Disappointing Season Ends
By Jeff Montgomery
As the 2016 Royals season came to an end, I found myself reflecting on the year looking for a good word to describe the season and decided the best word was ... disappointing. Some other words came to mind as well. More extreme words like devastating and crushing. Although some Royals fans were crushed and devastated by the fact that our Boys in Blue are not in the postseason for the third consecutive October, I think disappointing is the best word to describe the season.
The past two trips to the World Series, with last year’s trip being capped off with the largest parade in the history of our city has certainly elevated everyone’s level of expectation. Only two years of success has erased the memory of two decades of struggles the team endured while building the current model.
The disappointment is certainly warranted as this year’s Opening Day lineup had eight of nine starters returning from last year’s Opening Day lineup with the only change being Raymond Fuentes in right field in place of oft-injured Alex Rios.
After the first few weeks of games, it was easy to believe that a third consecutive postseason was eminent. The Royals won 12 of their first 18 games and were not even clicking on all cylinders. They were winning games in late innings and proving that you were going to have to get 27 outs to beat them as they were never out of the game.
Memorial Day weekend saw some of the most dramatic wins since the Wild Card win over the A’s, and last year’s comeback against the Astros in the Divisional Series. There was good reason to expect more postseason magic this fall.
As the Royals limped into the All-Star break, there was still reason for hope and Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez provided a much-needed boost of confidence as they performed remarkably on the big stage. It would be the month of July that would eventually dent the team’s chances of defending their Central Division title, as only seven wins would appear in the win column and the Cleveland Indians were unconscious for a big part on the month.
Danny Duffy’s 16-strikeout gem on August 1 against Tampa Bay seemed to turn the entire season around as the calendar changed to a new month. The outstanding play during August had everyone once again thinking about a possible Wild Card and another postseason.
This was all about the time that key players like Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon were getting healthy and catching fire along with a red-hot Kendrys Morales. Unfortunately Cain would not be able to stay healthy after injuring his left wrist and essentially ending his season.
Although the Royals had what everyone identified as a favorable schedule during the stretch run, it was a homestand that opened with a four-game series against the Oakland A’s that would eventually be a momentum killer as they were swept by the struggling A’s. This was a series that everyone thought the Royals had a chance to sweep and not be swept based on the way the A’s were playing as they came to town.
For the fourth year in a row the defending World Series Champion would be home watching the postseason.
As disappointing as the 2016 campaign was, it is easy to be optimistic about the future of the ball club. With an entire off-season to get healthy, rest, get stronger and prepare for next year the team will return a core of players that has a winning DNA.
The top four in the starting rotation looks to be pretty well set and it is almost a given that Dayton Moore and company will bring in some interesting candidates to round out the rotation.
It has been proven that a lock-down bullpen is essential for the Royals to win and there were some key players who had limited time in 2016 because of injury, most importantly those were Wade Davis and Luke Hochevar. A rebuilt bullpen is essential but an obvious void the organization realizes needs to be addressed.
It should be a fun ride!
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