If you write about baseball long enough someone is sure to ask you to make a prediction and if you’ll follow my advice you won’t do it. I have at least gotten smart enough to say “I don’t know” when people ask me how the Royals are going to do in 2016. I didn’t know they were going to the World Series in 2014 and I sure didn’t know they were going to win it in 2015.
And here’s one more thing I didn’t know at the time; even though they finished 71-91 in 2011, the Royals’ run of success actually started that year.
Rustin Dodd, the beat writer who covers the Royals for The Star, reminded me of that when he wrote a story about Eric Hosmer making his major-league debut in May 2011.
Now guess who else made their big-league debuts with the Royals in 2011; Salvador Perez, Mike Moustakas and Danny Duffy.
Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain played their first games in a Royals uniform in 2011; although Cain didn’t have much impact that season because he only played six games.
In 2011 Alex Gordon became the Royals’ regular left fielder; he went from 55 games there in 2010 to 147 in 2011.
And Greg Holland got his first big-league save in 2011.
So here’s my point: by 2011 general manager Dayton Moore and the Royals organization had put together a team of eventual All-Stars, Gold Glove winners and World Series champions, but most of us — and that includes me — weren’t smart enough to see it.
In 2011 a whole lot of Royals fans were still calling for Moore to be fired.
If someone had held a vote among Royals fans and decided to abide by its outcome, we probably would have screwed things up by getting rid of the guy who was putting this team together.
Fans are impatient; smart teams aren’t.
Smart teams have a game plan and stick with it; dumb teams keep tearing up the blueprint and starting over every few years even though it takes a few years (or longer) for any plan to work.
I once walked around Kauffman Stadium asking every player and coach I ran into how long it took them to figure things out in the big leagues. I limited my sample size by only asking guys who had careers of 10 years or more, because I assumed they had figured things out if they managed to stick around for at least decade.
The most common answer I got was three or four years.
It took players that long to figure out how to prepare for games, what to look for when they reviewed scouting reports or video, who to trust and who not to trust; basically, it took three or four years to figure out what it took to be a successful big-league ballplayer.
So if those veteran big-leaguers were right and the core of the Royals made it to the big leagues (or at least to the Royals) in 2011; do the math and you see these Royals players were right on time.
And before we start expressing our opinions on who should be fired, hired or traded, remember; the Royals reached a turning point in 2011 — and most of missed it.
I know I did.