There will be no World Series, no celebratory parade through downtown Kansas City this fall.
But you have to give the Kansas City Royals massive amounts of credit for defending their World Championship right down to the final week of the regular season.
Honestly, after back-to-back World Series appearances and the 2015 championship title, I didn’t expect the Royals to be a major player this season. I was thinking about 75 to 79 wins.
The physical and emotional toll of the last two exhausting seasons had to catch up with this team at some point.
It did during a four-game home series against the lowly Oakland A’s, whose pin in the Royals’ balloon earlier this month let all the air out of a third straight trip to the playoffs. The Royals were historically bad in that series as Oakland battered the Royals’ mediocre starting pitching and continued their offensive rage against a tattered bullpen for four straight games.
You just wonder how the Royals’ season would have changed had there not been that pop fly down the third baseline in May that resulted in a collision that claimed Mike Moustakas’ season and reduced Alex Gordon to a fraction of the player he normally is as you can’t tell me he still has full power in his wrist.
The Royals were humming along fine at that point, but both players are team leaders and their absence began a merry-go-round of injuries that forced the Royals to patchwork their holes with untested spare parts.
The starting pitching never was a strength the last two years and worsened as the season went along. Edinson Volquez basically has pitched himself off the roster, and the No. 5 spot in the rotation has been a black hole all year. Injuries in the bullpen turned the team’s backbone into an uncertainty, as Luke Hochevar was lost long ago and Wade Davis has made two trips to the disabled list. Most of all, Joakim Soria went through a stretch where he blew several games that knife-wounded the Royals’ heart.
The Royals still played exciting, sometimes exasperating, baseball that kept the crowds coming to The K. There are some new names to get used to, such as Merrifield, Mondesi and Cuthbert. While the season won’t end in late October, the Royals have done enough this year to earn a long rest this winter so they can come back and make a playoff run next year.