The problem is that Royals fans are trained to hate this trade. Thats easy to miss for people outside Kansas City, easy to forget as we tread through instant analysis of what will be, for better or worse, the defining trade of the Royals current push. But its the truth.
By SAM MELLINGER
The Kansas City Star
You have to have been around Royals fans to understand:
The Royals just made a trade their fans are trained to despise.
For years decades? the Royals have had hope and Sluggerrr and not much else to sell. Theyve had tomorrow. Next year. Whats coming is better than whats here. Alex Gordon will be George Brett. Eric Hosmer will be Adrian Gonzalez. Johnny Giavotella will be Dustin Pedroia. On and on it goes, always selling hope, always planning on the future.
An entire generation of Royals fans has grown up judging teams not based on the standings where theyve been last or next-to-last 12 of the last 14 years but on whether Luke Hochevar got out of the jam, Mike Moustakas got out of the slump, Colt Griffin got out of the minors or Mark Quinn got out of mediocrity.
Rooting for the Royals has meant believing that tomorrow will be better than today, next year better than right now. Two in the bush is better than one in the hand.
So when the Royals trade baseballs best hitting prospect (Wil Myers), their own best pitching prospect (Jake Odorizzi) and their former best pitching prospect (Mike Montgomery) for one frontline starter (James Shields) and depth (Wade Davis), well, fans have known which side theyre on since before this trade was a twinkle in Dayton Moores eyes.
Theyve had to be this way. Its a self-survival thing. Impossible to give all that up now.
This is the Royals first major win-now acquisition since they signed David Cone in 1993, back when Moore was an assistant college coach and David Glass was just a businessman and the Royals had baseballs fourth-highest payroll. This is 20 years of habit the Royals are working against.
Look, from a baseball perspective, this trade makes fine sense. The Royals got better for 2013, and probably for 2014, too. Shields is their best pitcher since Zack Greinke, but speaking of the 2009 Cy Young winner, the gap between Greinke and Shields sure looks bigger than the gap between what the Royals got for Greinke and just gave up for Shields.
Maybe thats muscle memory. Maybe Shields and Davis make the Royals contenders now while building a bridge to when remaining prospects like Yordano Ventura, Kyle Zimmer and Jorge Bonifacio are in Kansas City.
Maybe a rotation of Shields, Ervin Santana, Jeremy Guthrie, Wade Davis and internal competition for the fifth spot with Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino rehabbing is enough to win baseballs weakest division.
Maybe if the Royals win now, it will make cornerstones like Hosmer and Moustakas better. Maybe we should all remember that, while all but one organization that ranked as Baseball Americas best minor-league system has made the playoffs within four years, none did it with prospects alone.
Since Moore arrived in Kansas City six years ago, the plan has been for Gordon and Billy Butler to become very good players, bring a core of homegrown players behind them, and then support them. This is the beginning of that third step.
If nothing else, the debate over this move in the middle of the NFL season is a reminder that Kansas Citys baseball soul is begging to be awakened by a winner. Ours has long been a football city, like most places in the country, but last summers All-Star Game and a franchise-defining trade are a reminder that there is room here for good baseball, too.
Royals fans want this trade to work, of course. They are hoping. But this is a different kind of hope, one they havent had practice with in a generation.
They come by their skepticism honestly. Theyve been trained to hate this trade.