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Starry night topped '12 highlights in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY -- It wasn't a particularly good season for the Royals, but it was a great year for Kansas City baseball. The old Cowtown went on a starry-eyed stampede.

The 83rd All-Star Game came to Kauffman Stadium on July 10, and the several days of events took the city and the region by storm.

"I am unbelievably proud of the Royals organization, the city of Kansas City, the county," Royals owner David Glass said after the Midsummer Classic. "Everyone involved just went above and beyond. Talking to Major League Baseball, they were elated with the way everything happened in Kansas City.

"And I talked to tons of people at FanFest and on the streets, in restaurants and at the ballpark. They'd come there and they couldn't believe how beautiful the ballpark was, how beautiful the city was, the hospitality, how nice everyone was. In looking at it and saying, 'Do you need a correction of errors? If you do this again, what would we change?' And we couldn't come up with anything. I think it went off as well as it could."

Except, of course, for the American League, which lost, 8-0, setting up home-field advantage for the National League in the World Series and a sweep by the Giants over the Tigers.

The Royals finished their season by moving up a notch to third place in the AL Central, and this time just 16 games behind the first-place Tigers, an improvement of eight games over 2011 despite posting just one more victory.

The going got tough early, with a glut of injuries and a 12-game losing streak that got the season off to a 3-14 start. Things didn't get much better and, as a result, the team spent most of its time in fourth or fifth place.

But the Royals were still quite young and manager Ned Yost kept them playing hard throughout the season. And, as the offseason got into high gear, there were four starting pitchers added to make the 2013 picture look pretty bright.

Here is a glimpse at five prominent storylines of the Royals' 2012 season:

5. Tommy John surgery times four -- and more
Premier closer Joakim Soria had Tommy John surgery at the end of Spring Training and that was just the start. Up-and-coming catcher Salvador Perez had knee surgery and missed the first 67 games. Center fielder Lorenzo Cain was hurt in the fifth game and was out until the All-Star break. Early on, reliever Blake Wood and starters Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino made it a quartet of Tommy John patients. That hurts.

4. Gordon is good as Gold again
A slow start at the plate kept Alex Gordon from matching his breakout year of 2011, but he still hit .294 and led the Majors with 51 doubles. His outfield play was again superb and he repeated as left fielder on the AL Gold Glove team. Gordon had 17 assists and, for the second straight year, the Royals led the Majors in outfield assists with 51. Right fielder Jeff Francoeur was tops with 19.

3. Butler has an All-Star season
Billy Butler wasn't quite up to Miguel Cabrera's numbers for Detroit, but he led the Royals in all the Triple Crown categories with a .313 average, 29 home runs and 107 RBIs. That was the most homers by a Royal since Jermaine Dye's 33 in 2000. Butler was clutch -- 10 of his homers came in the eighth inning or later, six to either tie the score or go ahead. No wonder he was the Royals' All-Star representative.

2. Shields trade aims to fix rotation
The major weakness on the Royals in 2012 was the starting rotation and general manager Dayton Moore moved decisively to fix that after the season. He traded with the Angels to get Ervin Santana, re-signed Jeremy Guthrie and then pulled off the whopper deal. James Shields was obtained from the Rays to head the rotation and Wade Davis also came in the deal that sent four top prospects, including slugging outfielder Wil Myers, to Tampa Bay.

1. All-Star summer is one to savor
Just on cue, Kansas City's oppressive heat relented for the city's third All-Star Game, and the first since 1973. Kauffman Stadium, given a $250 million facelift to get the event, also was home to the Futures Game and the Home Run Derby, while the FanFest enlivened downtown and a Red Carpet Parade rolled through the Plaza.

"Everything about our stay here was about as perfect as possible, win or lose," NL manager Tony La Russa said. "Doesn't surprise anybody. That's kind of the way Midwesterners are."

Kansas City Royals, Billy Butler, Lorenzo Cain, Wade Davis, Jeff Francoeur, Alex Gordon, Jeremy Guthrie, Salvador Perez, Ervin Santana, James Shields