Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
A lot of people felt the Kansas City Royals were going to be a surprise team in 2009, but they responded with 97 losses and finished 21 1/2 games back of American League Central champion Minnesota.
So what went wrong? Well a lot of the hope heading into last season hinged on a breakout season from third baseman Alex Gordon, who the team has been touting ever since they made him the second overall pick in the 2005 draft.
However, a hip injury early on sidelined Gordon for most of the season, leaving many to question if he ever will be the player Kansas City envisioned. Gordon is already off to a rough beginning to this year, as a broken right thumb will likely land him on the disabled list to start the season.
There was a bright spot, though, and that was the emergence of ace Zack Greinke, who put himself into the conversation for the best pitcher in baseball when he became the first Royal to win the AL Cy Young Award since David Cone in 1994.
Heralded as the Royals' best pitching prospect since Bret Saberhagen when he came upon the scene in 2004, Greinke struggled not only on the field -- losing a league-high 17 games in 2005 -- but also off it, as he missed most of the 2006 campaign with a social anxiety disorder.
Greinke finally living up to his potential was one of the more satisfying stories in the league a year ago. If Gordon ever does, things could turn around rather quickly in Kansas City.
(65-97) - Fifth Place (AL Central)
Key Offseason additions
Rick Ankiel (OF); Scott Podsednik (OF); Jason Kendall (C); Chris Getz (2B); Josh Fields (INF); Brian Anderson (OF); Edgar Osuna (LHP); Gaby Hernandez (RHP)
Key Offseason subtractions
Coco Crisp (OF); Miguel Olivo (C); Mike Jacobs (1B); John Buck (C); Mark Teahan (INF); Bruce Chen (LHP); John Bale (LHP); Doug Waechter (RHP); Jamey Wright (RHP)
The Royals caught a bad break early on in spring training when Gordon broke his thumb while sliding into second base on an attempted steal. Of course this was not the start the team had hoped for its highly-touted prospect, who missed most of last season after undergoing hip surgery in April.
Gordon, who hit just .232 with six homers and 22 RBI in 2009, will likely start the season on the disabled list.
While the Royals are still waiting for that breakout season from Gordon, they got just that last year from first baseman Billy Butler. While he may never win a Gold Glove, a batting title may not be out of the question someday for the former first-round pick, who hit .301 with 21 home runs and 93 RBI last season.
Up the middle, Yuniesky Betancourt will start the season as the team's shortstop, but if he continues to struggle both offensively and defensively as he has the last three seasons, he won't last long.
Betancourt will have a new double-play partner, as Chris Getz gets the nod after being acquired from Chicago as part of the Mark Teahan deal. Getz played in 107 games for the White Sox last season and hit .261 with two home runs, 31 RBI and 49 runs scored.
Kansas City went into this past offseason with a goal of landing a more defensive-minded backstop than the hit-first combo they put on the field last season in Miguel Olivo and John Buck. Although the duo combined for 31 home runs and 101 RBI, they also teamed up to lead the majors in a combination of passed balls and wild pitches.
So, enter 35-year-old Jason Kendall. Nobody is expecting him to match the production of Olivo and Buck, but the Royals still think he can hit a little. However, the upgrade he provides them behind the plate far outweighs anything he may or may not do at the dish.
Speaking of production, if the Royals are going to be competitive this season they are going to need designated hitter Jose Guillen to be healthy. Guillen played in just 81 games last season due to a myriad of injuries and slugged only nine homers with 41 RBI.
Kansas City completely overhauled its outfield over the winter, as only right fielder David DeJesus remains. DeJesus' .281 average was down last season from the .301 he hit in 2008, but still belted 13 home runs with 71 RBI and 74 runs scored.
DeJesus will be joined in left by speedy veteran Scott Podsednik, who appeared in 132 games for the White Sox last season, hitting .304 with seven home runs, 48 RBI and 30 stolen bases. He has swiped at least 30 bases in each of his five full seasons in the big leagues, including a career-high 70 for the Brewers in 2004.
In center, the Royals turn to another project in oft-injured Rick Ankiel.
One season after a career year that saw him hit 25 home runs and drive in 71 runs for the Cardinals, Ankiel struggled through a shoulder injury for most of 2009 and batted just .231 with 11 home runs and 38 RBI with St. Louis.
Ankiel, though, should help a Royals offense that last season finished 13th of 14 teams in the American League with 144 home runs and 12th with a .405 slugging percentage.
The lone silver lining in yet another disappointing baseball season in Kansas City last year was of course, Greinke, who became the third Royals' hurler to win an AL Cy Young Award.
For a Royals team that finished three losses shy of 100, Greinke posted a 16-8 mark to go along with a 2.16 earned run average and 1.07 WHIP, while striking out 242 batters. His league-leading ERA was the AL's lowest since Pedro Martinez posted a 1.74 mark in 2000.
Greinke allowed three runs or fewer in eight of his nine no-decisions, giving up one or less in four of those outings, and surrendered just one run in two of his losses. In fact, in his eight losses, the Royals mustered just 15 runs.
The talented Greinke will be followed by a familiar cast, as right-handers Gil Meche, Brian Bannister, Luke Hochevar and Kyle Davies all figure to follow him again.
After winning 14 games in 2008, Meche struggled last season, going just 6-10 while watching his ERA swell over a run to 5.09. Bannister, meanwhile, is a combined 16-28 in two seasons since finishing third in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2007.
Kansas City hopes this is the year that former first overall pick Luke Hochevar puts it all together. At times he looked brilliant, but the 26-year- old hurler took a step back, pitching to a 6.55 ERA in his 25 outings.
If Davies falters early on, don't be surprised if Robinson Tejeda slides into that role. Tejeda finished the year strong in the rotation, and manager Trey Hillman won't hesitate to go back to him if Davies struggles.
Joakim Soria is one of the best closers in the American League and last year had another solid season despite some missing some time with injuries. Still and all, he ended the year with 30 saves and a 2.21 ERA.
Getting to Soria, though, was a problem last season.
The Royals toyed with the idea of starting Kyle Farnsworth, but he will again serve as the main bridge to "The Mexicutioner". Juan Cruz was one of the bigger disappointments for KC a year ago, as he pitched to a 5.72 ERA with four blown saves. Combined, the duo pitched to a 5.24 ERA.
Rule 5 draftee Edgar Osuna will help from the left side, while Tejeda should log big innings as well provided he does not start the season in the rotation.
Alberto Callaspo will start the year at third base in the absence of Gordon and also provides Hillman a nice option up the middle, while Josh Fields figures to contribute at first and in the outfield. Callaspo will also be used in pinch-running situations late in games.
Mitch Maier will serve as the team's fourth outfielder, while Willie Bloomquist will serve as a jack-of-all-trades for Hillman.
Following a strong finish in 2008, people thought last year could be the one the Royals started to turn the corner. Of course, that wasn't the case and even with the presence of a bona fide ace like Greinke, it is hard to envision the Royals making any great strides in 2010. Obviously that could change if Gordon and Hochevar blossom into the stars the organization believes they can be. Based on their resumes so far, though, I don't think that is going to happen anytime soon. Unfortunately the Royals will once again be battling to stay out of the cellar in the AL Central.