One of the defining characteristics of being a Royals fan is that it always ends badly. Pretty much, this is without exception, at least since 1985 (and there are doctors too young to remember 1985).
A promising season in 1994 ends with the strike. A very good offense around the turn of the century ends in trades. Carlos Beltran turns into Mark Teahen, Mike Wood and John Buck. Zack Greinke’s Cy Young year was nice, but also came in the most disappointing season in Royals’ history (quite a feat, when you think about it) and led to him demanding a trade.
It’s left Royals fans expecting the oncoming stink, always. This is true even when they have the American League’s best record since the All-Star break,^ because they just lost two straight to the crappy Marlins and what self-respecting playoff contender does that?
^ By percentage points. Entering this weekend’s series, the Royals are 19-7 since the break. Detroit is 18-7.
Forget that the answer includes the Cardinals, Braves and Pirates. The truth is that expecting the worst is a learned trait of Royals fans, because the Royals have taught it to them.
That’s what makes moments like Ned Yost’s "instant gratification" line^ from earlier this season so tone deaf. Who demands instant gratification and cheers for a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs in 28 years? I mean, other than masochists?
^ Trey Hillman used the same line once. Next time there’s a new manager we should set an over-under for when that man will play the "instant gratification" card.
So, in one context, maybe it seems silly to outsiders that two losses would put Royals fans on edge when the team has been so good since the All-Star break.
But in reality, however much panic or pessimism is in the fan base comes from a very honest place. It comes from self-preservation, actually.
It’s not up to fans to change nearly three decades of learned behavior, and offer amnesiac hope to a franchise that’s been so bad for so long.
It’s up to the team to give fans reason to change. Five games here this weekend against the Tigers are the perfect opportunity.