Say hello to the new Tampa Bay Rays.
For the better part of the last 20 years, Ewing Kauffman, the man responsible for bringing the Royals to Kansas City, must’ve been turning over in his grave. He built a proud franchise that won six divisional championships, two AL pennants, and the 1985 World Series, and he did it through youth and solid spending manners. He passed away in 1993.
At that point, the Royals were without an owner and began dumping salaries left and right. In fact, in 1995, the team only spent $18.5M on salaries, which was easily the lowest in baseball. It was only $16.5M, less than contracts that some individual players were signing, by 1999.
Under Manager Tony Pena, the Royals won 83 games in 2003, marking their first winning season since 1994 when things began to fall apart. Since then though, Kansas City has been nothing more than a loveable loser. 2004, 2005, and 2006 were all 100+ loss seasons, and since that point, they haven’t won more than 75 games.
If the end of this story sounds familiar, you’re probably reading some article on the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays as well, who were a god awful franchise before putting all the pieces together for one of the more memorable runs in baseball history that took them all the way to the World Series.
The difference for the Royals this year? They don’t have to contend with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
We’ll start right there. It’s pretty clear that the Minnesota Twins aren’t the same team that they normally are without closer Joe Nathan for the entire season. The Chicago White Sox feel like they’re one Ozzie Guillen moment in front of the media away from the entire franchise just imploding from the inside, out. The Detroit Tigers only had a prospective win total by the oddsmakers of just 80.5 this year.
What do you want, Cleveland to challenge for the AL Central crown?
Someone has to win this division this year, and if there’s a season in which the Royals can really get it done, this is it.
On Friday night, the newly acquired OF Rick Ankiel (and yes, I said “outfielder,” and not, “excuse for a starting pitcher) went 4/4 and drove in three runs, including the two that won the game in the 8th inning against the mighty Red Sox.
Some may say, “Ok, it’s one game.” And that’s true. Until October, baseball generally isn’t made off of one game or even one series.
But let’s go back to the Rays again. The moment that changed that team’s entire season in 2008 had nothing to do with even a regular season game! Tampa Bay picked a fight with these same Red Sox in a Spring Training game that brought the team together. It came out of the blocks on fire and just never looked back, essentially going wire-to-wire in the AL East.
Things looks gloomy for the Royals on Friday night, as they couldn’t figure out how to hit that tricky knuckleball of Tim Wakefield’s. Normally, the Kansas City team that we all remember would’ve just folded up shop, someone would’ve given up a three-run homer, and the team would’ve lost 6-1 or something of the sorts.
Not on this night. SP Kyle Davies became the fourth straight starter for the Royals to allow three runs or less to start the season. They might be a combined 0-0, but they’ve done their job. Thank C Jason Kendall for that, who has come to Kansas City and brought a veteran presence behind the dish, something that this city hasn’t had in years.
The bullpen threw three spotless frames after allowing 18 hits and six walks, to go with three blown saves in as many games to start this season.
Today, AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke is taking the mound against Boston’s Josh Beckett. Not only is it a chance for the Royals to get back above .500, but it’s also a chance to say, “Hey, we beat the Sox in this series.”
Baseball may not just be a game or a series, but the lowly Royals… the team that we’ve just love to beat up on in years’ past… can take a major step in the right direction if it can just reverse that losing mentality.
If that the case, wouldn’t it be just awesome to see the AL East winning Tampa Bay Rays playing the AL Central winning Kansas City Royals in the playoffs?
You can still get Kansas City at +2100 to win the AL Central, +5000 to win the American League, and +13500 to win the World Series at 5Dimes Sportsbook.