Five Things from 2021 I am Thankful for as a Royals (and Baseball) Fan

It is Thanksgiving Day, and I imagine a lot of people are out there with their families, which is especially needed now considering that last Thanksgiving forced so many people to celebrate digitally (I know my family did, especially as we are spread out all over the country). Thus, I just wanted to share a quick post on this important holiday to share five things I am thankful for as a Royals and baseball fan from this past season.

The Return of Fans at Kauffman Stadium

After a year of no regular-season baseball being played in front of fans at the K (and all MLB parks), it was nice to see baseball return in 2021. In fact, this season was the first time in my life I ever went to Opening Day, as I was able to go to Royals Opening Day on April 1st at Kauffman Stadium, which ended up being a wild, and spectacular experience, even though it was limited capacity:

For the year, I was able to attend14 games at Kauffman Stadium in 2021, and I already have selected my seats for a 20-game, partial season-ticket package for the upcoming 2022 season. Safe to say, I am grateful to be back watching Royals baseball in person at the K, and look forward to watching a few more next season.

Some Great Royals (and Baseball) Content This Year (and Some New Ones)

I felt this was a great year for Royals baseball content, as a lot of new podcasts, newsletters, and blogs emerged from this past season.

David Lesky and Craig Brown came back in a big way with their Inside the Crown and Into the Fountains newsletters, respectively. Jacob Milham and Lucas Murphy (the Beat of KC) have created a great podcast in the “Royals Rundown”. Alex Feuz and Jeremy Danner have knocked it out of the park with the “Bleavin Royals” podcast. Royals Weekly by the Meade brothers was one of the more underrated Royals podcasts out there. The SI-affiliated “Inside the Royals” blog is producing some excellent content. And of course, Royals Review, Kings of Kauffman, and Royals Farm Report continue to produce good stuff as always.

Heck, I was lucky enough to appear on some of these content creators’ platforms, and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with such awesome minds:

When I started Royals Reporter around 2019, it pretty much was Royals Review, KOK, and RFR, and the Royals’ subreddit. Now, there are plenty of options out there for Royals fans and baseball diehards. I am thankful for a great year of Royals content and look forward to more excellent work from Kansas City Royals creators emerging in 2022.

Also, shout out to some great content creators beyond the Royals universe. I was lucky enough to appear on the North Side Sox Podcast (White Sox), Walkin Off Podcast (Brewers), and contribute to Cards Conclave (Cardinals). This was in addition to working with Pitcher List for a short while, which has come to a hiatus due to work commitments. There’s an amazing baseball community out there, and I am lucky to be a part of it!

Salvy’s 48-home run season

I really enjoyed Jorge Soler’s 48-home run season (so much that I wrote a Game Story for SABR on it). That being said, it was nice that franchise player Salvador Perez, who had just signed a massive extension prior to the start of the 2021 season, was able to tie the record and had a shot to perhaps break it in the season’s final weekend (which probably would have happened had he not injured himself in a freak fall down the dugout steps).

It’s fun to watch Salvy’s highlights from this past season and know that Salvy will be donning the Blue and White for quite some time:

I think it’s safe to say that Royals fans are thankful for Salvy’s spectacular 2021, and all he has given to the Royals and Kansas City in general.

The Royals Seeing Improvement in the Win-Loss Column

The Royals finished 74-88, which was an improvement on their pro-rated 70-win total from 2020. It marked the Royals’ fourth-straight season of improvement in the win-loss column, as they went from 58 wins in 2018 to 59 wins in 2019 to 70* (pro-rated) in 2020 to 74 in 2021. I know some Royals fans wanted a bit “more” in terms of wins, especially after the acquisitions of Mike Minor, Carlos Santana, and Andrew Benintendi this offseason. However, the Royals still finished ahead of the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central, and seem to be projecting upward, which isn’t necessarily the case for every team in the division (Cleveland and Minnesota seem to be going the opposite direction).

Furthermore, it seems like Dayton Moore and the Royals front office will be finding the right balance this offseason of making the right moves via free agency and trades while still maintaining the strength of their organization, which is their farm system:

The Royals may not be playoff-bound in 2022 unless a major move is made (which seems unlikely considering how this offseason is going). That being said, I expect the Royals to continue to make progress up the standings, and I am thankful that the Royals aren’t opting for a “tear down” like other organizations like the Orioles, Pirates, Marlins, and what could be the Guardians and Athletics in 2022.

The Royals Prospects and Farm System

There’s really one proven way to win as a small market team in Major League Baseball and that’s through building the farm system through the draft and international signings. Yes, teams could trade for other prospects, but all the great prospects acquired don’t mean much if they are not developed properly.

As we learned from a great episode of Fangraphs Audio that featured Royals Minor League Hitting Coordinator Drew Saylor, the Royals are really doing some amazing stuff when it comes to applying analytics to player development in the Minors, and it’s paid off already with the success stories of Nick Pratto and MJ Melendez this past season:

And if that organizational emphasis doesn’t get Royals fans excited enough, then they can look solely to Bobby Witt, Jr., who takes the title of “best prospect in baseball” after the graduation of Tampa Bay’s Wander Franco to the Majors this season.

The Royals are building something special that could pay off in the long term. Yes, the Royals run from 2013-2017 was fun, especially since it resulted in two pennants and a World Series title. However, considering what Moore and the front office are doing now, it is possible that the future in 2023 and beyond could trump what was done over that five-year span.

Kansas City may be on their way to building a consistent winner thanks to their drafting and player development and could be on their path of perhaps being a St. Louis Cardinals or Atlanta Braves-esque organization sooner rather than later.

I am thankful that the Royals have opted for this route, even if it is more fiscally conservative than the “quick fix” method (i.e. overspending on too many free agents) that has hamstrung organizations like the Cincinnati Reds and Colorado Rockies as of late. It will make things a whole lot more fun when the Royals are back in the playoff discussion starting in 2023.

Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

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