After losing three out of four to the first-place Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis, the Royals currently sit at 9-14 and not only are in last place, but are six games out of the top spot. Granted, that is not necessarily the worst thing for the club, for the Royals will be done playing the Twins after next weekend’s series, which should be a relief for a Royals team that may be tired of seeing Nelson Cruz after he did this to the Royals throughout the most recent four-game slate (notice Meibrys Viloria’s reaction):
Nonetheless, right now, Royals fans are at a crossroads when it comes to how to cheer and follow this team for the remainder of the season. How should they feel and what should they expect? How should Royals fans properly approach the remaining 37 games of the 2020 season? Well, as a fellow Royals fan, I identified three ways that Royals fans can embrace the remainder of the season, and the positives and negatives of falling into each camp.
So let’s list the three ways Royals fans can approach the remainder of the 2020 season and the positives and negatives of each method.
Expect the club to win and push for a playoff berth
I’m guessing a lot of casual Royals fans may be falling in this boat. After all…playoffs are fun, and Kansas City sports fans may be feeling a bit spoiled after the Kansas City Chiefs’ recent Super Bowl run. Furthermore, with the division leaders nearly out of the way for the season, there may be some hope that the Royals can get on a run against lesser competition (after all, they have not played the Pittsburgh Pirates yet) and make up some ground in the standings. Even though the Royals are in last place and are five games under .500, they are only six games out of first place, and only 4.5 behind the second-place Cleveland Indians, who are going through their own internal turmoil regarding pitchers Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger.
The Royals certainly have the pieces to make a run in these fans’ minds. Their bullpen is solid, and if they have a lead in the later innings (sixth inning and beyond), the Royals have showed this season they can close things out with the mix of either Greg Holland, Scott Barlow, Josh Staumont, or newly minted closer, Trevor Rosenthal. Furthermore, the Royals have some power potential, as Hunter Dozier has announced his return with authority with home runs in back-to-back games. If Jorge Soler can fix his strikeout issues, and if the core of Whit-Nicky-Salvy-Soler-Doz can really get going at the same time, then it’s possible that the Royals could make a late-season run toward the postseason in September.
However, this is a flawed team. The starting pitching is promising, but as shown this series, Brady Singer and Kris Bubic have both demonstrated that they’re not “aces” just yet. And the Royals struggle to put together runs, especially in situations when they have runners on base and the team is within striking distance. And thus, it makes sense that Royals fans might take this approach: after all, what’s the point of cheering for a team if they’re not trying to win? But as the first 23 games have demonstrated, as a team, this Royals team will more often than not disappoint, which could only add to the frustration of Royals fans who fall in this category.
Hope for wins, but focus on incremental progress in different areas
I feel like most knowledgeable, or perhaps “realistic,” Royals fans will take this approach to following the Royals for the rest of the season. After all, this Royals team lost 100-plus games in back-to-back seasons in 2018 and 2019. To think that this Royals team would suddenly make the playoffs in 2020, even in a shortened season, would take a miracle, and that is looking like the case through the first 23 games of the Royals’ 60-game campaign.
The fan that falls in this category is not cheering for losses by any measure. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: they’re more passionate than ever about wanting the Royals to succeed. They are on Twitter or Reddit and analyzing every nook and cranny of the game. Hell, they are probably following the game on Statcast at the same time (not saying that I do that…or anything). But, rather than simply judge the club by wins and losses, they instead are looking for progress and signs of growth throughout the club. Is Lopez becoming a player the Royals can depend on in the infield in the future? Are Singer and Bubic making gains on the mound with each start? Is Josh Staumont ready for the closer’s job in 2021? Can Adalberto Mondesi turn it around after a dreadful start and live up to his prospect hype and promise from his 2018 and early 2019 campaigns?
The Royals fan in this category wants to see positive signs in the future, and I think this is not a bad way to go. Wins are nice, sure, but the ends doesn’t justify the means. If the right Royals players are developing, if the team is staying competitive, and if the club overall is getting better week by week (even if it doesn’t show in the standings), the Royals fan in this category will be happy. It can feel masochistic at times, especially in series like this one against Minnesota where they lose three out of four. But hope matters more than results at this time, especially if that hope is coming from younger players or future franchise players in the Royals organization.
Expecting the worst, waiting for the “shoe to drop”
Royals fans are a loyal bunch. It’s not easy to be a fan of this small-market club, especially since 1994, as the Royals have arguably been one of the worst franchises in baseball record-wise. Royals fans are used to failure, being let-down, and witnessing frustrating performances on the field with regularity. That’s what made the pennants of 2014 and 2015 so special: it was sweet redemption for the most patient and loyal of Royals fans after so many years of watching futility on the field at Kauffman Stadium.
However, patience can only take one so far, and Royals fans in this category believe that “radical change” needs to happen soon. Royals fans who embody this approach not only believe that this club will lose, but almost as if they NEED to lose in order to spur significant change in the organization. They believe that Dayton Moore isn’t the right general manager for the organization. They believe that they need to re-load through the draft and through trades. They believe that the club is cursed, and any kind of optimism regarding the club’s outlook will only lead in an epic (though figurative) kick in the urethra that will sting them as a Royals fan for long periods of time. To these fans, there is no point in “believing” too much: the Royals will only be good again unless some kind of miracle happens again like it did in 2014 and 2015. Those years, in their minds, were not signs of progress, but rather “flukes” that only come once in a lifetime.
It’s not a cake walk to fall in this Royals fan category. These kinds of fans are very much like Randy Quaid from Major League 2, and are annoying and frustrating to every other fan around them, as evidenced in the clips below:
That being said, these kinds of fans have some justification. The Royals have a recent history of being bad, especially since Ewing Kauffman died and George Brett retired. It’s tough to spend money as a fan on a ball game in this economy, and to do so on a losing club isn’t easy to swallow either, especially with the NFL team across the parking lot achieving such great accolades. Furthermore, Royals fans in this camp do have a point: sometimes the best way to rebuild a club is to simply “blow it up” and try anew with new management both in the front office and perhaps even dugout (though Mike Matheny is certainly winning over most Kansas City sports fans, even if the record isn’t great). After all, there is new ownership in charge, why not start anew all the way through?
It can be self-defeating as a Royals fan to identify in this category. It’s a brutal and self-loathing road, both spiritually and on social media (there are a fair share of these kinds of fans on Royals Twitter). But it is can be the most rewarding when things finally turn around and the Royals become good again, as was the case in 2014.
Because after all, these fans were Royals fans “before it was cool” and knew how bad to expect things at Kauffman Stadium for a long period of time.
However, it will be interesting to see when these types of fans will be satisfied again…
Because it doesn’t appear to be anytime soon.