By Justin Schaefer and Rocco Scarcello
Justin Schaefer (JS): The 2016 Kansas City Royals’ season will be remembered by pretty much all Royals fans as a frustrating, injury riddled season filled with spoiled opportunities to the reach the postseason, particularly the second Wild Card spot.
Rocco Scarcello (RS): While Cheslor Cuthbert, “Wonderful” Whit Merrifield, and Christian Colon filled in the 3rd base hole fairly nicely, there’s no question that Kansas City really missed having Mike Moustakas this year. He was due for a breakout season, and the other guys didn’t fill that void as effectively. Not to mention having those guys as added depth would have been gnarly. Other injuries, including ones to Alex Gordon, Wade Davis, Lorenzo Cain, and Luke Hochevar, crippled the Boys in Blue.
JS: For me it all goes back to July. Sure, losing Moose and Hochevar for the year, Cain for all of July and September, Wade Davis for a month, and Gordo having a year long slump after missing time with an injury really complicated things, but even with all of that, the Royals, after June, were 42-36 and right in the thick of things. After July, however, the Royals were 49-55 and didn’t win a single series. Then, the final nail in the coffin came in September in terms of the postseason. It became apparent after they got swept by the last place Oakland Athletics, losing by scores of 16-3, 5-4, 8-0, and 14-5. Then, after losing the last 4 games of the season, the Royals finished with a .500 record at 81-81.
RS: It is definitely the month that the Royals faithful will remember as the stretch that killed them. For them to come as close to the postseason as they did is a testament to the team’s resiliency. There was another stretch of must-win games in September, after the Royals dug themselves out of the grave they were in, that they came out for looking flatter than week old soda and couldn’t get the wins they needed.
JS: In August, although we saw a big revival, lots of fans thought this team was down and out being over 9 games back in the Wild Card hunt and under .500, but Lorenzo Cain comes back into the lineup, the bullpen goes on a scoreless streak, and boom! The Royals go on an absolute tear and win 20 games in August, finding themselves at 69-64 as well as being 4 games back of the Baltimore Orioles for the second Wild Card spot.
RS: This group of guys had earned themselves a never-dead attitude from their playoff appearances the past two years, and rightly so. They have been a team known to capitalize on opportunities in clutch moments, and there’s no question that the injuries and lack of production from key contributors at times, two key factors in making a postseason and World Series appearance, took them out of contention, not the overall build and makeup of the team.
JS: Lots of people could say this season could have been way better when you look at of all the opportunities the Royals had to capitalize off of other team’s struggles, but couldn’t get the job done (thank you Joakim Soria). But it also could have been way worse when you look at all the issues the Royals had such, as injuries to key players, starting rotation and bullpen inconsistency, down years from key players, and being forced to run with young players who were getting their first glimpse of the Bigs. All of that going against them, and they were STILL in the mix until the final week of the season.
RS:There’s no question about it, some of our young guys got some absolutely valuable playing time at the big league level. Had Moustakas stayed healthy, Cuthbert wouldn’t have gotten the playing time he got. The same can be said for Omar Infante’s struggles and eventual release. His struggles, as much as fans would have liked to see him succeed, set up Merrifield and Colon for extended playing time. Similarly, Brooks Pounders, Matt Strahm, and Brian Flynn were able to take advantage of multiple injuries to key members of the bullpen. That is (hopefully) part of the reason why manager Ned Yost brought in Soria so many times in high-leverage situations despite his numerous failures. Those games really ended up costing the Royals in the long haul.
JS: In my opinion I think the Royals – with some key acquisitions to the pitching staff – could have a pretty productive year. When you look at 2017 for the Royals and the roster they have coming back (barring some unforeseen future acquisitions), I expect this team to go back to where they were before, October, assuming everyone comes back healthy and stays healthy. This team has the capability of winning 90+ games, the bullpen could use another arm or two and a reliable starting pitcher wouldn’t hurt as well. But all in all, every Royals fan would want nothing more than to see this team go out with a bang and win another World Series because a lot of contracts are going to be up after 2017 and there is no telling who might or might not be back so the one thing all Royals fans could ask for is one last hurrah with this great core of players that every Kansas City fan has grown to love.