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It was inevitable that Billy Butler would be leaving Kansas City this year, the only question was where he would be landing. We got our answer Tuesday night as it was announced that Butler was headed to the west coast to join the Oakland A’s, agreeing to a 3 year/30 million dollar contract. I have seen a lot of varying opinions on the signing and it’s affect on both Kansas City and Oakland, so let’s look at the fallout from Butler’s signing.

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Let’s start with it’s affect on Oakland. They get the right handed bat they wanted for the middle of the order, and they plan on playing Butler at both DH and first base. Where will he bat in the order?

So there you go. Billy had been wanting to play some more first base the last few years and that just wasn’t going to happen in Kansas City, unless Eric Hosmer would injure himself again. Oakland also has a number of run producers in the middle of their offense, guys like Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss, so Butler won’t be asked to be the main cog in the offensive machine. A lot of times in Kansas City Butler was asked to be “the guy”, which just wasn’t realistic. This will give Billy the chance to perform with a little less pressure than he had for the Royals. For all we know, Oakland’s hitting coaches Darren Bush and Marcus Jensen will be able to unlock some of the power that has been missing from Butler’s bat the last two seasons.

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The affect on the Royals will be quite pronounced, as the team will finally be able to use the DH as a rotating position like they have wished for the last few seasons. This will give guys like Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon days off in the field, and even help a veteran like Omar Infante rest a day if they are experiencing minor injuries. In my mind this also means they need to sign not one, but two OF/DH types this offseason. If they are going to not only replace Butler’s numbers but also gain on them, they need more than just one bat. The honesty of this situation is that the Royals are not a great offensive force, and even to say they are “good” might be questionable. So if they are wanting to improve the offense, acquiring just one bat seems very shortsighted. Getting two bats, plus throwing in Jarrod Dyson occasionally gives them a chance to rotate players and use the DH the way they have dreamed of since 2012.

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So despite seeing how this could be major plus for both teams, I’ve still heard a few fans make the comment that Billy didn’t really want to stay in Kansas City, and I just don’t believe that is true. I think Butler meant it when he said he loved Kansas City and wanted him to stay. I just don’t think Royals management was as keen about keeping him around. Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star has done a good job of chronicling the Butler situation this offseason. Money was obviously an issue:

Plus there was this comment from Butler’s press conference with Oakland today:

There is also David Glass. I really feel his quote speaks volumes:

So as you can see, things weren’t as rosy and sweet between Butler and Royals management as some seem to think. Do you remember earlier in the season, when Butler’s production was coming into question while other Royals who weren’t producing(ie. Hosmer) seemed to be ignored? Or September, after Hosmer came back from injury and manager Ned Yost seemed to favor Josh Willingham at DH instead of Butler? After all this, and the expectations from fans for him to repeat his stellar 2012, it makes you wonder a bit why he would even want to come back. So the fact that he gave the Royals last chance tells me just how much Billy Butler wanted to stay a Royal:

So how much of this was about money?

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As with baseball in general, money is always an issue. It plays an issue here too, but so does playing time and years on the contract. I personally feel like Butler would have taken less money if it meant he would get the same amount of playing time and only a 2 year contract. Instead the Royals had already planned to not have a fulltime DH and weren’t willing to go more than 1 year on a new deal with Butler. Plus, let’s be honest and frank here(or Susan, if you don’t like being frank). A baseball player has a very short shelf life when it comes to active playing time and years to really make big money, since most players don’t make a bunch of money early in their career. So when a player is approaching 30 and looking for a new deal, they are just as big on years as money when it comes to guaranteed contracts. So when the A’s offered more years(3) and more money than Billy made in 2014(8 mill in ’14, 10 mill in ’15-’17) it’s hard to turn that down, especially when you are coming off of the worst year of your major league career. Plus, it seemed like Oakland wanted Butler, which I’m not so sure about when it comes to the Royals. It’s easy for any fan to sit there and say “he just wanted the money”, but in his situation, the desire to be wanted outweighs a dollar total. Like this:

So was this about money? Maybe a bit. But it was also about more than just money. The honest truth is if the Royals had really wanted Butler back, he would be in Royal blue. Instead he will be wearing white cleats come February:

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I am like most Royals fans in that I would have liked to have seen Butler return to Kansas City. But I understand that sometimes the financial aspect of baseball makes it hard for a team(especially a small market team) to keep a player for the duration of his career. It was a great 8 years that Billy Butler and the Kansas City Royals got to share together. I know I will never forget hearing Kauffman Stadium chant Billy’s name at the 2012 Home Run Derby. There was definite love that night between the fans and Butler, as there was during Game 3 of the ALDS this October when Butler stole second base. Butler loved Kansas City and for the most part Kansas City loved him. I wish the best for Butler in Oakland and plan on cheering him when he returns to ‘The K’ in April. We still have the memories, folks. We should always remember though that nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain. The new chapter for the Royals involves no Billy Butler, as it should. Life and baseball moves on, as it always will.

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On Monday the Kansas City Royals extended a qualifying offer to ace James Shields, a $15.3 million offer that assures the team will receive a compensation pick for Shields if he signs with another team before June 8th. Shields can accept the offer, but he has to by November 10th. The odds say he will not accept it, as Shields will be looking for a multi-year deal at possibly a higher rate this winter and there are many teams(Red Sox, Cubs, Angels, Yankees, etc.) who will be enticed by James’ ability to be a workhorse for any team he has been with. It appears Kansas City will make a run at Shields, as evidenced by a report back in October that the team would offer him a 5 year, $80 million deal. But would this be the best thing for the Royals? Not in my eyes.

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This is not an indictment on Shields or his performance. ‘Big Games James’ did what the Royals wanted him to do; stabilize the rotation, bring leadership to the clubhouse and get Kansas City to the playoffs. Check, Check, and Check. Shields has driven the rest of his rotation mates to reach the 1,000 innings plateau the last two years and even though they didn’t reach that goal, they came close both years. He was a great influence on both Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura, helping them keep their focus and teach them how to be aggressive on the mound but not ‘too aggressive’. As much as I cringe when people bring up ‘character guys’, Shields is one and has shown this team of young players how to win and how to handle pressure situations. I scoffed at most of this when the trade from the Rays happened, but he has done all of these things and more to get this team to the playoffs for the first time since 1985. So there is value in Shields beyond just numbers and these are things that might not even be replaced if(when) he signs elsewhere.

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But is he worth the 5/80 number thrown out there, or even more than that? To me this isn’t even about the numbers as much as the years. James Shields will turn 33 in December and has logged a lot of innings on that arm. A-LOT. In fact, he has accumulated over 1900 innings during the regular season and another 59 in the postseason. He has been fairly lucky injury wise, but it is normally only a matter of time until issues start showing up. If Shields was brought back for 5 years, that means he would be 38(almost 39) by the end of that deal. Can you see him holding up that late in the deal? I can’t. In fact we are already seeing a bit of regression. Over the last few years he has been using his changeup less and less, and even this postseason was mentioned as being more of a “cutter and fastball” pitcher. This isn’t always a bad thing(some think Shields’ changeup has been overrated) but when he doesn’t have a feel for his changeup, he has trouble, as evidenced in Game 1 of the World Series. Shields is a competitor and seems like the type of pitcher who would adjust as time takes away the zip on his fastball and the dip in his changeup. But it’s more probable that Shields will continue to regress and not be even close to the pitcher he is today by the end of a 5 year deal.

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That brings me to a bigger concern, that being the sentimental aspect of this whole scenario. Look, we all loved the run the Royals went on in October. For many it brought out the little kid in us and reminded every one that even though baseball can take you down deep in the depths, it can also lift you to heights you would never imagine possible. But now that the season has ended it’s time to come back down to earth and look at this team from a realistic viewpoint. That means no bringing players back just because they were a part of the “American League Champion Kansas City Royals” and instead looking at the situation on whether that player(s) is a good fit for the team in not only 2015 but beyond. Does 5 years of James Shields really look good for this team? I love the guy as much as the next Royals fan but I also realize that regression is on his doorstep and it probably won’t be pretty. The sentimental factor especially comes into play with Billy Butler, who has been a part of this organization(easy for me to say) since he was drafted by Kansas City in 2004. Butler’s option for 2015 was declined by Kansas City, as his salary would have risen from $8 million a year to $12 million. But there are other factors that the team shouldn’t bring back “Country Breakfast”.

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Maybe the biggest reason for the team to not bring back Butler is the fact that the team has discussed making the DH a rotating position for two years now and it would seem foolish now to change course just because the team could lose a longtime staple of their lineup. I’ve long been a supporter of Butler but unfortunately 2014 was a major downturn for him when it comes to production. Just going off of the stats Butler looks like a guy who has begun his regression at a younger age than most players do and his power especially has slid to a meek 41 total extra bases this past season. Back in 2009 Butler had 51 doubles alone not even counting the 21 home runs he hit that year…and 1 triple. Can’t leave out the triple! Yes, Butler could bounce back and put up numbers comparable to his 2009 and 2010 where his OPS+ was 125 and 134 respectively. Numbers like 2012? Probably not. That was a career year if there ever was one. But he could bounce back.

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But the numbers factor alone shouldn’t decide whether Billy comes back or not. With the team wanting to rotate the DH, that will leave Butler with less at bats and less games to show his worth. He also loves playing out in the field, and the Royals just aren’t good at resting Eric Hosmer(he of the Gold Glove defense) and letting Butler get some reps at the first base. So Butler could come back(and it has been discussed within the organization)but it would be on a lesser salary and less playing time. That doesn’t bode well for a player who needs to pile up better numbers so he can get another big contract before he trots out to that  corn field in the sky(Wait, that makes it sound like Butler will die when he is done playing baseball. Not what I meant. My bad). Baseball players have a fairly short amount of time to make as much money as humanly possible. Butler, soon to be 29, is running out of time. Coming back to the Royals, no matter how much he loves this team and the town, just seems like the equivalent of spinning one’s tires. Personally I would love for Butler to retire a Royal, but I get why he needs to leave, and now makes the most sense. Even if it crushes my son, a huge Billy Butler fan.

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The hardest thing about baseball is that it is a business, and no matter how much joy it can give you, it’s always lingering around to remind you that nothing lasts forever(even cold November rain). Dayton Moore has some tough decisions to make this offseason, especially when it comes to two key elements of a team that ventured to the World Series. James Shields and Billy Butler are two players I have enjoyed watching excel at their craft. But with the Royals being a small market team, they have to be especially intelligent when it comes to structuring a roster that can return them to the playoffs in 2015. With that in mind, it seems like it would be wise to let Shields and Butler go. It might not be what the heart wants, but the brain should be the one making the decisions this winter for Kansas City.

 

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If you are a Kansas City Royals fan you have probably uttered the question ‘is this really happening?’ more times than you can remember this past month. There were high hopes coming into the 2014 season, and even dreams of their first playoff appearance in 29 years floated in most fans mind, even if there were still concerns about this team. I freely admit I was a bit skeptical about their chances and whether a team with a wildly inconsistent offense and a tendency to focus on more old school offensive methods could stack up enough wins to lock up a playoff spot. Little did we know that the Royals would far exceed any of our expectations and cement themselves into our minds and hearts for years to come.

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Early on it appeared the Royals were very Jekkyl and Hyde, as at times they looked like an elite team that could contend throughout the summer months and possibly even topple the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central. Other times they looked like the worst parts of the previous season Royals, struggling to score runs and being held back by a stagnant offense. Nori Aoki looked like regression had begun to sink in, Mike Moustakas looked like he had left his swing in Arizona, and Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer were both hitting well below expectations. May saw Pedro Grifol transitioned from hitting coach to catching coach(yes, that still seems to be a made up position) while 3rd base coach Dale Sveum would take over the hitting coach duties. At this point the pitching and the defense were keeping this team in games, but the offense just wasn’t carrying their weight.

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June was another story though, as the Royals would go on a 10 game winning streak, even toppling Detroit and taking over the lead in the American League Central. Everything was falling Kansas City’s way, with hits dropping in when needed, hard hit balls being hit by opponents right at Kansas City defenders and even passed balls bouncing right back to Royals catcher Salvador Perez. Everything seemed to be on course and was the first sign that this wasn’t the Royals of old. Yes, they were a streaky bunch, but did enough things right during their lull’s that they weren’t going to fade away late in the season.

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Maybe the highlight to this point of the season was the development of two young starting pitchers, Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura. Duffy had dealt with a number of setbacks over the years, to the point that some wondered if he would ever really put things together. After a short stint in the bullpen, the rest of baseball took notice in June when Duffy would keep Baltimore in check, pitching perfect baseball for the first 20 batters of the game, pitching into the 8th inning while only allowing 2 hits. Outside of a rough September, Duffy was probably the Royals best starter throughout the summer and made the case to be the team’s #1 starter in 2015. Early on Ventura showed the rest of baseball why there was a buzz around him with a fastball that could reach triple digits and a curve and change that was constantly improving. There was some concern in late May as Ventura would leave a start early due to elbow discomfort but the injury ended up being minor and Yordano would only miss one start. The concern did cause Ventura to pitch a bit smarter, choosing to “throw fire” a bit less and let the Royals top notch defense take care of things for him. Yordano would have his ups and downs during his rookie campaign, but there was more good than bad and it was easy to see why the organization is excited about having him around for years to come.

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August saw another hot streak for the Royals, one that would push the Royals back up to the top of the Central Division. This time Kansas City would rattle off 8 straight wins, some would say partially because of South Korean super-fan Sung Woo Lee making his first ever trip to Kansas City. Lee would be in attendance for the Royals climbing back on top and seemed to re-energize the fanbase, watching one of their own get to experience this team in person for the first time. Alex Gordon stepped up big for Kansas City in August, pulling off a line of .292/.356/.585. As Gordon goes so goes the Royals as the entire team seemed to be picked up by A1’s hot streak. Even when the rest of the team struggled during the month, Gordon picked them up. Eric Hosmer would get hurt during this time which forced designated hitter Billy Butler to 1B where he has long wanted to return(Butler played the position before Hosmer made his way to the big leagues in 2011). The move seemed to energize Butler’s bat and his fielding was nothing to sneeze at. August was also the month that it finally hit some of us; this team had a real shot of making the playoffs. Not only making the postseason but to possibly even win the division. There was still concerns with this team, but they had put themselves into a position to make a serious run and it was close enough to get excited and take this run very seriously.

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September rolled around and for all the excitement that August brought us, this month would make us question whether the Royals playoff drought would actually come to an end. The Boston series in particular sticks out as a series of one team making a push(Kansas City) and one team just playing to finish out the year(Boston). The Royals did not look their best during that weekend, with the Sunday game loss hurting the most, as Aaron Crow would give up a grand slam to Daniel Nava in the 6th inning and propel the Red Sox to a victory. Manager Ned Yost would make comments after the game to question the Royals and what could thwart them from reaching the postseason. If the Red Sox series felt like a left down, the Tigers series felt like a kick to the groin. Kansas City still had a chance of winning the division when the Tigers came to town on September 19th but a frustrating series dashed most of those hopes and questioned whether or not this team could hold up against a team like the Tigers. With a week left in the season, it seemed as if the Royals only hope was either for the Wild Card or for Obi Wan Kenobi…

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…but then something happened. The Tigers lost on both Friday and Saturday against the Twins by a large margin, depleting Detroit’s bullpen. Kansas City would continue to win against the White Sox, locking up a playoff spot on that Friday night in Chicago and putting themselves in a position to tie Detroit on the final day of the season. If the Tigers lost and the Royals won, there would be a tie for the American League Central and game 163 would have to be played to determine the winner of the division. Unfortunately Detroit took away that opportunity for Kansas City by beating the Twins on Sunday, making them the Central champs and the Royals as the first Wild Card, as they would be at ‘The K’ to take on the A’s in a winner takes all game that would soon go down in history as an all-time great.

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This game turned out to be a major turning point for this young team as it seemed to give them the confidence they needed and show that yes Virginia, the Royals really are major contenders. This game had a little bit of everything: stolen bases, home runs, injured catchers, questionable bullpen decisions, numerous comebacks, outfielder collisions, and a liner down the third base line that will go down in infamy. More than anything the Royals showed a tendency to defy logic. Back in August I had said that I was just going to enjoy the ride the Royals seemed to be making for a postseason appearance. I had waited 29 years to see ‘my team’ be on baseball’s big stage and felt it would be wrong if I didn’t enjoy it even if I didn’t always agree with Kansas City’s management. The Royals clinching a Wild Card spot meant the world to me; winning that game at home was icing on the cake.

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So when the Royals started play in the American League Divisional Series I didn’t have lofty expectations. Sure, I wanted the Royals to win and advance in the playoffs but in some ways it just felt like an extra bonus and was enjoying it as such. What I didn’t expect was how much better they looked in this series against the Angels, the team with the best record in the American League in 2014. The Royals took the first two games in Anaheim, thanks to not the small ball they had prided themselves on but the long ball as both Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas came up with big blasts in Games 1 and 2. Game 3 was another story, as the series would move to Kauffman Stadium. I was fortunate enough to be in attendance at this game and the Royals showed they were for real, piling up runs early and helping them to an 8-3 victory to finish up the sweep of the Angels and advance them to the American League Championship Series. This team was playing their best baseball of the year and it came at just the right time. Seeing them in this position and seeing 40,000+ of my fellow Royals fans brought a tear to my eye and made me appreciate what was happening. I could pinch myself to make sure this was happening but I knew the truth; the Royals were winning and doing it when it mattered the most.

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So now it was on to the American League Championship Series against the Baltimore Orioles. There was a little more concern with this series as Baltimore had many of the same strengths as Kansas City and could also trump them when it came to power. The Royals would win games 1 and 2 in Baltimore in dramatic fashion thanks to late inning heroics and the stellar defense and pitching the team had been touting all year round. Game 3 returned to Kansas City and would be another tight affair, with a solid outing by Jeremy Guthrie and Mike Moustakas doing his best impression of George Brett at third base, catching a ball and falling into one of the dugout suites. This would lead to game 4 and the Royals would score 2 in the bottom of the first and would never look back. The Royals had swept the Orioles and were headed to the World Series! What was amazing about this series was Kansas City’s offense went M.I.A. late in the series but it didn’t matter; they got enough offense while the pitching and defense continued to do their job. The Royals were 8-0 so far in this postseason and it almost seemed like they would never lose, even if we all knew they would eventually. I spent most of this year feeling like this didn’t have the feel of a playoff team but even I knew that if they got there(IF) they were a team made for the playoffs. So far they had shown it, and were now only 4 wins away from a World Championship.

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The Royals were set now and ready to play the San Francisco Giants to be called champion. Honestly, none of us saw this coming. Just the fact they got to this point meant the world to us Royals fans, nevermind the shot at being World Champions. The Royals would battle in this series and even went ahead 2 games to 1 after Game 3 but the Royals just couldn’t solve the Madison Bumgarner rubik cube. It went all the way to Game 7 where they would lose by the thinnest of margins, 3-2. I felt so much pride that night but also sadness because of the loss. I had started to believe during the ALCS and really felt like the Royals were going to get themselves a new trophy to put in the Royals Hall of Fame. Instead they came up just short, as Alex Gordon was literally just 90 feet away as Salvador Perez popped up to end the game. I shut off the television and went to do something else; I couldn’t watch the Giants celebrate. As sports often do to you, the loss was breaking my heart. After 29 years I wanted to win it all. You can’t fault any of us for wanting this magical ride to end with the highest of honors. It just wasn’t meant to be.

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But I’ve had almost a week now to get back to normal and I started to ask myself ‘what am I going to remember about this 2014 Royals team?’. I’m going to remember how good the pitching and defense was all season. I’m going to remember the excitement of finally getting to the playoffs after all these years. I’m going to remember how great this team played when they needed to, in October. More than anything I will remember how the team was energized by the Royals fanbase. This team fed off of us, the fans and they embraced it when they didn’t have to. They never gave up just as we never gave up, no matter how many times this team was down in the playoffs. I am going to remember how I felt watching this all unfold and how it reminded me that as much as I love numbers and how they can tell a big part of the book, they don’t always tell the whole story. More than anything I believed. I think I had forgotten how to somewhere along the way, but I believed this team could win the whole damn thing. They almost did. So thank you, Kansas City. Thanks for being you. You reminded me just why I bleed Royal blue. Now let’s win it in 2015!

 

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Sure, Game one of the 2014 World Series is in the books, and there really wasn’t much to cheer for if you are a Kansas City Royals fan. Salvador Perez went deep for his first postseason home run, Danny Duffy removed himself from the back of milk cartons and helped the team eat some innings and …and…well, there really wasn’t much to get excited about. But more games are coming, and there is still a lot from this series I want to see before it is all said and done. Since us Royals fans have been waiting for 184 years(or something like that), here is a nice tidy list of things I would love to see happen during this Fall Classic.

1) August Alex Gordon to show up

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Sure, it’s been two months ago, but do you remember Alex Gordon in August? The Alex Gordon that looked like a legit MVP candidate, the one who almost carried this Royals team offensively on his back? Since September we have only seen glimmers of that Gordon, including his huge home run in game 1 of the ALCS against Baltimore. If you listen to the national media then you would think Eric Hosmer is the main guy in this Kansas City lineup. Sorry folks, Gordon is the heart of this team and he leads by example. Having Gordon step up and get into a groove would lessen some of the pressure off the rest of the lineup and it feels at this point like he is due. I would even consider moving Gordon up in the lineup. I get that the lineup we have seen since September 21st is one that was working, but the key word there is was.We aren’t talking about a red hot Hosmer anymore and Billy Butler has been lukewarm at best. Gordon has been pitched around a lot during this span and a move up, maybe behind a blazing Lorenzo Cain could do wonders for him. Either way, the Royals need Gordon to get hot and prove why he is the most clutch bat in this lineup. What better time than on the biggest stage of them all?

2) A True Big Game From James

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They call him “Big Game James” but James Shields has been anything but big during this Royals postseason, except for maybe a big disappointment. Outside of his ALDS start against the Angels where he fought through 6 innings without his best stuff, only giving up two solo home runs, he has been shaky at best, compiling a 7.11 ERA this October, not very befitting of a rotation’s ace. I guess in some ways this shouldn’t be a big shock, as he has put together a career 5.74 ERA and a 2.93 strikeout to walk ratio. But a stellar outing from Shields would be a plus on so many levels in this World Series. For one, he will most likely be going back up against Madison Bumgarner in Game 5 and if the Royals even consider taking that game they need Shields at his best. If he can match zeroes with MadBum then the Royals can win that game if it becomes a battle of the bullpens. Also, it would be nice to see Shields have one fantastic postseason start before he leaves via free agency this winter. I know, I know, there is a chance he will come back. But that is a very slim chance and I just don’t believe Kansas City will be able to offer him what he truly desires(which is just as much about years as dollars). So what better way for him to leave Kansas City then on top on this World Series stage? Let’s do it James, put a final stamp on your Kansas City career with a game we will be talking about 29 years from now.

3) One Last Big Hit for Josh Willingham

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Josh Willingham hasn’t done much for the Royals during the playoffs, as he has only accumulated 3 plate appearances during that span. Injuries have limited him throughout much of his Royals tenure but he is still a dangerous bat off the bench for Kansas City. With the likelihood that Josh will retire at the end of the season, and him making his first playoff appearance during this mind-numbing run by the Royals, it seems like a true storybook ending to his career would be a big hit for Willingham during this World Series. Willingham has never been a star in the game but he has been a solid bat who you could rely on for a true professional at bat with the chance of a deep bomb always looming. Josh is one of the good guys in the game, so nothing would please me more than a big hit in this series to help the Royals get a win. The best chance would seem to be during the games in San Francisco, where he could pinch hit for the pitcher’s spot in the lineup especially late in the game. I can already hear the music from “The Natural” playing as Willingham strides to the plate. Let’s hope he gets at least one chance during this series to make some magic happen.

4)More Redemption for Danny Duffy 

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My heart has pained for Danny Duffy this postseason. Here is a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve and has had to constantly fight throughout his career. Whether it is stepping away from the game in 2010 or Tommy John surgery in 2012, Duffy has had one challenge after another. But things finally seemed to fall in place this year, as he put up numbers that the Royals organization have been expecting from him for years. It has been glorious to watch Duffy blossom this season, but the last couple months have not been pleasant. First there was the one pitch start in New York, where most of us feared for the worst. Then there was the horrible outing in Chicago where Duffy couldn’t throw a strike from the windup and was forced to throw from the stretch. Between these things and his past injuries, the Royals seemed to back off Duffy during the playoffs and had only used him in relief in one game of the ALDS against the Angels. But then Duffy came in last night to relieve James Shields in the 4th inning. Duffy had a rough start, but soon settled down and ate some valuable innings that the Royals needed. In fact before the 7th inning, Duffy looked like the guy we had seen for a large portion of 2014. This was almost redemption for not getting to start in the playoffs, as Duffy is a total team first guy, wanting to help in anyway possible. I hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen from him this postseason. I hope he gets to have one more outing to really shine again. Some have recommend him start game 5 of the World Series instead of Shields, but that just isn’t going to happen. But a solid outing out of the pen is more than possible. A chance for Duffy to show his value in this series is a feel good story for a guy who bleeds Royal blue. Let’s hope we have not seen the last of Danny Duffy in 2014.

5) The Return of Moustakas and Hosmer

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So far this postseason, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have looked like the first round draft choices they were by Kansas City. But if you follow the Royals in any fashion, you know that these two have been living off of potential the last four years. I feel like I have discussed these struggles over and over, with Moose and Hos. You have heard a lot about these two turning a corner this postseason, but we won’t truly know if that is the truth until we get the 2015 season underway. What we can say is that we haven’t seen much from these two offensively the last few games in the ALCS into the World Series. Want to show us that you are truly maturing during this postseason of Royals goodness? Get some more big hits for Kansas City. Hosmer is locked into the cleanup spot in the order and has a good chance of having runners on base in almost every plate appearance he makes. His swing has looked better as of late, but I still want to see a bit more discipline and him to hit it to the opposite field a bit more. Moustakas has struggled when teams put the shift on him, so hitting it to left field more often would make me feel like he is starting to learn at the dish. No matter what, if these two can get going again, we could start seeing a bit more offense out of the Royals and comfortable leads in their future. I don’t want to say the fate of this offense relies on these two, cause it doesn’t. But it is a much better offense when they are producing.

6) #RoyalsDevilMagic

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This hashtag became a fun little topic on Twitter not only during this postseason run but even before that, back when the time was just vying for a playoff spot. “Royals Devil Magic” is when the unexplainable happens, or as Denny Matthews would say, “simple, dumb luck”. Like this:

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Or like Terrance Gore scoring from second base on an infield chopper. Or pretty much anything that happened in the Wild Card game against the A’s. It has been said by better men than me that the Royals are a team of destiny, and even if you aren’t someone who believes in something like fate, you have to at least acknowledge that when it is your time, things seem to fall your way. More than anything I want to see some “Royals Devil Magic” in this series. I was an 8 year old kid when the Royals won the World Series back in 1985 and there are certain moments that are etched into my memory that will be there long after I get old and start losing my mind. George Brett sliding into the dugout to catch a pop up. Dane Iorg’s bloop hit into right field to score Jim Sundberg, sliding headfirst into home. Darryl Motley’s home run in game 7 and him catching the last out in that same game to clinch the series. I would love to add some more memories to pass the time during those seasons that aren’t quite as magical. There is no reason to stop this train now. Some more devil magic would seal the deal on what has been a season of the unexplainable. There has to be some more magic left in this team for a few more great moments. It might not make any sense, but why should we start making sense of this Royals team now?

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Look, this list could go on and on. Who doesn’t love the Royals outfield defense and the amazing feats they pull off? What about the back end of this Kansas City bullpen with the Cyborgs(Herrera, Davis, Holland) throwing heat? Maybe another stolen base from Billy Butler? More than anything, I want to see a good, tough series where the Royals triumph. This has been an electric postseason for Kansas City but there is still work to do. It’s time for the Royals to bring it home. Yes, more than anything I want a World Championship. I’m already making plans to view the trophy in the Royals Hall of Fame next spring. Oh, how sweet it is…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As a longtime Kansas City Royals fan, there has always been a small part of me that worried I would never see my team in the World Series ever again. Sure, I got to see them in 1985, but I was 8 at the time and there are only so many memories of that time that lingers. This latest Royals playoff run has been exciting beyond belief but there was always that question; “Could they really make it back to the World Series?” We no longer have to ask that anymore, as the Royals finished off the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Championship Series, sweeping them in 4 games. The Royals are now headed to the World Series for the 3rd time in franchise history. I’ve been fairly quiet in this space during the last few weeks, not for lack of attention but more that I have been “enjoying the ride”. I don’t know for sure how objective I can be at this point, but I here are a few thoughts as we all get ready to cheer our Royals in the World Series next week.

Pitching and Defense Wins Championships 

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There is a reason you hear this adage over and over every October; because it is the truth. Very few teams slug their way to a championship. If you want to go deep into the playoffs, build your team around pitching and defense. You can probably add timely hitting and a deep bullpen/bench to this, as there is always a good chance you will be playing in close games in the most important month of the year. I mentioned recently how this is a team tailored for the playoffs and within 8 games this month(yes, I’m counting the Wild Card game that was held on September 30th) they seem to be proving that theory correct. They haven’t been winning with their bats(although those timely hits have been big so far this postseason) as much as with their defense and pitching. Just off the top of your head, how many key defensive grabs can you name within the last few weeks? Just thinking about it and I get up to 15 before even having to pause and think. Insane. Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar are just a few guys who have multiple plays that come to mind and I’m sure I am forgetting even more. Combine this with solid starting pitching and the best trio of relievers in the game(Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland) and you have a team that has to be frustrating for opponents in these tight situations. We all saw glimpses of the team’s strengths during the season, but it really feels like the Royals embraced these strengths late in the year and that has propelled the recent spat of postseason wins. As much as some of us(myself included) disagreed with how this team was built, it has gotten them to the World Series. Obviously, Dayton Moore understood the basis of what makes a championship team; we just should have believed more in the 1980’s style of baseball he was preaching.

Are Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas Fixed?

Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas

If you listen to the ‘talking heads’ this postseason you would think that Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have elevated their game and are starting to (finally)live up to their potential when they were drafted years ago. I will say this: both have looked way more focused in October. Moose has been driving the ball with a bit more authority(and not just on soft stuff) and Hosmer’s swing has looked the closest to his rookie year swing than at any time during the last 3 years. In fact, the national media has heavily focused themselves on Hosmer and that pesky word “potential” . If you didn’t know any better, you would think Hosmer was the straw that stirs the Royals drink, not the true leader, Alex Gordon. But are they fixed? That might be going a bit far. I have had exasperated this issue in the past and a small sample size hasn’t really changed my mind on this yet. For the Royals sake you hope they have turned the corner and they will start to shine like we have all wanted them to do since 2011. If they can transfer over their success into 2015 then we could be talking about them being cornerstones for the franchise. This will be a subject to revisit again come May of next year.

Danny Duffy: M.I.A.

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One of the more peculiar topics of discussion this month has been the status of pitcher Danny Duffy. Late in the regular season Duffy had a one pitch outing at Yankee Stadium(due to shoulder concerns) and an outing in Chicago where his mechanics were a mess. So is Duffy hurt? Why has he only being pitching from the stretch? For a guy who was probably the most consistent starter for the Royals this year, a year where he showed just how effective(and efficient) he could really be, it seemed odd to see Duffy basically on the outside looking in. You have to feel for a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve and is possibly the most fan-friendly Royal in recent memory. All this success and he is a last resort out of the pen? Luckily the Royals haven’t really needed Duffy during the playoffs, but you wonder how far their concerns go. Obviously he doesn’t feel comfortable pitching from the windup, which will have to be addressed in the spring. But with a World Series in the Royals near future you hope Danny Duffy is allowed to contribute on the field and put an exclamation point on what has been a breakthrough season for the young lefty.

Neddy and Dayton Prove Numbers Wrong

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News Bulletin: I am not a fan of Royals GM Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost. I have railed and have even asked for their dismissals, numerous times. I even said that Yost would never “take the Royals to the promised land”. Obviously, I was wrong about that. Go ahead and give Ned a point there. But the question has been posed to me as of late: has my mind changed about these two since the Royals are headed to the World Series? When it comes to Ned, the answer is no. I still believe he is a poor tactical manager, which makes him the same as about half the managers in the big leagues right now. I also believe his mood affects this team and how they play. When he is loose, they play loose. When he stressed and tight, they play that way. More than anything, I believe the Royals could do better when it comes to the manager position. That being said, he has had an almost flawless postseason so far. Outside of the 6th inning in the Wild Card game(and possibly him not pulling his starters fast enough in Game 1 & 2 of the ALCS), Ned has pushed the right buttons and every decision has come up gold. Honestly, if the man isn’t trying to play the lotto right now then I don’t know when he should. I probably won’t ever be a fan of Yost’s style(the bunting alone drives me mad), but I can give him credit when he has earned it.

Dayton will get a bit more credit from me. I was one of the many who questioned the James Shields trade, as I felt the Royals gave up too much and essentially hated giving up 6 years of Wil Myers for 2 of Shields. But late in August, I started really re-thinking this. Wade Davis was the best reliever in baseball this season and Shields intangibles helped more than I could have ever imagined. Do Duffy and Yordano Ventura grow as much as they did this year if not for Shields guidance? Does the mentality in the clubhouse change without Big Game James leading the way? There is no way to measure his influence on this team but it is obvious that trading for him wasn’t the mistake some of us thought it was. Dayton was the one who focused on defense and pitching, realizing he needed speed for the outfield with the amount of ground they have to cover. He put together a monster of a bullpen and stuck with struggling youngsters that most teams would have jettisoned by now. More than anything else, Dayton put together the team that broke the 29 year drought   and got the Royals back to the playoffs. It took him 8 years(and most front offices wouldn’t have lasted that long) but he did it. Kudos to GMDM. It’s not the team most of us would have assembled, but it is the team that is getting ready for the World Series.

MLB: ALDS-Los Angeles Angels at Kansas City Royals

This is just a few of the thoughts rolling through my head. I haven’t been able to make much sense of the wild playoff run Kansas City is having, but I can tell you how happy it has made me. A team that most of us wrote off in May has risen like a Phoenix in October and is only 4 wins away from a World Series title. It seems almost appropriate that the Royals have yet to lose this postseason; we die hard Royals fans have seen enough losing to last us a lifetime. The best thing is that when damning the logic, you realize just how fun it has been. This ride has one more stop and hopefully when it is all said and done a second World Series title will make its way to Kauffman Stadium. Dreams can come true, and we are just few more ‘W’s’ away from that parade I’ve been planning for months to become a reality. Only this time I’m 100% serious.