During the fall, the best place to be is the Midwest. The weather is at its best. The colors and cool breezes make for a perfect setting for sporting events.
The NFL is getting into full swing, college football season is starting to get some early classic matchups and the high school football regular season is almost halfway over. The one thing lacking in the sports scene this fall is the possibility of the Royals making another playoff run. The September run everyone was hoping for never came about.
It has been a great five years with the present nucleus of players that includes homegrown players Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez and Whit Merrifield. They have become good major league players. It was also fun to watch the organization make great trades to acquire young players Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain. Both became key components to two American League championships and a World Series.
During those five years Alex Gordon was the guy the franchise kept faith in to provide leadership and timely play and to help grow the Kansas City Royals into the talk of baseball after a three-decade drought. Homegrown pitchers Danny Duffy and Kelvin Herrera gave the franchise hope to reach the big goal of 2015.
In sports, continuous success is difficult to accomplish – especially in the game of baseball. It is particularly difficult for small market teams due to restricted money structure dictated by Major League Baseball. This year’s Royals team was always a .500 team at best. They were not able to compete on the same financial level as the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, Cubs or at a lesser level the Cardinals. All the small market teams have to go through a time of rebuilding because they cannot retain the homegrown players they have developed for longer than five years in the majors.
The Houston Astros were a 100-game-a-year loser just three or four years ago but they were willing to take the hit and develop great young talent that they can retain for five competitive years. It is not a small market but baseball is finally becoming a player in a football dominated state. The Royals are at that crossroads we dreaded. Eric Hosmer will probably be playing in New York or Los Angeles next year. Moose will be wearing a Red Sox jersey and Lorenzo Cain will be playing centerfield for a big market team that needs an All-Star level middle outfielder. These are just the facts. As a Royal fan, I would be happy if the Royals organization could keep just one of the three players mentioned.
The local media has been hard on Dayton Moore for the trades he made to try to get this year’s team back to the playoffs. The trades did not turn out as a thing of beauty. However, Moore and the organization made the right move to try to make one more run this year.
The core players of the team had a bad season this year. My fear early was that the bat speed of Gordon was heading south. It has been brutal to watch a great player fall so fast. Over the last six years, when Gordon was successful, the team was successful.
Alcides Escobar has always been an offensive mystery, and 2017 was another year in that category. Gordon and Escobar have been so good defensively that it made up for weaker areas, but this year their offensive performances were so bad that they did not balance out for the team.
The starting pitching was below average all year. Ian Kennedy was a huge disappointment. He became a home run derby pitcher. Danny Duffy had physical problems all year. Nathan Karns did not make the call this year because of an injury. Jason Hammel was up and down like a yo-yo. Jason Vargas was lights out the first half of the season but lost control of his curveball the second half of the season.
The bullpen went from the greatest in baseball history to an accident waiting to happen. Joakim Soria did not pitch up to the standards the organization hoped for when they acquired him last year. Kelvin Herrera is not the type of personality to be a top-notch closer. He is made for seventh- or eighth-inning situations. He does not have the killer instinct of a bulldog closer.
The 2017 season was over Aug. 25-27 when the Cleveland Indians swept them three straight games, all shutouts. The rebuilding years will begin in 2018 and hopefully the organization with make smart moves to acquire young talent who can be developed to get them back to the top of baseball soon. Thirty years was too long to wait. It was a great RUN with a great group of guys who put Kansas City back on the national sporting map.
• Gumpy’s Foundation will support a fundraiser on Sunday, Oct. 8 at Adams Pointe Golf Club for the Hope for the Holidays Project. Two former Blue Springs students will benefit from this project – the Jennifer Ireland Foundation and Lou Shepherd, who played football for Blue Springs High School and the University of Missouri. The goal of this organization is to create multi-functioning revenue for local charities each year. The event starts at 8 a.m. and will include a 5K run, golf tournament and live music event. You can register at GO!toberfest.
• My quote of the week comes from Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan: “The tendency of a fastball pitcher is to muscle up and do want he needs to do. He winds up lunging and losing the rhythm to muscle the ball in there. Everybody has limits. You just must learn what your own limits are and deal with them accordingly.”
– Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at email@example.com.