That’s a headline KC Royals fans hope to enjoy as soon as next season. With the way the team played over stretches this season, it’s not hard to picture that scenario.
However this year, we are left to root for another team.
Being a baseball junkie, the playoffs are one of my favorite times of the year (outside watching guys make their debuts and the start of the season). It’s when nobody’s become somebody’s and sometimes superstars become choke artists.
While the Royals are beginning the offseason, some of their former players have the luxury of participating in the postseason. Actually, the only team without a former Royal on its roster is the NY Yankees.
Let’s start with former ace Zack Greinke. The whole reason he wanted out of KC was because he was tired of losing. Well, in his first year in Milwaukee, the Brewers won the National League Central and he is undefeated at home (Miller Park). Despite pitching the team’s finale at home on Wednesday as the Brewers secured home-field advantage against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS, Greinke is expected to start Game 2 at Miller Park on Sunday (on short rest).
Greinke isn’t the only former Royal on the Brewers. Shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt was also included in the deal that sent Greinke to Milwaukee. Betancourt has had a solid season (.252) in teaming with Rickie Weeks (and others when Weeks was on the DL) to form the Brewers double-play combination.
The Brewers counterpart, the Diamondbacks, have Willie Bloomquist on their roster. The Dbacks have yet to finalize their NLDS roster, so I am not 100% sure he made the cut. He had solid seasons in 2009 and part of 2010 with the Royals. He also had another solid season in Arizona this year (.266).
Utility man Wilson Betemit was traded to the Detroit Tigers during this summer to bolster their offense at third base. Despite dealing with a knee injury late in the season, Betemit started the Tigers final two games of the season. Betemit and the Tigers won the American League Central and begin their playoff push tonight against the NY Yankees in New York.
Catcher Matt Treanor was traded at the end of August while he was finishing up his rehab assignment (a concussion put him on the DL). Who was he traded to? The same team that dealt him to the Royals during spring training, the Texas Rangers. The Rangers won the AL West and secured home-field advantage in the ALDS. Surprisingly, Treanor made the Rangers ALDS roster, as they chose to carry three catchers. The Rangers begin their quest for a second consecutive AL title at 5pm ET today against the visiting TB Rays.
Treanor isn’t the only former Royal on the Rangers. Middle infielder Andres Blanco, who can be seen as more of a cheerleader than an actual player for the Rangers (he got into just 36 games this season), spent the beginning of his career with the Royals (I remember him as a youngster in Wilmington). He actually isn’t on the ALDS roster as he is dealing with a stress fracture in his lower back (though I’m sure you’ll still see him cheering). His replacement on the roster? You guessed it, a former Royal. That would be Esteban German (2006-2008), who can give them some speed and flexibility, but most likely won’t play (like last year). Another speed guy off the bench for the Rangers is Endy Chavez, who spent his first year in the big leagues (2001) with the Royals.
Speaking of the Rays, they have a host of former Royals on their roster, most notably in their revamped bullpen. Closer Kyle Farnsworth, who looks to be healthy, spent half of 2010 in KC before being traded to Atlanta. Farnsworth signed with the Rays this past offseason and helped solidify a brand new bullpen. His setup man, Joel Peralta (who can also close if Farnsworth is unavailable), spent 2006-2008 with the Royals. The past two seasons (in Washington and TB) may have been his best seasons yet. Juan Cruz, the guy who runs like a greyhound, spent the last two seasons with the Royals before signing with the Rays this year. Cruz has become the 7th inning guy or the reliever who comes in to get out of the mess. Lefty JP Howell is, thankfully, finally healthy. Howell was a 2004 draft pick of the Royals and started for them back in 2005. It has been a tough season on the quirky left-hander, but if he can figure it out, he will be tough.
The big name on the Rays that came from KC is Johnny Damon. Who can forget the guy who never wanted to leave, but has won how many World Series titles since? Damon will be batting 5th tonight for the Rays against the Rangers and lefty CJ Wilson. Despite his age, Damon has proven that he can still play the game and play it well. I heard a rumor about a month ago that Damon wants to retire as a Royal.
The Philadelphia Phillies are the favorite yet again to win the NL title and Raul Ibanez is a big reason why. Though he struggled mightily against lefties this year and for most of the first half, he really came on strong down the stretch (he has seven RBIs over his last ten games). Ibanez spent 2001-2003 with the Royals.
The Phillies will face the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS beginning on Saturday afternoon. The Cardinals can bring reliever Octavio Dotel in early or late, and he doesn’t seem to care. Since being acquired at the trading deadline from the Toronto Blue Jays, Dotel is 3-3 with a 3.28 ERA in 29 games. He has struck out 32 over 24.2 innings. Dotel pitched in 24 games for the Royals in 2007.
So, who will you be rooting for Royals fans?
Let me know in either the comments section or on my Facebook page.
(Check out my Tigers-Yankees Preview on Around the Horn, which should be up shortly.)