On his first morning here, James Shields went to Starbucks with his new manager, Ned Yost, who revealed something of an embarrassing secret. To the baristas who take his order, he was not Ned.
He told them he was Frank, because after back-to-back seasons of at least 90 losses with the Kansas City Royals, he didn't want them calling out his name and drawing ugly glances from the other patrons. "Well, James is sitting there," Yost said Wednesday, "and I think, 'I'm not gonna have to use Frank much longer.' I'm excited about that."
The last time there was this combination of optimism and chatter about the Kansas City Royals was a generation ago. The city did right by the All-Star Game, but that had nothing to do with the team. Zack Greinke won a Cy Young surrounded by mediocrity. Carlos Beltran got traded, and that was not a particularly optimistic moment. A 16-3 start in 2003 devolved into mediocrity. A drunk idiot and his son attacked the Royals' first-base coach, and that kept their name in the news for a few days. Basically, not since Bo Jackson was roaming the outfield, or even back to 1985 when they won the World Series, have the Royals permeated baseball's consciousness as they are right now.