The 2017 season did not end the way many of us had hoped for. The disappointment of the last two seasons that followed the unforgettable campaigns in 2014 and 15′ may have clouded our memory of what it was like to be a Royals fan in the years prior. Before the rise of what became our beloved core group of players, it felt like there was no end in sight to the countless years of bad baseball Royals’ fans had to endure. That all changed shortly after the arrival of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Alcides Escobar.
Early in their careers, it never crossed my mind that this day would come, the potential end of an era. It’s devastating to think that any of these guys may not be a Royal come Opening Day of the 2018 season. After all, the fans and players alike coined the phrase “Forever Royal”. However, it’s important that no matter what, we as a fan base never forget how truly special this core was not only to the organization and its success but the city itself.
The Early Years
If you want a clear example of how important these Royals were to revive the fan base in Kansas City, look no further than the correlation between the average attendance and clubs record. In 2002, the Royals lost 100 games. The average attendance that season was 16,334, the lowest since 1975. Kansas City would have three more seasons with a hundred or more losses before 2007, never once averaging over 20,000 in attendance during that time.
In back to back drafts, the Royals selected Mike Moustakas with the second overall pick in 2007, and Eric Hosmer as the third overall pick in 2008. They quickly made their way through the minor league system, both making their major league debuts in 2011. On May 5th, Hosmer made his debut against the Oakland Athletics. The highly touted prospect struck out twice, walked twice and stole a base in the 3-2 loss. That game was recorded as having the second largest crowd of the season.
Mike Moustakas would get his debut shortly after. On June 10th, Moustakas got his first major league hit against Ervin Santana of the Angels of Anaheim. He would finish 1-3 with a run scored in a 4-2 victory. Moustakas went on to play in 89 games for Kansas City in 2011, finishing the season with five home runs, thirty RBIs, and a season batting average of .263.
In December of 2010, the Kansas City Royals decided to trade away Cy Young winner Zack Greinke to the Milwaukee Brewers. In exchange for Greinke, the Royals acquired Jake Odorizzi, Jeremy Jeffress, Lorenzo Cain, and Alcides Escobar.
Lorenzo Cain was subsequently sent down to the Triple-A Omaha Stormchasers, becoming the starting center fielder for the Royals in 2013. In 115 games (106 starts), Cain hit .251/.310/.348 with 4 HR, 46 RBI, and 14 stolen bases. In 2011, Alcides Escobar hit .254 with 4 HR, 46 RBI, and an impressive 26 stolen bases.
At the time these two players began their careers in Kansas City, nobody knew how essential these guys would be moving forward. Lorenzo Cain was honored as the ALCS MVP in 2014, also playing in the All-Star game in 2015. Escobar would go on to win the ALCS MVP in 2015, as well as nab a Gold Glove award.
Ride of a Lifetime
Right around the time all four of these core players arrived in Kansas City, things began to turn around. Attendance spiked to 21,000 on average for the next three years. Then 2014 came. It started out relatively average, with the team hitting a major slump before the All-Star break going 9-17. Before the game on July 22, Raul Ibanez, who joined the team only three weeks earlier after being released by the Angels called a players-only team meeting to discuss the priorities of the team. In the games following that meeting, the Royals caught fire, going 25-9 between then and August 27.
On September 26, the Royals clinched a playoff berth for the first time 1985. They began their incredible postseason run by defeating the Oakland Athletics in miraculous fashion, orchestrating a comeback for the ages that ended with a walk-off single by Salvador Perez. They would go on to sweep both the Los Angeles Angels and the Baltimore Orioles to become the first team in Major League history to win their first 8 postseason games in a row. The Royals went on to face the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. We all are aware how that ended.
Although the 2014 season ended in absolute heartbreak, the Royals and the fans both knew what 2015 was all about. There was some unfinished business we had to take care of. Attendance at Kauffman soared to an incredible 33,000 on average every single night. The Royals wasted no time, making big-time trades for pitcher Johnny Cueto and veteran Ben Zobrist. The team won their first AL Central title and went on to face the Houston Astros in the ALDS. In a potential elimination game, against all odds, the Royals rallied from down four runs, eventually defeating the Astros in five games.
Once again, with their backs against the wall, the Royals were able to mount a comeback victory against one of baseball’s premier pitchers in David Price. They defeated the Toronto Blue Jays in six games to face the New York Mets in the World Series, and the rest is history. Our Royals won their second world series in franchise history and became the first team since the 1989 Oakland Athletics to win the World Series after having lost the series in the previous season. In doing so, they fulfilled the dreams of so many Royals’ fans, young and old. Kansas City was officially a baseball town.
A Sea of Blue
The World Series parade on November 3rd was unlike anything this town has ever seen. School was canceled, work was put on hold, fans were stopping on the highway leading into downtown and actually leaving their cars. It seemed like every person in Kansas City was there to share in the celebration with their boys in blue. Some estimations of the crowd size were expected at around 800,000. Quite literally a sea of blue descended upon the downtown area, waiting to get a glimpse of their favorite hero riding by in the motorcade, or to hear Johnny Gomes impassioned speech at Union Station. Some of us had waited our whole lives for a moment like this, and it is a moment that I and many others will never forget.
Thank You For the Memories
It’s hard to say goodbye. But unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. Although it hurts to think about a future without any of these guys, I can’t help but smile when I think about all the incredible moments that we all got to be apart of. So with that being said, thank you Hos. Thank you, Moose, Lo Cain, and Esky. Thank you for giving your all for this team and this city day in and day out. I wish you all nothing but the best heading forward, wherever that may be. Thank you for the memories that will last a lifetime. In our hearts, you will always be Forever Royal.