Friday, May 30, 2008

God, Why Have You Forsaken Us?

If you're a Royals fan, then you're intimately familiar with what happened this evening, familiar enough that this recap will only bring you additional pain. You are exempt from reading this.

But those readers who are not Royals fans are probably unaware of the proceedings of May 30th, a game which succinctly encapsulates the ego-crushing, character-building Royals Fan Experience of the last 15 years.

If you ever wanted to know what it's like to be a Royals fan, if just for one night, then read on.

The Royals ran into Cliff Lee, which didn't seem like a good way to end an 11-game losing streak. Giving up a home run to Grady Sizemore leading off the game didn't appear to be a good way either. But in the bottom of the second, the first two men reached base for John Buck, who belted a ball off the wall in right. A few more feet and it would have been a 3-1 lead, but Buck was stranded at third to end the inning. Still, the Royals had a 2-1 lead, and you could almost hear the announcer saying, "He's cut! The Indian is cut!"

In the fourth, Buck doubled again to plate Teahen, and with two outs DeJesus drove home Buck with a single. 4-1 Kansas City. In the top of the fifth, though, Sizemore went deep off Meche again, this time with a man aboard. Brett Tomko came out to pitch the sixth, and gave up a two-run homer to Casey Blake to give Cleveland the lead again.

And then the fun started. In the bottom of the sixth, the Royals once again got to Lee with a solid hitting approach. With one out, Joey Gathright took a fastball the other way for a single. Tony Pena took a fastball the other way...oh, who am I kidding, he swung right through an outside fastball for strike three. But DeJesus also poked a fastball to left field as Gathright moved to second. And then German took a fastball the other way, whizzing by Asdrubal Cabrera into right field as Gathright raced home with the tying run.

...except DeJesus took too wide a turn around second, and Franklin Gutierrez threw behind him. Peralta applied the tag a second before Gathright touched home plate.

At that moment, the odds that the Royals would lose were about 95%. The odds that they would lose by the margin of one run were probably 70%. If it were only that painful.

The Indians would not get another runner to second base in the game; they would not need to. In the bottom of the 7th, Guillen doubled off the strangely-hittable Rafael Betancourt with one out. After Olivo flied to left, Rafael Perez came into face Teahen. Topspin laced a ball into the right-centerfield gap, prompting Ryan Lefebvre to exclaim, "there it is!"

He was presumably referring to the tying run, but he might have been trying to point out the ball for the benefit of Gutierrez, who entered the TV screen at the last moment and made a shoestring catch.

The Royals had one last opportunity in the ninth inning, when the Indians graciously inserted Joe Borowski into the game. With one out, Esteban German belted a ball that kept carrying deep to left - and it hit off the wall, about 2 feet from the top of the fence. A double. Alex Gordon then flew out harmlessly to left. This brought up Jose Guillen with two outs, the tying run at second, and his reputation at the plate. Here was Guillen's chance to connect actions to words, to provide the Royals with leadership on the field as well as in the locker room.

The first pitch was a fastball outside. The second pitch was a fastball that, according to MLB's Gameday, was 86.7 mph and right down Broadway. Guillen crushed it to left-center - he walked towards first for a moment as if it were a no-doubt walk-off homer.

The ball came down in deepest left-centerfield, about a foot from the fence - and into the outstretched glove of Sizemore, who face-planted into the wall so hard that he fell to the ground afterwards. The Indians' trainer had to race onto the field to make sure he was alright. Sizemore was fine; the game was over.

Here's the thing: if you want to know what it's like to be a Royals fan, it's not enough to understand that the Royals should have won or at least tied this game half a dozen times, and that they were thwarted by little league baserunning or tremendous defensive plays or balls which missed carrying out by a few feet.

What you have to understand is this: watching this game as a Royals fan, AT NO POINT after Blake's home run did I feel that we had any chance to win. The last four innings were like a car wreck in slow motion, where you know things are going to turn out badly, but you don't know what the gruesome details are yet.

When German singled Gathright home, as soon as I saw Gutierrez make a quick throw to second base, I thought "watch this - he's going to pick DeJesus off." Even after DeJesus was called out, as the Royals' feed went to commercial Lefebvre made it a point to say that the run counted, and the on-screen scoreboard showed a 5-5 tie. Even so, I was utterly sure that after the commercial break we would learn that the run did not count, not because I thought that Gathright didn't touch home plate in time - I hadn't seen a replay - but simply because this is what happens to the Royals. The first image we saw coming out of commercial was the back of Hillman's jersey as he was arguing with the home plate umpire. That's all I needed to see.

When Teahen lined the ball in the gap, even as Lefebvre yelled in anticipation of the game-tying hit, I knew that the ball was hanging up long enough for Gutierrez (one of the finest rightfielders in the game defensively) to have a shot. When the leftfielder kept racing to the wall on German's drive in the ninth, I had no doubt that it would stay in the park. And even for that half-second when Guillen stood at home plate admiring his walk-off homer, I knew that no ball hit to the deepest part of Kauffman Stadium is a no-doubter.

If you're a Royals fan who ignored my warning and have read this far, you're no doubt nodding your head. If you're not a Royals fan, well, now you know what we live with. It's not enough that we lose, night after night after night. It's that defeat stalks us in our homes, it chases us into dark alleys and up fire escapes and down manholes like Freddy Krueger. It's that we live in this nightmare that we can't wake up from, and that long before Defeat hunts us down and eviscerates us, we suffer all the more from knowing that no matter how hard we try, no matter how long we run, eventually Defeat will catch up to us, that we will meet our demise, and it will be painful and bloody.

Defeat toyed with us longer than usual tonight, but we know his game well, well enough to know that we never really had a chance to escape this time. If you had looked out your apartment window and seen us high-tailing it down the street with a hideous clawed beast in pursuit, you might have thought we had a chance to make it to safety. Try running in our shoes for one night, and see how you feel.

22 comments:

tatchforce said...

Went to the game tonight. It feels like I got punched in the groin area. Thanks Royals!

Mark LaFlamme said...

Hey, I got an EXTRA punch to the groin, thanks to some drunk kid at the controls. For me, it was baseball in an alternate universe.
What happened was this. I snuck home from work to watch a few innings of the game and the Royals were winning 4-1 by the time I went back. At the office, I was following the game on the Yahoo gamechannel and it showed Olivo with a two run homer in the bottom of the fifth to make it 6-1. The next batter, Teahan, was shown following with a double. Yahoo was slow so I switched over to ESPN. Same thing, 6-1 and Teahan on second. Then suddenly, ESPN was showing that it was 4-3 Royals. Yahoo still had it at 6-1 still but then, before my eyes, changed it to 4-3 as well. I'd think of it as a simple error, but on two different sites? And both showing details of those runs?
So, I said screw work and came screaming home. Sure enough, it was 4-3 Royals and a second later, it was 5-4 Indians.
Someone tell me: do the online game channels use one person to track the score across different sites? Is that person a meth head? I can't think of any other way this could have happened on both ESPN and Yahoo. Unbelievable. I'd like to track that scorekeeper down and dunk him in the Royal fountain for about an hour. Cruel friggin tease.
That mystery aside, the Royals deserves this game. Two of those balls to the wall could have been out of there if a moth had been flapping its wings nearby. Teahan's slicer to right shouldn't have been caught and the same with Gullien's final drive to deep center. So close to that fairytale ending. A fairy tale laced with expletives, but a fairytale nonetheless.

Matt S said...

I'm trying to think of another time I've seen a runner get picked off rounding second *before* the run from second scored. I'm sure it's happened, but I can't remember one.

Of course though it would happen to the Royals trying to tie the game and break out of a 12-game losing streak.

Matt S said...

mark, I saw that same score on mlb.com gameday. Not in the official score but in a little highlight panel with a link to "see how they scored". It was weird.

Shelby said...

same with me on ESPN's GameCast. Was really, really p!ssed-off.

I was thinking "Man, Meche is doing great through 5 innings, locating his pitches, striking people out and not allowing runs. And we're really lighting up the best pitcher in baseball! Olivo keeps tearing it up, he's finally made it abundantly clear that he HAS to be in the lineup everyday."

Then it went from 6-1 to 4-3, Teahen's "double" was changed to an out and Olivo's "homer" was also changed to an out.

It was as if my computer was in on the joke. I could almost hear it snickering. I half-expected an image of Tom Hulce as Amadeus thumbing his nose at me to pop up on the screen.

(don't ask me why I chose Amadeus....I think I remember seeing the title character do that in the Academy Award-winning movie from the mid-80s....or something.....I'm just completely PO'd and can't think straight)

Mark LaFlamme said...

I can understand a simple mistake with the scoring. But whoever was operating the controls creatively had Guillen single and then Olivo homer him in. Then a double by Teahan. Seems like someone had to put some thought into the scenario. I should thank him for the half hour of elation, false though it may have been. I should thank him, but I'd still like to throw the bum into the fountain.

RickMcKc said...

Rany, you are correct. It is simply incredible how many bad things seem to happen to the Royals. You could see it on DeJesus' face before the start of the next inning. He kept shaking his head and pounding his glove like he couldn't believe it either.

Another unbelievable occurence: pinch hitting for a 165 hitter Pena) with a 146 hitter (Callaspo), who promptly grounded into an inning-ending DP. I was yelling at the TV - "where the heck is Aviles????"

Then I turned it off.

Holden Cornfield said...

Everybody calm down, the Royals will win again... I think.

Ted said...

This one sentence sums up my feelings of the Royals for the last 14 years or so:

"What you have to understand is this: watching this game as a Royals fan, AT NO POINT........did I feel that we had any chance to win."

Anonymous said...

Even when we go good, it seems like it is the result of some strange fluky thing. The gift of the inside the park home run the other night is an example. During our 9 game winning streak in 2003, we TWICE won a game because an opposing runner got hit by a batted ball. Strange things.

Keithtopcity said...

I just got referred to this blog site, and to tell you the truth reading about the pain we endure is hard. I like to block out all the bad things that people say about the royals and live in my own fantasy where I believe they can win any game that I am watching. But, the older I get the harder it is to keep up this lie. I'm glad we can all commiserate together, and hopefully we can win at least one game this weekend!

Nathan W said...

Living in Chicago, I have several friends that are Cubs fan. They love to talk of their despair cheering for a team that hasn't won anything since 1908. They talk (of course) about Bartman, the goat, and all the bad luck they have endured. (Though I think the most tragic part of being a Cubs fan is Ron Santo)

I claim that being a Royals fan is more difficult because our team events ways of losing while making fans believe that they have a chance to win, just as described in this post. Last night, when DeJesus was tagged out at second base, I knew we would lose, though my Cubs friends couldn't understand why I felt that way.

After the game was over, my Cubs friends conceded that Royals fans have it worse than they do. Even though part of their logic had to do with playing in Wrigley Field, it still says something when a Cubs fan admits that another team's fans are more miserable than them.

JayhawkOwensJunior said...

Joking at work yesterday about going to see Sex and the City. I made the comment "I'd rather just stare directly into the sun for a couple of hours. It would be more pleasant."

That's pretty much how I feel about watching the Royals these days.

Kevin said...

There seems to be the implication that what "happened" to DeJesus at 2nd last night was just typical Royals "dumb luck". ABSOLUTELY NOT. It was absolute stupid baserunning by DeJesus, nothing else. It's hard to believe but we have a supposed "fundamentals" manager but since the season began they've been doing stupid things on the base paths. Earlier it was because of trying to be aggressive, which I like, but they were overdoing it and being aggressive at the wrong times.

Other things I sometimes hear, is "well, they're a young team, bound to make mistakes". True, but I don't think DeJesus and Teahen deserve that kind of shelter. They've been in the bigs long enough to know better than what DeJesus did last night.

Jon said...

The reason ESPN and Yahoo were showing the same error is likely due to the fact that both get their gamefeeds from the same source - Sportsticker. I used to work in the sports info industry and saw this many times.

Steve Buffum said...

> Try running in our shoes for one night, and see how you feel.

Oh, your shoes fit me just fine. I'm a Cleveland fan. Once Sabathia had his customary Inning of Crap (tm) to give the Royals a 4-1 lead, at no point during the rest of the game (bases loaded, schmases loaded, I know what's going to happen) did I expect the Indians to pull it out.

Which, of course, they didn't.

Congratulations on the end of your streak. Feh.

Shelby said...

Interesting--I think I've forgotten how to feel good about a victory.

Isaac said...

I have been a proponent of fundamentals for a long time as it is the one thing you don't have to have any talent to do. I have yet to have this question answered though.

Why, in the middle of a 12 game losing streak, can our players not be thinking of what is going on around them? Why do they continue to throw to the wrong base and make outs on the basepaths? They may not be able to hit or field very well but you'd hope that to counter that they would simply keep their heads in the game. Why do they not do this? Why? Someone answer this question and tell me why this has not been addressed.

Another thing that confuses me a great deal is how we can now have 1BB in our last 50 some innings? When does someone say "maybe we should take a couple of pitches?" I immediately look at Barnett and ask what exactly is he doing? I hear the Royals announcers talk about all the work he is doing with Pena and that is great, but what about the rest of the team? Is all his time being taken up by Pena? Why is Barnett still employed by the Royals. Why is Pena still employed for that matter? Doesn't anyone say, "hey, wait a sec, we have 1BB in our last 50 innings. Isn't that bad? And look at how many complete games are being thrown against us. Isn't that a bit weird in today's game? Can we do anything to change this?" Why does no one ask these questions?

I WANT ANSWERS NOW. ANYONE?

Ryan said...

I'm happy we won. I'll get to see the Royals play one or two games when they come to Chicago next.

My question is how can you call up Aviles. Start him one game, and then bench for three straight. How does that help? It makes no sense.

Jon said...

Re: Aviles

Hillman is simply trying to maintain this cycle:

2000 - Rey Sanchez: .637 OPS
2002 - Nerfy Perez: .564 OPS
2004 - Desi Relaford: .601 OPS
2006 - Angel Berroa: .592 OPS
2008 - Tony Pena Jr: .371 OPS

Every even numbered year since 2000, the worst everyday player (400 PA) in the AL has been a Royals' shortstop. I call it the Angel Salazar Syndrome.

We can't have Aviles going in and messing that up now, can we?

troyt said...

@isaac, cc: GMDM
As a Royals fan, the thing that absolutely gets me mad (more than the losing, the lack of hitting, etc.) is this talk about FUNDAMENTALS. Channeling a famous former Colts head coach: "FUNDAMENTALS! You want to talk about FUNDAMENTALS!" Every Royals fan knows this- you cannot teach fundamentals to Major League players. You teach fundamentals in T-ball, not MLB.

Management needs to stop drafting and signing players that lack fundamentals. If a baseball player hasn't learned how to properly run the bases or field and throw the ball at this point, he ain't learning it now.

When guys make MENTAL errors like DeJesus' running error, they need to be benched. Send a message throughout the organization: Stupid crap is not tolerated. You want to sleep on the bases? Be prepared to ride the pine for a game. You can't talk about lack of fundamentals and then tolerate screw-ups.

Until the mindset of the Management changes, this team will be .500 at best. AT BEST.

Levi said...

I need to share this, mostly because I'm scared it's only going to get worse.

First some background: My cousin and I are lifelong Royals fans. Why? Who knows. We love baseball and live in Kansas. It's reason enough, I suppose. But consider this: We're 23. We cling to 2003, because it's the only moment of Royals greatness -- however brief -- we can remember.

This spring, we exchanged text messages. We saw the building block -- Butler, Gordon, Meche, Banny, etc. -- in place. Clearly this is a process, but Dayton hasn't steered us wrong, yet. Let's get season tickets, now. I'm in Wichita, my cousin is in Topeka, so it would have to be a small ticket package. But we wanted the Royals to have our names in the database. We plan to make it a bigger ticket package next season.

But right now, we're miserable. Here's what we've seen:

April 22 - INDIANS - Meche vs. C.C. Great night for baseball...and a 15-1 MASSACRE.

May 10 - ORIOLES - Waited out Tomko's horrid start, the 1 hour, 53 minute rain delay, bitter wind and the failed rally attempt. -- 6-5 LOSS.

May 27 - TWINS - It's chilly. Nice effort, Banny, but no run support. Wait....Teahen down the line (nice effort, Delmon Young) and into the corner. The most exciting play of the season. No way this is going to be a loss...at least not for another three innings. -4-3 (12 innings) LOSS.

May 30 - INDIANS - Rany spelled it out above.

Nine more to go. It can't get worse, right?