I was sitting in my car on Souhegan St. last summer, talking to Eric Hosmer on the phone, when I asked him if there was anything he wishes he could do on the field, but can’t.
“Yeah,” he said with a laugh. “Run.”
It’s interesting, then, that in his major league debut last night, after drawing his second major league walk in his second major league plate appearance, Hosmer took off for second and picked up his first major league stolen base.
A lot is expected of the 21-year-old Hosmer, who became the first of Kansas City’s Big Three hitting prospects (Mike Moustakas and Wil Myers being the others) to make it to the major leagues when he was called up late Thursday. News of his promotion from Triple-A Omaha, where he was hitting .439 with three homeruns and 15 RBI in 26 games, was met with a round of Twitter silliness reserved for the highest-level talent or most fascinating events.
#HosmerFacts became a common hash tag (including “Hosmer’s birth was broadcast live on ESPN Classic” and “in mlb debut Hosmer played all positions in 1 play. He hit the ball deep to centerfield and threw himself out @ home plate.”). The event was referred to as both Hosmerween and Hosmukkah. Dave Gershman predicted that Hosmer would homer in his first at-bat (if only he’d said “Guyer” instead of “Hosmer”, he would’ve had a great story). It’s a wild and crazy time.
And even though (stolen base aside) Hosmer had a more or less uneventful debut (two walks, followed by two strikeouts, both looking; the second did come with one out in the ninth and Kansas City down a run), I would expect the excitement to remain high. This is the next step toward the future, the light that could show Royals fans the way out of the darkness. The team’s young bullpen has already been delightful in 2011 (yes, I said delightful), with Nathan Adcock, Louis Coleman, Tim Collins, and Aaron Crow all debuting and pitching well in the first five weeks. (And I mustn’t forget Jeremy Jeffress, the second-year flamethrowing reliever who has also started strong). Now, even though Hosmer’s arrival means yet another bump in the road for Kila Ka’aihue, who was sent to Omaha to make room for the rookie, the offensive pieces are starting to arrive. Soon, Moustakas will arrive…then Myers…then all that young starting pitching…
Not everyone is excited about Kauffman Stadium’s all new Hosmer Experience. Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star pointed out last night that by calling up Hosmer this early, the team benefits now but loses out financially later because he will qualify earlier for arbitration and free agency and all that good stuff. It’s a valid concern for most major league teams, and the reason fans were denied the likes of future stars Mike Stanton and Stephen Strasburg last season.
But here’s the thing: shouldn’t Dayton Moore be celebrated for saying, “To hell with the money,” and making a decision based on what he feels is right for the team? Doesn’t everyone really want to see the Royals get past this twenty-year run of futility and start winning some ballgames? And if Hosmer proven that he deserves a shot at the majors after beating up minor league pitching across three levels in 2010 and 2011, don’t you give him that opportunity as soon as you can? (It does make me wonder why they waited so long on Ka’aihue when he dominated both the Texas and Pacific Coast Leagues in 2008).
And while I’m admittedly a dolt when it comes to Super Twos and all that financial stuff, I wonder if this makes sense: the Royals have proven in the past that they’ll throw a little money at free agents – Gil Meche and Jose Guillen are the first that come to mind – and it always seems to turn out badly. But now, they’re developing this talent from within the organization, so that free agent money will go to guys who have earned it through their performance in Kansas City. They don’t have to worry about Hosmer eating up money that would be used on a high-cost free agent because in a couple years they’ll buy out the arbitration years (as the Red Sox did with Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia, and Kevin Youkilis) of those core players.
But you know, none of that really matters at the moment. It’s all so far away, years and years down the road. For right now, Hosmer is just a 21-year-old prospect who can’t possibly miss, and I can’t help but think back to something else he said as I sat in my car on the side of the road last August. When I asked about the best thing that had happened to him at the Futures Game in July, he said, “Just being in a major league setting, playing in a major league stadium, being in a major league locker room with most of the top prospects in baseball.”
I wonder if he realized he may have been describing the 2012 Kansas City Royals?
Photo: Minda Haas