Royals

Royals riding nice streak to relevancy

Updated: 2013-08-07T21:27:54Z

By SAM MELLINGER

The Kansas City Star

Three weeks ago Dayton Moore said, well … Dayton said a lot of things. He said the Royals would “keep pushing.” He said the Royals would not sell pieces before the trade deadline despite being, at the time, six games under .500, losers of their last five before the All-Star break, and generally unable to get out of their own way.

But, mostly, Moore said he believed the Royals could “go on a run where you win 15 of 20.”

And he was promptly mocked. A lot.

The Royals hadn’t won more than 13 of any 20 games this season. They hadn’t won 15 of any 20 games in any season in a decade (when Eric Hosmer was 13 years old). So, yeah. Mocked. Mockety-mock-mock-mocked.

And you know what? Since Moore said those words, his team has won 14 of 17 after a 13-0 win over the Twins on Monday — matching their highest run total since 2010, and their biggest margin of victory since 2007. Only fair we let him gloat.

“I don’t remember saying that,” he says.

Moore can be sarcastic, but this doesn’t seem to be one of those times. The man is dead serious. Doesn’t remember. So I remind him.

“Well, we had a very horrific May, but then in June we played terrific,” he says. “We won 11 of (13). I just felt that as poorly as the team played going into the break we were capable of going on a very good run.”

So, yeah. Moore isn’t very good at gloating.

But in the days since a segment of the fan base laughed (and/or screamed) at his 15-of-20-so-we’re-gonna-keep-pushing talk the Royals have turned molding garbage into their most relevant season since Greg Holland’s junior year of high school.

This is all so new around here: a baseball team that’s not eliminated from the playoffs even after the football team has started training camp. Usually, the Royals are done by the All-Star break. Often, they’re done by schoolkids’ summer break.

Their playoff hopes are still a bit of a stretch, mind you. Baseball Prospectus’ formula calculates the Royals’ chance at less than 5 percent. But the Rangers just lost their best home-run hitter and the Tigers lost their shortstop to Biogenesis suspensions. The Royals have 53 games left, most of them against bad teams, and 17 against the Tigers and Indians — no better way to make up ground.

Besides, if you can’t appreciate a break after 10 straight seasons of being punched in the gut, then, well, then maybe sports aren’t your thing.

The frustrating thing — the very Royals thing, if we’re being honest — is that their best stretch in years has brought them a grand total of one-half game off the division-leading Tigers. But, you know. Starving men shouldn’t turn down stale bread.

Baseball is supposed to be a grind. A ceaseless, merciless, brutal grind. One baseball game is the same chunk of a season as 6 minutes of an NFL game, so things aren’t supposed to change this quickly.

But 17 games ago, this franchise was in a very different place. Anger. Frustration. Calls for heads. This is Moore’s seventh full season in charge, enough time to demand results. Patience has worn thin, and justifiably so. A fan base can take only so much losing, and a front office only gets so much losing.

Nobody knew the team was, apparently, pretty much done losing three weeks ago.

Now, some perspective. The Royals’ last 10 games have been against bad teams playing badly. On Monday night, Kevin Correia threw a whole mess of pitches down the middle, and Ryan Doumit lowlighted the Twins’ other failures by giving the Royals a free out in the fourth inning. In New York, Marlon Byrd melted in what was apparently his first career game in the daylight. In Chicago, Alex Rios basically refused to score the tying run, and his teammates seemed only moderately interested while playing defense.

It’s one thing to get your groove back against the dregs of baseball; it’s another to retain it against teams with dreams of their own.

You could see some of Kansas City’s well-earned skepticism in the announced attendance of 21,474 on Monday. The Royals just completed the best nine-game road trip in the history of the franchise, and some inside the offices here hoped the return would draw a bigger crowd.

But that included nearly 7,000 tickets sold on Monday (more than twice the average of the last four Mondays), and the team’s television broadcasts keep breaking viewership records. So it’s not like Kansas City isn’t noticing.

Besides, you’ll just have to pardon Royals fans if they want more than three good weeks before forgetting the last two decades of stink.

Bigger crowds are expected this weekend, when the Red Sox play here. If the team wants more fans at the park, that’ll come soon enough. In the meantime, they owe it to their fans to keep providing reasons to watch.

Royals fans haven’t had these kinds of reasons in a full decade.

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365, send email to smellinger@kcstar.com or follow him at Twitter.com/mellinger. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.

Deal Saver Subscribe today!

Comments

The Kansas City Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Kansas City Star uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here