Sometimes giving up is hard to do. You lay your careful plans, and there are days when everything seems to be going so well. But then you wake up one day, or maybe you're just about to fall asleep at night, and you realize your plans just haven't worked out. Maybe it was your fault. Maybe the plan was faulty from the beginning, or maybe you didn't make the proper adjustments on the fly. Or maybe it wasn't your fault at all. Maybe you did everything you could possibly do, and events simply conspired against you. That happens, too. That happens all the time.
But however it happened, the best thing you can possibly do is realize that it's happened, and figure out what's next.
This is where the Kansas City Royals now find themselves.
Entering the season, the Tigers seemed like overwhelming favorites in the American League Central. Worse, it seemed highly unlikely that a spot in the Super Elimination Wild Card Round would be captured by a Central club. Win the division, or die. And the Tigers looked really hard to kill.
Still, events sometimes conspire. Before the season, I said if the Tigers did falter, the Indians were probably in the best position to take advantage. With the Royals fighting the White Sox for table scraps and the Twins trying to avoid losing 100 games.
I had no idea how poorly the ChiSox would play, but I did pretty well on the rest of it. Still, it wasn't crazy to think the Royals could swap places with the Indians and, at the very least, make things interesting for the hometown crowds in August. And for a spell earlier this season, things were interesting. On the 1st of May, the Royals grabbed first place. In the middle of May, A few weeks later, they were just a couple of games out. Three-fifths of the starting rotation was humming along, and when the young hitters finally get going ...
Now the Royals are dead. Forget about the Tigers for a moment. The Royals need to beat the Indians, just to have a shot at the Tigers. And the Royals just got swept by the Indians. They're now eight games behind the Tigers, and six-and-a-half behind the Indians. Catching one of those teams would be exceptionally difficult. Catching both is a 25-to-1 shot. At best.
And smart teams don't bet on 25-to-1 shots. Smart teams figure out what's next.
What does that mean? Well, the first thing it means is trading Ervin Santana, who's working on the last year of his contract and working quite well. When people mention attractive starting pitchers, Santana's name never seems to come up, and I can only assume that's because the Royals given no indication they're ready to figure out what's next.
It should also mean trading James Shields, because the Royals probably won't challenge the Tigers next year, either. And Shields can walk after next year. But even the thought of trading their best pitcher now is probably more than management can stand. So let's move along ...
It should mean releasing Jeff Francoeur, because ... what's that? Oh. Okay. Never mind.
Unfortunately, there's really not a great more the Royals can do. With the exception of Shields and Santana, their attractive commodities are either playing poorly or playing for very little money. And they're almost certainly not trading Shields.
Which means the Royals can prove their emotional maturity without actually doing much. All they have to do is trade Santana for a good-hitting prospect, stop wasting at-bats on guys Miguel Tejada and Elliott Johnson, and play whatever kids are around to play.
If not now, then before the end of this month. Because if the Royals are eight games out of first place on the 1st of August and Ervin Santana's still on the roster, you know they're lying to themselves.