The implosion of the Royals has been so swift and ghastly it qualifies as one of those disasters you’re reluctant to talk about or admit.
It’s like buying a Porsche one day, showing it off as you drive up and down your cul-de-sac — then totaling it that night and parking it in the garage out of embarrassment.
The last two years the Royals put together teams of extraordinary chemistry, grit and good fortune, and went to back to back World Series, winning in five games last year after our beloved Alex Gordon struck a shocking, mesmerizing, first-game homer that instantly crushed the New York Mets’ confidence.
Fittingly, our ice-blooded, virtually untouchable closer Wade Davis finished off the Mets in Game Five in New York.
That was last year. This year, although the Royals got off to a decent start, things never felt quite right.
Pitcher Yordano Ventura, never one to put the team before his own self-interest, went backwards (seemingly a difficult accomplishment, given his pouting and emotional meltdowns). Gordon got off slowly, then was out with an injury for many weeks and now seems completely lost at the plate.
Other once-reliable players, including Alcides Escobar, Kendrys Morales and Lorenzo Cain, also watched last year’s magic slide between their fingers. The only life vest we fans had to cling to was the ever-reliable Davis. And then, oddly, even he started to falter. It had to be a mirage, didn’t it? He, of all people, couldn’t possibly lose his edge…not with that withering demeanor and that downward-snapping pitch that hitters just couldn’t resist flailing at.
But, alas, even though the intimidating visage was the same, that pitch didn’t seem to snap as much and opposing hitters patiently waited on easier offerings.
…But the kick in the gut came tonight. It came in the form of a one-sentence Tweet by KC Star sportswriter Rustin Dodd about an hour before tonight’s game against the Texas Rangers. It said something like, “A source confirms that Royals closer Wade Davis is returning to Kansas City for an MRI.”
There it was, in black and white, in one small sentence. It might as well have said: “Toss all your hopes into one big duffel bag, Royals players, and throw it off any bridge you cross on your way back to the hotel tonight in Texas.”
And, of course, they lost tonight. Almost predictably, they lost in heart-breaking fashion, with a rookie reliever giving up a walk-off, second-deck blast to a Rangers hitter.
Just a day or two ago, rumors flew that the Royals were willing to deal Davis before Monday’s trade deadline in return for several young prospects that could help the team start afresh next year.
In light of Davis’ deteriorating performances, it didn’t really seem like the kind of deal another team would bite on. But what have we got if not hope? And like many other fans, I was hoping somehow we could get some young prospects in return for some of our under-performing players.
But now, no prospects. No hope. Nothing. About the only significant questions on the horizon are these: “Will Wade Davis have to undergo Tommy John surgery? And beyond that, will he ever again intimidate any Major League batter?
The rest of the summer, fellow Royals fans, is shaping up to be pretty, pretty gloomy in Kansas City.