So it seems like Major League Baseball will have a strong chance of coming back at some point this summer, or at least that’s what the brass in the MLB Office are saying up top. While there are many reports from different baseball writers exploring the details, this report in the embedded tweet below from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale seems the most realistic as well as interesting:
Nightengale’s report is particularly interesting for Royals fans, especially in comparison to previous reports which ranged from playing in Spring Training facilities in Arizona and Florida to even an “All-Arizona” solution where all 30 teams would play in Cactus League facilities as well as at Chase Field, the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. While those plans would have brought baseball back in some way, their logistic challenges made those solutions feel “unrealistic” to say the least.
But this new plan seems a bit more realistic in terms of not just bringing baseball back, but in a way where all baseball fans and players benefit. Thus, let’s highlight three reasons why Royals fans should be excited if MLB’s latest plan comes to fruition.
The Central Division could be fascinating for “Midwest bragging rights”
If there’s one thing Kansas City and its residents like to do, it’s to compare itself to other major Midwestern cities. Honestly, that’s not just a Kansas City-specific thing, but a Midwest thing in general. People will defend their Midwestern homes to the death, and baseball in general becomes a little more interesting and heated when two Midwest clubs are going at it, whether it’s in the American, National or Interleague play. Case in point: one of the best rivalries in baseball in between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals and honestly, it’s mostly fueled by the disdain the Midwestern cities have for each other.
According to the Nightengale report, MLB will get rid of the American and National League for this year and split into three divisions: West, Central, and East. Teams will only play against teams in their geographic area during the regular season, which as of now seems to be in the 80-100 range, according to the report. Here’s who would be in the Royals’ division according to Nightengale:
- Atlanta Braves
- Chicago Cubs
- Chicago White Sox
- Cincinnati Reds
- Cleveland Indians
- Detroit Tigers
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Minnesota Twins
- St. Louis Cardinals
Basically, the Royals would be playing against all these Midwestern rivals (and Southern addition) around 8-11 times, which depends on whether the season is 80 or 100 games. The fact that Royals fans could see the Boys in Blue face the Cubs, Reds, Brewers, and Cardinals multiple times is intriguing, especially since it doesn’t have the “Interleague” gimmick associated with their contests this time around. And the promising aspect with this new division alignment is that they still keep their traditional opponents from the AL Central as well, which is nice because a lot of those Royals games with AL Central opponents could be interesting this year with many AL Central clubs going in different directions (which could open things up for the Royals). That would not have happened in the proposed “Grapefruit and Cactus League” format that Nightengale mentioned earlier in the month.
The plan keeps the Royals in Kansas City
What makes this plan more intriguing to Royals fans is that home games will be taking place at the K, rather than in Surprise or another Cactus League stadium. That is a huge plus for fans who want to be able to keep tabs on the Royals up close rather than afar. Yes, it is strongly possible that a majority of the games this season, if not all, will be played in front of an empty Kauffman Stadium. But it will be nice to see the Royals players take the field in their home white uniforms at Kauffman Stadium rather than Surprise Stadium in Arizona, which is an hour time difference away.
Another positive for games at Kauffman over Surprise is that the surroundings of the the K will benefit the Royals pitchers more than the hitter-friendly confines of Surprise and other Cactus League ballparks (which I mentioned in a post before). The Royals pitching staff, especially its starting pitching, may be the weak link of this Royals squad in 2020. And thus, to play in a more pitcher-friendly environment for 40 or 50 games is a huge boost when it comes to helping this Royals team be more competitive in the “new and revised” Central division.
Lastly, baseball just looks beautiful at the K, even if there may be no fans in attendance. And by having games at the K rather than Surprise, it seems more likely that the Royals media team won’t be as affected (I was curious to see how they would have accommodated all the team media members if all 30 teams were in Arizona). So even though the stands at the K will be empty, at least Royals fans will have Denny Matthews and Steve Physioc on the radio and Ryan and Rex on television, which would make Royals fans feel that we are approaching normalcy in Kansas City.
Kansas City fans may be able to watch games in Kauffman again
The best part of this plan is that it keeps open the idea that Royals baseball could be played in front of fans at Kauffman toward the end of the 2020 season. That’s right. Nightengale’s report suggests that fans could come back and watch baseball at home stadiums as long as social distancing is practiced and that there isn’t a huge spike in coronavirus cases. They also push the idea that stadium attendance could gradually increase over time, especially as the situation is better understood each and every game.
The idea that I and other Royals fans could be watching Royals baseball game in a seat at Kauffman Stadium makes me absolutely elated.
Granted, it may not be a lot of games. It may only be 10-20 games with fans at the K, and that’s best case scenario. However, I think a lot of Royals fans will take that, especially since it seemed early on that Royals baseball at the K in general wouldn’t even happen as soon as a few weeks ago. Furthermore, with Governor Mike Parson lifting restrictions May 4th, and KC Mayor Quinton Lucas lifting restrictions for the City May 15th, it could be possible that fans may be able to attend games at the K by August or September if everything is managed properly.
I know it’s wishful thinking. And honestly, I’ll probably get disappointed in the end. But it’s been a tough couple of months, and I’ll take the dream of watching a Royals game at Kauffman Stadium at the end of the summer, complete with a pre-game tailgate with BBQ, Boulevard beers, and multiple games of cornhole.
As stated before on this blog, I’m more of an Andy Dufresne than Red when it comes to being hopeful.
I mean, you have to be as a Royals fan these days.