It’s a weird feeling to be a Royals fan in 2018. For the first time in what seems like forever, we’re entering a full season of meaningless baseball. If you’re like me, you’re struggling to remember how we ever did it before. Those of us who experienced a lifetime of bad baseball will eventually ease back into that old, familiar phase of Royals fandom. But what about the new fans and our children? Winning was fun, but now we start all over again. It’s time for a hard dose of realism. So sit down the kids and let’s talk bad baseball.
THE ROYALS WON’T COMPETE
Let’s temper our expectations right now. Go ahead and ignore that Facebook friend who says “It’s still early,” and “I won’t give up until they’re mathematically eliminated.” It’s not going to happen. If you’ve watched any games this season, you probably noticed some shakiness in one or more areas of our team. Here is a list of the 2018 Royals’ weaknesses: bullpen, starting rotation, offense, defense, and let’s throw in the whole farm system. I suppose this is where I should name their strengths, but I can’t think of any.
…BUT THAT’S NOT NECESSARILY A BAD THING
Losing games helps us rebuild. That core that brought us a championship is courtesy of some of the most losing Royals teams in franchise history. The championship team itself was built from over a decade worth of high draft picks after 100 or near-100-loss seasons. In 2001, the Royals lost 97 games. With the sixth overall pick the following year, they drafted Zack Greinke, who later yielded Cain and Escobar. Losing seasons in 2006-2008 brought us Hosmer, Moustakas, and the prospects who garnered James Shields and Wade Davis. We don’t need to actively root for the Royals to lose, but it’s easier to accept that inevitability knowing that that’s what it takes to build a competitive team.
EVERYONE YOU LOVE WILL BE TRADED
I mean, probably not everyone, but if they’re playing well, over/near 30 and or not under long-term team control, maybe don’t get too attached. Moustakas and Herrera are most likely to be playing at trade-material level, maybe Duffy too, but I wouldn’t consider anyone off-limits. Detach yourself now and remember that big trades are also what built our championship team.
WATCH FOR THE YOUNG GUYS, BUT WITH LOW EXPECTATIONS
Merrifield, Duffy, and Perez are all under long-term control, but we know what to expect from them. They’re all also nearing 30. While the Royals currently have one of the worst farm systems in baseball, we still have some young talent that might be fun to watch. Junis, Soler, Mondesi, Bonifacio, Starling, and Dozier are all potentially part of the Royals’ future. You just might need to take a trip to Omaha to see some of them this year.
MAYBE START FOLLOWING A SECONDARY TEAM CLOSER TO CONTENTION
When you can’t stand the misery of the 2018 Royals, but still want baseball, try rooting for another likable team. It’s not a replacement and it obviously won’t be as meaningful, but it will make this baseball season a lot more interesting. A suggestion: The Milwaukee Brewers fit the bill. They’re another small market midwestern team, they’re in the NL, we have no reason to hate them, and of course they have Lorenzo Cain.
BAD BASEBALL IS BETTER THAN NO BASEBALL
There are perks to having a bad baseball team. Tickets are cheaper (see Stubhub) and good seats are more readily available, whether by purchase or by seat-hopping. The promotions and giveaways are better and more attainable. Especially with the Royals celebrating their 50th season, there will be some good things to take advantage of this year. We can and should go to more games during this rebuilding phase. The greater our investment in this team when it’s bad, the sweeter the payoff when it’s good. We should know that from experience.