In the past week we’ve had more snow combined that we had received all winter. Four inches fell last Thursday followed by over six inches Saturday. In each case the snow melted quickly. Thursday it was all gone before the girls got home from school. Saturday’s snow was almost completely gone by Sunday evening. Now we’ve transitioned into warmer days – at least into the 50s – but it is dark and dreary and the land is saturated from seven days of melting snow and rain.
Makes a man feel like it’s time for baseball season!
My enthusiasm for baseball is not what it has been in recent years. I’m still focused on college hoops for a few more days, obviously. And the Royals window of opportunity has closed. Worse, the team can’t figure out what to do next. They went for “value signings” over the winter and have a team that, on paper, doesn’t look terrible. But it also doesn’t look great, and seems destined to win at most between 70–75 games. Not good enough to compete, not bad enough to be in full rebuilding mode yet.
Dayton Moore deserves an immense amount of credit for building a team that went to two-straight World Series. When you do that, you earn a lot of leeway in how to do your job. Still, I’m not sure I love him being in charge of the next Royals rebuild. The minor league system is already pretty lean but he’s putting off the total gut for at least one off-season. I don’t know that I agree with that strategy. And given how few major leaguers the system has produced since the championship core came up, I have concerns about Dayton and his scouts’ evaluation abilities.
Unless there is some dramatic shift in how baseball revenues are divided up or a change in how the Glass family is willing to spend money, the Royals have to build with young talent. That’s what they did in the first part of this decade. I don’t understand why you delay hitting the reset button to get that process going again. Especially in a division that should be won by one of the best teams in baseball (Cleveland) and also has a team that is both filled with young talent and made some strong moves to fortify that talent in the winter (Minnesota). The AL Central is not up for grabs. Nabbing a Wild Card spot would require a massive amount of good luck for the Royals and bad luck for at least five other teams.
Salvador Perez tearing up his knee this week and taking him off the field for 4–6 weeks is not a promising start.
I think the Royals could – could – have decent starting pitching. It looks like a staff where every guy can go on a 3–4 start roll where things are working and they only give up 2–3 runs a night. But I also worry about the health of most of them, and every dude is also capable of getting into ruts where they can’t make it through three innings for a few weeks in a row.
The once vaunted Royals bullpen is a mystery. Maybe Kelvin Herrera settles down this year and sets a standard that knocks everyone else into place. But I see too many arms that have struggled in the past joined by too many unknowns to have much confidence in that group.
The lineup is full of question marks, too. Whit Merrifield seems like the only sure bet, and that’s based on a single season of big league performance. Can Moose stay healthy? Will Salvy get healthy? Is Alcides Escobar’s modest goal of getting on base 30% of the time doable? Can Jorge Soler harness his immense potential? Can Lucas Duda be a poor-man’s Eric Hosmer? And can poor Alex Gordon provide anything at all at the plate?
A lot has been made of the Royals late winter signings and how they added some “professional hitters” to the lineup. We’ll see if those are enough to keep the team in the window of mediocrity.
I really hope all those elements come together and the Royals can stay in the 70s for wins. It’s really going to suck if they don’t and the team ends up being shitty without having gone all-in with the rebuild. I think most Royals fans were prepared to accept bad baseball if it meant young talent would begin flowing into the system. Without that influx already in place, this will feel like an empty, wasted year that put off the chance to compete another year without making any progress toward that goal.
I’m still downloading the MLB apps onto all my devices this morning, though. I will be listening as the Royals open things against the White Sox this afternoon. And I’m sure they’re still going to be the soundtrack of my summer, even if the goals are a lot more modest than they have been in half a decade.
As for predictions, I haven’t paid close attention to spring break stories around the league, so I’m not sure how great these are going to be.
AL East: New York
AL Central: Cleveland
AL West: Houston
AL Wild Cards: Boston, Minnesota
NL East: Washington
NL Central: Chicago
NL West: Los Angeles
NL Wildcards: Milwaukee, St. Louis