"Greinke into the windup. Swing and miss! The Kansas City Royals have done the impossible and are the World Champions of baseball!"
The words had been going through my head all night long. I don't think that I slept a wink. It had to have been a dream! I sat up groggily in my bed and looked around the room, blue and white streamers hung from all corners of the room. I saw a poster on the wall exclaiming the Royals to be American League champions. So they won the pennant, okay. But could this team have really won the world series? I thought back to just eight months ago when nearly every publication was predicting this team to finish dead last in the division. I did recall an article in baseball america that predicted the Royals to have won of the top rotations in baseball. Man, they were right.
Unbelievably Greinke with his fully developed changeup was able to post a sub 2 era for the season with 23 wins. The guy is a lock for back to back Cy Youngs. But the truly incredible thing about the rotation was the way in which everything seemed to fall into place. After giving Royals fans a scare to start the season, Gil Meche was able to put together a healthy season, while making the sort of Chris Carpentar jump that GM Dayton Moore was hoping for when he signed him to a club record deal. After 2009 I couldn't have imagined that Meche would post 17 wins in 2010. Even more surprising than Meche, was Hochevar's 2010. He finally lived up to that top pick potential when he posted an era of 3.46 for the season and won 15 games. Bannister provided a sub 4 era and won 12 games. Davies started the season with typical Kyle Davies results and when the Royals were unable to deal for a starter at the deadline Aaron Crow answered the call. Crow was just filthy down the stretch and provided the spark that was needed to win a tight AL Central race.
The starter's work would have been irrelevant though had it not been for the resurgence of the Kansas City bullpen. It just seemed like all season long the Royals were able to find quality arms to fill the back end. Soria led the league in saves and was virtually unhittable down the stretch and in the playoffs. But also, Cruz returned to form and posted a 2.08 era, Farnsworth was average in middle relief and Tejeda and Colon were amongst the league leaders in holds. All throughout the season players like Carlos Rosa, Blake Wood, Louis Coleman, Brandon Sisk and Chris Hayes were able to step in when injuries struck. Wood and Hayes even stuck and were on the postseason roster and were critical down the stretch. Wood with his power stuff and Hayes with his groundball rate. One Royals blogger even nicknamed the duo fire and earth. Wood fire because of his fastball, and Hayes Earth because that is were the ball is going after contact is made.
One game! That's all that separated the boys in blue from the Minnesota Twins after the Royals swept the Twins in the last week of the season. Fortunately, the Royals continued their streak and took 3 out of 4 from Tampa Bay, while the Twins continued to collapse allowing the Royals to edge them out by one game for the division title.
Had the Royals not gotten off to such a slow start offensively perhaps this late rally wouldn't have been needed. The Royals started out just 10-15 in April. The good news though is that is when Alex Gordon finally decided it was time to live up to the hype. He started out the season on a rehab assignment in triple A and then got off to a slow start in his first couple of weeks back, many fans were even wanting his starting job to be handed over to Alberto Callaspo. But then things just clicked and Gordon erupted. Gordon finished the season with 26 homers and 92 rbis with a triple slash of .286/.374/.512. But what people will never forget is Gordon's walkoff home run in game five of the ALDS off of Papelbon. It wasn't Gordon's longest home run of the year but it didn't just wrap around the Pesky pole either. The sight of Papelbon bowing his head as the ball left the bat will forever be etched into my memory.
It was a good thing that Gordon was able to breakout because Lord knows the offense needed it in 2010. Other than Gordon there was of course Billy Butler who batteled all season long for the batting title with Joe Mauer. Unfortunately Mauer claimed it in the last week of the season, but that's okay, I'm sure Butler was happier with a division title. David DeJesus posted a normal season, Ankiel was in 2008 form, and Scott Podsednik was able to repeat his 2009 performance, that is until he was injured in early August. Luckily for the Royals though David Lough was ready to step into the fold. Lough didn't post all-star numbers in left, but he was able to provide solid contact with an occasional homerun or stolen base that always seemed to come at a key moment. Needless to say he was an instant fan favorite in Kansas City. In September and throughout the playoffs a dedicated group of women even nicknamed themselves "Lough's Ladies" and wore pick t-shirts to every game with his face printed on to the fronts.
As the offense struggled early on and Gordon became a fixture at third Callaspo overtook Getz at second. Getz stayed on the roster as a defensive replacement and pinch runner and did an excellent job at it making diving stops in the late innings and stealing bases in tight games. Catcher was the weakest spot offensively, but there is a lot to be said for the work Jason Kendall did with the pitching staff in 2010 and when Pena was traded at the deadline for a left handed reliever Manny Pina was called up to the Major League roster after having a breakout performance in the minors.
The other major development for the offense during the 2010 season was when Guillen hit the DL in late April. Kila Ka'aihue was called up in his spot and Trey Hillman implemented a platoon between him and Josh Fields. However, it wasn't long before Ka'aihue was the everyday man. After this happened the offense performed at a respectable level for the rest of the season. At the beginning of the year it looked as though the order would have no pop, but by the end of the season Gordon, Butler, Ankiel, and Ka'aihue had all hit over 20 home runs. From the All-star break on the Royals played over .600 baseball and in the end finished with 89 wins.
The team was a huge underdog in the first round against the Eastern division champion Boston Red Sox. But the Royals dispatched them in five games after a dramatic come from behind victory in the final inning. The next round the Royals faced the New York Yankees and older Royals fans were reminded of what was once a great rivalry in a fiercely competitive series. Farnsworth was even ejected in game three after throwing at Alex Rodriguez. Tensions were high after the pitch and while no punches were thrown cameras revealed that Farnsworth was able to spit on A-Rod's ear while both were being restrained. The Royals won the series in six and thanks to Zack Greinke not allowing a run in either of his two starts. In the final game Hochevar struggled but Crow was able to pitch 4 shut out innings of relief handing the ball to Soria for the games final three outs. I think Yankees captain Derek Jeter is still surprised that the 65 mph curveball didn't hit him on that strike three looking to end the game.
In the World Series Greinke continued to dominate, but the offense really came alive. Butler hit over .500 for the five game series and Gordon hit a towering drive in the first inning of game one that hit off the sports bar in right field at the New K. The tone was set in the Royals never looked back. The Royals scored twenty-seven runs in five games off of a Giants staff that was believed by some to be the top rotation in baseball.
I can't believe the season is over, but I can't wait for 2011. There is a lot to be excited for in Royals land. Moustakas, Hosmer, and Myers are on the horizon and top pitching prospect Mike Montgomary could push for the rotation. Not to mention the fact that the Royals just signed Bryce Haper for a club record $11.5 million dollar bonus. He only won the triple crown in rookie league Idaho Falls. The Royals are defending Champs and the core will all be back. It is a Royal Revival.