All right, I have to admit it, this one hurts.
Saying goodbye to Mike Moustakas is tough.
I hated to say goodbye to Eric Hosmer in the offseason, but we all knew that was coming.
Lorenzo Cain, who has the best smile in baseball this side of Salvy Perez, was another player I admired and hoped would remain in a Kansas City Royals uniform, but we all knew that was not going to happen.
When Moustakas went unnoticed throughout the offseason and re-signed with the Royals, I was thrilled. He is the leader, the heart and soul, the fire to Alex Gordon’s ice, that made the team click in 2014 and 2015.
If the team needed a kick in the butt, Moose was there to do it.
I could see him becoming a leader, an example to all the newbies who are now wearing Royal blue, but that hope disappeared last weekend when he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers – where he was once again reunited with Cain.
Those two are in the thick of a playoff battle and they deserve it because they are All-Star caliber players who made the Royals one of the most popular teams in all of baseball during those memorable World Series seasons.
I am disappointed that Moustakas was traded while the team was on the road. We all felt like last week’s series against Minnesota would be his last in a Royals uniform, but we could hold on to that elusive dream that the trade deadline would come and go and Moose would still be patrolling third base at The K.
The man who holds Royals records for home runs in a single season (38) and a single postseason (5) is gone.
And I’m bummed out.
Because I am an old dinosaur, I can recall the team’s first edition of the glory days. From 1976 to 1985 the Royals were in the playoff hunt every year and appeared in two World Series – losing to Philadelphia in 1980 and beating St. Louis in 1985.
Then came the playoff drought – a drought that tested the mettle of all true Royals fans. It was not until that stunning, surprising, memorable 2014 season that the Royals could even think of making the playoffs.
And players like Cain, Hosmer, Moustakas, Greg Holland and Yordano Ventura gave us enough thrills to last a lifetime. But, thankfully, we only needed to wait another year until the Royals won their second World Series title in team history.
Now, we’re experiencing another rebuilding process. This team might end up being the worst in franchise history – from a win-loss point of view – and it’s tough to watch, especially after the unbridled joy we experienced back in those back-to-back playoff campaigns.
I can still feel that wonderful stinging sensation in my eyes from Perez dumping a bottle of champagne over my head – just like Buddy Biancalana and Dan Quisenberry did more than 30 years ago.
To paraphrase Bogie’s memorable line to Ingrid Bergman in my favorite movie, “Casablanca,” “We’ll always have 2014 and 2015.”
Will we ever get to walk off into the sunset after another World Series celebration? That is a good question, that right now, simply does not have an answer.
– Bill Althaus is a sports writer and columnist for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-350-6333. Follow him on Twitter: @AlthausEJC