It sure was easy cheering for the Royals in 2015, wasn’t it? Unfortunately, these days it’s been a little difficult.
Kansas City is off to a 7-20 start, which places them dead last in the American League Central, 7.5 games back of division-leading Cleveland.
Through 26 games, the Royals were batting a league worst .178 with runners in scoring position, and have consequently scored the fewest runs in all of baseball (84) in that time. In contrast, the Yankees have nearly doubled that production, with 161 runs scored already this year.
At this rate, we’re on pace to lose more than 100 games. Ouch.
I think this abysmal start has caused Royals fans to grasp at straws in search of something good for which to cheer. Last week, that meant cheering when an opposing player hit a home run at The K. Yes, you read that right. These are desperate times.
Now, there’s also a little history here. Obviously, Royals fans won’t cheer for just anybody. But when the Brewers came to town for a two-game series last week, Royals fans gave Lorenzo Cain multiple ovations, including for a home run, in what was his first return to The K since signing with Milwaukee, the team with which he made his major league debut.
Cain meant a lot to the Royals during his time in Kansas City, and it was good to see Royals fans acknowledge his contributions. It’s been hard not seeing him in centerfield this year.
Even before the game started, there were fun antics. On the day he returned after being on the disabled list, Salvador Perez crashed Cain’s pre-game press conference, recording a video of his “Hermanito Lolo Cain.” Smiles all around.
Then, later, multiple ovations, according to the game’s broadcasters, including when Cain came out before the game for warm-ups, and of course, prior to his first at-bat. Milwaukee’s leadoff hitter, Cain was warmly welcomed as fans stood to their feet. Cain acknowledged the crowd by tipping his cap and flashing that fantastic smile, then walked to the plate, where Perez awaited with a hug. A fitting recognition for a player who brought so much to Kansas City.
But perhaps more shocking, the crowd didn’t stop there, and when Cain launched a seventh-inning home run out of the park, the crowd cheered again. It’s weird to cheer when an opposing player creates a larger deficit for your team, right? Even if said opposing player is a former beloved Royal?
This is a legitimate question for which I don’t have an answer, because I’m as big a fan of Cain as anyone—and goodness, I love his smile—so in my heart, cheering felt kind of all right. But it’s still odd.
I suppose when it comes down to it, though, for a fan base that’s on track to endure at least 100 losses, maybe we need to take advantage of every reason to cheer.
Janae Rempel, former sports editor at the Free Press, is on staff with Christian Leader magazine. You can still reach her at email@example.com.