Monday, April 4, 2011

Opening Weekend revisited

The first cut is the deepest. What a way to open up the 2011 season. The Royals are 3-1 on the strength of some late heroics in all three victories. Hell, we were one windgust from being 4-0. There was a lot of magic squeezed into this weekend and the optimism from Spring Training has been extended into another week.

So before you start pre-ordering those ALDS tickets against Baltimore, let's just sit back and enjoy this off day before the inevitable poo hits the fan.

I know that one weekend series is coming sometime in early May when the Royals are sitting around .500 and we go on that West Coast swing, drop eight of nine and the downward spiral begins. Maybe it won't come this year and the Royals will stick around .500 throughout the entire season. Look, if you aren't the least bit encouraged by this weekend, then boo on you.

The Royals did something this weekend that they haven't done in years, they made a bad bullpen pay dearly for their mistakes. They almost did it in all four games. The Angels bullpen couldn't find the strike zone and the Royals got to one of their perennial "thorns in our collective side", Fernando Rodney. I'm not ready to say "Game On." quite yet. In fact, that time will not come until this team is at least 10 games over .500 near the All Star break. I've learned my lesson in the past few seasons.

There is a different feel to this team in seasons past, though. The players are likeable and seem to really believe in each other. Look at this picture and try to tell me that this isn't a group that is ready to prove the naysayers wrong. Once again, this is not me trying to swing optimism to a fanbase on life support, but do you see Tim Collins' face? Frenchy looks like he just found out OBP has been eliminated as an officially tracked stat. Melky Cabrera looks like he's ready to hug a guy he met two weeks ago, which coincidentally would be the first time he hugged someone since childhood.

No statistical analysis needed in this post, because the Royals overcame two terrible starts by Kyle Davies and Bruce Chen and showcased a never-say-die attitude not seen around here since Tony Pena was taking showers with his clothes on.

Matt Treanor was picked up off the scrap heap from Texas and is currently my vote for Royals Player of the Week after some great defense behind the plate and hitting a walkoff homer in extras last week. Matt Treanor wasn't signed to be an offensive contributor, but rather a game caller and defensive specialist. As if the Jason Kendall signing needed to look worse, Treanor's play in the opening weekend was everything and more than the Royals expected when they pissed away six million dollars on Kendall's contract.

Our bullpen? Skeet, skeet, skeet. Timmay Collins and Aaron Crow were dynamite. I have never been more excited to see relievers come in to games. I had goose bumps when Crow came in and shut down the middle of the Angels' order late on Opening Day. Tim Collins seems to strike people out with his sheer awesomeness. Nate Adcock and Jeremy Jeffress didn't perform as well as KKKKKrow and Collins, but they should be nice pieces to this bullpen in the middle to late innings if/when our starters go to hell. Back to Crow and Collins, all I have to say is man crush. I think it's safe to say that if we can get leads into the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, this team can be dangerous. But that's a big "if", especially with our paper thin rotation.

But as I sit and type this on the first of many off-day Mondays, I can't help but wonder what might happen if this team can simply outscore opponents. Alex Gordon had a great opening weekend (minus Opening Day). Jeff Francouer did his best Jeff Francouer impression, but still got some big hits. Kila was clutch all weekend and Billy was being Billy by the time Saturday and Sunday rolled around.

Don't worry about when the regression to the mean will happen. Just realize that this team in in first place and two games over .500 for the first time since May of 2009. Let's have some fun while we can. Oh yeah, the White Sox are in town this week. Let's keep it going boys.