I know this feeling. It's all too familiar to Royals fans like you and me. The Royals sit just 4.5 games back of first place in the most winnable AL Central division in recent memory on June 22. The sputtering St. Louis Cardinals (that has a nice ring to it) are coming into town and KC will be at a fever pitch in anticipation of the most meaningful series played between these two teams since...well, since 1985.
I know this feeling. The Royals are right on the cusp of doing the unthinkable. Something that Royals fans my age have never seen. Can this team make a run? Can they? History and my intuition say absolutely not.
In 2008, the Royals were 6.5 games back in the Central and seven games under .500 in late June. I thought maybe Gil Meche and Zack Greinke could carry that team to a spectacular finish. The only highlight for the rest of the season was David DeJesus walking off against the Mariners in mid-July and then the most vicious tease in recent Royals history as the team went 18-8 in September and set off unbridled and unfounded optimism.
We go to 2009. The Royals teased us yet again, starting 18-11 with the best pitcher in baseball heading a decent rotation. A few injuries here, a Trey Hillman unicycle ride there and it was over in the blink of an eye.
2010. Ned Yost takes over for Trey Hillman. The Royals sit eight games out in early July. After a sweep of Seattle, the Royals head into Chicago with a chance to make major headway in the division race. They don't.and proceed to lose seven of their next eight games, effectively ending pipe dreams of a miracle run.
2011. The Royals were never really in it, but finished strong.
And here we are. It's the final installment of the 2012 I-70 Series on the side of the state that actually cares about it (B.S. St. Louis cares about it. Ask them how they feel any time we beat them). The Cards are ripe for a sweep, but I'll take a series win.
The Royals are somehow scratching and clawing their way back to .500. I won't truly believe in a miracle second half run until this team reaches an even win-loss record. It wouldn't be fair to put myself through that kind of heartbreak again.
But the reality is that the Royals are winning ballgames with a lot of their best players either injured or in the minor leagues. Jeff Francouer continues to suck the life out of the heart of the order, but there's Brayan Pena, hitting walkoff doubles. Here's Yuni Betancourt hitting go-ahead shots in the umpteenth inning while Rex Hudler giggles like a school boy in the booth. Sal Perez is making his long-awaited return this weekend, Felipe Paulino is making rehab starts in Northwest Arkansas, while Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi are waiting in the wings.
I want to believe that this team has a miracle run in them. It's happened before to other teams. There is about to be an influx of talent to the roster. Humberto Quintero will likely not be catching nearly every day. Jeff Francouer may very well be on the trading block. Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon are returning to their 2011 forms. Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas are keeping this offense's head above water. The Royals are surviving. Maybe that's all they had to do up until this point, just weather the storm of injuries and atrocious luck that plagued them through the first 77 games of the season. They could very well be just a game under .500 at the official halfway mark of the season.
I say it every year, if this team can scrap and claw their way back to .500 by the time August rolls around, anything can happen. Especially in this division.
Strap on those #RallySandals and hope. Now is not the time to "believe", it's merely a time to hope. Hope that this team can push the boulder up the mountain. Belief has it's time. It has not come yet.
But damnit, are we deserving of a miracle here in KC.