Winning is a double-edged sword. There’s the indescribable feeling of being on top of the world when your team breaks through as champions. Yet, there’s the other side where fans become entitled when later on newly found expectations aren’t met.
This is very applicable to the 2016 Royals season. Coming off of a World Series championship, this year’s team was expected to build off of that success, maybe even repeat as the best team in baseball. Almost as if the 29 years prior hadn’t happened.
So when the Royals failed to meet newfound expectations this season, finishing 81-81 after a 3-2 loss to the American League Central champion Cleveland Indians on Sunday, there was tangible disappointment. For the first time since 2013, the Royals would be watching the postseason instead of undoubtedly making yet another late-inning comeback.
I’ll admit, a third place finish in the AL Central and a .500 season is not spectacular. It’s pretty mediocre actually. But that doesn’t mean that this team is a failure based on its lack of a postseason berth. Great moments still happened this season.
Starting pitcher Danny Duffy had one of the best seasons of his career, posting a 12-3 record with a 3.51 ERA and 188 strikeouts. Designated hitter Kendrys Morales was the first Royal since 1997 to hit 30 more home runs in a season. Shortstop Alcides Escobar even managed to start all 162 games of the at-times grueling baseball season.
Regardless, some will be quick to point out what went wrong. Starting pitching was a struggle yet again. Third baseman Mike Moustakas tore his anterior cruciate ligament and outfielders Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain had nagging injuries throughout the season. Even though there was a glimmer of hope for a wild card berth near the end of the season, the Royals never seemed to be able to hang with some of the top teams.
It’s gotten to the point where Royals fans are now disappointed because the team failed to reach the postseason after two magical trips in 2014 and 2015 respectively. 81-81 isn’t a glamorous record by any means, but this might have benefited them in the long run. This team can learn from a sub-par season and build for 2017.
It’s also not uncommon in recent history for the World Series champions to miss the playoffs the following season. The 2016 Royals became the fourth champion in a row to miss the playoffs the year after they won it all. This team is simply a part of this strange trend in baseball.
Above all, be excited for 2017, because the core of this team is still playing at the top of their game. Next year could be pretty special for this team who continues to amaze even the most skeptical of fans.
So if by some chance this October you’re having Royals baseball withdrawal, there’s plenty of great moments from the 2014 and 2015 to tie you over to next season.