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Royals Spring Training Hits The Wall

The Baseball Gods did not get the memo about the 2012 season being “Our Time.”

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I am 29 years old and have lived in Kansas City my entire life. I was born in this fair city and I will probably die in this city. I was 2 years old when the Royals won their only World Series title and I do not remember anything about it. I am the poster child for young Royals fans. We have never seen success yet we still have a passion for our local 9 that rivals any other major-market, successful baseball team in the country. We have been forced to become connoisseurs of the minor league system like watching an episode of LOST. We have been required to know the Super 2 rule and worry about service time for our top prospects. We have been trained to be payroll experts and knowing which attendance numbers need to be met to support a higher payroll. We have been forced to study the draft like a mid-term final. All this has become the norm for Royals fans. These pieces of the puzzle are not the concern of fans of the Cardinals, Yankees, and the Red Sox. I have many friends who are St. Louis Cardinals fans and they could not tell you anything about the minor league system for their team. Those fans know their team is about the big league club and winning at the major league level. That is not the case for Royals fans. We are forced to partake in this type of fan hood. It is not something we shy away from or we are embarrassed about. We wear it as a badge of honor. I have always said it’s easy to be a Cardinals fan or Yankees fan, but to be a hardcore Royals fan means that you have a passion that cannot be questioned. Why else would you root for the Royals? Their big league product has not given you any reason to fill The K or buy the gear or to even care enough to throw the 1985 World Series in the face of your friends who are Cardinals fans. But we do it. And it was all finally going to pay off. Or at least it seemed that way.

I have gone round and round with a close friend of mine for years about all of the Royals prospects that suppose excellence. I told him I thought Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas were going to suck. Mind you this was when Hosmer could not see the ball and the team had trouble ordering him glasses. I told him I wanted Gordon Beckham and Buster Posey and every other prospect over whom the Royals had in their system. I will never forget that conversation and how heated it got. He is at the opposite end of the same Royals fan spectrum as me. He is forever optimistic while I am not. He called me a pessimistic Royals fan, a negative Royals fan, a jaded Royals fan. A little of all of those things might be true but really I am just a cautious Royals fan. I need to see it to believe it. The Royals are the only team I root for in which I have this mindset. Things started to change on May 6, 2011, when Eric Hosmer made his big league debut. You could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel that Royals GM Dayton Moore had been promising for years. Then Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez joined Hosmer in the big league club. Last season had its ups and downs but the fan base was energized and excited heading into the off-season.

The fans were not the only ones excited about what the 2012 Royals could accomplish. The players fell into this category as well. When spring training started the players talked about what last season meant and how they knew they could compete this season. The core pieces of the big league team were in place and everyone knew this was a chance for the Royals to take a big step forward and no longer being the butt of jokes from Yankee and Red Sox fans. No one is predicting the Royals to win the Pennant this season but people do think that finishing with a winning record is no longer reserved for daydreams like dating Olivia Wilde or becoming Spider-Man. It was tangible. Not just tangible but a reality. Then in true Royals fashion the wheels came off before we even left the station.

After Royals catcher Salvador Perez signed a long-term deal with the club, Manager Ned Yost said he could be the best catcher he has ever seen. And he called Perez a better version of Javy Lopez, who was an amazing player in his own right. Royals’ officials called Perez the most important player on the Royals and that the one player the Royals could not afford to lose. So, in keeping with true Royals tradition, Salvador Perez has a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee and is out for 12-14 weeks. Well, isn’t that just a nice swift punch to the nuggets? So the Royals just lost the guy they called their most important player on the big league team. But hey, it is just one guy right? I mean, I know he plays a pretty premium position but its still just one guy, right? It appears Perez was just the tip of the iceberg for the Royals rocky spring training. News came out this week that Joakim Soria may need season ending surgery on his throwing arm. Adding to the injury news is pitching prospect Mike Montgomery being shipped to minor league camp in Omaha. And the final wheel to fall off the Royals train was starting pitcher Bruce Chen is getting beat around like a criminal being questioned by Deputy U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens. And people wonder why I am cautiously optimistic about the Royals future. Remember the scene in Dumb and Dumber when Lloyd had the dream in the restaurant? Well, Royals fans are the Chef.

Not all Royals news coming from Surprise, AZ is a five-alarm fire. Yes, Joakim Soria looks to be done for the 2012 season but now Aaron Crow can step back into the bullpen, where he pitched well enough to make the All-Star team last season. Danny Duffy came into the spring needing to earn his spot in the rotation and he has kicked it into another gear his past few outings. Center fielder Lorenzo Cain has been everything advertised and Alex Gordon is looking like his production last season is going to be the norm as opposed to a fluke. It looks like Dayton Moore knew what he is talking about when he said he is targeting 2013 as the year the for Royals to contend. That must be why he gets paid millions of dollars and I only buy new Pumas when they are on clearance.

The Royals marketing department dubbed the 2012 season as "Our Time" in what I can only assume the 'our' they refer to falls on the Royals team itself. It is the Royals time to shine, their time to compete, and their time to rise to the top of the AL Central. Personally, Our Time goes to all of the Royals fans that gave endured 100-season after 100-loss season. It goes to my good friend who was close to fighting me when I dared to talk bad about the Royals prospects. It is your time. For any fan who spent time looking up the Super 2 rule and service time, this is your time. If you have ever clicked on websites trying to find the payroll numbers for the Royals and comparing them to the rest of the league, this is your time. If you are an 18-30 year old fan who is passionate about the Royals even though the team has given you no reason to care this much, this is your time. Everything has gone afoul for the Royals favor this spring training. The Baseball Gods have a funny and sick sense of humor but for the first time in many years the Royals are paying back the debt that fans have been giving them for endless summers. Royals fans have earned all the good things that should be coming their way. This season might not live up to the unrealistic expectations, but that does not make the prize any less sweet. This is truly Our Time to have our major league team reflect the major league fan base that supports it.