Wed, Oct 28, 2015 - Page 18 News List

Forget the Cubs; Royals MLB’s real underdogs

Reuters

The Kansas City Royals’ Edinson Volquez talks to reporters at a news conference in Kansas City, Missouri, on Monday.

Photo: AFP

Forget about the Cubs. Any casual baseball fan wanting to cheer for a real underdog rather than a wealthy big city underachiever might want to disregard those so-called lovable losers from Chicago and embrace the Kansas City Royals.

The franchise from the second-smallest metropolitan area in the majors, and until last year without a post-season appearance since their lone World Series win in 1985, is back in the Fall Classic after falling to the Giants in seven games last year.

That speaks volumes of the decision by owner David Glass to crack open the purse strings, hire a bright young general manager in Dayton Moore and let the Royals’ front office build a team capable of going all the way.

Rated the third-least valuable franchise in the majors, with annual revenue less than half the New York Yankees, the Royals have been in the majors since 1969, as an expansion club to replace the Athletics team that left Kansas City for Oakland.

In a sport where parity reigns, the Royals put together the best regular season record in the American League this year (95-67) as they followed up their wild-card appearance in the playoffs last year by easily ruling the AL Central.

Manager Ned Yost is in his fifth season with the Royals, and the seeds for success were planted in 2013, when after nine losing seasons in a row, the Royals went 86-76 with one of the strongest bullpens in the majors.

Despite their small market status, the Royals these days have a mid-size payroll after owner Glass, long a believer in developing young talent and relying on the team’s farm system, decided to also start spending in a quest to compete with wealthier rivals.

Glass has not spent enough to satisfy all his critics, but this season’s opening-day payroll was a healthy US$113 million — money well spent it would seem.

The Royals have added this season to their pitching rotation by acquiring Dominican right-handers Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto, which helped soften the blow of losing last year’s free agent James Shields and Jason Vargas to a season-ending injury.

Six of their nine position players in the clinching Game Six victory against Toronto in the American League Championship Series returned from Game Seven of last year’s World Series.

The newcomers: veteran right fielder Alex Rios and slugging designated hitter Kendrys Morales, who were acquired in the off-season, and second baseman Ben Zobrist, brought in during July’s trade deadline period.

If the Royals fall short against the New York Mets, they would join their American League rivals the Texas Rangers (2010 and 2011) as consecutive World Series losers.

Kansas City fans would rather anticipate a more positive outcome, one that has been a long time in the making.

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