Archive for Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Fly Route

March 1, 2007

I'm torn -- either the power of spring training optimism borders on hypnotic, or I've not been a big Kansas City Royals baseball fan long enough to have learned my lesson.

Either way, it's spring, the winter sports nearly finished and I am ready for some baseball. Having thoroughly canvassed several season-preview magazines and already completed one fantasy draft, I declare that I'm an expert on the new season. That said, I can see no way the Royals won't improve significantly upon last year's 100-loss performance.

Seriously, what could go wrong? You have heard that Alex Gordon is the next George Brett, right?

OK, maybe spring training optimism has the best of me, but I can't help it. I'm eager for baseball season to start, and I really think the Royals can be ... a little better than they were last year.

That optimism all starts with Gordon. It's funny -- read through the baseball magazines on the rack at your local bookstore and every single one has a giant story about baseball's "next big thing." Gordon's almost always pictured standing in a cornfield somewhere, all-American grin slapped across his face and trusty bat slung over the shoulder.

What could go wrong?

Probably nothing, though I can't wait to see for my own eyes. I had a chance once -- I covered Kansas State's baseball team for a few years when Gordon was still playing with Nebraska. I can't say he stood out, however. I knew he was good, knew he was one of the best, but thinking back I don't remember thinking "Now there's the swing that'll launch a thousand balls."

Elsewhere, the Royals face some of the best problems they've come across. They literally don't have room for serviceable outfielders -- a far cry from the last few years when anyone with a glove strapped on appeared to be good enough for the Kansas City outfield.

I'm as excited to see Mark Teahen in right field as I am Gordon at third base. If Teahen can duplicate his stunning second-half surge from last season, he provides Kansas City much-needed power in a place where they haven't had any recently. He makes the aging Reggie Sanders expendable and offers more punch than any of the right field's recent occupants have. Heck, he might offer more in that department than Sanders, Matt Stairs and Aaron Guiel combined.

DeJesus is still the team's most reliable player (except when it comes to, ya know, not getting hurt and being on the field every day.) When healthy, I think he'll be the team's glue.

Emil Brown in left was adequate again last season and should be about the same this year.

Starting pitching, as usual, is my main concern, but have faith readers: It. Can. Not. Get. Worse.

Will Zach Greinke be able to shed his demons and make something of his career?

Sure, why not?

Will Gil Meche be able to live up to even half of his $55 million contract?

Um ... yeah!

Heck, Mike Sweeney even said he feels great. I'm sure he'll be reliable, consistent and an ever-present on-field leader for Kansas City's young stars.

What could possibly go wrong?

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