On September 23, 2011, the 68-88 Kansas City Royals took the field destined for the team’s 11th 90+ loss season in a 15-year span.
General Manager Dayton Moore had led the team for six years, Ned Yost wrapped up his second season as manager and Kansas City’s playoff drought reached 26 years.
The organization, fans and players didn’t realize it then, but that day marked the very first time that Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Salvador Perez all donned the Royal blue, together, at the big league level.
That night was a sign of things to come when the group combined for 12 hits and an 11-1 win.
Over the next five years, that core group of prospects would give Kansas City four seasons of 80 or more wins, including 95 in 2015, 22 playoff wins, two American League pennants and one World Series championship.
Now, in 2017, the core has worn out their rookie contracts.
Each player has now made at least one All-Star appearance or been honored with a Gold Glove award and the business side of baseball is set to show its unforgiving hand on Kansas City during the winter.
With only Perez under contract past Sunday, it’s very likely that, come opening day 2018, he’ll be the only one left standing on the field that served as home for so many Royal memories.
The core group of players created a brand-new generation of baseball fans in Kansas City, something that can never be taken away no matter what the future holds.
There’s no longer a playoff spot to root for, but these last six games at Kauffman Stadium signify an end to one of the greatest era’s in Kansas City sports history.
And while the names will be gone, the questions remain. Did the era last as long as it should have? No. Will 2017 be remembered by Royals fans as a disappointment? Yes.
But if you told a fan on that seemingly insignificant September day in 2011, that this exact scenario would play out in Kansas City over the next five years, it’d be a dream come true.
As hard as it will be for Royals fans to potentially see Hosmer in pinstripes or Moustakas in the bay area, they should each be remembered for the spark they gave Kansas City.
There were comebacks, there were walk-offs, there were celebrations and there was one, giant parade.
Now, there are six games left.
Six games to ponder what an even greater dynasty could have been, but also six games to say thank you.
Thank you to a group of players that came to Kansas City as unknowns, but will leave Kansas City with a permanent place in the hearts of KC fans everywhere and, more than likely, a spot in the Royals’ Hall of Fame.
Thank you to a group of players that will leave Kansas City with more memories in a five-year span than in the 26 years that preceded them.
It’s hard to win games in Major League baseball. It’s even harder when you’re a small market team. Who knows when Kansas City will return to the top of the mountain. But this group of players achieved greatness. And if this really is it, all that’s left to do is say thanks.
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