Could the Royals be this year’s version of the 2002 Angels?
In 2002, Anaheim won 99 regular-season games and beat the Giants in seven games in the World Series.*
*Three memories from that World Series: The Rally Monkey, Barry Bonds missing his best shot at a World Series title and Dusty Baker’s son nearly getting run over in his duties as bat boy.
Royals announcer Rex Hudler, who called games for the 2002 Angels, certainly sees similarities.
“Home-grown talent, that’s the model of championship baseball,” Hudler said. “Can you grow it yourself? The Angels have won one World Series in 50 years and the ’02 team got it. They had a bunch of home-grown guys. They had a plan.”
Hudler rattled off some of the names of players developed by the Angels: Tim Salmon, Garret Anderson, Bengie Molina, Troy Glaus, Jarrod Washburn and John Lackey.
“All these guys were homegrown, just like Dayton (Moore, the Royals GM) has here. It’s fun to see those guys evolve,” Hudler said. “Once they made the playoffs, everyone wrote them off: ‘Oh, you’ll get swept by the Yankees.’ They took care of the Yankees in the first round and then they took care of Minnesota and then it’s on to the World Series. Bring it. And they got hot. There’s no reason the Kansas City Royals can’t do this.”
The pessimistic Royals fan (and there have to be a few around, right?) may ask when some of their team’s young players will develop into productive major leaguers.
“A baseball player, it’s not like another sport where they go right from high school or whatever into the pros. Baseball it is a tough sport and it’s more mental,” Hudler said. “It typically does take guys two, three years — to figure out how to win. First of all, you’re trying to survive, you’re trying to compete. They went through the first couple of years like that and last year they finally figured out hey look we can do this.
“We know how to do it, it takes time and it takes perseverance. It’s great to see all these prospects that Dayton had to acquire start to play the game and start to mature. It’s been fun to watch.”
Other reasons why Hudler is excited for the upcoming season: the Royals bullpen, which had the American League’s best ERA, and the defense, which includes Gold Glove winners Alex Gordon, Salvy Perez and Eric Hosmer.
Hudler also likes that the Royals won’t have any open competitions this spring among the position players.
“You go into a camp and all the positions are already taken on the team, that is special. When you’re a player and you’re in one of those back-up positions like I was, it’s not a great position to be in,” Hudler said
“Whenever you have a championship team, most of those teams are already made going into spring training. Every position is taken. And I like that, especially from a fan’s point of view.”