Royals Out to Show That Kansas City Isn’t Just a Chiefs Town

The Kansas City Royals are hoping that a roster churn in the offseason will lead to the team returning to the postseason.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - SEPTEMBER 28: Bobby Witt Jr. #7 of the Kansas City Royals celebrates scoring a first inning run with teammates while playing the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on September 28, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Let’s be honest … it’s hard not to tie the Kansas City Chiefs and Kansas City Royals together. After all, the franchises share a Sports Complex (including a series of parking lots that have seen more than their fare share of tailgate parties through the years) and dominate the pro sports scene in a metropolis that stretches across two states.

Heck, the Chiefs’ three recent Super Bowl trophies were by the pitcher’s mound when Chiefs head coach Andy Reid threw out the first pitch on Opening Day.

The Royals’ next door neighbors showed up well for the Opening Day party on Thursday.

In part, the effort was to be a good neighbor. However, with a vote coming up on April 2 that could determine the futures of the Chiefs and Royals and where they will play moving forward, there were plenty of reasons for the two teams to show unity in front of what could be the largest crowd of the season inside Kauffman Stadium.

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That, however, is the future. In regards to the recent past, it could be argued that the proximity of the two stadiums could be the extent of the mental tie-in between the two teams for nearly a decade.

Since the Royals captured the 2015 World Series, this town has been dominated by the Chiefs, especially since the arrival of Patrick Mahomes. After all, only once in the last five years have the Chiefs not been in the Super Bowl, and that includes winning the last two NFL titles.

While nearby Arrowhead Stadium has been rocking beginning in September, that’s about the time that Kauffman Stadium has been slowly shutting down in recent seasons. Since 2016 when the Royals went 81-81, the team has fallen below .500 in every campaign, including last season’s 56-106 record.

However, on a crisp sunny Opening Day inside what locals call “the K,” there was a feeling of positivity of what could be this season. With Bobby Witt Jr. getting the franchise’s biggest-ever contract extension and cemented as the face of the franchise moving forward and a plethora of veterans signed to help bring experience into the clubhouse, the prospects of the Royals competing in what is perceived to be a weak American League Central is tantalizing.

Just seven of the Royals who were on the 2023 Opening Day roster were back on the chalk on Thursday. That says a lot about the attitude in Kansas City heading into this season.

“I think it clearly states that we felt like we needed to make a lot of changes,” Royals executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager J.J. Picollo said of the turnover before the Royals and Minnesota Twins kicked off the season on Thursday.

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“We had a lot of holes to fill. We didn’t have a particular number in mind.”

“It’s as exciting for us as it was necessary. We want to compete at a higher level and, to do so, we had to make some changes.”

Cole Ragans took the bump for the Royals on Opening Day. After coming over in a trade with the Texas Rangers at last season’s trade deadline, he is the poster child for how Kansas City churned their roster over the past nine months.

Four of the nine players starting on Thursday weren’t on the Royals roster a year ago.

While Thursday may not have gone Kansas City’s way in a 4-1 loss to a dominant Pablo Lopez and an opportunistic Twins squad, it’s clear that the Royals aren’t looking in the rear view mirror.

“Last year doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “It has no bearing on what happens today or any day moving forward. I could care less about last season.”

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With Ragans in the fold, however, there are some reasons to look back at 2023.

After all, the trade with the Rangers gave the Royals a pitcher they feel has all of the potential to be the staff ace moving forward. While wearing a Royals uniform, Ragans has a 2.67 ERA over 13 starts spanning 77.2 innings.

Despite losing the first two games of the series, Ragans and Seth Lugo (a new arrival after signing a three-year deal in the offseason) combined to allow just two runs and seven hits through 12.0 innings. However, Kansas City’s offense didn’t provide much help, scoring just one run in each of the first two games.

That all changed on Easter, however, as Kansas City’s bats woke up early, shelling Minnesota starter Bailey Ober for eight runs in just 1.2 innings to set the tone for what would be not only the first victory of 2024 for the Royals, but a stat-packed one as well.

Eleven runs on 14 hits meant plenty of Royals got in on a little bit of the holiday action.

It was a quick start on Sunday. Through the game’s first three innings, the Royals blasted four home runs and also logged a double and a triple to quickly ensure the Twins wouldn’t leave with a sweep. The first three at-bats of the day for Bobby Witt Jr.? Single, triple, and home run.

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“We knew what we were capable of. We knew this was there,” said Witt Jr., who failed to get a double in his last two at-bats, keeping Kansas City’s last cycle with George Brett in 1990. “It’s great. It shows everyone what this offense can do. It’s just getting started.”

While offense grabbed the headlines on Sunday, Brady Singer allowed just three hits over 7.0 innings, striking out 10 and walking just one. Put the three Royals starters together against the Twins and you have a stat line with just two runs given up on 10 hits over the course of 19.0 innings.

That’s impressive, and a good sign for Kansas City in what is a brutal start to the campaign as the Royals will face teams that made the postseason 25 times in their first 38 games of the season.

“It’s a great feeling, and the team is going to feed off of that,” Quataro said of the strong starts. “That’s a good team in the other clubhouse and to be able to hold down their offense with the starting pitching, that’s very encouraging.

“It’s way better to get out of here with a win than being swept.”

Kansas City’s next challenge comes with three games in Baltimore, a series that will be played while the vote that will decide the future of Kauffman Stadium happens back home. It’s a big week ahead on a number of levels for the Royals, a team that seems ready to show they have the tools to potentially surprise this season.

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