Posnanski has spent the past five weeks telling Royals fans that a pennant race and a World Series are no longer folly but reality. "This is the Royals' year. The year of royalty. Season of blue," wrote Posnanski in his February 25 Kansas City Star column. "This is the year the Royals take Kansas City on that magical pennant-race ride."
He got one thing right: Baseball fans are being taken for a ride. By Posnanski.
The Royals are hanging their hopes on Roberto Hernandez, a 36-year-old closer, and a pitching staff that wouldn't scare Scooby-Doo. The only place the Royals are going in October is on vacation. The players are fun to watch and root for, but any claims from the media that this is their year aren't just laughable but downright fraudulent. The economics of baseball refuse to allow small-market teams such as the Royals to do anything but tease. For Posnanski to pretend the Royals will be playing meaningful games in September is unprofessional, but doing so also removes any credibility he may have had for reporting on the hometown team.
"This is the year the Royals have been building toward for years," wrote Posnanski. That sure isn't what the Royals' commercials have been saying the past seven or eight years. Remember watching Johnny Damon and George Brett fight over that TV remote? Never in that television commercial did Damon say, "Just wait until 2001 when they trade me. That's when the Royals are going to really be good."
There is nothing wrong with team owner David Glass telling us that this is the season the Royals win 87 games and battle for a pennant. First baseman Mike Sweeney should be (and is) telling every television camera in Florida that the Royals are going to win it all this year. That's what team owners and players are supposed to do in February. But should a journalist be drumming up pennant fever in his newspaper column as though he were selling imitation plutonium necklaces on QVC?
Royals fans are split on believing the hype. "I don't think there's a bit of hype to it," says a confident Marc Williams, a mortician in Grain Valley who knows a stiff when he sees one. "They can make it to the playoffs probably as a wild card. This is going to be the best year we've had since 1985." Chalk one up for Posnanski.
Others aren't buying any of the blue buzz. "They've just been mediocre the last few years even though there have been high hopes," says Jamie Wright, a computer programmer from Shawnee. Larry Honeycutt works at a Northland casino, and he would like to believe the Royals are for real, but logic won't allow it. "Honestly? Same old. It's too hard for them to keep the good talent" is how Honeycutt describes his feelings about the Royals' chances in 2001.
Asked whether his column hurt his credibility, Posnanski responds quickly. "I don't think it affects my credibility at all," he says. "It's truly what I believe about the Royals. When I look at their lineup, I think they can compete with Chicago and Cleveland this year. Despite the inequities [in baseball] there's no reason the Royals can't compete now."
Ginny Womack, who grew up in St. Louis rooting for Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter, disagrees. "I don't really think the Royals will win this year," sighs Womack. "Being a small-market team, they've got a tough row to hoe."
But there's a method to JoPo's madness. Once the disappointing realities of baseball economics take their toll on the Royals, he's ready to milk the sad season for another column. "If they don't win this year, I've got to rip them," Posnanski says.
Call him stubborn or call him cynical. Or call a mule barn and order up an ass to keep JoPo company in the K's press box.