For the second moment in a row, we focus on the Championship Royals era. Now, admittedly, it’s hard to criticize a franchise that hung two AL Championship banners and took home World Series rings in 2015. But this particular moment is aimed at the fans (myself included, I want to be clear about that.)
But first, let’s talk a little about Omar Infante. In many ways, Infante is a prototypical Royal for a Ned Yost led club. He has a history of being an offensive juggernat. For his first 11 years in the league, Infante’s slash was .279/.319/.402. Not shabby for a second baseman. Additionally, he hit 74 homers in 11 years and was coming off a phenomenal year with Detroit in 2013 when he signed with the Royals as a free agent. An All-Star in 2010 and a potential hit-for-average guy, you’d have been silly to not sign him when you’re building for a championship run. You were trying to fill a gaping hole left by Yuniesky Betancourt, Emilio Bonafacio, and Johnny Giavotella, so Omar Infante was a big name to sign.
The 2014 version of Omar Infante wasn’t, now stop me if you’ve heard this one, quite what we thought we were getting. Infante hit .252 with only six homers, but did manage to play in 135 games. So he effectively became an innings eater and he didn’t hurt us at the plate. He hit a homer run in Game 2 of the 2014 World Series and didn’t embarrass himself.
When 2015 rolled around, Omar Infante rolled over. He was always solid at second base. But at the plate… woof. Per Royals Review in June of 2015, “Omar Infante is hitting 54% worse than the league average player in the majors this year. He is currently listed as the 6th worst hitter in the major leagues that has at least 150 plate appearances. Out of the 55 starting PITCHERS that have at least 20 plate appearances, even two of them are hitting better than Infante.”
Ok. So, spoiler alert, the Royals went on to win the World Series that year, and Omar Infante owns a World Series ring. But he was baaaaaaaaaad in 2015. Like Twilight: Breaking Dawn bad.
So let’s circle back now to the fans. Beginning in 2012, Royals Nation learned how to make its mark on the game. Our “brand” was disruption. In 2012 was the #BooCano movement.. In 2014, we brought a Royals Super Fan to the United States from South Korea (maybe you’ve heard of him?) and, in the process, sparked a movement that I still contend had a positive effect on the 2014 season. (Even if it’s a 1% effect, that’s still a contribution to an AL Title.)
Throughout, Royals fans learned the power of crowd-sourcing and going viral. During the week Sungwoo was here in 2014, we basically pre-planned a hashtag to go viral on Twitter. And with the help of 610 Sports, launched #SungWooToKC and #BringBackSungWoo. Both trended nationally, and we learned about what that meant to the news cycle and the game itself.
The year 2015 was off the chain for Royals fan. Honestly, it felt weird. Like “what do I do with my hands?” weird. We had a level of confidence, but also felt that it needed to be justified and fought for at every turn. So we kept doubling down.
Every June, Major League Baseball launches their voting. First off, it’s not our fault that this was the year they went away from those little punch cards. It’s also not our fault that all voting was done online and it’s a popularity contest. There was no team in the world more popular than the Royals for several months in 2015. And Royals fans spread their feathers and crowed all night and day. (There’s a cock joke in there somewhere, but the Royals are about to lose and I need to wrap this up.)
Somewhere on Twitter or Facebook or even on the Radio, somebody thought about possibly stacking the voting and, thus, the entire starting lineup, with Royals. Every few weeks, MLB would announce the standing and Royal after Royal was at the top of the voting.
Salvador Perez, Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer were all virtual locks. That’s five. Only need four more to make history. Alex Rios? Sure. Why not. Alcides Escobar with his goofy first pitch swing-Ned married to him in the leadoff spot? Fuck, yes. That’s seven. We know a pitcher will start. Yordano Ventura is a lock and we can DH him with Kendrys Morales. That’s eight and a half. Damn near a Yahtzee.
Now… who are we missing? Oh yeah, our shortstop who is currently hitting around the Mendoza line. WE ARE ROYALS NATION AND WE CANNOT BE STOPPED. #VoteOmar was born. Cooked up with the best and worst of intentions, #VoteOmar was more than just an online vote for a player, it was a crusade. It was an OCD person’s personal goal to check ALL the boxes. We could, for the first time ever, have nothing but Royals A-Z in the starting lineup of a Royals game.
This brings us to our 43rd moment on our countdown, June 15, 2015. The day #VoteOmar took the lead.
This, my friends, is the shark jump of #RoyalsTwitter. This is the day that Royals Facebook overstepped. What happened when Icarus flew too close to the sun? He fucking died. That’s what. Every “movement.” Every “campaign.” Every “push” just felt forced after that. Because we nearly put Omar Infante in the God damned All-Star Game. Man has pushed himself to go farther and faster. Man has always innovated greater inventions and made society the best that Man could do. Man flew to the Moon. Man is planning to go to Mars. But, as Matt Damon taught us, did anybody ever stop to think if it was a good idea?
What did we almost do? We almost but a .200 hitter into the All-Star Game. We nearly made a mockery of the institution. We pooped in the pudding. The rest of the fanbase rightfully called shenanigans and did the “I’m out of order, YOU’RE out of order” speech.
Thankfully, following June 15, cooler heads prevailed, and “only” started four Royals in Cincinnatti and failed to make it a Royal Flush. Honestly, after June 15, the rest of baseball rallied against us and beat our ass down the stretch. (Not uncommon if you’ve ever seen someone from Royals Twitter try to run.)
Icarus’s wings melted and he fell back to Earth. Royals Fans only could rest their confidence on an impending World Series Championship and resigning Alex Gordon to a money-sucking contract. Gotta take the bitter with the better, eh?
I hope we’ve learned our lesson, Royals Fans. This one is on you.
(Audio courtesy 610 Sports. Go to 12:20 Mark.)
A summary of what Royals Twitter accomplished from 2012-2015. Now that the Royals suck again, thankfully, so does Royals Twitter.
Our 42nd Moment will make you clean… Squeaky clean…