With March Madness about over and opening day at The K less than a week away, I went back through some old notebooks from a week of spring training:
▪ Found some notes from a story idea that I surrendered on (at least for now) but still think about:
Even if the Royals were to win the World Series this year, I don’t believe the excitement among fans could eclipse the delirium of 2014.
The achievement obviously would be greater, particularly since it would represent back-to-back World Series appearances, but how could it be more captivating?
First and foremost, what happened last year seemed so unfathomable and spontaneous and singular after the 28-year postseason drought — especially because it was all triggered by the absurd rally to beat Oakland in the wild-card game.
Part of what made it inimitable was the cathartic energy of fans and the synergy between them and the team.
Now, everything is reframed by expectations, isn’t it?
For instance, I’d put the expiration date of a transformative season into a general “what have you done for us lately?” at about May 10. And there is something fundamentally different about having just seen something almost done and having known only futility for more than a generation.
Now, certainly, this is a different matter for players and those in the organization.
They felt not exhilarated but tormented by getting to game seven of the World Series against the Giants only to leave Alex Gordon stranded on third base with the tying run in the bottom of the ninth, and presumably it will drive them more now rather than make them complacent.
So when I recently asked general manager Dayton Moore about this idea in terms of how fans might see it, I seem to recall that he simply tilted his head at me in puzzlement. It didn’t compute.
And, heck, maybe it’s right to dismiss the concept, which probably is impossible to compare in mere theory.
But the best way to either debunk it or prove it right, of course, would be for the Royals to actually provide the improbable point of comparison.
▪ Manager Ned Yost is 59 and under contract through 2016. But he’s not sure whether he’d want to manage until that time or past it.
“I could go another three years, another two, another one,” he said. “Right now, I’m playing it by ear. I don’t know how long I’ll go. …
“My wife didn’t want me to come back this year, but this is a fun group to be around.”
But it’s hard being away from his family, he added, and Yost is conscious of his mortality.
“Your time on Earth,” he said, “is running out.”
▪ To this point, anyway, third baseman Mike Moustakas’ career has been marked by radical ups and downs.
That was epitomized by a 2014 season in which he both was optioned to Class AAA Omaha and enjoyed stardom by hitting a franchise-record five postseason home runs and making a diving catch over a dugout railing that was emblematic of his intensity and the Royals’ resolve.
He’s had support from all angles along the way to a time now that he hopes his career has stabilized. But one improbable source has been particularly sustaining and maybe was in his ear as he gave himself a clean slate to start the postseason.
“I remember my first year (2011), I was struggling and I got to second base against the Yankees,” he said. “And Derek Jeter said, ‘Hey, Moose, man, what’s going on?’ I was surprised Derek Jeter even knew who I was. …
“I said, ‘Ah, I’m doing alright, struggling a little bit.’
“He said, ‘Ah, dude, let me give you some advice: Can’t change what happened yesterday. It’s down in the books. All you can do is forget. The past is over with. Just focus on what’s at hand right now.’”
That was “pretty special,” Moustakas added, “and it really stuck with me coming from a guy like that.”
▪ Of all the quick impressions young players made on Yost when he joined the Royals in 2010, none was more immediate — or seemed more promising — than that made by catcher Salvador Perez.
“I told everybody he’d be an All-Star,” said Yost, a former big-league catcher himself. “I’ve never seen anybody like him: a big guy who’s athletic, his energy, his work ethic.
“When I (took over as manager) in May 2010, Sal was playing A ball. I wanted to bring him to the big leagues that year.”
Perez made his Royals debut the next summer — and now is coming off back-to-back All-Star appearances.
Not that Yost is proclaiming himself a visionary, exactly.
“All I know is if I’m walking down the street and there’s a dollar bill lying on the street, I know it’s a dollar bill,” he said. “If I’m walking down the street and it’s a 100 dollar bill, I recognize it’s a 100 dollar bill.
“Sal was a 100 dollar bill lying on the side of the street. I saw it the first second I laid my eyes on him.”