Seeing the Royals’ Growth in the Shadow of Chiefs Kingdom

I was able to go to my 23rd Royals game this year, as Brady Singer absolutely mowed down the Detroit Tigers over seven innings in a 4-0 win at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

On one hand, it was the only win against Detroit in the three-game weekend series, as the Tigers outscored the Royals 18-6 in the first two games on Friday and Saturday. In addition, the Royals are currently 57-84, which is just 2.5 games better than the last-place Tigers, and only better in baseball than the Oakland Athletics (50-90), Washington Nationals (49-91), and Pittsburgh Pirates (51-88).

Without a doubt, for most casual Royals fans, the season is pretty much over. As a result, most eyes and attentions have veered toward the other end of the Truman Sports Complex: GEHA Stadium (i.e. Arrowhead) and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Today’s game at the K was a prime example of where the focus on Kansas City sports fans is at right now. After posting my pregame parking lot Tweet, Taco Salazar, a passionate KC-based sports personality, quote tweeted my own tweet with the following statement:

A little over 13,000 fans showed up at the K on Sunday, according to the official box score (13,150 to be specific). And those fans in attendance were at least treated to one of the fastest games at the K in Royals history, as it clocked in at two hours and 11 minutes. In fact, according to KC Star Royals beat writer, Sunday afternoon’s game was the fastest game at Kauffman Stadium since 2014.

For many Royals fans, that was a huge plus of today’s contest, as the game pretty much ended shortly before the Chiefs’ kickoff against the Cardinals at 3:25 p.m. I’m guessing that by the number of Chiefs jerseys I spotted today (which was FAR over the double-digit mark), many fans were expecting to at least watch the first quarter or first half at Rivals or the Craft and Draft.

Instead, they were able to be on the road after Scott Barlow’s final induced flyout, able to listen to the opening kickoff by Chiefs play-by-play man Mitch Holthus on 106.5 “The Wolf”, which broadcasts all Chiefs games.

We got home right in the middle of the first quarter, a nice perk of living about 15 minutes from the stadium and on a “road” Chiefs game Sunday, when the highway is pretty devoid of cars for the most part.

If I’m talking about the Chiefs too much for a Royals blog, I apologize. However, that’s the time we are living in right now in Kansas City.

The Royals are on pace to win 66 games, according to Fangraphs projections. The Chiefs are looking to not only defend their AFC West crown but make a return to the Super Bowl after losing in the AFC Championship game to the Bengals last season.

Over the next few weeks, the Royals will be playing in the shadow of Arrowhead and the Kansas City Chiefs…

And yet, it is important for Royals fans to not miss the growth amidst the “red” shadows being cast over the Truman Sports Complex and the city in general.

In all honesty, I’m not the biggest Chiefs fan. It’s nothing against the organization or fans (though I do wish we could transition to something other than “the Chop”). Chiefs fandom runs pretty hot from September to January and rightfully so: the Chiefs have one of the best players in the NFL (Patrick Mahomes) and one of the best teams in the NFL.

For most casual sports fans, it’s more fun watching a winner than a loser. And right now, the Chiefs are winning and the Royals are losing.

And it’s not just the Royals losing this year but continuing to lose year after year. The Royals have not had a winning season since 2015, their last World Series championship (though they were at least competitive in 2016 and 2017). Royals tickets may be a bit cheaper than Chiefs ones, and the traffic experience is a lot less stressful than a Sunday afternoon or evening at the Truman Sports Complex from September to January.

But at the end of the day, people want to watch a successful sports team, and thus, the Royals get put on the back burner, even if the Royals still have 21 games remaining this year.

Now, I am not advocating that the Royals should suddenly capture the attention of Kansas City sports fans over the Chiefs right now. They certainly haven’t deserved it, unlike in 2014 and 2015, when Royals fandom actually surpassed Chiefs fandom in September and October.

However, there still is a lot going on with this Royals team that’s worth paying attention to.

For starters, Singer came out and absolutely shoved on the mound today, and is perhaps proving that he may be worthy of a long-term extension after this season, which I hope to dive into a little bit in a separate post this week. Singer showed today that he has all the makings of not just being the Royals’ Opening Day starter in 2023, but perhaps for years to come as well.

And Singer wasn’t alone in his standout performance on Sunday afternoon. Bobby Witt, Jr. continues to look more and more comfortable at the plate as he collected two hits, and Michael Massey hit an absolute blast over the right field wall which pretty much sealed the game momentum-wise against Detroit.

And in the postgame, not only did Witt and MJ Melendez have some fun with Massey in his interview with Bally’s Joel Goldberg, but Vinnie Pasquantino got in on the fun, even though he had the day off.

Not surprisingly, on the Opening Weekend of the NFL, Massey, a Chicago guy, had some choice words for Vinnie and his favorite NFL team: the New York Jets.

The losses are rough, especially blowouts like the ones we saw on Friday and Saturday at the K.

But there is something special brewing here with this young core of position players. There is a chemistry there that is not necessarily showing with consistent wins this year but could parlay into something greater in 2023 and 2024, especially once they have a full Spring Training and season together.

For the Royals right now, for the next 21 games, it is all about the “growth” and the “process”. And that can be something fun to follow if one can take a step back and see through the red “hue” of the Chiefs that is dominating the KC sports world at this time.

I know some may be tired of baseball, especially when primarily following a club that is 27 games under .500.

Kansas City sports fans have certainly been frustrated with what has been going on at Kauffman Stadium since 2018, and hopefully, that frustration can be placated with some much-needed organizational changes this winter (though I’m not sure if some fans would ever be satisfied with the “change” end).

But there still are storylines worth following over the next few weeks for the Royals.

Can Daniel Lynch, Kris Bubic, and Jonathan Heasley finish the year strong in the Royals rotation after struggling with consistency after the All-Star break? If the Royals want to have a more encouraging future in 2023 and 2024, at least two of those guys have to be part of the equation.

Will this be Zack Greinke’s last hurrah in Kansas City and Major League Baseball in general? If so, it would be great to see him finish with at least one more sterling out at Kauffman Stadium before he hangs it up for good.

Can Dylan Coleman and Carlos Hernandez be the one-two punch this organization needs in the setup roles to help ease the pressure off of Scott Barlow? And can Amir Garrett find his footing in the bullpen again after returning from suspension?

And lastly, will there be one last surprise call-up from Omaha? Will Angel Zerpa get another shot in the rotation? Will Edward Olivares see some time in the field or lineup before the end of the 2022 season? (Olivares is already having a solid showing in Omaha during his rehab stint.)

There’s a lot of “growth” still to happen for this Royals squad in 2022, even if this year’s campaign will be coming to a close sooner rather than later.

It’s easy to get swooped up in Chiefs-mania right now, especially with Kansas City cruising to a season-opening win over the Arizona Cardinals.

But don’t forget about baseball being played on the other side of the parking lot at the Truman Sports Complex right now.

Because it will be December and January in Kansas City sooner than we think. During those cold, frigid, winter months, Kansas City denizens as a whole will be chomping at the bit for warm summer days at the K once again…

Hopefully, watching a ball club on the rise in 2023 as well.

Photo Credit: Kevin O’Brien

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