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Royals' trade with Rays shows win-now mentality

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Royals' trade with Rays shows win-now mentality

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) When James Shields broke into the big leagues with Tampa Bay, the Rays were no better than the Kansas City Royals.

They lost more than 100 games his first season, and fared little better the following year. But by his third season as a starter, the Rays had finally turned the corner, many of their prized prospects forming the nucleus of a team that upstaged AL East stalwarts Boston and the Yankees and advanced all the way to the World Series.

Now, after a blockbuster deal that sent Shields and fellow right-hander Wade Davis to the Royals late Sunday, the former All-Star pitcher believes everything is in place for Kansas City to replicate the Rays' success.

``The Royals are definitely on the right track,'' Shields said Monday. ``They definitely remind me of our '07 season going into our '08 season in the Rays organization, and I think there's a good possibility we can step in that direction. I've been there when we've lost 100 games before. I've also won 96, 97 games before, and I think me and Wade bring a little of that to the table, knowing how to win and what it takes to win.''

The Royals haven't known what that's like in years.

Despite the matriculation of their best prospects to the big league club, the Royals still struggled to a 72-90 record and a third-place finish in the weak AL Central last season. It was their ninth consecutive losing season, and extended to 27 the number of years it's been since the franchise last played in the postseason.

The biggest reason for the lousy finish was a dearth of starting pitching, and that's something that general manager Dayton Moore has been aggressively trying to resolve this offseason.

Along with acquiring Shields and Davis in arguably the biggest move his tenure, Moore also re-signed Jeremy Guthrie to a $25 million, three-year deal and acquired Ervin Santana and his $12 million salary from the Los Angeles Angels. That means Kansas City's top four starters next season weren't on their opening day roster this past year.

``Our goal is to add as much pitching depth as we can as every organization tends to do, especially this time of year,'' said Moore, adding that Bruce Chen, Luke Hochevar and Luis Mendoza could compete for the final job in spring training.

Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino, who are both coming off Tommy John surgery this past summer, could also wrestle the job away when they return sometime during the middle of the season.

``It looks like a good mix of people, I think, with Shield and Santana - I've seen Guthrie pitch for a couple years with the Orioles,'' Davis said. ``I'm not a 10-year veteran or a coach, but I think it's a good mix of people.''

The Royals certainly mortgaged their future to put it together.

Tampa Bay's biggest prize in the six-player swap is undoubtedly outfielder Wil Myers, widely regarded as the top prospect in the minors. The 22-year-old hit .314 with 37 homers and 109 RBIs last season, and he starred during the All-Star Futures Game hosted by Kansas City, putting together a pair of hits and driving in three runs.

Moore said he tried to keep Myers out of the deal, but he also understood that ``you have to give up something to get something,'' so he parted with one of the game's top prospects.

He also sent along right-hander Jake Odorizzi, the Royals' top pitching prospect, left-hander Mike Montgomery and third baseman Patrick Leonard to Tampa Bay. Kansas City also will receive another player or cash.

``When you get a chance to upgrade and get a pitcher the caliber of James Shields and Wade Davis, we felt it was the right thing for us to do for our team today and going forward,'' Moore said.

The Royals have made a significant financial commitment to winning this season.

Along with taking on Santana's hefty contract, the Royals will pay Shields $10.5 million this season while holding a club option of $12 million with a $1 million buyout for next season. Davis is due to make $2.8 million this season and $4.8 million in 2014, with the Royals holding options on the next three years.

Shields said he relishes the opportunity to return to the role of franchise ace.

It was the same role he had his first few years in Tampa Bay, before David Price and others blossomed, and a role in which he feels comfortable. He's logged at least 200 innings six consecutive seasons, has 14 complete games over the past two years, and his 3.89 ERA for his career makes him the most effective starter in the Royals' new-look rotation.

Kansas City starters combined for a 5.01 ERA last season, fifth-worst in the big leagues.

``Starting pitching, I think that's where it starts,'' Shields said. ``What the Rays did the last couple years, it's been about starting pitching and defense. That's the key to success. Hopefully me and Wade can get the job done.''

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What winning the Stanley Cup would actually mean, a fan's perspective

What winning the Stanley Cup would actually mean, a fan's perspective

Just four more wins. It hardly seems possible.

For only the second time ever and for the first time in 20 years, the Capitals will be playing in the Stanley Cup Final. And they could actually win it.

They’re not there yet. The Vegas Golden Knights have cruised through the playoffs thus far and continue to shock the hockey community with their postseason run. Washington’s players need to think about how to beat Vegas, not what happens after.

But while the players cannot and should not look ahead, for fans, it’s hard not to. It’s hard not to dream about that moment when Gary Bettman hands the Stanley Cup over to Alex Ovechkin.

Winning the conference is always a huge achievement that should be celebrated, but this year is different than 1998’s run. Back in 1998, the Caps played against a Detroit Red Wings team that is one of the greatest teams in NHL history. They were the defending champions after sweeping the Philadelphia Flyers the year before. Washington suffered the same fate as the Flyers, losing in just four games.

This year is a battle between two more evenly matched teams. Picking the Caps to win this series is not outlandish or crazy at all. This year, they could actually do it.

So before the puck drops for Game 1 and all dreams are pushed aside for the realities of what may happen, allow a fan a chance to think about what seeing the Washington Capitals actually hoist the Stanley Cup would actually mean.

Breaking news: Washington is not Canada and the Capitals are not an original six team. Hockey is not ingrained in the culture of D.C. the way it is in Canadian cities or in places like Boston and Detroit. Unlike in Vegas where the success of the team in its inaugural season has caught the city by storm, the Capitals won only eight games in their first year. Eight wins doesn’t exactly help a team grow roots in the community.

If you’ve been a fan of the Capitals long enough, chances are you’ve seen some pretty tough times. There have been plenty of playoff disappointments in this team’s history even before the current era. There was also the rebuild that began before the lockout that saw a very bad team play in front of a half empty stadium for several years. And they would not have even gotten to that point without the “Save the Caps” campaign in 1982.

But through it all, that small group of hardcore fans kept coming back. Some may have wavered from time to time, but they came back because being a hockey fan is different than other sports.

It’s hard to be a sports fan in any city with an NFL team and not follow football. Football may not even be your sport, but there is almost on obligation to following it because coverage and interest in football is so prevalent. It’s hard to avoid.

You have to seek out hockey

Hockey at times has been viewed as more of a niche sport than mainstream. Before the age of Alex Ovechkin, if you were from Washington and you were following the Caps, it was because you loved both.

So why did those Caps fans keep coming back after so much heartbreak? Because despite all of the disappointing seasons we always walked away telling ourselves, this will just make it that much sweeter when they do win.

One day, it will all be worth it.

That’s why we watch sports, isn’t it? We watch with the knowledge that sometimes, our hearts will be broken but it’s OK because the good will always outweigh the bad. And the worse the bad times are, the better the good times will feel afterward.

We kept telling ourselves that for a long time, but admittedly some years were tougher to get past than others. It’s hard to keep believing when you’ve seen your rival beat you nine times out of 10 in the playoffs heading into this year’s postseason. It’s hard when a team cannot seem to overcome its playoff history despite having one of the best players of all-time on its roster.

When Ovechkin was drafted, the question we all asked ourselves was not whether he would bring a Cup to Washington, but how many? He brought new fans with him, he brought excitement with him, he brought validation with him…at least initially.

But with every passing year, doubt began to creep into our minds. The upset loss to Montreal in 2010 stung, but Ovechkin was still 24. There was still hope that one day, he would still win the Cup.

Now at 32 years old, many did not know what to expect from the Great 8 this year. When would decline start to show in his game?

Ovechkin is part of why we want the Cup so badly. We want to see the best player in this franchise’s history honored. We want to see the player who transformed hockey in Washington from niche sport to mainstream take his proper place in the sport’s history. No one wants to hear him described as one of the best players to never win a Cup because he should be remembered as one of the best players, period.

But that’s not all of it.

This is about all those times we told ourselves this would all be worth it someday. This is about how we used to cope with the sting of another postseason heartbreak by thinking about what it would feel like when it was finally our year. This is about how we stuck with the team when the stadium was half empty. This is about the blue jersey in our closet with the eagle on the front and the black one hanging next to it with the capitol building on the front. This is about all the 5, 12, 32 and 37 jerseys. This is about replacing Esa Tikkanen as our lasting Stanley Cup memory.

When the Washington Redskins have a rough year, those fans who can remember them think about those three Super Bowl wins. When the Washington Wizards fall short, those fans who can remember it think about the championship in 1978. Even if you’re too young to remember the Super Bowls or NBA championship, those banners still give your team a sense of validation. They have their little piece of history to be proud of.

That’s what this would mean. A Stanley Cup would be not just for the players, it would be for the fans who stuck it out through thick and thin, those fans who despite everything still supported their team. This win would be about the Capitals forever earning their spot in the heart of Washington sports alongside the Redskins and Wizards.

This would be about never having to tell ourselves again that someday all the love we pour into this team will pay off.

A Stanley Cup would mean finally getting to experience a championship and realizing, yeah, it was all worth it.

Let’s go Caps!

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Capital One Bank just made a Caps-themed update to its logo and we're here for it

Capital One Bank just made a Caps-themed update to its logo and we're here for it

Capital One is repping the district in a big way: by changing their logo to incorporate the Capitals' font and name. 

The new Capital One logo appears on the bank's websites and social media ahead of the Caps' Stanley Cup Final games, which begin on Memorial Day Monday in Vegas.

The McLean, Virginia, based bank recently purchased the naming rights to the Capitals' home arena, formerly known as "Verizon Center." And in the first year of its renaming, the Capitals have advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years. Coincidence? 

We've seen a small, Northern Virginia town change its name to "Capitalsville," and now Capital One Bank is all-in for the Caps.

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