Springtime Storylines: Is suicide the only hope for Royals fans?

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Between now and Opening Day, HBT will take a look at each of the 30
teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally
breaking down their chances for the 2010 season.  Next up: Kansas City, Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!

big question: Is suicide the only hope for Royals fans?

Baseball is supposed to be something that takes our minds off of real life. A pursuit and a pastime in which we can forget our troubles and, for a while anyway, lose ourselves. Say you’re a mid-level functionary at Sprint Nextel. Your boss is a jerk, your ex-wife is dating a personal trainer named Brad and your mechanic just called to tell you that your 1993 Hyundai Excel has a fried cylinder head and needs a full valve job.  You need an escape. You need baseball.

Only problem is that the general manager of your team has brought in guys like  Jason Kendall, Scott Podsednik, Yuniesky Betancourt, Willie Bloomquist, and Jose Guillen. Paid ’em good money too, while actually trying to pass them off as good moves. And this is, like, the fifth or sixth go-around with this kind of thing in the past 15 years.  You can’t spend six months watching that product, can you? It’s enough to make a guy pull a Thich Quang Duc or something. OK, maybe that’s too dramatic. Perhaps a simple Emily Wilding Davison would be more appropriate.

But wait! Don’t do it!  There’s hope! No, not now; now is hopeless! But soon!  There are many, many solid looking pitching prospects — including a major international signing — in A and AA ball this year (one less than there was last week, but still). Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas had down years, but they are still promising. And of course, Zack Greinke is under contract for three more seasons, so you need only endure four days of unbearable sadness between respites.

It’s a nice ballpark. There’s great food in that town. Close your eyes, dream of your youth, when giants roamed the green turf of Royals Stadium, and trust me when I say that it will get better. Just not yet. You’ve waited so long, you can wait just a bit longer, can’t you?

So what else is going on?

  • Alex Gordon is going to start the season on the DL. This means that Alberto Callaspo — who was only the team’s second best hitter last year — won’t start out on the bench as had been anticipated.  Callaspo starts at third, Chris Getz at second and whichever of the two of them hits worse in the meantime will find themselves benched when Gordon comes back.
  • Gil Meche is hurt. He left a start on Monday complaining of a sore shoulder. There have been concerns about his workload these past two years. If he can’t answer the bell to start the season the Royals are going to have to look at guys like Brian Bullington, Edgar Osuna, Brad Thompson, Bruce Chen,
    Robinson Tejeda and (shudder) Kyle Farnsworth, who yes, the Royals seem to be serious about converting into a starter.  The other starters are set: Greinke, Luke Hochevar, Brian Bannister and probably Kyle Davies. Roughly speaking, those names can be translated into “stud,” “enigma,” “eccentric,” and whatever German word encapsulates the concept of “that which amounts to drastically less than the sum of its parts.”
  • The Royals should really consider trading Joakim Soria this year. A stud closer is a luxury a team like this can’t afford to keep around. There are only two reasons not to trade Soria: (1) the fans
    will get depressed; and (2) Dayton Moore is the guy doing the trading.  The first of those can be discounted because, as noted above, the fans are already
    depressed. The second one is far more problematic because, for as good as Moore has been at identifying and acquiring amateur talent recently, he’s gotta be the worst wheeler-dealer in the game, and can in no way be trusted to realize a decent return for Soria.
  • Josh Fields is the other guy that came over with Chris Getz from Chicago in the Mark Teahen trade.  He’s allegedly a third baseman, but he can’t really handle the position defensively. He’s allegedly a hitter, but he’s he’s hit only .229/.302/.416 in 664 major league at-bats. Still, if you’re Kansas City, you should probably give him as many of Jose Guillen’s and Scott Posednik’s at bats and see how he does.

So how
are they gonna do?

Let’s see, they lost 97 games last year despite a lucky hot start, their second best starter has shoulder trouble and they brought in a handful of some of the worst veteran free agents imaginable. You tell me.

Prediction: Fourth
place, AL Central.  Yes, that means that Cleveland is going to be even worse.

There’s no one to blame in Yankees’ loss

Joe Girardi

You’re going to boo All-Star Brett Gardner for striking out against a Cy Young contender?

You’re going to bash Alex Rodriguez for going hitless in another postseason game, three years after his last one?

Maybe you’d prefer to put it all on Masahiro Tanaka for giving up two solo homers to a lineup full of 20-homer guys?

The truth is that the Yankees were supposed to lose tonight. They were facing an outstanding left-hander with their forever-lefty-heavy lineup, and they simply didn’t have anyone pitching like an ace to set themselves up nicely for a one-game, winner-take-all showdown. The 3-0 result… well, that’s how this was supposed to go down.

It didn’t necessarily mean it would; what fun would it be if the better team always won? And the Astros might not even be a better team than the Yankees. However, the Astros with Dallas Keuchel on the mound were certainly a better team than the Yankees with whoever they picked to throw.

I just don’t see where it’s worth putting any blame tonight. Joe Girardi? He could have started John Ryan Murphy over Brian McCann against the tough lefty, but he wasn’t willing to risk Tanaka losing his comfort zone by using a backup catcher.

The front office could have added more talent, perhaps outbidding the Blue Jays for David Price or the Royals for Johnny Cueto, and set themselves up better for the postseason. However, that would have cost them Luis Severino and/or Greg Bird, both of whom went on to play key roles as the Yankees secured the wild card. Would it really have been worth it? I don’t think so.

Tanaka gave the Yankees what they should have expected. Had Keuchel’s stuff been a little off on short rest, Tanaka’s performance would have kept the Yankees in the game.

Keuchel, though, was on his game from the first pitch. The Astros bullpen might have been a bit more vulnerable, and late at-bats from Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Rodriguez and McCann definitely left something to be desired. Still, on the whole, the lack of offense was quite a team effort.

The Yankees got beat by a better team tonight.  I’m not sure the Astros would have been better in Games 2-7 in a longer series, but they had everything in their favor in this one.

Keuchel, Astros cruise past Yankees in AL Wild Card Game

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Dallas Keuchel faced the Yankees two times during the regular season and was fantastic in each outing, striking out 12 in a complete-game shutout on June 25 and whiffing nine batters over seven scoreless frames on August 25.

The 2015 Cy  Young Award candidate continued that trend in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game, limiting the Yankees to three hits and one walk over six innings of scoreless ball as the Astros earned a 3-0 win and advanced to a best-of-five ALDS with the top-seeded Royals.

Keuchel was working on three days of rest but didn’t show very many signs of fatigue, whiffing seven and needing only 87 pitches to get through six. He sure looked like he could have gone an inning longer, but Astros manager A.J. Hinch decided to turn the game over to his bullpen and they added three more big zeroes to the scoreboard at a very loud then very boo-heavy Yankee Stadium. Tony Sipp worked around some early jitters to throw a scoreless seventh, Will Harris kept the Yankees off the bases entirely in a scoreless eighth, and closer Luke Gregerson went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

Impending free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus provided the first burst of offense for the Astros in the top of the second inning with a leadoff homer against Masahiro Tanaka. And then deadline acquisition Carlos Gomez, who missed a bunch of time down the stretch with an intercostal strain, got to Tanaka for another solo shot in the top of the fourth. Houston scored its third run on a Jose Altuve RBI single in the top of the seventh.

This is a young, talented Astros team with an ace at the head of its rotation.

Kansas City could have a problem.