Isn’t it sad? The Kansas City Royals’ baseball season officially ended on July 13, 2012.
Okay, technically, the official season finale will be October 3 versus the Tigers at Kauffman Stadium. But in the real world—where Royals fans have been forced to live for decades— it ended on July 13.
On July 10th Kauffman Stadium had just hosted the Major League All-Star game won by the National Leaguers by an 8-0 score. Although the game (and Home Run Derby where the guy next to me was sound asleep for more than an hour) may have been the most boring events in sports history, Kansas City was on a high.
After at least a year of our patented/copyrighted Kansas City paranoia (“Will outsiders like us?” “Will our weather cooperate?” “Will they like our barbecue”?) we eventually concluded that we had pulled off a superb experience. We were like Sally Field after she won an Academy Award, “You like me, you really like me!”
Coming off the All-Star high, just three days later the Royals began the second half of the season against the White Sox. Sure, it was Friday the 13th. Sure, we were 10 games under .500 with a 37-47 mark, but we had faith our young guys were now starting to come together.
After all, the slogan for the Royals this year was “This is our time.”
The White Sox took an early 3-0 lead, but by the fourth inning the Royals were up 5-3. We led 7-6 entering the ninth inning, but Jonathon Broxton blew a chance for a save and we were tied 7-7 heading into extra innings. In the 12th inning the Sox scored, but we fought back to tie them 8-8. This was our time and our game.
However, in the 14th inning the Sox scored and we didn’t. We lost 9-8. In tennis we would have called it “Game, Set, Match!!” In baseball in Kansas City, we call it “Game, Series, Season.”
Losing a game like that is like watching the air slowly go out of a balloon. It’s worse than just a normal loss. It is like playing almost two games and coming up short. It was a season-killer kind of loss.
By July 14th Kansas Citians had pretty much written off the Royals (again) and began preparing for the Kansas City Chiefs’ upcoming season. Let’s face it, we have been going through the same ritual pretty much since 1985.
This year we have some high hopes for the Kansas City Chiefs. Last year we had a rash of serious injuries that really hurt the team. After a 37-10 blowout loss to the Jets in Week 14 head coach Todd Haley was fired. The team still finished the year at 7-9. Not bad considering safety Eric Berry was out for the year along with tight end Tony Moeaki. When you toss in Jamaal Charles gone for the year the team was really hurting.
The main reason for optimism this season? Often-maligned quarterback Matthew Brennan Cassel. I am genuinely convinced that Matt Cassel, 30, is a quality quarterback who will shine if wide receiver Duane Bowe can remove his head from his butt for the entire season.
The days of Bowe making a circus catch on one play and having concrete hands on a simple pass over the middle must end this year. The team was wise not to give him a gazillion dollar contract. In fact, even if Cassel is injured I have enough confidence that Brady Quinn can do an admirable job of leading this team. This is a guy who was a superstar in college (while Cassel wasn’t even a starter in college). He has all the tools to be successful if given the chance.
My two main concerns for this season? Head coach Romeo Crennel tops the list. Yes, he took over on an interim basis last season and did a fine job in the final three games of the season.
So why the concern? First, his head coaching record is 26-41. Sure most of that was with the pathetic Cleveland Browns, but an overall .388 winning percentage in a league specifically designed for every team to finish around .500 is not very good.
Secondly, many players on the Chiefs last year lobbied for Crennel to get the head coaching position. Sorry, but that is an awful way to select a head coach. Yes, comparing it to inmates picking the warden is not a stretch. Crennel is considered a “Players’ Coach,” which means to me the players will try to take advantage of him. Reality check: If you picked your boss would pick a tough one?
College students today go to Web sites that rate their professors before signing up for a class. Do you think they pick classes based on the most demanding professors where they might learn the most? No, they are looking for the easiest ones. Same with picking a coach.
My second main concern? The Chiefs top draft pick Dontari Poe. At 6-3 and 346 lbs. he was a Combine darling who played in obscurity at Memphis where he didn’t even make first team all-conference (and we are talking Conference USA, not exactly the SEC). Poe will be a project who will either be a consistent performer for years or a slacker the team will dump in a few seasons. He has the potential to be a star or the next Ryan Sims.
Despite my concerns about Crennel’s coaching abilities and Poe’s downsides, this is a team that is destined to make the playoffs this year. Overall, the Chiefs have the talent on both sides of the ball and it is time for them to deliver.
Maybe the Royals cannot say “This is our time” in 2012. But the Chiefs can. This will be their time.
Bottom Line’s John Landsberg writes a monthly sports column for KC Sports & Fitness Magazine.