Back in the 70s and 80s, before the economic landscape of baseball became a proletarian struggle for survival of the “haves” versus the “have nots,” the Kansas City Royals were one of the game’s premier franchises. Between 1976 and 1985 they won six AL West championships. Since winning the World Series in ’85, however, they haven’t even made the playoffs. The absence of a hard salary cap (“luxury tax” should be reserved for Monopoly boards, not as a means of ushering wealthy clubs toward fiscal temperance) and the great disparity in television and radio revenue–the Yankees have their own freaking TV network–coupled with poor drafting and player development, has led to generational stretches of futility for some formerly proud organizations.
In 2011 the Royals showed signs of returning to relevance by virtue of an influx of young hitters produced by their farm system. First baseman Eric Hosmer is foremost among them, finishing with a slash line of 66/19/78/.293/11 in 523 at-bats. Kila Ka’aihue began the season as the starter at first base. By early May, his languid hitting confirmed the long held suspicion that the “Tryin’ Hawaiian” is a dog with fleas with no real business on a major league roster. Hosmer was called up on May 6, despite having fewer than 300 career at-bats above A-ball. He latched onto the starting job and never looked back.
He certainly looks like a star, and most experts have him in the top ten at his position. I have him ninth in my rankings, mostly because, unlike my esteemed colleague, I am not ready to start shoveling dirt over Paul Konerko and Lance Berkman juuust yet. I think those old dogs still have at least one good season in them. Rotobrian and I exchanged heated words on the subject. In retaliation he overnighted me a fart in a Ziploc; it smelled like the inside of a Ziploc. Urban myth debunked.