What went wrong: Kansas City Royals

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The following is the latest in a series profiling some of 2009’s biggest disappointments:

Two weeks ago: Cleveland Indians

Last week: Cincinnati Reds

This Week: Kansas City Royals

Record: 60-87 (5th in AL Central)

How It Happened:

It
seems like forever ago, but the Royals sat atop the AL Central on May 7
with an 18-11 record. In the midst of a six-game winning streak, ace
Zack Greinke graced the cover of Sports Illustrated in an article by
Joe Posnanski
that proclaimed he was “The Best Pitcher in Baseball.”
That might be true, but it wasn’t long before it all came crashing down
for the Royals. They haven’t seen the .500 mark since May 22 (21-21).
In fact, since May 22, the Royals are 39-66.

A
lot went wrong with the Royals this season, but that shouldn’t surprise
you. Alex Gordon went down in mid-April with hip surgery. He struggled
upon his return to the majors in July, and the club decided to demote
him in August. Though they said the demotion was performance-based, the
dirty little secret is that the move delayed his free agency until
after the 2013 season. Managing just a lousy .215/.324/.347 line with
four homers and 13 RBI, 2009 marked another lost season for the former
first-round pick.

Limited to just 81
games, Jose Guillen hit just .242/.314/.367 with nine homers and 40
RBI. Counted on to be a mainstay of the Royals’ offense, Guillen got
off to a late start due to a sore right groin. Then he missed six weeks
with a torn ligament in his right knee. And just recently, completing
the trifecta, Guillen was grounded for the rest of the season with a
strained right hamstring. Good thing the Royals still owe him $12
million for 2010.

If the
above two examples didn’t show it, the Royals have struggled for
offense, ranking in the bottom three in the league in batting average,
runs scored, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS and home
runs. The pitching hasn’t been much better, ranking third-worst with a
4.66 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP – and that’s with Greinke. No other qualified
starting pitcher on the Royals staff has more than eight wins (Kyle
Davies) or an ERA under 4.00 (Brian Bannister – 4.73).

And
then there was the trade. You know what I’m talking about. On July 3,
the Royals acquired Yuniesky Betancourt from the Mariners in exchange
for Derrick Saito and Dan Cortes (No. 3 prospect, according to Baseball
America). The move brought on a firestorm of criticism for general
manager Dayton Moore, who then committed a cardinal baseball sin by
saying, “The defensive statistics – I still really don’t understand how
some of those statistics are evaluated, I really don’t. When you watch
baseball games every single day, its very apparent who can play
defensively and who can’t.” Ugh.

Silver Linings:

Though
Royals fans suffered through their sixth straight losing season, they
were fortunate enough to witness one of the most dominant individual
seasons in recent memory. Through his first 30 starts this season, Zach
Greinke is 14-8 with a 2.14 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 224/44 K/BB ratio in 210
1/3 innings. Greinke is second in the league with 25 quality starts.
There’s been a lot of talk about if Greinke will lose out on the Cy
Young because he has only 14 wins, but realize that he ranks 123rd
among American League starters in run support (4.71) – 100 IP mininum.
Only two other starters (Tim Redding and Justin Masterson) have
received less.

The Royals may
not have gotten much return out of their 2005 first-round pick
(Gordon), but Billy Butler has emerged as a legitimate
middle-of-the-order threat. The 23-year-old first baseman is batting
.301/.358/.482 with 17 homers and 82 RBI. Butler ranks ninth in the
league with 65 extra-base hits.

Long
known as a guy who couldn’t find the strike zone, Robinson Tejada has
surfaced as a candidate for the starting rotation in 2010. His overall
line — 3.09 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 11.42 K/9 — is impressive enough, but
he has allowed just one run over his first three starts since being
moved to the rotation.

Looking Ahead:

The
same cast of characters will be back for at least next season, with
manager Trey Hillman assured of a job, and Moore given a contract
extension through 2014.

The
Royals have about $58 million in contract commitments for 2010
including $12 million for Guillen, $12 million for Gil Meche and $4.5
million for Kyle Farnsworth. They could elect to bring back Coco Crisp
for $8 million or Miguel Olivo (leads the team with 22 home runs) for
$3 million.

The Royals will not
be a contender in 2010, and they shouldn’t pretend to be, either. They
need to stop jerking Gordon around. And as our own Matthew Pouliot
suggested earlier this month, the Royals need to promote on-base
machine Kila Ka’aihue to be the team’s designated hitter.

Finally,
if the Royals aren’t going to consider moving Joakim Soria to the
rotation, they should trade him. He’s being wasted in the bullpen right
now. If Soria could complement Greinke alongside a high-risk,
high-reward guy like Ben Sheets or Erik Bedard and a fine rebound
candidate in Meche, they could have the groundwork for a long-term
competitive ballclub. And if they trade him, they would be able to plug
a few holes in a roster that resembles small-market swiss cheese.

There will be a street named after Barry Bonds in San Francisco

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The City of San Francisco is not renaming Market Street or some other main drag to honor Barry Bonds or anything, but yes, there will be a “Barry Bonds Street” or “Barry Bonds Avenue” or something like that in San Francisco soon. There will also be streets named after Willie Mays, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda. Willie McCovey will have a park named after him.

This is all part of the redevelopment of the site of Candlestick Park, which was knocked down to make way for a mixed-use development But while the stadium is gone, the names of those who made Candlestick Park famous will be all over the place, mostly in the names of the streets. There will likewise be streets named after San Francisco 49ers luminaries such as Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice, Dwight Clark and Bill Walsh. Owner Eddie DeBartolo and executive Carmen Policy get streets too.

Candlestick was home to the Giants for nearly 40 years and hosted a couple of World Series, but due to the wind and cold and the compromises necessary for a multi-use stadium, it wasn’t a great place for baseball. Maybe it’l be a better place to work or shop or whatever.

And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Reds 7, Cubs 5:  I realize anything can happen in any given game, but I’m not sure that “40-year-old soft-tosser two years removed from baseball due to all kinds of elbow problems will allow only two runs on three hits over six innings against the World Series champs” would be a bet I would’ve made before the season. That’s what Bronson Arroyo did, though. And get this quote from Miguel Montero:

“He’s a tough pitcher to face. Obviously he’s throwing below hitting speed right now.”

Slowness: the new inefficiency. Montero is obviously joking here, but sometimes I wonder if we’ll see something of a junkball revolution some day soon. Pitchers are ahead of the hitters for the most part these days due to all the hard stuff they throw. Makes you wonder if hitters adjusting to that won’t create a little bit of daylight for some crafty dudes to come in and flummox people.

Astros 6, Rays 4: Tampa Bay jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning. It would be the only runs the Rays would score, however, and the Astros clawed back. Evan Gattis tied it in the ninth with a sac fly and then Brian McCann and Yuli Gurriel each hit RBI singles.

Red Sox 6, Orioles 2: Boston jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning but the Orioles did not claw back. Obviously the game’s outcome was secondary to the storyline that began with Manny Machado‘s hard slide on Friday that hurt Dustin Pedroia and continued with Matt Barnes throwing a ball at Machado’s head here. That’s dumb, but it may be that the post-attempted-beanball was less dumb than the postgame chatter. First Pedroia apologizes to Machado on the field by saying “it’s not me,” which, OK, cool. But then after the game he says this:

“I had nothing to do with that. That’s not how you do that, man,” Pedroia said afterward. “I’m sorry to him and his team. If you’re going to protect guys, you do it right away.”

Does that mean that the problem to Pedroia, for which he apologized, was not that someone threw at Machado’s head, but that someone threw at Machado’s head on Sunday instead of on Friday or Saturday? I dunno. Still, that’s not as dumb as this:

Good to see we’re about to enter a new, era of unwritten rules and clubhouse politics. The “veterans are responsible for controlling relief pitchers” rule. I fully expect someone to get on Chris Davis or whoever now for not controlling Britton and keeping him from commenting on the dynamics of another team’s clubhouse. Because this idiocy never ends.

Phillies 5, Braves 2: It was tied 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth when Cesar Hernandez, Aaron Altherr and Odubel Herrera hit back-to-back-to-back homers. The first two came off of Arodys Vizcaino, the third off of Ian Krol. The Phillies sweep the Braves and win their fourth in a row overall. They’re 9-9 after 18 games. Which is the first time they’ve done that since . . . last year, when they were 9-9 after 18 games.

Pirates 2, Yankees 1: Ivan Nova outdueled Jordan Montgomery, allowing only one run on four hits over seven innings. He also, somehow, walked Montgomery, who had not batted in a game since he was in high school six years ago. It was Nova’s first walk issued all season.

White Sox 6, Indians 4: The Sox snap a three game skid thanks to a strong outing from Derek Holland and a few runs for a change. Cleveland had blanked them on Friday and Saturday, holding them to a total of six hits in those two games. Here Melky Cabrera drove in a couple. The Indians’ five-game winning streak ended.

Cardinals 6, Brewers 4: Mike Leake scored a run in the third inning and hit a two-run single with the bases loaded in a 2-2 game in the fourth. Oh, he pitched too, allowing two runs over six.

Tigers 13, Twins 4: The good news: Chris Gimenez didn’t allow any runs in his outing today. The bad news: Chris Gimenez is the Twins’ backup catcher, and when your backup catcher is pitching, something has gone wrong. Here what went wrong was Kyle Gibson allowing seven runs on eight hits before the third inning was even over. John Hicks, filling in for the injured Miguel Cabrera at first base, hit a three-run homer and a two run single. Just about everyone on the Tigers had a good day as they scored 13 runs on 13 hits. Tyler Collins went 0-for-5, though, which has to feel weird. Andrew Romine flew out to center against Gimenez, which has to feel weirder.

Rangers 5, Royals 2: The Rangers complete a four-game sweep of Kansas City behind eight strong innings from Yu Darvish. It was Darvish’s longest outing since elbow surgery two years ago. Homers from Joey Gallo and Robinson Chirinros.

Rockies 8, Giants 0: The Rockies swept the Giants in Coors for the first time in 15 years. Baseball seasons are long and a lot of stuff happens, but one feels like the Giants’ entire season went into the crapper the second their plane landed in Denver on Wednesday night. Since then they lost their ace for an extended period to a minibike accident and then they got outscored by the Rockies 26-8 in this series. That’s four losses in a row for San Francisco, and six losses in their last seven games.

Blue Jays 6, Angels 2: Marcus Stroman tosses a complete game, allowing two runs on seven hits. Devon Travis hit a go-ahead, two-run homer during a four-run eighth inning. Jays manager John Gibbons got ejected after Stroman was called for an illegal quick pitch and batter Kole Calhoun was awarded first base. That’s not a call you see every day.

Mariners 11, Athletics 1: Nelson Cruz homered an drove in five and Yovani Gallardo got his first win as a Mariner. Taylor Motter hit a grand slam. I’m angry that Motter played on Saturday too, though, because if he had had the day off I totally would’ve written “Welcome Back, Motter.” Now I can’t say such a hacky thing. Sigh.

Dodgers 6, Diamondbacks 2: L.A. avoids a three game sweep thanks to Brandon McCarthy‘s seven strong innings of work. The Dodgers scored all six of their runs in the fifth inning. That’s the inning Shelby Miller left due to tightness in his forearm, so they were likely facing some damaged goods, unfortunately. Two driven in a piece for Adrian Gonzalez and Yasmani Grandal, with the former doubling in two runs and the latter coming up next and driving in the former with a homer.

Marlins 7, Padres 3: Miami scored six runs in a single inning as well. That was the sixth, which was capped by a Justin Bour three-run homer. Up until that inning Padres’ starter Luis Perdomo had cruised. Then the first six Marlins batters reached in the sixth and it was Gas House Gorillas time:

Nationals 6, Mets 3: Daniel Murphy hit a grand slam against his old team. His career line against the Mets: .386/.421/.727, 8 homers and 25 RBI in 22 games. But I’m sure no one with the Mets or any Mets fans have taken the slightest bit of notice of that.