KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 16: Kila Ka'aihue #30 of the Kansas City Royals is congratulated by Matt Treanor #15 and Alex Gordon #4 after scoring on a Mike Aviles double during the game against the Seattle Mariners on April 16, 2011 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
I don't know for how many years I was hearing about Kila Ka'aihue. Probably fewer than I'd guess. The mind has a way of exaggerating these things. For a while, though, Ka'aihue was a hot topic. In Ka'aihue, the Royals had a guy performing well in triple-A, while the Royals had a bunch of other guys performing poorly in the majors. You can see why so many fans wanted Ka'aihue to get a chance.
In 2008, when Ka'aihue first excelled in Omaha, the Royals gave the bulk of their starts at first base to Ross Gload and Ryan Shealy. In 2009, with Ka'aihue still hitting well in Omaha, the Royals gave the bulk of their starts at DH to Mike Jacobs. In 2010, Ka'aihue tore it up in Omaha while the Royals DH'd Jose Guillen, before finally a change was made in August. At last, Ka'aihue would get a shot, albeit for only two months.
Ka'aihue came to be a symbol of all that was wrong with the Dayton Moore front office. It wasn't that Ka'aihue was supposed to be spectacular; it was that, for so long, he didn't get an opportunity to show what he could do because the go-nowhere Royals blocked him with go-nowhere pieces. A Google search for "free Ka'aihue" yields ... well it yields four results, but a Google search for "free Kila" yields nearly five thousand. He was a hot-button issue, locally and, on occasion, nationally.
It's interesting to look back on the whole Kila K'aihue saga, because this afternoon, the following news broke and raised few eyebrows. Bob Dutton:
Kelvin Herrera by designating 1B Kila Ka'aihue for assignment.clear roster space for RH reliever
Had this happened a year ago, it would've provoked an angry response. Had this happened two years ago, there might have been angry townspeople in the streets of Kansas City, bearing torches and pitchforks. But now? Now there is only the smoldering memory of anger that used to burn hot.
Ka'aihue's time in the Royals organization is almost certainly over, and it just doesn't matter much. Not because he's coming off a down year offensively, although that doesn't help. More because he was no longer blocked by mediocre veterans. He was blocked by 25-year-old Billy Butler, and by 21-year-old Eric Hosmer. Both of whom are younger than Ka'ahuie, and better hitters.
Ka'aihue was important to Royals fans who were dealing with a barren roster. That roster is no longer barren, as the much heralded young talent has arrived. It really is a different era now, and one could interpret this move as being symbolic. Ka'aihue's name represents the frustrating Royals of yesterday, and he's now gone in large part because of Hosmer, who represents the exciting Royals of tomorrow.