Sunday, July 13, 2003

 I Believe 

The All-Star Break is upon us. With a win that clinches a 3-game sweep of the Rangers tonight, the Royals are now 10 games over .500, and 7 games ahead of the second-place White Sox. This is the first time in 23 years that the Royals have been in first place at this point in the season. Jimmy Carter was president the last time that happened, for gosh sakes.

Before this season began, I really thought this would be more of a "learning year", with the Twins and Sox vying for control of the division, and the Royals doing well to hold onto third, maybe scratching their way close to .500. I liked the idea of going with a young rotation, and letting them learn how to pitch in the big leagues, maybe taking a few knocks, but learning together, building cohesion as a team along the way.

With injuries, surprise failures, surprise successes and so on this team has taken a somewhat different tack than anyone really forecast. And it of course still is a learning year, but now they're learning a lot more than just what life is like in the big leagues. They're learning how good it feels to win at this level.

None of this success guarantees anything, of course. The A's have had great young talent for the past 3 seasons, and have at times completely dominated the AL landscape. But all they have to show for it so far is three first-round exits in playoffs.

Still, compared to the starvation diet that's been Royals baseball the past few years, this season is sheer gluttony. Yes, they're in a weak division which with the unbalanced schedule helps pump up their record. And yes, the Twins and Sox have played far worse than most would have guessed. But the Royals can take some credit for bringing that about, and in any case, it's better to win in a weak division than to lose in it, which is what the Royals had been doing for years. And for the first time since, well, the great 14-game winning streak back in '94, I believe this team could make it to the postseason. For me, the eternal skeptic, that's saying a lot.

It's obviously not a perfect bunch, and there's still plenty of room for improvement, but damn if I ain't having a great time following their development, and their WINNING. In first by 7 games at the ASB? This is *amazing*!

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