Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Still a believer!

Originally posted Sept. 21, from the depths of Royals despair.

This is just getting to be too much. God really really really hates them, and I don't know why. So, today in class as I dreaded going out in the freezing pouring rain, I wrote this.

OF Reggie Sanders
1B Doug Mientkiewicz
3B Mark Teahen
2B Mark Grudzielanek
OF David DeJesus
Mgr. Buddy Bell

The list reads like the Royals' best possible lineup card, capped with the name of manager Buddy Bell.
Power and timing from Sanders and Teahen. Spark and energy from DeJesus and Grudzielanek. Performance under pressure from Mientkiewicz. Leadership and poise from the whole group.
But it's not KC's dream team lineup. Instead, it's a list of men being poked, prodded, tested, sutured, mended, rested and rehabbed.
Sanders' season ended in August due to a bum knee. Mientkiewicz had bad nerves, literally, and needed an operation. Teahen played through a shoulder problem all season before announcing on September 8th that he'd undergo season-ending surgery as well. September 19 spelled the end for Grud as he pulled a groin in the third inning. The next night, the team took a double shot of bad news: DeJesus has a potentially season-ending thumb contusion, and, worse yet, manager Buddy Bell's doctors discovered a growth near his tonsil, and he will miss the season's final ten games to undergo testing in Arizona.
Whew! That's quite a list for a struggling ballclub, or any team for that matter. This cavalcade of injuries comes as the Royals are trying to achieve two major goals: avoid losing 100 games, and play spoiler for contenders like the Twins and the Tigers.
The KC pitching staff has also been working short handed, with inexperienced youngsters being tossed into the mix to fill the gaps left by the likes of Scott Elarton, who has missed the entire 2nd half due to a shoulder surgery. The bullpen right now can be likened to a fishing boat with a hole in the hull: sure, it kinda sorta floats, but it's nothing you'd trust your family -- or your ballclub's future -- with.
So what's next for the downtrodden Royals? I don't know of any team who can lose five major offensive producers who also have excellent leadership qualities, and still succeed. For them to continue to battle as they have been in the last month would be the noblest struggle in all of baseball this year. The fate of the AL central rests entirely in the hands of a young, scared, inexperienced, and leaderless team.
100 losses? Maybe. But that's not what the Royals Nation needs right now. Instead, they need new leaders. Ryan Shealy. Andres Blanco. Luke Hudson. Shane Costa. Paul Bako, for that matter. They all need to step forward and show that this team has not thrown in the towel. I, for one, have not either.

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