Before the Cubs we were the feel-good story of major league
baseball - plucky overachievers who surprised a lot of people by winning the
World Series in 2015. Now we get less respect than Rodney Dangerfield's ghost.
Such is the plight of the 2015-champion Kansas City Royals,
who retreated to 81-81 mediocrity last season after their magic run to the year
before. Now they are just another team trying to work its way back to the top,
and the Indians' surge to the top of the division makes that job all the more
Lots of little things went wrong last season. Injuries. The
power bullpen arms that transformed the game in 2015 were absent. Even with
wunderkind Danny Duffy (12-3, 3.51 ERA) leading the rotation, the Royals gave
up 73 more runs than they did the previous year.
Duffy is back, backed up by Ian Kennedy and Jason Vargas
(recovering from 2015 Tommy John surgery). But the rotation suffered a blow
when fireballer Yordano Ventura was killed in a January auto accident in his
native Dominican Republic.
The bullpen which backboned back-to-back American League
pennants has been transformed since the salad days two years ago, and former
setup man Kelvin Herrera is the new closer as manager Ned Yost shuffles other
bodies around to try to re-create the magic.
Yost figures his team will score more runs this season, and
he loves his outfield of (left to right) Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Paulo
And no one doesn't like infield corners Eric Hosmer at first
and third baseman Mike Moustakas.
But books don't much like the Royals' chances of vaulting
past Detroit and Cleveland in a decent American League Central. KC is +1150 to
win the division, 25/1 to win the American League and 50/1 to snag another
There is tremendous pressure on Yost to get the Royals off
to a fast start this season. Ownership which allowed the GM to increase payroll
last season didn't like the return it didn't get on its investment, and the
budget has been trimmed for 2017.
Most books have the Royals at about 81.5 wins this season,
and a slow start followed by a mid-season fire sale of some key free agents
could pay off big time for under players.
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