Royals fans may have to find other ways to entertain themselves this summer…
This may be a time for Royals fans to take stock in silver linings and roster shuffles.
You’ve been through it before. Heck, it’s pretty much all you had from 1995 through 2012. And now, your primary joy could again come from keeping track of what’s going on in Omaha or rooting for Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez to break the club’s single-season home run record.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way, this soon.
The Royals were hoping to stretch this revival to a fifth season, but so far they’ve stalled. After three series (in what seemed like a fairly manageable part of the schedule) Kansas City owns a 3-6 record and has reached an exasperating crossroads: A roster loaded with pending free agents is caught in the middle of a bullpen rebuild; management is putting an emphasis on hitting home runs, with a lineup that once thrived on putting the ball in play.
So far, the Royals rank sixth in the American League with 11 homers. But they’re 14th in runs scored, with an average of 3 per game.
Most of the blasts have come with nobody on base. And even when the Royals squeeze out a lead, the real hand-wringing begins when the ball is given to a relieving corps that has recorded just one save and been tagged with three losses.
Yes, it’s way early. And, of course, some of these statistics will level off. But the chances of a serious playoff push seem slim.
The bullpen will steady, but the bid to beat opponents by overpowering them is misguided and a radical break from past successes.
Since the franchise debuted in 1969, the Royals have won four pennants and produced another season with 100-plus wins. In all five cases, Kansas City ranked among the top five in the league when it came to stolen bases.
Speed doesn’t slump, and small-ball fits the measurement of Kauffman Stadium better than a bunch of free swingers.
So, don’t expect this slumping team to suddenly click.
Instead, you’re better off bracing for the reboot, when the Royals overhaul their roster with a bunch of relatively fresh faces.
If you get frustrated, scan the box scores from Triple-A Omaha, where Whit Merrifield is currently batting .364 with three homers.
Matt Strahm was sent down earlier this week, and his first two outings have been promising. Top prospect Josh Staumont pitched Thursday and allowed one hit in six innings while striking out 12.
These are some of the names you’ll be seeing in Kansas City next summer, so start familiarizing yourself in the coming months.
Another diversion will be Moustakas or Perez chasing Steve Balboni’s record of 36 homers in a season.
Balboni set the mark during Kansas City’s World Series championship run of 1985, and it’s sort of become a mixed blessing.
On one hand, that’s the lowest single-season home run total for any team in the Majors, which is a little bit embarrassing.
On the other, the very mention of Balboni’s name takes Royals fans back to a glorious era and reflects the “Royals’ way” of doing things during peak periods.
Moustakas currently has three homers. Perez, four. The devotion to the long ball defies logic, but it may at least give the Royals faithful something to follow.