Bury Me a Royal
Those four words may be what ends up defining the Royals career of Danny Duffy. I’m not really sure what the impetus was for it, but last night, those are the four words Danny Duffy tweeted and now anybody who dislikes him will be destroyed by public opinion. You see, for a long time, the Royals weren’t a team who the fans especially liked. Part of that is because fans love the winners, but a part of it is that the players simply weren’t likable at all. You could see it building last season as the Royals began calling up the future of the organization, but I think we’ve pretty much hit the apex of the Royals being liked by a hungry, hungry fanbase.
The Royals started last season with an Opening Day start from Luke Hochevar with a guy catching who had been a Royal for all of a week, a first baseman who many clamored to get a shot but didn’t have a great attitude, a second baseman who was the butt of many jokes, a shortstop who didn’t hit at all in his rookie year and was acquired for the team’s best pitcher, a third baseman who wasn’t destined to even finish the year with the team, a left fielder whose star had faded and two reclamation projects who the fans hated in center in right. The team wasn’t exactly hated, but it wasn’t a team that you felt great rooting for.
The saving grace to me, and probably other fans, was the young talent working its way through the system. We knew it was coming soon and we had heard all sorts of reports about the character of these guys. Like I mentioned before, character only gets you so far, but these guys were thought to be quite good as well. Then in early May, Eric Hosmer was called up and he met the media and was getting ready for his first game as a Royal in front of the home crowd. I’ll be honest here in saying that I just don’t know if Hosmer will stay a Royal for 10 years, but I do think he’s genuinely happy to be a part of this organization and truly enjoys this fanbase. He was the first player who came up who was just fun to watch. Now, he had the added benefit of Gordon, Cabrera and Francoeur having exceeded expectations to that point, but he still was the first face of a team fans could enjoy.
Soon after, Danny Duffy was called up to the big club. I have to say that my judgment of Duffy is a little bit clouded due to some people I know who have had the opportunity to get to know Duffy personally. All I hear about him is how awesome a person he is and how great he is just to be around and talk to. So with that in mind, I find it hard to believe that it would be possible for anybody to dislike him (not that I’ve heard anybody say they do). And then the floodgates opened with young players coming to the big leagues and making their big league debuts. Aside from the actual performance in their first go-round in the big leagues, one of my favorite memories of the second wave of prospects to come up was how much family Johnny Giavotella had in the stands for his debut.
And then the off-season started and while we’ve all missed baseball, the Royals have one of the biggest presences I’ve seen around baseball on social media. Guys like Hosmer, Duffy, Perez and other more established players like Butler and Soria are on Twitter. It’s the young guys, though, who show¬†camaraderie¬†and allow the fans a window into their relationships with each other. I’ve talked about his before, but there’s something extremely encouraging about watching the Royals prospects interact with each other on Twitter. I don’t know if it makes me believe they’ll want to stick together their whole careers or what, but it definitely can’t be a bad thing.
Two days ago, when Salvador Perez signed his long-term contract extension that was the talk of the town, I got to thinking about what that means for the organization. Of course, I think it shows that the Royals are willing to take care of their young players. I also think it is a contract that went to a player who embodies everything the Royals are trying to build. I think it was Greg Schaum who told this story that when Salvador Perez signed with the Royals as an amateur, he just wanted to get on the 40 man roster so he could make a little money to take care of his family. Well, he’s now guaranteed at least $7 million to help his family for life. He told his mother about the contract and made sure she was sitting before he told her the good news.
I’m not sure if the love of this team peaked last night or if it’s just the beginning of things to come, but when I saw the tweet in my feed by Danny Duffy saying “Bury Me a Royal,” I couldn’t help but smile. Here’s Danny Duffy, this great kid, and he’s just coming out and saying that he’s a Royal through and through. Maybe that changes in five or six years when he’s a superstar and he’s just so expensive the Royals can’t afford him. Maybe he’s just really good at public relations, but I simply don’t get that impression from Duffy. What it means is that these guys absolutely want to be here. Kansas City is not a destination to refurbish your career and it’s not a place where a 39 year-old can hang on for one more year of a paycheck. It is a desirable place to play and if you don’t believe it, just ask guys like Danny Duffy and Sal Perez. We’ve come a long way from the days of guys like Jose Guillen, Jose Offerman and others. These Royals are young, they’re good and they’re easy to root for. This city will go crazy for any winners, but when these guys win, it’ll be an even greater feeling.
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