manager Dayton Moore traded top prospects for ace James Shields and another pitcher named Wade Davis. That didn’t seem like it was going to work out until, well, it totally worked out.
If you insist on measuring success by wins and losses, the 2019 Royals were—oof—not good. But they improved dramatically in the second half of the season, and the roster now boasts the league’s hottest hitter and biggest slugger. Whit Merrifield lead the American League in hits for the second year in a row, and Jorge Soler is the first actual home-run king in Royals history.
Others emerged. Hunter Dozier came on late to become a real threat at the plate. And before being sidelined by injury, shortstop Adalberto Mondesi razzled enough dazzle to justify his early hype, and now just needs to get healthy. Oh, and speaking of healthy: Salvador Perez—Wild Card hero, World Series MVP—is back.
With so many pieces in place, maybe an added kick in free agency could start to tip the scales. Perhaps a couple of veteran inning-eaters of the type that shored up the rotation in 2015. Maybe a reliable veteran first-baseman. And hey, after the best season of his career, Mike Moustakas will be back on the market and probably at a good value. No, I haven’t heard any rumors of a Moose sighting. But I am trying to start one.
Of course, it will all rise on a new foundation. This season saw a final toast to Ned Yost. And perhaps a fond—very fond—farewell to Alex Gordon. Perhaps even Kauffman Stadium’s days are numbered, as the change in owners has revived the chatter about a new downtown ballpark. So that’s something to look forward to in, say, the year 2032.
After back-to-back 100-loss seasons, there’s nowhere to go but up, right? Ha. While those World Series runs were nice, we’re Royals fans. We know slumps can be measured in decades. The outlook isn’t yet brilliant…but it will be interesting to see what comes next. Change doesn’t happen overnight. And with Opening Day just five months away, there’s no time to lose.
Victor Wishna is an editor, writer and sports fan. He lives in Leawood.