NORMAN — The Kansas City Royals have been absent from the playoffs since the day Billy Butler was born. They’ve barely had a winning season in the last two decades. They’ve often lost 100 games in a year.
And yet, buoyed by the best record in spring training, hope abounds — for the Royals, for most everybody putting on a big league uniform.
“There’s no reason we shouldn’t be better,” said Butler, the Royals’ All-Star slugger. “How much better that is? I’m not a mind reader. I’m not a projector.”
Ah, opening day.
The hot dogs taste better, the boxscores mean more and most every team thinks it’s just a break or two away from reaching the World Series.
A dozen games were set for Monday across the majors. Star pitchers Justin Verlander, Stephen Strasburg and Adam Wainwright try to get off to great starts, old rivalries are renewed at Yankee Stadium and Dodger Stadium, and a quirky interleague schedule unfolds.
No snow is in the forecast for any ballpark on April Fools’ Day, but freezing temperatures are expected at Target Field in Minnesota when Verlander and the AL champion Tigers take on the Twins.
“It’s going to be cold but I’ve pitched in that kind of weather before,” Verlander said. “I don’t think about it. It’s always cold in Detroit on opening day.”
The season started Sunday night in Houston when the Astros, who shifted from the National League to the American League during the winter, hosted the Texas Rangers.
Long the site of baseball’s traditional opener, Cincinnati was going to have a new look Monday. That’s when Josh Hamilton and his new Los Angeles Angels teammates visit Cincinnati in the first interleague matchup this season.
The Astros’ move left 15 teams in each league, meaning an AL vs. NL matchup most every day this season.