My confidence in the Kansas City Royals is such that before last night’s game, I was already formulating a stunning piece of literary genius documenting how Edinson Volquez was the Royals’ stopper. How he was doing what James Shields did for two years only cheaper or what Gil Meche did for the Royals years ago, only for a better Royals’ team. The Royals are too good to get swept by the Houston Astros, right? Especially with Volquez on the mound, right?
Baseball is funny about sure things.
The Royals had won nine of Volquez’ last ten starts with six of those wins coming after Kansas City had lost the game before. Last night felt like a win was coming, especially after Kendrys Morales lobbed a first inning opposite field home run to give the team an early lead. Alas, it was not to be.
Volquez simply unraveled in an ugly four run fifth inning. The Royals rallied to tie, but then Kelvin Herrera and the replay umpire in New York combined to give the Astros the winning run without the benefit of a hit. It was the icing on this dry cake of a series that felt a lot like the old Royals. Those guys show up once in a while. This team is not without weakness, particularly when it is dinged up and, by the way, the Astros aren’t bad. These things happen.
Now, all that is not to resign yourself to ‘tomorrow is another day’ and just smile and go on (that’s an old Royals thing, too). This team has now scored two runs or less in 28 games. There is no scenario where a team consistently wins scoring one or two runs. Sure, the Royals have held their opponents to two runs or less 35 times, but I am still pretty sure scoring more is better.
I was happy to hear that at least one national pundit (and, yes, it’s hip and cool to bash the national guys, particularly since we’re from the Midwest and are certain everyone is looking down on us and insulting us at every turn) indicating the Royals were far more concerned about improving in rightfield and second base (#VoteOmar pisses me off, by the way) than starting pitching. Given the price that a real improvement in the rotation might cost and the limited prospects the Royals have to deal, it makes sense to pin your hopes on Ventura, Vargas and Medlen getting healthy and effective and spend your ‘commodities’ on upgrading what is becoming a pretty mundane offense.
Who might be available (Ben Zobrist has been a target of mine for three years) is for another day. Those targets, quite frankly, may not get your heart pumping either, but that does not mean they won’t be an improvement. Let’s face it, when the Royals have their front nine all playing, the bottom third of the order is Salvador Perez (.279 OBP), Alex Rios (.248 OBP) and Omar Infante (.236 OBP): that’s not optimal.
We can obviously give Perez a pass. He is hitting for power and brings a lot of tangibly intangible baseball thingys to the field. Rios? His SLUGGING percentage is lower than Salvador Perez’ on-base percentage. Infante? I have come across an undercurrent of ‘Omar Infante is not the problem theory’ lately. He’s your ninth hitter, they say. He’s clutch, blah, blah, blah. Stop it. You are trying to portray yourself as knowledgeable and logical by not criticizing a player who the majority of the fan base are criticizing. Omar Infante is a BAD baseball player right now. You want to be a cerebral traditionalist with his hand in the dirt? Omar Infante has less RBI than Chase Utley this year. Find me something, besides this ridiculous All-Star voting, that indicates Omar Infante is helping this team win.
Okay, I got a little fired up there. Three game sweeps do that to me, even when I know it was bad timing against a good team playing in a ballpark tailor made for them and seemingly designed to squash a team constructed like the Royals. The point remains, be it a juggling of the batting order (just because at this point and ‘just because’ sometimes works really well as a reason to do things) or making a minor move (more Dyson, more Colon? I mean, they might get on base at a .305 clip) or, as I think must be done, a major move, the Royals need to get aggressive.
If you want to give Alex Rios some more time to get healthy (or interested), I can buy into that. I am not sure that keeps you from giving Jarrod Dyson some more at-bats against right-handed pitching, but I can live with that logic for a couple more weeks. Infante? No, no more time and I don’t want to hear about the money. Are you playing to win the World Series or are you trying to balance the books? If it is the latter and I don’t really think it is at this point (for once), then screw it and hope. If the money, at least for 2015 is not an issue, then the Royals would be fools to not seize whatever opportunity there is to upgrade.
Let’s face it, as constructed right now (majors and minors) the Royals’ window likely closes at the end of 2016. If enough things go right and enough money flows, maybe that gets extended, but the number of ‘ifs’ that keep this team not just contending but being a frontrunner is a long list. If you can see it, you have to take it. The Royals can see a championship at the end of 2015.
Go out and take it.