Entering this weekend, I had a twinkle of hope running through my head. With a three-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers, the Royals could find themselves just eight (yes, EIGHT) games out of the division race.
Two 4-3 losses to the Tigers on Friday and Saturday night quickly pissed all over that twinkle of hope in my head.
If there's anything to be gained from these losses, it's the fact that the Royals have played two outstanding games against the old, overpaid cream of the AL Central's crop, the Detroit Tigers. Friday night's game was outstanding. Seeing Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer, Johnny Giavotella and Mike Moustakas lead a three-run comeback in the late innings had every Royals fan drooling all over the place at the thought of the same scenario playing out over the next decade. The energy shown by that group of young players on Friday night had me tricked into thinking it was a playoff game. Gio pumping his fist as he drove in Butler to open up the scoring was perhaps the greatest foreshadowing we've seen here since Tony Pena belted out "we believe" after Ken Harvey hit his famous homer in extras in 2003.
The series can be salvaged with a win on Sunday, but a loss puts the final nail in the coffin on a not quite lost 2011 season.
When people look back on the 2011 season in 25 years, they may see yet another 90+ loss season. When I look back on it, I'll view it as a metamorphosis, when the Royals finally cleansed a roster full of castoffs and mistake free players, turning over the leaf to a new era in Royals baseball.
Let's just look at how the roster, especially the lineup, has changed since opening day:
RF- Jeff Francouer (still here, supposed part of the future)
CF- Melky Cabrera (still here, hopefully a stop gap)
LF- Alex Gordon (still here, part of the future)
3B- Wilson Betemit (gone)
SS- Alcides Escobar (still here, part of the future)
2B- Chris Getz (still here, not part of the future)
1B- Kila Ka'aihue (still in the system, not part of KC's future)
DH- Country Breakfast (still here, part of the future)
C- Matt Treanor (still here, not part of the future)
The roster has been cleansed of 1/3 of those guys and now the Royals offensive lineup doesn't have a single player over the age of 27. Giavotella has mercifully replaced Chris Getz, Mike Moustakas is up, Hosmer is up, Duffy is up.
The roster turnover has only just begun in my mind. Soon we'll see the likes of Mike Montgomery, Sal Perez, Lorenzo Cain, David Lough and others grace the green grass of Kauffman Stadium and you'll start to see the team of the future forming in front of your eyes.
So stick out 2011. Stick out the one-run heartbreakers, the blown saves, the swings and misses on low and away sliders and the occasional bobbled ball. I've been telling people to get on the bandwagon for about a year now. All that's left is to take the first step and let your guard down. These guys can play and you can tell they are hungry to restore pride and glory to this downtrodden franchise and its masochistic fan base.
The future is here and it isn't just one player. It's several players. The new generation of Royals baseball to quench the thirst of the lost generation of Royals fans. We are thirsty and soon, we shall drink.