I know, I know. It’s all my fault.
I knew I was risking some blowback with this article last week. But in my naïvete, I looked at the upcoming weekend series – MGD against a depleted Angels team starting a 30-year-old rookie and a 29-year-old journeyman, with their only legitimate starter going up against The Baseball Jonah – and said, “what could go wrong?”
A lot could go wrong. The Royals could score four runs in three games. They could have a game-tying home-run in the ninth taken away by Torii Hunter. They could lose two more one-run games, dropping their record in those affairs to 2-6. Luke Hochevar could give up twice as many runs in two major league innings as he gave up in 40 minor league ones. Brian Bannister could pull himself from a game with a stiff shoulder. Gil Meche could continue to favor his back – I don’t care what he says, when he’s consistently missing the strike zone high like he was yesterday, it all comes back to his back. The Royals could lose six games in a row immediately after winning six in a row, something they’ve done just twice before in their history (in 1979 and again in 2001, both times in late June and early July.)
Let’s take a deep breath, everyone. Good teams lose six games in a row. The difference is they also win six games in a row. (After winning their first nine games in 2003, the Royals went over five years – until June 2008 – before they had another six-game winning streak.)
So don’t panic. This is the AL Central, where the Royals can lose six games in a row in mid-May and still hold on to a share of first place. Just twice before have the Royals awoken in first place after losing six games in a row – in 1980, when they lost eight in a row in late September after already clinching the division, and in 1976, when they lost six in a row in mid-June, but were still 39-26 at the end of that stretch.
The Royals not only are tied for the division’s best record, they still have the division’s best run differential at +9. The only
The last six games represent a missed opportunity, certainly, but they did not bury the team, not in the slightest. Essentially, the season starts now for the Royals, Tigers, and Twins, with the White Sox a little behind and the Indians in a sizeable hole. The division looked like a five-way dogfight in early April; it looks like a five-way dogfight in mid-May.
There are some legitimate questions that need to be answered, of course. How long will Soria be out? When will Meche be back at full health? How long until the Royals send Mike Aviles back to
But the important thing is that despite those questions, and despite the loss of Alex Gordon, the Royals are pretty much where we pegged them: a .500 team, maybe a little better, in a division that’s likely to be won by a .500 team, maybe a little better.
So again, Don’t Panic. Zack Greinke takes the hill tonight, at home, in front of a sellout crowd, against a pitcher with a 7.18 ERA. The six-game losing streak is unlikely to stretch to seven.
If it does, then we can start to worry. Six-game losing streaks are not a definitive mark of a non-playoff team; of the 16 teams that made the playoffs the last two years, 13 of them had losing streaks of five or more during the season, and 10 of them had six-game streaks. But only five had losing streaks that reached seven, just two reached eight, and none reached nine. (Three teams – the Angels last year, the Red Sox and Indians in 2007 – never lost more than four games in a row. If memory serves, the last team that made it through the regular season without losing more than three in a row was the 1989 San Francisco Giants – who then lost four straight to the A’s in the World Series.)
Tonight’s game therefore has a little more significance than your typical game. So I think you will all understand when I say Game Off. The Royals suck, same as they’ve always sucked. Their hot start is just like 2003, and the same fate awaits them. They’ll never amount to anything, especially the guy taking the mound tonight, who’s just another in a long line of first-round busts. I dare say he’s the suckiest ball of suck who ever sucked.
My work here is done.