Monday, May 14, 2012

looking for a positive in duffy's injury ...


“I hate myself for loving you!
Can’t break free from the things that you do!
I want to walk, but I run back to you,
That’s why I hate myself for loving you!”

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In a season filled with ridiculous injury issues, today’s news that Danny Duffy has blown out a tendon in his elbow and will likely require Tommy John surgery is like the frosting on the proverbial cake.

I mean, who are these guys, the Chiefs?  This is getting a bit ridiculous.  Two starting pitchers, our closer, center fielder, catcher, all disabled for lengthy periods of time already.  (But in every cloud, you can see a ray of sunshine – Yuni Betancourt is also hurt and out for awhile.  Yippee!)

The latest bad news comes after the Royals won yet another series, to climb back to within shouting distance of .500, and more importantly, to less than five games out in the standings.  Quietly, under the radar, the Royals have split or won every series since the losing streak ended, and if you discount the losing streak, this team has played really solidly.  (Unfortunately, this isn’t a gambling pool where you high and low scores get tossed – the losing streak counts.)

Unlike most Royals fans, I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet, because I see four positives out of this injury.  To quote GMDM’s predecessor, (allard baird voice) “No Question” this is a setback.  But come on, its not like we lost Chris Carpenter for the season here.  I think the Cardinals held a pitching staff that a tee-ball team could, uuh, tee off on, I think they held on pretty well after losing their ace last year.  (And Duffy isn’t the ace of our staff, not by a long shot.)

I will be going to Thursday’s game with my buddy Dusty, and I plan on going Sunday with my brother and anyone else who feels like tailgating on an 88 degree and sunny day, then baking in old right field GA for a couple hours while watching the Royals play.  Maybe come Sunday, my views will have changed.  But here’s why I’m not as upset as I should be …

1. Because this team still has enough talent to outslug and outscore anyone.  To everyone panicked over this loss, uum, did any of you REALLY expect the Royals starting pitching staff to be even remotely spectacular?  I think we’d settle for middle-of-the-league mediocre, because if we’re winning, it generally isn’t going to be due to a spectacular 8 innings / 1 hit / 1 walk / 10ks / 0 run performance from whoever we trot out in the first inning.

Eric Hosmer is eventually going to get on track.  As Rany Jazayerli pointed out on the Border Patrol this morning, his BABIP is an insane .171.  He has no luck whatsoever.  That will change.

(If not this season, then definitely next year.  Remember, the single most talented player this franchise has employed in the last twenty years, had a HORRIFIC sophomore season that ended with his refusal to take the field in minor league rehab because he was scared of the alligators in the swamp behind the center field wall.  In his defense?  I wouldn’t want to be walking within ten feet of a pissed off alligator either.  Carlos Beltran was a disaster in 2000 … then was the best player this franchise has had since Vincent Edward Jackson in his prime for the next 3 ½ years for us.)

Duffy’s injury simply means we’re going to have to start winning 9-7 instead of 6-4.  Which brings me to point two:

2. Of all the people on this team – players, trainers, coaching staff, even the front office – no one is more qualified to get these guys winning slugfests than our current hitting coach.  The job Kevin Seitzer has done is nothing short of miraculous.  Why can’t he continue to pull off the miraculous?

He gets Lorenzo Cain back in a couple weeks, and Sal Perez a week or so after that.  I don’t know about you, but a lineup of:

1. CF Cain
2. 1B / DH Hosmer
3. DH / 1B Butler
4. LF Gordon
5. RF Francouer
6. 3B Moustakas
7. C Perez
8. 2B Getz / Giavotella
9. SS Escobar

Is certainly capable of cranking out 5-6 runs a night.  And let’s face it, we’re only asking our starters to go 5-6 innings, and hold the enemy to four runs or less.  Because the real strength of the team is still pretty much intact, and that would be …

3. The best bullpen in baseball?  It’s certainly in the short list of candidates.  Let’s think this through rationally.

Let’s take tonight’s game in Texas, for example.  Tonight is more the exception to the rule, as the bullpen was called on after three batters yesterday, but most nights, here’s what we’re asking Bruce Chen to do tonight.

5 IP, 4 ER.

Anything better than that?  Is like finding a $20 bill in your pants pocket when you put them on in the morning.  (And that actually happened to me this morning.  It somehow survived the washing machine and the dryer pretty much intact.  SCORE!)

Is that doable?  We’re basically asking our starters to post Scott Elarton / Kyle Davies / Lima Time stats every night.  Are Chen / Paulino / Hochevar / insert callup here / insert callup here capable of replicating the ghost of Mark Redman?

Hell yes that is doable!

And then, come the 6th inning, you’re looking the rest of the way for:

6th into the 7th: Aaron Crow / Greg Holland.
7th into the 8th: Tim Collins / Greg Holland.
9th: Broxton.

With Luis Mendoza “Line”, Kelvin Herrera, and Nate Adcock available as needed.

Is this doable?  Absolutely this is doable.

But the single biggest reason I am relatively calm, cool, and collected over this setback, is because of the opportunity it presents, because …

4. Peoples and peepettes, we will know beyond the shadow of any doubt four months from now whether Ned Yost is the right man for the job or not.

Please note – I am NOT saying Ned needs to get this team to 87 wins and the cusp of a playoff berth to keep his job.  What I AM saying, is that because we’re (ween voice) “up shits creek with a turd for a paddle” right now, it falls on Mr. Yost to show what he can do.  Can he maximize the opportunities presented to this team?  Can he find the right lineup combination to take advantage of a matchup?  Does he call for the steal, the hit-and-run, even (please God, just bash my back with a 2x4 at even typing these next two words) “situational bunt” at the right moment in the contest?

(Note: as I finish typing this, the Royals and Rangers are scoreless through one.  The Royals were given a leadoff walk … and Jarrod Dyson stole second, reached third on a fielders choice, but failed to score because of an unlucky tapback to the pitcher by Billy Butler.  I’m ok with that – the opportunity was there, and Ned took advantage of it.  Ditto the bottom of the first – two outs, nobody on, and Chen allowed the “un-intentional intentional walk” to Josh Hamilton.  No runs scored.  So far, Ned is “Good Ned”, at least tonight anyways.)

(Second note: the Rangers lead 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth.  I have no complaints to date from this game.  Having attended many a hot late spring / early fall game in that Ballpark, I'm more shocked only one run has been scored so far, that Ballpark is a freaking home run derby's dream at this time of the year.)

Those of you who read this that are Chiefs fans, let’s just be honest – in many regards, the injury to Matt Cassel was the BEST thing that could have happened to the team.  Seriously.  Yes, it probably cost us the division (I firmly believe we would have beaten the Steelers here at Arrowhead with Cassel under center; hell, we nearly did with Tyler Palko calling the shots).  But what did the injury do, that wasn’t possible before it occurred?

It forced everyone in the organization to take a good, legitimate look at the man affectionately known on this site as “Coach Asshat”.  And what they saw, wasn’t pretty. 

That’s where we now are with Ned Yost.  The expectations are gone.  Whatever this team manages to accomplish going forward, is great news, and reflects extremely positively on Ned.  If this team goes into the proverbial crapper though?  That’s also on Ned, and is most definitely NOT good news.

Like I noted four pages ago, I’ll be there Thursday with DJ*, and I’ll probably be there Sunday with Drew and anyone else who wants to show up.  Feel free to join me either day.

(*: we have a kind-of birthday tradition, where we pick a day game in May, and I buy the tickets and the tailgating booze for DJ’s birthday (which is in late May).  This year?  Oh yeah, the only day game in the entire f*cking month … is School Day at the K.  20,000 screaming school-aged kids.  I guess they have to meet the “crazy drunk uncle” at some point.)

I’m not ready to throw the towel in on this season.  Just like I wasn’t ready to quit on the Chiefs when they were 0-3, and three of our eight best players were done for the year.  Unlike the Chiefs?  Help is on the way. 

Because if I’d listed a fifth positive, it’s that this means Montgomery will be up by the end of the month, and Odorizzi reaches Omaha by then as well, so potentially 2/3rds of the rotation of the future is in place by July 1st.  And to those of you who argue that throwing so many young kids out there means imminent disaster for the Boyz n Blue, I direct you to the 1984 Royals … or the 1991 Braves.  It can be done …

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