Unsplashed: Royals power rankings, May 8
Remember when watching Royals baseball was fun?
It’s been easy, these past three years, to expect this team to win, even when it’s down by six runs in the bottom of the ninth. Fuck the stats: I’m talking about a certain magic, some badass baseball voodoo spurring seemingly impossible comebacks capable of galvanizing a whole city. I don’t know about you, but I’d come to rely on this kind of thing.
Not this year. Not so far.
This season, I still plop down on the couch and turn on the game each night. But too often the experience lately feels like forcing myself to endure some kind of heinous reality show that never ends. I pace the room. I send angry texts. I stress-eat Oreos. I talk to the cats: “Why can’t anyone hit the fucking ball?” I ask Salvypoo, my black-and-brown-striped tabby. He doesn’t answer. He doesn’t know. Nobody knows.
The good news is, the season is still young, and the Royals aren’t out of it yet — though we’re nearing the 40-game mark, where the character of any MLB season starts to take shape. Here, then, I present The Pitch‘s first Kansas City Royals power rankings, a closer look at what has gone right this year — as well as what’s gone horribly awry.
1. Jason Vargas
After missing most of last year recovering from Tommy John surgery, Vargas is back on top of his game — in fact, he’s pitching better than ever, his 4-1 record tied for fourth-best in baseball and his 1.19 ERA the best in the game among starters. It’s a good thing Vargas gives up so few runs, because the Royals’ offense currently ranks dead last in run production. In fact, the team is on pace for a historically bad year in basically every offensive category.
2. Mike Moustakas
Of the four Royals who will be free agents next year, Moose is the only one living up to expectations, though he too has faltered offensively in recent outings. So far, he’s batting .250, with seven homers, and he looks none the worse for having sat out last season with a torn ACL. If the team doesn’t start winning some games, though, there’s a good chance he’ll be gone by July.
3. Salvador Perez’s hair
This season, Salvy is sporting a new ‘do, the top of his espresso-colored locks sprouting a nest of bleach-blond curls. During spring training, Salvy’s hermanito Lorenzo Cain shared his thoughts on his teammate’s sense of style: “I’m not a fan of it,” he said. But the way I see it, Salvy’s outsides finally match his insides: That haircut could certainly withstand the most torrential Salvy splash.
4. Yordano Ventura’s mom
In an emotional moment before the Royals’ home opener, Marisol Hernandez, mother of late Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. First, though, she bent over and scratched the word “Dios,” Spanish for God, in the dirt on the mound where her son had found so much success. This genuinely touching moment proved that there is not only crying in baseball; there’s straight-up snot-nosed sobbing.
5. Joakim Soria
I know, I know — you still haven’t forgiven Soria for his 2016 implosion. And it’s true that if he hadn’t blown so many late-game leads, the Royals might have made the postseason for a third year in a row. But it’s not fair to put the collective failure of the team all on one guy. This year, Soria has made a strong case for last year having been a fluke, posting a 2.63 ERA in 13.7 innings and positioning himself as one of the bullpen’s most reliable relievers.
6. Danny Duffy’s undue optimism
It’s cute, really — in the midst of what ended up being a nine-game losing streak, Royals ace Danny Duffy couldn’t contain his confidence, tweeting, “We will pull together and come out of this. Reason for concern, but I dare somebody to count us out,” followed by a glittering picture of the Chicago skyline with the caption “Great opportunity for the boys! Let’s get it!” The Royals lost that day. It would be easy to dismiss Duffy if the guy weren’t so damn likable. He’s active with KC Pet Project, and earlier this year, he successfully campaigned for a bond to construct a new animal shelter in Swope Park.
7. Cheesy-corn brisket-acho helmet
Fuck your diet. This cheesy, meaty, calorically dense mess of a stadium indulgence comes in a full-size plastic helmet and weighs as much as the average house cat. It’s the perfect snack to smother your sorrows when it’s the sixth inning and the Royals still haven’t scored a run, making another mediocre pitcher look like a Cy Young candidate. As you carry the helmet through the stadium, heads will turn. People will ask where you got it, muttering “my precious” under their breath. You will feel like a minor celebrity. And then, after you finish it, you’ll probably feel something else entirely. Just make sure you know the quickest route to the bathroom, is all I’m saying.
8. Your antidepressants
So far, this season is not going well. The Royals are off to a sputtering start, their wins as few and far between as sunny days have been. Whether you require a little pharmaceutical boost or rely on some kind of natural mood enhancer, odds are you’ve needed it extra bad if you’ve been watching the Royals play every day.
9. Travis Wood
It seems like Wood, whom the Royals acquired from the Cubs this spring, has become this season’s Soria. After helping Chicago win its first World Series in 108 years, Wood seems to be in free-fall, his ERA ballooning to 14.04 in just over eight innings of work. As was the case with Soria last year, I cringe whenever Wood takes the mound — especially if there are runners on base. The good news: His entrance is a great excuse to go grab that brisket-acho helmet.
10. Brandon Moss
I feel a little bit bad for the guy — insomuch as it’s possible to feel pity for a multimillionaire who plays baseball for a living. After joining the Royals from St. Louis, Moss is batting .153, with only four homers. Perhaps these dreadful numbers would be forgivable if he also played excellent defense, but Moss is the team’s designated hitter. Hitting is literally his only job (aside from partying onstage with Garth Brooks, apparently). Right now I’m really missing Kendrys Morales, though even Billy Butler would be an improvement. Nowhere to go but up for Moss this month — not to mention the rest of the offense.