The Kansas City Royals are off to a rough start. But what can fans do about it? What should they do? Simply wait it out? Well … yeah. Sorta. Commentator Victor Wishna explains, in this April edition of “A Fan’s Notes.”
The season had barely started and alarms were sounding. The Kansas City Royals opened in Minnesota and promptly got swept by the Twins — by far the worst team in the league last year. They showed some life in Houston, but capped off the trip with a painful extra-inning loss. And then it was on to KC, where they dropped their home opener to the bottom-dwelling Oakland A’s.
Indeed, it seemed as if perhaps the Royals’ collapse was a season ahead of schedule. The only bright spot might've been all of Salvy’s home runs — and his new day-glo blond hair.
But so what if the Royals were the last team in the majors to win a game this year? So what if they’re coming off their worst first week in more than a decade?
Baseball, like no other sport, preaches patience. Work the count. Wait for your pitch. Lay down the sacrifice. Trust the next guy to get that runner home. When even the best batters get on base less than 40 percent of the time, failure isn’t just an option, it’s to be expected.
Moment to moment, week to week, and year to year, baseball is a waiting game. It’s why recent efforts to speed it up — like the new no-pitch intentional walk — seem to fly in the face of its essence.
Baseball has its share of hot young stars, but it’s also the only major pro sport where journeymen minor-leaguers can toil for years and still get their shot. Compare that to the NBA or the NFL — once branded the “Not For Long” league.
Of course, Royals fans know about patience, following a generation-long playoff drought. I am not talking about that often-delusional hope of, “well, there’s always next year,” but the patience that pays off when you give a good team just a little extra leash.
For example, while KC’s offense has stalled overall, the power is surging, with homers soaring at an unprecedented pace. New Royal Brandon Moss, who didn’t have a single hit through almost six games, finally delivered with a tie-breaking, ninth-inning blast.
Of course, the bullpen would blow that lead, as it has multiple times in these first two weeks. Wade Davis is gone. Kelvin Herrera sprung a leak, and the new guys have struggled. You know what they say: Sometimes you've got to walk before you can run, and sometimes … you just walk in runs.
But promising lefty Matt Strahm has already been sent down to Omaha for fine-tuning — coaches think they’ve found the problem — and help is on the way up. Meanwhile, veteran Joakim Soria has shown flashes of the brilliance that twice made him the Royals’ lone All-Star during his first stint with the team.
Without a doubt, there’s dramatically different feel to this season. No longer defending champs, the Royals must shoulder a different burden — just look at their shoulders, where the World Series patch has been replaced with a small black strip that reads "ACE 30," in memory of Yordano Ventura, the fiery young pitcher who died in a January car wreck at the age of 25. Instead of a ring ceremony, this year’s home opener featured a tribute and a solo saxophone rendition of “Amazing Grace” before Ventura’s mother threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Indeed, this year’s going to take a new kind of pride and perseverance, for players and for fans. Not complacency, but a real patience that requires persistence — the idea that we’re going to win precisely because we’re not going to give up, even if it takes awhile.
That’s a lesson baseball fans know, that’s worth sharing with anyone who — right now — might be feeling a little hopeless or helpless or fatigued.
You take one day at a time. And there are one hundred and fifty-three games to go.
Victor Wishna is a writer, editor and sports fan. He lives in Leawood.