Jeff Herr, a finalist in the 2011 Big Gig Contest on 610 Sports Radio, was born and raised in Kansas City. Following the Chiefs, Royals, and Jayhawks all his life has led him to blog about all three extensively at the-jeff-report.blogspot.com. He has also spent time covering the Royals for the blog site kingsofkauffman.com as well as serving for a period as the lead editor of throughthephog.com a blog covering the Kansas Jayhawks. When not writing about the local sports scene, he pays the bills by serving as an accountant.
Jeff Herr: Mission 2012
by Jeff Herr,posted Jan 30 2012 4:58PM
The bye week in between the Super Bowl always seemed completely arbitrary to me. After 20 weeks of grueling competition week after week, they league decides to give the teams a free break before the biggest games of their lives. On the surface this makes a lot of sense, it allows the teams more time to prepare and can give us a better game to watch. Yet, we all know the real reason is to drum up more publicity and make sure it’s the most watched event of the year (which it usually is).
For me, it just delays the inevitable one more week - the end of the football season. For a football junkie like me, the year truly doesn’t end until there’s no more football. Until that first Sunday in February is over, I still feel like I’m clinging to that memory of 2011. With the Super Bowl this coming weekend, I’ve begun to think what’s going to occupy my time after football takes its yearly hibernation.
Enter mission 2012. With pitchers and catchers reporting less than a month away, “Mission 2012” for the Royals is getting closer and closer. This moniker, of course, refers to the general thinking that the Royals may take a big step forward this year and begin to compete.
We’ll push aside the rhetoric that 2012 is too early and 2013 is more realistic. Pessimism has no place in spring training. The American League Central is down this year and the Royals’ chances seem to get better by the day. That is, if you don’t count the day the Tigers signed Prince Fielder last week. Even so, the Royals still stand to make some noise and possibly play over .500 baseball for the first time since 2003.
While the Chiefs have seemingly done everything wrong the last 5 years, the Royals have actually done everything right. They had the #1 farm system in all of baseball last year, and are on their way to another top 5 ranking this year. Keeping mind that they graduated roughly 12 players to the majors in 2011 alone. This gives you a taste of how well the Royals are doing in building this team from the ground up.
It’s for this reason that everyone is looking at 2012 as the year the Royals turn the corner from being a laughingstock, to being legitimate. With rookie of the year finalist Eric Hosmer leading the charge, the Royals will have one of the youngest 25 man rosters in all of baseball. Not a single position player of note is over 28 and most of them are under club control for at least the next 5 years (hopefully Alex Gordon will join that group soon).
We are currently three weeks away from when pitcher and catchers report to spring training. This will be the spark to an excitement level for baseball in Kansas City the likes of which we haven’t seen in years.
With pitchers and catchers reporting, the Royals will start developing the lynchpin to their success this coming season. How far this team goes depends on their ability to pitch and a higher and more consistent level than they have in recent years. Players like Mike Montgomery, Jake Odorizzi, Will Smith and others will all be competing to get their shot at the majors. If any of these players are able to reach the big league club in 2012 and make an impact the Royals could be on their way to a very good season.
There is also the hope of Luke Hochevar and Jonathan Sanchez turning the corner and becoming the standout pitchers everyone knows they have the skills to be. Couple that with Bruce Chen’s consistency and Felipe Paulino’s high upside, and there is a lot to be hopeful for in KC.
It’s not just the unknown that makes this coming season exciting, either. It’s also what we do know about this young team. Eric Hosmer finished third in the Rookie of Year voting last year, Mike Moustakas got off to a slow start but finished strong, and Alex Gordon had a borderline All-Star year. Salvador Perez exceeded all expectations in his short time in the big leagues and Johnny Giavotella showed some promise as well.
As a town Kansas City has been greatly deprived of some summertime excitement. After being a top tier organization for the majority of its existence, since the mid-90’s this team hasn’t given the town much to root for. Their downfall coincided with the rise of the Chiefs in the 1990’s as well. The eye of the town switched from baseball to football. The boys of summer were backseat riders in the town they helped turn into one of the greatest sports towns in America (in my opinion anyway).
This is what ‘Mission 2012’ is really about. It’s about the Royals taking back their place in the Kansas City sports scene. This is not to say the Royals are fighting to be more popular than the Chiefs. There is room for two very popular teams in this city. Mission 2012 is about no longer being an afterthought.
With the turmoil in the Chiefs organization ahead and more change coming (new offensive coordinator, new system, etc.), the Royals have a chance they haven’t had in a while. This city is buzzing about this team and what the future holds. Whispers of playoffs and World Series are starting to pick up steam. With this most recent bye week and the football season about to come to a close, Mission 2012 is one step closer to reality.
Football is taking a one week break before its swan song for 2011. These thoughts will occupy my mind as this city gets ready for a summer that will (hopefully) be remembered as the start of something special.