(Note: I wrote this last night while watching the Royals play Detroit. The R’s were up 4–2, Edinson Volquez was cruising along, and a sweep of the Tigers seemed imminent. Then an infield single, a walk, and another infield single to open the top of the 8th launched a 4-run Tigers rally that helped them salvage the final game of the series. As with K-State football two years ago, and Iowa State basketball last year, my jinx powers are strong. Never underestimate the strength of the blogger!)
What a summer.
As I keep saying, last October was one of the greatest times in my life as a sports fan. I realize I say some of that simply because it is the most recent time a team I follow made a deep run in the post season. But, also, it was because it was all so unexpected.
Well, what does that make this summer? I hoped the Royals would be better than a year ago. But I didn’t expect it. I figured they’d play solid ball all year, and, if they caught some breaks and stayed healthy, might sneak into a Wild Card spot again.
But run away with their division in August? Build up a large lead for home field advantage in the playoffs? Nah, that’s just silly talk.
Yet here we are on August 13, with the Royals 12 games ahead of second-place Minnesota, already with more wins than they had in nine different, complete seasons since the 1994 strike.
Every night they play in front of huge crowds at the K. Loud, enthusiastic, passionate crowds.
Every night they find a different way to win. Once a week or so, they’ll actually score a bunch of runs. More often they scratch out some runs early and hang on the rest of the night. Or score a handful late to erase a small deficit. Some nights they get great starting pitching. Most of the time it’s the bullpen that puts the game away. Just about every night they do things with their gloves that amaze and astound.
They don’t seem like a dominant team. They win an awful lot of one and two run games, rather than pumeling teams the way Toronto is doing. There are a couple glaring holes in their lineup. Every time they suffer an injury – minor or major – they just keep chugging along.
These are crazy times. For so many years we Royals fans dreamt of a team that would just be competitive. To do what they’re doing this year, in the same division as big spending Detroit and a team that could spend plenty if they wanted in Chicago? Never did I think I’d see a summer like this from the Royals. Certainly not with all the flaws this team has.
A silly summer is bound to generate some silly talk. Perhaps it’s already the buzz in KC, but I expect to soon hear grousing about how the Royals will not be ready for the playoffs if they keep this huge lead through the end of the season. “Toronto and New York are battling each other. Houston and Anaheim keep flip-flopping each other. Those teams are going to be ready for October. I’m not sure the Royals will be.”
I don’t know about that. Baseball playoffs are like the NCAA tournament: a crapshoot. The best team rarely wins in the current system. I don’t know if whether you’re playing meaningful games in the final week of the regular season makes a difference or not.
That’s a long damn way away, though. I’m not going to worry about whether running away with the AL Central will help or hurt the Royals in October. I’m just going to enjoy the hell out of the last six weeks of what has been an amazing and thoroughly enjoyable summer of baseball.
- Now 11 games after Wednesday’s results. ↩