Being the fan of an inept team isn't easy.
Batman Begins came out in 2005. I am 23 years old now, and that movie was a major deal for me. I worked at a Best Buy at the time, and at one point I started seeing posters for this new Batman movie come out. I was a kid watching Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney portray the Dark Knight. I didn't quite understand the Keaton Batman, was enthralled with Ace Ventura facing off against Kilmer in his version, and was distracted by Alicia Silverstone and Uma Thurman for Clooney's Batman.
But when this new Batman came out, with some actor I'd never heard of named Christian Bale, I was excited. I saw it the day it came out. I bought it the day it came out on DVD. And then I eagerly checked the internet almost everyday to check on updates for the potential sequel. The end of Batman Begins features a sneak preview to the villain in the new movie, with his calling card (for those of you who haven't a clue to what has gone on in Hollywood the last year, that is the Joker card left by the Clown Prince himself, a dead giveaway into the sequel.) Anyway, my point is, I made frequent stops into the web highway to find out who would be playing this Joker character. I honestly had no idea, guessing for several months that it would be Jack Black, thinking he could pull off something similar to what Jack Nicholson did in the original Batman movie. But it was the anticipation that killed. I never knew who would be the actor to suit up and face the Caped Crusader.
Of course, I eventually found out. I doubted the capabilities of Heath Ledger to make the Joker come to life. Nicholson's Joker was the standard, and that seemed an impossible bar to surpass. Anytime a remake or reboot occurs, that happens. People never seem to believe that the original can be beaten.
And that brings me to the Kansas City Royals. Unbelievable, right? Never thought a blockbuster movie would be compared to a baseball team not named the Yankees or Red Sox, if at all? Me neither. And yet here I am.
It is not fun being a Royals' fan. I know one winning season in my lifetime. There have been others, but I was too young. I know the 2003 season. And that was a fluke. Kind of like Batman Forever, it was a fluke. It felt good, because people remembered the good feelings and positive vibes from the 80s, kind of like people remembered the Keaton and Tim Burton Batman movies. But this new Batman Kilmer, or in the case of the Royals, the group of players, just felt like they were trying to amount to something that they weren't. Val Kilmer was nowhere near the level a Batman that Michael Keaton was. And the '03 Royals were nowhere near the baseball team the '80s Royals were.
I'll just forget Batman & Robin, because the rest of America wish that we would, and move on into the Batman series of today, and subsequently the Royals of today. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for the comic book fanatics, this is where the comparison ends. The Batman franchise has been completely reinvigorated with the Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale Batman movies.
But the Royals continue to disappoint. They've had players lately. Poor records have led to high draft picks which have yielded players such as Luke Hochever, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler. But none of those three have yet to truly make their mark in the bigs. Gordon seemed destined to be a star, but two underperforming seasons have given way to a third season that has seen him play only a handful of games due to a hip injury. Gordon may still see his star shine, but right now, he is not what the Royals had hoped for. Butler hasn't been the guy either. Once considered the best hitter in the minors, he has yet to live up to his promise in the bigs. And Hochever, a former number one overall pick, is still a very enigmatic pitcher. He delivers a dominant performance one game, and then gives up a dud the next.
Fortunately, none of these players are over 25, meaning that they have plenty of time to turn things around. After all, Gordon seemed to have things figured out before his injury, Butler has had some hot stretches, and Hochever has looked absolutely dominant and Cy Young worthy in some of his recent starts.
But the big lift comes from elsewhere. First off, the Royals have this former first round pick who has absolutely turned on the switch. Zach Greinke, himself only 25, appears to be the favorite to be the starting pitcher for the American League in the All-Star Game. He has almost without argument been the most dominant pitcher in baseball through these first three months. I won't go into the personal struggles Greinke has dealt with, but this is the kind of emergence the Royals need. The most encouraging sign from Greinke's rise has been the fact that prospects can make it in this organization. And this is an organization not deprived of prospects.
The Royals have had high draft picks in the last three drafts. In the first two of those drafts, they netted themselves arguably the best hitters in each of those drafts. In 2007, they got Mike Moustakas, a shortstop with great prowess at the plate who appears capable of playing the outfield, as well as the corner infield spots. And they followed that with Eric Hosmer in 2008, a first baseman who seems to have the bat to eventually make him a 3 or 4 hitter in a major league lineup in his future. Both of these hitters were drafted out of high school, meaning they will take longer to develop, but could be excellent investments at the same time, especially for a team hurting for clutch bats.
To top off those great picks, the Royals selected Aaron Crow in 2009, a pitcher from the University of Missouri who was originally selected as a top 10 selection in the 2008 draft, but was not signed by the team who drafted him, and re-entered the draft. This is a guy who pans out as an eventual 1 or 2 starter in a big league rotation. And combined with Greinke, Hochever, and potentially Brian Bannister, Kyle Davies, or Gil Meche, could form a potent rotation in the near future.
These youngins don't include some of the lesser known prospects in the Royals organization. There are young players who could become leadoff hitters and centerfielders, a couple of guys who could be impact middle infielders, and a jumble of potential standout first basemen, not to mention some flame-throwing hurlers.
The only frustrating part of all of this is the fact that it will take a few years for all of this to come to fruition. Moustakas might make his way to Kansas City in late 2009, or else at some point in 2010. Hosmer won't be in KC until at least mid 2010. And that means I have to make due with what the Royals have to offer now. Which means I have to continue to wait for the players the likes of Gordon, Butler and Hochever to break out. Which when I consider the hopes I hang on Moustakas, Hosmer and Crow, makes me feel pretty good. Like I said, none of the latter three are over 25, meaning any and all of them could break out. And maybe when they do, the new three will be ready to be introduced to Kansas City.
With that, maybe the next three years won't seem so long. I mean, I talked earlier about how long it would take for that new Batman movie to come out. And as I write this, it has been almost a year since that sequel came out. Royals' fans have waited a long time for the sequel to those '80s teams. But I have a feeling that if the two trios of prospects work out, those fans will feel kind of like the fans waiting for the movie that would become "The Dark Knight". Ultimately, it took a while, and waiting for it after the original made the wait seem even longer. But once that sequel did come out, those years waiting weren't really that long. And more importantly, after getting what we had waited for, those years waiting were well worth it.