September to Remember – The Kansas City Royals Are at it Again

By Jeremy Sickel

Geoff Ratliff, Editor

If you live in Kansas City or are a die-hard Royals fan such as myself, the current run they are making to close out the 2011 season might feel like deja vu. We all remember a similar run they made in 2008, going 18-8 in September to “charge” into 4th place in the AL Central.  Heading into the 2009 season, optimism for this team was at an all-time high with an 18-11 record out of the gate, only to crash down back to earth finishing with a 65-97 record on the year. This time has to be different right?

Unlike 2008, the 2011 version seems pretty much set in stone for the upcoming season, except for the addition of a couple starting pitchers; which are widely regarded around baseball as the missing pieces for this team to compete.

The 2008 squad had players such as Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, David DeJesus, Zack Greinke, Joakim Soria and Luke Hochevar, to name a few, who were supposed to have played a major part in the future of the organization.  But only six players that took the field at Kaufman Stadium that season are still with the club including Gordon, Butler, Soria and Hochevar; Kansas City’s version of Jeter, Posada, Rivera and Pettite…probably a stretch but the premise of the comparison is spot on.

Kansas Cityhas undergone unprecedented turn over the past few seasons, especially for a small market team, which in theory should be comprised mainly of young up and comers that have climbed their way through the system together. If this theory is correct, the Royals may have finally arrived ladies and gentleman.

The Royals’ minor league system has been ranked at or near the top of major league baseball for some time now. That talent is now finally making its way to the parent club and is actually posting some impressive numbers. Holdovers Gordon and Butler, along with the youthful injection of Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, mixed in with veterans Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera, have given the Royals a very viable offense to compete in the AL Central. Adding youngsters such as Johnny Giavotella, Alcides Escobar and Salvador Perez to this nucleus, gives the Royals’ organization a sense of stability it hasn’t had in years. Additionally, none is over the age of twenty seven, meaning that this could be the on-field product for many years to come.

This is why it feels astronomically different than it did in 2008 with the only remotely similar sentiment being that the Royals have the same issue that seems to plague them every year: starting pitching. This has haunted the Royals since the early to mid 90s. Sure there have been years where a player or two is successful from the bump – no one will ever forget Greinke’s 2009 season – but overall it has been atrocious.

Pundits in and around the game believe that it is absolutely paramount that the Royals invest money this offseason in improving their rotation. With the recent bad luck they have had with injuries to their starting pitchers in the minors and potential can’t miss prospects possibly missing, starting pitching is the missing link needed to bring this franchise back to the promised land.

If the Kansas City Royals can make the right moves this offseason to finally solidify the rotation, they could enjoy success reminiscent of the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays and make this a September to remember…better yet, a September to forget, putting the recent dark years behind them for good.

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