We go through good times and bad, but nothing ever really lasts. No matter how joyous or how sad a period of time has been, there will come a day when we have to recognize that a chapter has closed and it's time to turn the page.
Nobody feels this more acutely right now than fans of the Kansas City Royals. Over the past eight years, we watched as a priceless crop of rookies climbed through the ranks into the major leagues. The experts told us that this group would make the Royals competitive again, really good news after so many years of just really bad baseball. The Royals went to the World Series in 2014, ending just 90 feet from an improbable win. That shortfall provided the motivation for that team in 2015. For most of the year, they were the best team in baseball, along with the Cardinals. And on a cold November night in the Big Apple, they brought home the trophy. A million fans turned out for the parade and the celebration, and in a perfect demonstration of the class of that midwestern city, there were only two arrests that day, both of young men who had imbibed a bit too much celebratory alcohol. There was no violence, no riots, no stores were trashed, no police cars were rolled and burned. It was just a massive surge of shared joy and pride.
The two seasons since have been pretty ordinary, mostly because the injury bug and fatigue finally caught up to the players. Over this past winter, that singular group has begun to disperse. Lorenzo Cain has gone back to Milwaukee. Eric Hosmer is now a Padre. Jason Vargas is a Met. Mike Moustakis is still unsigned, but barring a miracle of sorts, will not be back to the K, at least as a Royal. Greg Holland and Wade Davis, two-thirds of what was the best bullpen in baseball history, are also unsigned and won't be back. Alcides Escobar returned, but only for a one year deal. Whit Merrifield, once the kid on the team, is now the grizzled veteran. The new roster is filled with unfamiliar names, rookies with something to prove, and veterans hoping for a lightning strike. For two of the team's long-term projects, Bubba Starling and Hunter Dozier, its put up or shut up time.
There are no illusions for this team. They will be bad. They will be bad for a number of years while the Royals rebuild their farm system. While they won't lose a hundred games (well...maybe) it will be a long, hot summer in Kansas City while fans pass the time waiting for the dawning of a kid named Mahomes across the Truman Sports Complex parking lot.
I feel sad to see those players go. But I am enormously grateful for the Big Victory they earned and shared with us. But those days are over, a new day has dawned. It's time to turn the page.
It's not good to live in the past. A fellow named Dave Nicholls once opined, "Nostalgia is a useless, futile thing because it is a longing for something that is permanently lost." While that is a harsh statement, it is also very true. By hanging on to the past, we are refusing to accept and embrace the present and the future. That will blind us to opportunities, and make us miss what few special moments lie in store for this version of the Royals. I would bet that these Royals know they're not as good as 2015. I bet they also know that we know. But this is still their dream, and they will play hard in pursuit of that dream. While the rest of us will be sitting in front of an air conditioner in July and August, they will be out there in that impossible heat and humidity, doing their damndest to win. And I would like to think that there is enough class in Royals' Nation to honor that effort and commitment. They will lose, and lose often. But there will be flashes of brilliance, a timely hit here, a well pitched game or a tremendous defensive effort there which will portend what will eventually be a bright future. Real fans don't abandon their boys during a bad stretch. And I'd like to think that we're real fans.
For the thirty-odd years since the 1985 triumph, I carried those memories. Brett, White, McRae, Saberhagen, Wilson, and the joyful devil-may-care enthusiasm with which they played. Those great memories were revived during the Royals' recent brief trip to the top of the MLB pile, what it was like to be a winner; respected; to be able to wear the team gear without being laughed at. Now there are a new set of memories which will dimly light the long darkness about to envelop us.
It may not be enough to call this a new page, or a new chapter. I think it's gonna be a whole new book. It'll start slow, and there will be moments when we'll be tempted to toss the thing back on the shelf. But we need to persevere, because I know those players will persevere. This is not the black hole of the '90s and early 2000's. There is hope, and a plan, and leadership that really wants another parade at least as badly as the rest of us.
Let's not turn our backs.