(Finally) Watching the Royals from Indianapolis. Despite being the best story in baseball, this is the first chance I’ve had to watch them on national TV this year. They’ve just made their second comeback against the second place White Sox and now lead 7-6. (The home plate umpire is a complete idiot. He warns both teams after two batters are hit by wild, not purpose pitches, then proceeds to toss a White Sox pitcher and their manager when the ball got away and plunked Carlos Beltran. When you’ve just given up four runs, there’s only one out, and a runner in scoring position, you’re not head hunting.)
Watching is bittersweet, though. I feel like it’s some kind of cruel trick that the Royals have played so well this year. If you think I’m diehard about KU basketball, you should have seen how I was about Royals baseball between the ages of 7-16. Nothing mattered to me as much as the Royals. I listened to every game, knew who every single player was, and didn’t go anywhere without my Royals hat. George Brett was a freaking God to me. It was a tremendous time in a young fan’s life: your team is good every year, your favorite player is one of the greatest ever, and it seems like you’re living a charmed life. Add in the unbridled enthusiasm of youth along with the blind faith that comes with not knowing any better, and nothing mattered as much to me as Royals baseball did.
Between signing Kirk Gibson, the 1994 strike, and last year’s devastation, I’ve written the Royals off three times in my life. When they signed Kirk Gibson, I was so disgusted I became a Baltimore Orioles fan for eight years. After the strike, I spent the better part of two years boycotting all baseball. Combining last year’s carnage with the knowledge I’d soon be living in another city made me realize I would probably never be a Royals fan again. I started thinking more about how great summers were when I was a kid and Royals baseball was a constant and it made me sad that I would never have that again.
All that makes me very happy the Royals are back as a contender, but makes me miss being a part of it. Now, each night, I check ESPN News several times to see how the Royals are doing. But I can’t tell you who the third string infielder is, who the last man in the bullpen is, or what young stud in Wichita is the next franchise player. I miss the details that come with following your hometown team, even if it’s done from afar. I don’t feel like it’s a failing on my part, as the connected age gives me plenty of opportunities to learn all that information (Lord knows I’m not going to be any less informed about KU basketball). I blame it on those ten years of misery. While the cliché tells us you never forget your first love, I would argue that while you never forget it, years of neglect can make you forget how to love like you did the first time.
While we’re mentioning idiots, Dave O’Brien on ESPN is an idiot. I’m not convinced he knows anything about baseball. Rick Sutcliff isn’t a great analyst, but I enjoy his silence when O’Brien tries to make an insightful observation that is wildly off-track.
Postscript: The Royals pulled away in the 9th to win 13-9. A really gutty performance by a team that looked like they had no chance the first three innings. Dee Brown gets four hits, two RBIs, and scores two runs. If Sweeney had been healthy, there were rumors that Brown was going to be released outright. With Sweeney pushed back and Tucker out for at least a couple games, I think it’s safe to say Dee saved his roster spot for the time being. Someone claimed that Tony Pena told people before the game that Brown would get four hits. Pena is absolutely amazing. There’s never been a better example of a manager being the difference in a team’s performance. It’s a shame the Yankees will steal him away when Joe Torre decides to hang it up (or the Cardinals when they run out of patience with Tony LaRussa). The Royals now lead the Chisox by three full games.
Also, worth noting, there was a truck flipped over on an interstate in Indy yesterday. This makes 42 of 43 days since I moved that a truck has been wrong side up.