The Royals are in the hunt in the American League Central and ahead of the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox, but excitement is still at something less than a fever pitch. Even after making some uncharacteristic offseason noise and picking up pitchers Jeremy Guthrie, James Shields and Ervin Santana, their latest swoon and recent history suggests fans have reason to be wary.
This is a team that has had three winning seasons in the past 20 years and hasn't made the playoffs since 1985. Young talent such as stars Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran and Zack Greinke have no qualms just leaving when it's time to collect a paycheck, and high-priced talent doesn't exactly beat down the Royals' door.That said, the team's more than 40-year-old Kaufmann Stadium -- once a staid, cookie-cutter nightmare -- has benefited greatly from a $250 million renovation completed in 2009. The 322-foot fountain is still behind the right-field fence, but it's now surrounded by terraces, a kids' area, an outfield concourse, a right-field bar and restaurant and a Taste of KC food court. Kansas City barbecue abounds in concessions dishes such as sausage topped with pulled pork and macaroni and cheese, corn brisket nachos and bacon bleu cheese fries. The best perk, however, is Kansas City's own Boulevard Beer everywhere. The brewer signed a major sponsorship deal with the team last year that plasters its name on a huge sign in left field as if it were Budweiser or Coors, puts two Boulevard Grill locations in the stadium and equips stadium beer vendors with backpack-mounted kegs of Unfiltered Wheat Beer that they pour when they get to your row. Even better, the Royals lowered their average ticket price by more than 10% since last season to a manageable $19.83. Even if the Royals disappoint at that price, Kaufmann Stadium certainly won't.