Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Royals Screw Themselves, Zack Greinke, and Fans On Opening Day

The first thing that comes to mind when reflecting back upon yesterday's Opening Day debacle in Kansas City is that there may not be a time more apropos than now to cite one of my favorite movie quotes. In David Mamet's State and Main, dim lothario actor Bob Barrenger (played by Alec Baldwin) flips a station wagon at the titular intersection. Having occurred while getting road-head from an local teen while on location in a small New England town, the likelihood of public relations disaster on an already troubled shoot are high. Despite the fact that a nightmare is likely to follow, the breathless but unfazed Barrenger wriggles out from the upended car and exclaims, "So that happened." (For those unable to give two minutes of their life over to the embedded trailer (sorry about the picture quality), the pertinent section starts at the 1:55 mark.)

I find myself being able to bring little else to the table here.

The game turned out as I feared and succinctly serves as a microcosm for what I expect this whole season to be.

Zack Greinke pitched well enough to warrant the win, out-pitching Cy Young second-runner-up Justin Verlander.

In the first inning with runners on first and second and two down, Willie Bloomquist dropped an infield fly while stumbling up the pitcher's mound, allowing the ancient Magglio Ordonez to score from second on a ball that ended up a whopping 60 feet from the plate. This extended Greinke six more pitches than it should have in the inning, as he ended up unnecessarily having to strike out Brandon Inge looking on a 3 - 2 count.

As the sixth inning ended Greinke's pitch count sat at 96. If that pitch count was sitting at 90, I don't think anyone would have been surprised to see Zack come back out to face Scott Sizemore, Adam Everett, and Austin Jackson in the seventh. Instead, the Royals bullpen imploded. Sporting a two-run lead, the unholy triumvirate of Roman Colon, Robinson Tejeda, and Juan Cruz promptly decided it was their job to give up six runs in the seventh.

As if that weren't enough, the sure-to-be fan favorite* Jason Kendall was thrown out at home trying to score from second on a weak Scott Podsednik fly-ball after Dave Owen decided that the 170 feet that the ball traveled from home should afford the 35-year-old catcher more than enough time to reach the plate safely. Yes, the play at the plate was close, but the fact remains that there was one out with Billy Butler about to step up to bat. With Kendall standing on third (Podsednik's single came with runners on first and second), the tying run would have been at the plate in the form of the team's best hitter with only one down. Instead, Kendall is out at home, and Butler's pop-out ended the inning.

*Note: I can't find the sarcasm font right now, but let me assure you that the little bit of presaging there was rife with it.

Now, I'll grant you that this was only game one, but there wasn't a lot to take encouragement from. Hillman opted for a line-up consisting of Bloomquist at third, Guillen at DH, Kendall at C, and Betancourt at short. While I fully expected three-quarters of those men to be in the line-up, that doesn't make it any more palatable.

Mike Aviles played well enough in Spring Training to warrant a place on the 25-man roster when they could just as easily have placed him on the disabled list. He had been getting some work at both second and third. Why is the 2008 Royals Player of the Year who appears to have come back from injury and has given every indication that his bat has returned to form sitting on the bench on Opening Day?

Alberto Callaspo is your second-best offensive player, yet he, too, finds himself on the bench on Opening Day?

I know it's only one game, but if there were ever a statement game for a team that generally finds itself looking up at every other team in the divisional standings, it's Opening Day. No one gives a fuck that no-glove/no-bat Jose Guillen is making $12 million this year, and I can sure as shit tell you that no one would walk out of the gates at the K on Opening Day complaining about not having gotten to see Willie Bloomquist man the hot corner. Get Aviles and Callaspo in the goddamn lineup.

And I'm not going to even get started on the absurdity of the alignment of the outfield...

Yes, it's too early to be making major sweeping statements about the team based on the Royals one game played, but it certainly is disheartening to see the things we all foresaw in the offseason coming true in the first game of the season.

We root for the one team in baseball that can be most aptly compared to the Keystone Kops. I guess it is our fault for not being disloyal/smart enough to jump ship a long time ago, but at least do us the favor of getting the best possible team on the field four or five days a week, SABR-Trey.

Maybe this is all excessively negative and reactionary, but when the culmination of a widely criticized off-season is a bumbling season opener, it is the most honest reaction.

1 comment:

qualler said...

I listened to this game on the MLB At Bat app and was amazed at how even the radio announcers seem to be depressed by the Royals. When Greinke came out of the game and the bullpen immediately put a couple baserunners on, it seemed inevitable that it would end badly.

I feel for Royals fans everywhere.