Don’t look now, but the Kansas City Royals are on the rise in the American League Central.
Slowly but surely, one of Major League Baseball’s perennial cellar dwellers is putting the pieces in place to transition from floundering franchise to postseason contender.
Whether that happens in 2012, 2013 or several years down the line is unclear. But what is clear, is that when the Royals start winning, long-deprived fans will be rewarded for dedication. As for the rest of the fine folks in Kansas and Missouri? Well, the Royals couldn’t care less.
If you were absent during our struggles don't expect to be present during our success #ourtime— Eric Hosmer (@Hos3KC) February 23, 2012
It’s not every day you hear a team that ranked 27th in league attendance trying to turn fans away. But it’s not every day that the Royals enter a season with this kind of optimism, either.
Last season, the team jumped from 10th to sixth in the AL in runs, and Hosmer’s production was a key reason. As one scout recently told Baseball Prospectus: “They are going to have a beast of a lineup by 2013. Eric Hosmer is going to be an MVP candidate, and I can argue that there are four or five players who will be getting better over the next three years.”
And the Royals will need all the offense they can muster with a shaky-at-best pitching rotation that includes the likes of Luke Hochevar (career 5.29 ERA), Jonathan Sanchez (4.26) and career journeyman Bruce Chen (4.52). But there’s little doubt the Royals have put their four 100-loss seasons from 2002-2006 behind them and are ready to move forward.
In a playful Sports Illustrated piece last March, Jon Heyman provided a glimpse of the future in Kansas City.
In the latter half of the decade the Royals won multiple World Series and became America's team. Kauffman Stadium filled up with Hollywood stars (actor and longtime fan Paul Rudd finally had company), every other team tried to follow their model. (The book Daytonball spent 23 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list.) And because we know that happened, it's hard to go back in time and remember just how bad the Royals were.
Of course it’s easy to dream big in the spring. But for long-suffering Royals fans, hope doesn’t always spring eternal. So the time to get on board is now — before Hosmer decides there’s no room left on the bandwagon.