In 2014, the Kansas City Royals shocked the baseball world by a) making the playoffs, b) winning a wild Wild Card game, and c) coming within one out of a World Series championship in an epic seven-game series with the San Francisco Giants.
Thus, the Royals entered 2015 with high expectations – even if, for whatever reason, outsiders didn’t feel the same way.
“All 30 teams come to spring training saying, ‘We’re going to win it’ – and not all of them believe it,” Fox Sports Royals writer Joel Goldberg said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “Look, I was around enough Royals teams – I’ve been here since ’08 – that said they were going to win it. And it’s like, ‘No, you’re not.’ And they know that. But this team came here this year with a chip on their shoulder. They were one run away. They were one game away. They were right there. They lost because Madison Bumgarner just dominated and had a historic World Series. And then they show up at spring training and all of the experts are picking them to finish in third or fourth place.”
Goldberg recalls the rationale somewhat amusingly: The White Sox added some free agents. The Indians have great pitching. The Tigers are still the Tigers.
“It really bothered them,” Goldberg said of the Royals. “Baseball Prospectus had them projected to win 72 games after they won 89 last year. So they come back and win 95. So I think one, they had a chip on their shoulder and they felt like they weren’t being respected.”
Of course, a chip on your shoulder can only take you so far. A chip on your shoulder doesn’t go an AL-best 95-67. A chip on your shoulder doesn’t beat the bat-heavy Blue Jays or the pitching-minded Mets. A chip on your shoulder doesn’t produce the first World Series championship in 30 years.
No, for Kansas City, this was about far more than pride and respect.
“I just think that the core of this team – Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar – these guys are all in their mid-20s, late-20s. They’ve been through it now,” Goldberg said. “They have the experience. I think Dayton Moore, their GM, has talked for years about needing to change the culture of the team, of the organization, of the town. These players now understand what it’s like to win. Most of them have won together in the minor leagues. They haven’t won in the big leagues, and I think they took the field all yearlong believing – not just believing, but knowing – they were better than anyone they went up against. There’s a swagger to that.”