A city watched as the ball hung in the air for what seemed like an eternity. Wrapped in that ball was 29 years worth of losing, misery, animosity, disappointment, and somehow, hope. A city watched as gravity brought the ball back down, and into the glove of Salvador Perez.
A city exploded into triumphant joy, as they witnessed a moment that some had been waiting their entire life to see. Perez and Hosmer embraced at the plate, a picture that would soon go viral, and will now be the symbol of victory for at the least the next month, but possibly the next year.
Champagne showered the visitor’s clubhouse in Chicago, as this team full of young players celebrated for the first time in their lives. Ned Yost cried for his team, and James Shields puffed a cigar. They sang “We Ready” as they celebrated, a sign that they aren’t quite done yet.
In a season full of ups, downs, terrible losses, exciting wins and plenty of Twitter reaction, this still doesn’t seem real. It feels like the city is living in a dream that for some reason just won’t end. After 29 years of losing, it didn’t seem possible that this team would ever win.
The win on Friday night means more than just a playoff berth though. It means those 29 years of losing, misery, animosity and disappointment can be thrown out the window. So many times have fans referenced the long post-season drought in North American sports, a stigma no team wants attached to it. This post-season appearance means all of that can stop.
No matter how far the Royals advance in the playoffs–they will most likely host Oakland in the wildcard game on Tuesday–this season is now the beginning of a new era for the Royals. Eight years into the Dayton Moore rebuilding project, and it’s finally paid off.
The Royals might not have gotten here in the most conventional way, but they’ve gotten here in their own way, The Royal Way. Singles, stolen bases, infield hits, bunts and taking advantage of errors has been The Royal Way, and it worked. Even under heavy criticism and scrutiny, the Royals proved you don’t need homeruns and walks to make a playoff team.
Whether or not they want this to be their permanent identity is has yet to be seen, but it was a good enough identity to snap the drought this year. It was an identity full of inconsistencies, but a good enough identity nonetheless.
With the burden off their chest, the Royals can finally focus on the future. They’ve created a pitching staff that’s built to win, and only lack a few small pieces on offense. They still have one of the top minor league farm systems in the MLB, and can now utilize those players in their own club, rather than trade them away.
Moving forward, the Royals can address their needs–a new power hitting-hitting third baseman and power-hitting DH, more bullpen depth, and a new starting pitcher to replace James Shields–to truly create a championship caliber team. They have all the talent, but just need the execution.
They can redefine a franchise that for so long has been defined as being incompetent losers. Their new–albeit unconventional–identity can lead the charge for years to come, and bring championship baseball back to Kansas City.
Friday night, a new era began for the Royals. An era that will usher in change, reignite the passion in a fan base, and most importantly, put the Royals back on top.