..buckets of tears, got all them buckets coming out of my ears.
(From "Buckets of Rain," Blood on the Tracks)
There is something perversely beautiful about a rain delay at Kauffman Stadium, or I suppose at any MLB park. But in my limited travels around the majors, The K is the only place I've experienced one. This week, we got a two-fer. Two games, two rain delays. And two losses, which had me rethinking the optimism expressed in previous posts.
Saturday night started off well enough, with Dan Quisenberry's son throwing out the first pitch (in honor of Dan Quisenberry Bobblehead Night). It was warm, but a pleasant breeze blew in from the east, making it a fairly enjoyable summer evening. The skies were overcast, and about the fourth inning we could see darker clouds in the west, through the openings between the top of the upper deck and the roof. Members of the grounds crew assembled behind the tarp. Taking all these factors into account, we moved to higher ground, under the roof that covers the back third of the upper deck.
It wasn't long before the rains came, the grounds crew sprinted out to cover the field (after having some practice Tuesday night in our previous rain delay) and play was halted. All we could do was watch the rain fall, in heavy sheets illuminated by the stadium lights. Seats just two or three rows in front of us were getting drenched, and even pelted by some small hailstones. Yet we remained mostly dry, except for the occasional wind gust spraying us with a fine mist.
The Royals soon put that lovely new hi-def scoreboard to good use, showing us the Tigers-White Sox telecast (without announcers). There we sat, watching baseball, listening to the rain pelt the roof and enjoying the cooler temperatures.
But all good things must end. The rain passed and the game resumed. The Royals managed to tie the score in the fifth, then let the game slip through their hands, almost literally, when they failed to catch a popup in the eighth. Given new life, Tampa Bay scored two runs, tacked on one more in the ninth, and got themselves a much-needed win.
One of the more frustrating things about the Royals this year is that, in spring training, there was supposed to be a renewed emphasis on fundamentals. Now, I don't really believe fundamentals are that helpful in today's game, especially in the American League. They can't hurt, but the best way to win is to have good players. If you don't have good players, then you start talking about fundamentals. The emphasis on fundamentals would be OK if the Royals could actually execute them. But this year has been a steady stream of bad baserunning, dropped popups, terrible bunts, and of course, no strike zone judgment whatsoever. Perhaps the Royals would have a few more wins if they were fundamentally sound, but that still wouldn't be enough to get them a division title. But it's the principle; we were told this would be a fundamentally sound team, and it is obviously not.
Forget fundamentals, the way for the Royals to get good is to develop good players. The jury is still out on many of these current Royals, although I have heard a lot of hand-wringing about Alex Gordon and Billy Butler. They have had disappointing years, after showing some promise in 2007. I think Royals fans need to take a step back and realize they are 24 and 22, respectively. Butler especially has shown more flashes of his talent since the All-Star Break, hitting four homers in the last 10 games after having two before the break. And it's true that Zack Greinke is also 24, but he is also in his fourth full season, so his development should be a little further along.