The Kansas City Royals have been in a very long slump. Over the years, they have became a laughing stock and what many would consider as a Perennial Farm Club for other major league teams.
Anyone familiar with the boys in powder blue have seen over the last 20 years a team that has done little, if anything at all to contend in a very tough AL Central.
However, on May 30, 2006, the face of the Royals would forever change. Kansas City hired Dayton Moore as GM and he in turn decided to start spending some of the season ticket holders hard earned money and put together a ball club capable of competing.
To follow up Moore's hire, the Maulers from the mid-states have hired head coach Trey Hillman and since then all outlooks and expectations for the Royals have changed, as they battled their way to fourth place in the AL Central in 2008 and their best record in years. Still many fans aren't noticing the significant changes in the Royals.
On the other hand, there are many of us out there that think that the 2009 Royals may just be the sleeper pick in the AL Central.
Here are five reasons why Kansas City will compete and contend in the upcoming 09' season.
1. Trey Hillman
Hillman has a reputation as a winning Manager. While with the New York Yankees minor- league system, Hillman managed his clubs to an overall mark of 855-761 (.529) and led his teams to eight winning seasons and four playoff appearances (1990-2001), in 11 years.
From there, Trey moved on to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan, amassing a 351-324-14 (.520 winning pct.) record over five seasons, including leading the Fighters to three postseason appearances and Winning the Japan Series title and Konami Cup in 2006.
In Trey's first year as Skip, he led the royals to their best record over the previous five years (75-87). Thus digging the Royals out of the cellar in the AL. Central and finishing then in fourth place.
Hillman is a pure baseball guy. He coaches for the love of the game and has been seen several times last year coaching young kids in his free time in Spring Training. This reminded me of Nick Nolte in Blue Chips.
Hopefully Hillman can get a "Shaq and Penny" like winning attitude from each and every player on the roster, and take KC somewhere they haven't been in a long long time, the playoffs or do I dare say back to the days of 1985.
2. Coco Crisp
Coco brings a very fiery attitude to the game, as shown when he charged the mound last year against his former Division Foe Tampa Bay. He then took a very nice Swing at Opposing pitcher James Shields, I believe this driven attitude is contagious and could be the kind of team I would like to see the Royals become.
Crisp also brings an un-royal like career batting average in of .280, which isn't great, but as a royals fan for the last 20 years it is a much sought after feat or accomplishment.
It is definitely something that the fans of the powder blue aren't use to. He also has some speed and can take over the Lead-off spot in the batting order, thus moving down the hitting machine, David DeJesus.
Crisp is an essential piece this year to the Royals improvement, with his mentality, experience and ability I believe he can take K.C to the next level in this years deep AL Central.
3. David DeJesus
In my personal opinion, DeJesus is the guy who makes the whole royals machine work. This guy is one of the Best Pure hitters in the game right now. DeJesus stroked a very nice .419 in '08 with runners in scoring position (which was a feat in itself, on a sparse royals offense last year). He also finished the year batting .307, spraying 25 doubles, hitting 12 home runs, and finishing with 73 RBI's.
While most of his 518 At-Bats came in the leadoff spot (415), I believe Hillman will move Dejesus to the three-hole giving him a much better chance of producing bigger "ESPN" like numbers.
Dejesus is Highly underrated! I personally met David once at a Kansas City Chiefs football game tailgating, and I can say he is one of the Good Guys in Baseball. He was very down to earth and humble, making him a Huge asset to the Roy-Boys, and the man destined to be the Royals MVP this year.
DeJesus will un-doubtingly give Kansas City what they need to contend in the American League.
4. Hitters 2, 4, 5
Aviles, Jacobs, Guillen
There's a lot to be said about these three players. In my opinion, there is a lot of production on Paper to be excited about. Aviles is coming off of a great year as Starting SS for the Royals, in 419 AB's he hit .325 with a majority of his At-bats coming from the two hole.
Mike Jacobs was traded to KC in the off-season and I have no reason to question Manager Trey Hillman and GM Dayton Moore for making the move and I believe Jacobs type of Power is exactly what KC will need this year.
Jose Guillen showed certain signs of greatness last year. At one stretch from May until July, he hit .326 with 10 HR 46 RBI and and 20 Doubles. However he tailed off for two months in July and August. Then finished the year respectfully in September.
These three players will be needed to preform the entire year if the Royals want to contend this year.
REALLY?? Does anyone need to point out the fact you have to have Solid Pitching??? Your only as good as your weakest arm in the MLB.
GM Dayton Moore has made several moves in the off-season to bring excitement and uncertainty to the Royals staff. Trading away Leo Nunez, and Ramon Ramirez who accounted for 119 IP out of the bullpen with a combined ERA of only 2.80, holding and setting up games for Ron Mahay and Joakim Soria.
This will be a highly questioned move until the season starts.
Replacing these two pitchers obviously presented a challenge and once again the front office countered these two departures with the signing of Kyle Farnsworth and Doug Waechter, and don't forget about the Eye for Talent and the considerable amount of High-End draft picks the royals have accumulated over the last several years waiting in the wings, ( Henry Berrera, Carlos Rosa, Julio Pimentel)
If the Starting Pitching can form together and provide solid coverage for the bullpen, along with Royals Pitching Coach Bob Mcclure's ability to wrangle these guy's together it could become a very interesting season for fans of the Baby Blue.
As a Royals fan I cannot wait for the season to get started and to see what this young team can bring to the table.
One or Two things can change an entire year, and with a bunch of young guys I'm hopeful a new Renovation at The "K" along with a slight renovation of the lineup in the off-season that KC can contend in the AL Central and possibly chase down a division title.