For a fleeting hour or so of one final afternoon Monday, the Royals reveled in their 2014 revival.
They basked in what was just about a literal glow from their diamond-encrusted American League championship rings.
They were transfixed by the AL pennant being hoisted at Kauffman Stadium for the first time in 29 years.
“It’s unbelievable,” third baseman Mike Moustakas said.
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Who’s to argue, even now?
Then after all the pomp and circumstance before a roaring sellout crowd of 40,085, Yordano Ventura sizzled in his first pitch, a vivid line of demarcation between that was then glory days and this is now.
But the transition has one little wrinkle best encapsulated in the form of Moustakas, whose 2014 postseason rerouted the trajectory of his erratic career.
Considering the way the young nucleus of the team thrived in the crucible of October, when Moustakas hit a franchise-record five playoff home runs to trump a sputtering regular season, sustaining what was absorbed is imperative.
So, paradoxically enough, even as it’s now time to let go of what’s been done, it also is crucial for Moustakas to demonstrate last fall remains within him — particularly for himself as a notoriously slow starter.
For one game, anyway, there seemed to be carryover and then some.
Reflecting a spring training regimen focused on hitting to left, Moustakas smacked his first career opposite-field home run and dropped a sacrifice bunt to help nudge along what would become the game-winning run in the Royals’ 10-1 win over the White Sox.
And, yes, the bunt attempt was on his own.
“I’ve grown up a lot playing this game; got humbled a lot last year,” said Moustakas, who got sent down to Class AAA Omaha mid-season. “And now I’m just trying to do what I can to help the team win, (whatever) that calls for.”
If that sounds trite, it’s actually true. Simplifying all of this into bite-size pieces is exactly how Moustakas reversed course and what he has to continue to do.
Time will tell, of course, whether the change of direction blossoms into a new narrative …
Just as it will reveal whether batting Moustakas second is an idea just wacky enough to work or destined to be a blooper.
But all these points, including Moustakas’ attitude about doing whatever it takes from at-bat to at-bat, seem entwined to manager Ned Yost.
Yost and others within the Royals’ administration believe that Moustakas’ mind got muddled by the numbers along the way to hitting .212 last season.
It’s not hard to understand the vicious cycle a bad start can trigger, especially for someone as intense as Moustakas, and he got in such a chasm early he found it hard to live in the moment at the plate.
“He had fought his average, he had fought his home runs, he had fought his RBIs,” Yost said. “(He) just felt all year long that he was underperforming and underachieving to his standards.
“And once the playoffs started, he forgot all about it.”
The blank slate, essentially, unclogged Moustakas, and in the heat of the playoffs he was a key contributor even if his average only was .231.
“It was a mindset that said, ‘You know what, I’m not fighting myself anymore,’” Yost said.
So to help keep Moustakas from fighting himself, the Royals are batting Moustakas second despite a wretched career OPS.
The idea is two-fold: to show confidence in him to stoke his own confidence and to prime the pump by getting him engaged early in the offensive game.
It’s certainly not an intuitive move, but it’s also not one that need be permanent to be effective.
And the main thing is more touchy-feely than logical:
Will it help Moustakas extend what he seemed to begin in the postseason, start this season well and thus promote having his mind right for the duration?
For one measly game, anyway, it all seemed to work.
Even if Moustakas struck out his first time up, he liked getting his head into the offense immediately because there’s not too much time to think.
And as the game went on, he got more patient and discriminating, points of emphasis this spring.
In fact, as Yost described it, he treated each at-bat like its own little game, seemingly slowing down all around him.
When he came up in the third, that meant squaring around for his sixth career bunt to move Alcides Escobar from second to third.
In the fifth, he homered to left-center on a 1-1 pitch — then was the first to shout down Chicago’s Jeff Samardzija when he plunked Lorenzo Cain on the next pitch.
“It didn’t look really right,” Moustakas said, who shrugged off his vociferous words as “just the heat of the moment.”
He’d later walk and rack up an infield hit on a chopper just after narrowly missing an extra-base hit down the right-field line.
Afterward, he’d say it’s just “game one,” perhaps an inadvertent reference to a postseason atmosphere that he felt surging through him even as he tries to move forward.
“Skip (Yost) told us yesterday once that ring ceremony’s over and once that flag’s raised, last year is over and now it’s a brand new season,” he said. “And you’ve got to go out and find a way to get back to where we were last year.”
Contradictory as that might sound, it’s all clear right now to Moustakas.