After nearly three decades of futility, the Kansas City Royals were the feel-good story of 2014, sneaking into the Wild Card, winning a miraculous one-game playoff against Oakland and coming within one hit of winning the World Series.
If you weren’t a Royals fan already, you certainly became one in October.
Heading into 2015, however, you can’t fault Royals fans for feeling a bit underwhelmed. Not only did the franchise lose James Shields and Billy Butler, among other pieces, but it also didn’t do too much to ensure it gets back to the playoffs.
Brandon Tierney, for one, thinks the Royals could have – and should have – done more. Is that fair?
“Well, a lot of people are in agreement with that because they really didn’t make any big splashes on the free-agent market,” former Kansas City pitcher and current Royals analyst Jeff Montgomery said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “They did lose James Shields as a part of the offseason transitions, so a lot of people feel exactly like you do – maybe they could have done more.
“But I think they felt like they had developed a lot of their own players and they had a lot of their core players coming back,” Montgomery continued. “As a result, I don’t think they really wanted to mix it up a lot. So they’ve put a lot of emphasis on two young pitchers in Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura as far as stepping up and making that next move to be top-of-the rotation type guys to replace James Shields.”
Duffy, 26, and Ventura, 23, must perform well if the Royals hope to make the playoffs again. But can this team, without a proven ace, contend for – and win – a World Series?
“Well, we’ll find out,” Montgomery said, “but I think they have some real keys. They lost Billy Butler, who was a really nice DH for them. They bring in Kendrys Morales. They sign Alex Rios. So I think a lot of it’s going to depend on how these guys come in (and) respond to their opportunity (to) kind of keep their careers going – guys who have had success previously and with other teams.
“That’s how they’re coming in to try to get this team to the level where they can score some runs and they don’t put so much emphasis on their pitching staff,” Montgomery continued. “Their pitching staff’s done a really nice job, but the Royals have not scored a lot of runs. Last year, they kind of caught lightning in a bottle with that playoff run, but if you think about it, go back to the Wild Card game – they were just an inning away from being out of the entire playoffs.
“Then they got in by the skin of their teeth into the Wild Card – and that magical game allowed them to carry that momentum to Game 7 of the World Series. So there’s just a lot of variables and it’s almost impossible to predict how this thing’s going to end up.”