Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Feel Like My Soul Is Beginning To Expand

...look into my heart and you will sort of understand.
(From "Thunder On The Mountain," Modern Times)

I know, it's only 27 games in. There are still 135 games left. Lots of things can happen. There could be injuries or prolonged slumps or ineffective pitchers. Or one of the other AL Central teams could catch fire.

I don't care about any of that right now. I'm a believer.

After last night's crazy win, I'm throwing caution to the wind. I'm in. 90 wins? Sure, why not? Division title? You bet.

I'm telling you right now, this is a good Royals team. Not just "good for the Royals" (meaning 75 wins). Good enough to win the division.

I see signs. I see this team doing things good teams do to win. Things like the bullpen pitching seven innings and only allowing one run to pick up a struggling starter. Things like hitters working the count, fouling off pitches to get a hittable pitch or a walk. Seriously, 11 walks last night? Even in 11 innings, that's a staggering number for a Royals team, the first time they've had that many since June 20, 2006 (not that that was a good Royals team, but they were playing the equally woeful Pirates).

The Royals have specialized in losing the last few years, so I feel like an expert on the different ways they've come up with to lose: the Groin Kick, where they coughed up a big lead; the Generic Loss, where they maybe lose 4-3 but didn't really do anything awful; the Embarrassment, where they lose 15-3; and the Roll Over and Die, where the other team scored some early runs and the Royals' offense did little or nothing.

Last night looked like a classic Roll Over and Die. The Sox took a 4-0 lead, and I decided maybe the NHL playoffs would be a little more interesting. When I checked back in, it was 5-1 Sox, but the Royals had two on and Mike Jacobs at the plate. When his home run cleared the fence (not sure it actually ever landed), I thought the game might get interesting. Of course, then the White Sox answered with two more runs, and I mentally put this one in the loss column.

I forgot that the Royals had mounted a furious comeback just two days before in Minnesota. And that they had come back from three runs down to tie the score last Friday. Luckily, the guys in that first-base dugout didn't forget. They kept playing. No Roll Over and Die on this night. Not when they left the bases loaded in the sixth after pulling to within one run. Not when they had the go-ahead run thrown out at home in the seventh. Not when they left two runners on in the eighth, not when A.J. Pierzynski tripled in the ninth to give the White Sox a chance for a lead, not when White Sox thumpers Carlos Quentin and Jim Thome came up in the 10th with the go-ahead run at second base.

The attitude is different. It just feels different. The things I read in the Star (like this story or like Jose Guillen telling Zack Greinke, "Let's show the White Sox that we're for real this year" as related in this story), the body language of the players when I watch on TV or at the ballpark, and just watching this team battle--it just feels differently than any Royals season in a long time.

Let me tell you a story from a different sport. I've been a KU football fan for years. No, really. Like, since I was 8 or 9. Obviously, I saw lots of bad football except for a few years in the 90s and then the middle part of this decade. Until 2007, when KU had a year for the ages, losing one game all year and winning the Orange Bowl. We try to go to one or two games a year; our game that year was a 55-3 dismantling of Florida International. I'd heard all the badmouthing about KU's schedule that year, and there was plenty of it for the rest of the year. But when I saw that team in person, I realized that it didn't matter who they played, that was a damned good team.

I'm starting to get that feeling about this Royals team. They probably won't be as dominant as that KU team was, but I believe now that they can stay in the race all season. Get ready, Royals fans. This should be a fun summer.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

I'm so excited, and I just can't hide it! LOL - but seriously, it's a great time to be a Royals fan!