Wednesday, April 8, 2009

5 reasons why the Royals aren't this year's Rays

If there's one thing nearly every sports writer has in common, it's that they have all proclaimed the Royals to be this year's Tampa Bay Rays. Well, as a lifelong citizen of Kansas City, I can tell you that this year's Royals aren't going to sniff the success that the Rays had. It pains me to say it. But here are 5 sobering facts that point to the bottom side of .500:

1. Not even last year's Rays were last year's Rays.

The thing that made Tampa Bay's run so remarkable is that nobody saw it coming. They were picked either fourth or fifth in the AL East by just about everyone. The fact that these same people are already crowning the Royals as AL Central champs disqualifies them from being the surprise of 2009.

2. The Rays had excellent pitching.

Tampa Bay was third in the majors with a team ERA of 3.82. KC was 22nd. Add the fact that Brian Bannister and Luke Hochevar are starting this year in AAA, Kyle Farnsworth and Horacio Ramirez are key pitchers, and there's legitimate fears that neither Gil Meche, Zack Greinke or Joakim Soria will pitch as well as they did in 2008, then this year's pitching staff is shaping up to be worse than last year's.

3. Joe Maddon was the AL Manager of the Year

It takes a great skipper to turn the losing culture around. The jury is still out on Trey Hillman., though a verdict may come swiftly. One day into the 2009 season, Hillman's decision to leave right-handed Farnsworth in the game to face righty-killer Jim Thome - which turned into the game losing three-run homerun - has Kansas City up in flames already. He hasn't shown any signs of being able to successfully manage a game, not to mention he's done next to nothing in turning our young players into pros. Which brings us to...

4. The Rays' young talent was ready to play. Now.

Evan Longoria won AL Rookie of the Year. B.J. Upton is a star. David Price was the savior of the postseason. The Royals' young guns? Alex Gordon and Billy Butler have been busts thus far. Hochevar has been sent to Omaha. Only Zack Greinke has performed well, and he has the psyche of a bipolar teenager hooked on meth who has recently been dumped, so we'll see how long that lasts.

5. The 2008 Rays were the exception, not the rule.

We loved the story last year because of how strange it all was. Unlike other sports, professional baseball makes it harder for the down-and-out teams to rise to the top. Every year gives us the same old teams who throw money around like Pacman Jones, leaving the Royals of the world with only the hope of getting good prospects from mid-season trades. Good prospects who will in turn become trade bait. I don't expect a worst-to-first run to happen any time soon. And even if it does happen, all signs point away from Kauffman Stadium.


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