Tempting as it’s been to jab at the Royals’ single-season home-run record being jammed at a paltry 36 since 1985, honestly, there is plenty that’s special in Mike Moustakas’ pursuit of Steve Balboni’s record.
It’s not just that Moustakas seemingly inevitably will match and then break a record dwarfed by most teams in Major League Baseball: 19 franchises’ individual records are 50 or more.
(For further perspective, consider that players on teams that aren’t the Royals have hit 37 or more home runs 510 times — including Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton this year).
Cavernous Kauffman Stadium and all, that’s astounding.
So, sure, it’s way past time to purge this record and edge closer to the big-boy pants look of 40-plus that every other team can boast.
But the best part of the story isn’t just eclipsing a record that tracks with the lost generation of baseball here before the wonders of 2014 and 2015 were unfurled.
It’s that it is being accomplished by Moustakas, who like several other beloved and key players may be in his last season with the franchise, considering his opportunity to become a free agent after the season.
It’s being hatched by one of the cornerstones of the rebirth of the franchise.
And one who essentially stands for the entire spectrum of the revival: the blessing and burden of great expectations; the unsettling agony of knowing failure for perhaps the first times in his All-American life; contending with deep personal loss; the exhilaration of finding himself and helping his team reach the pinnacle of the game and, now, coming back from an injury to have the best season of his career and perhaps be part of another mesmerizing run.
Like so many of the other homegrown products that form the nucleus of this team, his life has flashed before your eyes over a decade from just after high school graduation to 13 months from turning 30.
Desperately seeking hope, perhaps you’ve tracked Moustakas since he was 18 years old and became the first official first-round pick of general manager Dayton Moore when he was selected second overall in the 2007 draft after hitting more home runs (52) than any player in California high school history.
Maybe you traced him from Idaho Falls to Omaha as he hit 84 minor-league home runs before being called up in 2011 as part of the great future-is-now wave for the Royals out of what had become the most abundant minor-league system in the game.
The kid who grew up with a batting cage in his front yard was a can’t-miss natural.
Only it wasn’t a seamless surge from there, for the group and particularly Moustakas.
By 2014, it was hard for fans and media to distinguish between growing pains and whether his promise would go unfulfilled as he was relegated back to Class AAA Omaha.
That was just one of the ways in what he likes to call a roller-coaster ride from then to now revealed so much of his sheer humanity … and has made his achievements all the more admirable.
After being humbled by the demotion, he would learn and profess that “failure brings experience” and demonstrate it with a club-record five home runs and the sprawling, iconic dugout-suite catch in the 2014 postseason.
He would display it in the touching way he expressed his love for his mother, Connie.
She was wearing his All-Star Game jersey the last time he saw her before she died from cancer in 2015.
“The first days after, I left her a ticket. I knew this would be her first stop. To come see me,” he said through tears and smiles in an interview with The Star then.
It shows up in the thoughtful way he came to see the fact that his birthday is on Sept. 11. Out of respect for the horrifying events of the day he turned 13, Moustakas no longer celebrates his birthday so much as he quietly acknowledges it.
As memorably as any other time, it was evident in his fire-and-brimstone role in the dugout during the Royals’ patented “keep-the-line moving” rally down 6-2 in the eighth inning in an elimination game at Houston on the way to winning the 2015 World Series.
That persona showed, too, when he missed most of last season with a torn ACL after his collision with Alex Gordon as each was in fevered pursuit of a foul ball.
It’s an episode he wished had never happened, but he found solace in that it allowed him to fully take part in the first few months of daughter Mila’s life after she was born to his wife, Stephanie, on Aug. 30.
But nothing connected life and baseball more than Jan. 22 and the piercing news of Yordano Ventura’s death.
Two days later, Moustakas was one of a handful of Royals who traveled to the Dominican Republic for Ventura’s funeral.
All of this, the good, the bad and the excruciating and exhilarating, is entwined with the story of the Royals over the last decade.
Much of this will be in Royals lore forever.
Moustakas is sincerely fiercely team-oriented. He doesn’t need a pedestal, maybe doesn’t even want one.
But as a microcosm of the story, it’s only fitting that he’ll soon stand on a distinct tier of his own with this record.
It’s something that reflects not merely a number but a transformation he has been instrumental in — and deserves to have live on tangibly.