Tag Archives: Kansas City Royals

Berroa and the Blue October

I’ve been a Royals fan for all 27 years of my life and until Friday sometimes it felt like all I had to show for it was this lousy t-shirt.

photo (1)

OK, it’s actually a jersey. I have a few other Royals t-shirts, too, ones of Mark Teahen, David DeJesus and Jeremy Affeldt that I got for free back during the “T-Shirt Tuesday” giveaways of 2006 and 2007. This jersey, however, didn’t come for free. I received it as a birthday gift in 2003. My parents got it personalized on Eastbay for me so I could walk around displaying my love of the Royals through my favorite player at the time: (gulp) Angel Berroa. Continue reading

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The real Lil’ Papi and the World Series

Two nights in a row, two games in the World Series, Lil’ Papi has earned an at-bat. And I chose that verb for a reason. He has earned it.

It’s strange with Lil’ Papi. He has the best nickname in the world – one that I obviously stole to make myself sound cooler – and no one really knows that he has it. I’m not entirely sure that anyone would know it if they hadn’t asked me for the origin of my Facebook name, or if they were hardcore fans of Joe Posnanski.

Lil’ Papi, the first Lil’ Papi, is Esteban German. Continue reading

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Gaetti Project: Deconstructing Damon

Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of The Gary Gaetti Project, a nine-part series to ring in the beginning of the Royals’ 2010 baseball season. Why Gaetti? Well, let’s just say that anytime we can honor a guy that was nicknamed The Rat, wore a mullet… AND went to Northwest Missouri State, you gotta do it. Adding to the legend, Gaetti hit 35 homers for The Kansas City Royals in 1995… at age 36. And miraculously, he did it all while wearing a batting helmet with no ear flaps. Yep, we could all use a little more Gaetti in our lives.

*****

It’s been nearly 10 years since Johnny Damon wore a Kansas City Royals uniform.

10 years.

Damon played his last game for the Royals on Oct. 1, 2000.

In case you’re curious, he went one for four with a walk in a 6-2 victory against the Chicago White Sox.

So, yes, it’s been nearly a decade. Almost 10 years since Damon was roping doubles down the line and chasing down liners in the gap. It’s been more than 3,000 days since Damon was teamed with Carlos Beltran and Jermaine Dye – one of the most talented young outfields in baseball history.

10 years.

Do you know what can happen in 10 years?

John F. Kennedy once told the nation that we would reach the moon in 10 years – and it happened. A young man named Barack Obama went from a second-term state senator in Illinois to the leader of the free world. The Beatles went from unknown lads to bigger than Jesus… to broken up.

So, of course, a lot can happen in 10 years.

And for Johnny Damon, a lot did happen.

The kid who was tabbed to be the savior of the Royals – the next George Brett – has lived a lifetime in the last 10 years.

He’s played on four teams, won two World Series, and had 11 different haircuts.

He dethroned the mighty Yankees with a back-breaking grand slam in Game Seven of the 2004 ALCS.

And he saved the mighty Yankees with one of the most heads-up baserunning plays in history during the 2009 World Series.

Yes, Johnny Damon has lived it all.

But let’s start at the beginning. Before Boston. Before New York. Before he was a Caveman. Before “What would Johnny Damon do?” Before The Idiots. Before he broke the curse of the Bambino. Before he helped end the curse of A-Rod.

Stay with us. We’re moving fast. And we’re ending up in flyover country. In a land where people grill out in the backyard on sunny days. In a land of minimal traffic and sleepy suburbs – and horrific baseball.

Kansas City. The town in which Johnny Damon became a star.

*****

Ok. We have to start with the commercial. It was only 30 seconds long. But they still talk about it here.

The premise was simple. Damon was the Royals’ young hope, a speedy outfielder drafted in the first round in 1992, the best prospect in a Royals organization that was undergoing its first true youth movement in more than a generation.

George Brett was the face of the franchise, the symbol of the Royals’ glory years, a sure-fire Hall of Famer who had hung up his cleats just a few years earlier.

So, yes, the narrative was too easy to spot. And, of course, the Royals’ marketing people saw it as well.

The Royals’ marketing department did what any franchise would do.

They used images from the Royals’ glorious past to sell the hope of the future.

If it happened once, why couldn’t it happen again?

The commercial was simple*.

Damon and Brett sit next to each other and watch television.

*Jeff Pearlman of Sports Illustrated once wrote a nice piece on the Royals’ young outfield of Damon, Carlos Beltran and Jermaine Dye, and there’s a complete retelling of the Damon and Brett commercial in the story…

First, the television shows highlights from the Royals’ playoff conquest of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Then, Damon snags the remote and flips the channel to highlights of the modern-day Royals — with Damon leading the way.

Of course, you know what happens next. Brett takes control of the remote and changes the channel back to the glory days. Then Damon flips it back. And so on.

Finally, Brett grabs the remote, flashes his World Series ring, and says something like, “Wait ‘til you have one these, kid.”

*****

So, where do we begin?

The commercial is prescient for a number of reasons. First, the last line is a little ironic because, obviously, Damon now has two World Series titles.

But there’s more than that.

Because really, this commercial has come to symbolize so much more in Kansas City.

In the mid-1990s, Damon was the face of Royals Youth Movement No. 1.

More than a decade later, the Royals are somewhere between Youth Movement No. 3 and No. 4, depending on your perspective.

Damon would never win more than 77 games in a Royals uniform. And his stay in Kansas City would more or less be considered a disappointment.

Need proof? Last week, Damon returned to Kansas City on opening day as a member of the Detroit Tigers. He was booed every time he went to the plate.

So, yes, Damon did not save the franchise. He would not become George Brett. He would not lead the Royals back to the playoffs.

But perhaps this isn’t really Damon’s fault. Maybe — just maybe — we can blame it on the economics of baseball.

The Royals, of course, traded Damon to the Oakland A’s after the 2000 season. They had no choice. Damon was not going to sign in Kansas City*.

*Unfortunately, the Royals weren’t able to grab much in return. The haul for Damon? A young shortstop named Angel Berroa, an aging closer named Roberto Hernandez, and a throw-in catcher named A.J. Hinch.

And if you need more proof of the greatness of Billy Beane, check this out. In the Damon trade, which also included Tampa Bay, the A’s acquired Damon, second baseman Mark Ellis and pitcher Cory Lidle.

So, yes, the Royals should have capitalized on their asset (Damon).

But there was not much hope in signing that asset. At the time, it just wasn’t economically feasible.

And this is where the story of Damon and the commercial and Kansas City gets interesting.

In the past 10 years, Damon has quietly pieced together a stunningly good career.

How stunning? Well, Damon has a shot — and some might conclude that he has a good shot — at ending up in Cooperstown.

Yep. The Hall of Fame.

The numbers are complete and shocking and beautiful all at the same time.

At age 36, Damon’s career numbers look like this:

BA: .288
OBP: .355
OPS: .793
OPS+ : 105
207 homers
452 doubles (84th all-time)
95 triples
2,428 hits (108th all-time)
1,485 runs (71st all-time)
998 RBIs
374 stolen bases (86th all-time)

And now, there’s an outside chance that Damon’s infamous commercial with George Brett may become more prophetic than anyone could have ever imagined.

Johnny David Damon might just become the second Hall of Famer to ever come out of the Royals’ system.

Sports Illustrated’s Joe Posnanski has bandied about this statistic more than once, but I still thought I’d share it.

Damon has a realistic shot to reach 3,000 hits, 500 doubles, 100 triples, 250 homers and 400 stolen bases.

How many players in baseball history have done that? Zero.

Of course, just because Damon could do it doesn’t mean he will.

And 3,000 hits may be tough. He needs rap out about 150 hits for the next four seasons to reach the big 3K.

But he might.

And if he does, here’s the question:

What baseball hat would be on his Hall-of-Fame plaque?

Before you instinctively say “Red Sox”, consider the following.

Here Damon’s career statistics with each of the first four* teams he’s played with:

*We’re not counting the Tigers for obvious reasons.

****

With the Royals:
Five full seasons

Homers: 65
RBI: 329
Stolen Bases: 149
BA: .291
OBP: .350
OPS: .783
OPS-plus: 99

Best season: In 2000, Damon .327 with a .382 OBP. He finished with a career-high 214 hits, and added 42 doubles, a league-best 46 stolen bases and a league-best 136 runs.

With the Red Sox
Four full seasons (2002-2005)

Homers: 56
RBI: 299
Stolen Bases: 98
BA: .294
OBP: .361
OPS: .803
OPS-plus: 107

Best season: In 2004, Damon hit .304 with a .380 OBP. He finished with 20 homers, 35 doubles and 123 runs.

With the Yankees:
Four full seasons (2006-2009)

Homers: 77
RBI: 296
Stolen Bases: 93
BA: .285
OBP: .362
OPS: .819
OPS-plus: 114

Best season: In 2009, Damon hit .282 with a .365 OBP. He tied a career high with 24 homers, and finished with 36 doubles and a 107 runs.

With the A’s:
One full season (2001)

Homers: 9
RBI: 49
Stolen Bases: 27
BA: .256
OBP: .324
OPS: .687
OPS-plus: 82

*****

Damon doesn’t have much reason to pick the Royals. After all, he won his titles in Boston and New York. But it also might be a difficult choice for him to choose between the Sox and Yanks.

At one time, Damon was Boston. He was the face of the Idiots. But then he left for New York, cut his hair, and became a company man. Of course, the Yanks discarded him last offseason — and most people don’t exactly picture Damon as a true Yankee.

But even if Damon snubs the Royals, even if he picks Boston or New York, even if he doesn’t mention a single member of the Royals organization in his Hall-of-Fame speech, the people of Kansas City could still claim another minor victory.

They could tell their grandkids that they saw Johnny Damon, “Hall-of-Famer Johnny Damon”, play baseball at Kauffman Stadium.

They could say that they saw him slap four doubles in a game and make running catches at the warning track… and they could say they saw the commercial that started it all.

Yes. They could say they saw Johnny Damon become a star.

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A List Mania unlike any other

So here we go, the sun is out, the golf ball starts flying at Augusta on Thursday, the baseball season has started, and another addition of List Mania is upon us.

For those not in the know, List Mania is an ode to former Kansas City Star and current Sports Illustrated columnist Joe Posnanski, who famously wrote lists until one day, many years ago, he wrote a column saying he would never list again…

So here goes…

Three sports upsets that I wish would have happened

1. Tom Watson at the 2009 British Open
2. Butler over Duke in the 2010 NCAA title game
3. U.S. soccer team over Germany in the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup

White players who’ve won MOP of the Final Four since 1977

1. Christian Laettner, Duke, 1991
2. Bobby Hurley, Duke, 1992
3. Jeff Sheppard, Kentucky, 1998
4. Kyle Singler, Duke, 2010

Top five pitchers in baseball

1. Zack Greinke, Kansas City Royals
2. Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
3. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
4. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies
5. Johan Santana, New York Mets

The five most underrated players in baseball

1. Ben Zobrist, utility player, Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays’ best-kept secret started 81 games at second base and 44 games in the outfield (also chipped in six games at short and two at first base), but his bat is what really makes him special. He had a .405 on-base percentage and an OPS-plus of 146. That’s what happens when you hit 27 homers and 28 doubles*. To put this in perspective. No Royal has had an OPS-plus of more than 146 since Mike Sweeney posted a 148 in 2002. Did we mention Zobrist will make $438,100** this season?

*Zobrist also seems to have good speed. At least, a high-ranking official in the Royals’ organization once praised Yuniesky Betancourt’s arm because he threw out Zobrist on a slow roller. So I’m guessing the official thinks Zobrist can fly.

**Numbers obtained from of the website, Cot’s Baseball Contracts

2. Shin-Soo Choo, right fielder, Cleveland Indians

Choo, who turns 28 in July, had a .394 on-base percentage with 20 homers and 38 doubles in 2009. Pretty good for a guy who made $420,300. … And I don’t want to sound like a scout here, but the guy really does look impressive in person.

3. Chone Figgins, second baseman, Seattle Mariners

You may ask how Figgins can still be underrated. After all, the Mariners signed him to a four-year, $36 million deal in the offseason. Still, I’m not sure people understand how valuable Figgins is. Last season, according to FanGraphs.com, Figgins’ WAR (a metric that utilizes offense, defense and baserunning to measure total value) was 6.1, the 11th highest in baseball.*

*Who was ranked ahead of Figgins? How about this list?

1. Ben Zobrist, 8.6
2. Albert Pujols, 8.5
3. Joe Mauer, 8.1
4. Chase Utley, 7.6
5. Derek Jeter, 7.4
6. Evan Longoria, 7.2
7. Hanley Ramirez, 7.2
8. Ryan Zimmerman, 7.2
9. Prince Fielder, 6.8
10. Adrian Gonzalez, 6.8

4. Franklin Gutierrez, center fielder, Seattle Mariners

By nearly any defensive metric, Gutierrez is the best outfielder in baseball – and by some, he is the best defensive player in all of baseball. Gold Gloves be damned.

5. Erick Aybar, shortstop, LA Angels

Similar to Figgins, Aybar may be even more valuable than some people realize. He’ll make just a shade over $2 million this season. A pretty solid investment for a 26 year old who hit .312 last season with an on-base percentage of .353. Watch him play in person, and you’ll also realize that the kid can flat out fly.

Five players selected after the Royals picked Luke Hochevar No. 1 in the 2006 MLB draft

1. Evan Longoria, picked third by Tampa Bay
2. Clayton Kershaw, picked seventh by the LA Dodgers
3. Tim Lincecum, picked 10th by San Francisco
4. Joba Chamberlain, picked 41 by the New York Yankees
5. Brett Anderson, picked 55th by Arizona (traded to Oakland)

Five players selected after the Royals picked Alex Gordon No. 2 in the 2005 MLB draft

1. Ryan Zimmerman, picked fourth by Washington
2. Ryan Braun, picked fifth by Milwaukee
3. Troy Tulowitzki, picked seventh by Colorado
4. Andrew McCutcheon, picked 11th by Pittsburgh
5. Jacoby Ellsbury, picked 28th by Boston

Five things that may only interest me

1. So they have Cheeseburger-flavored Doritos now. Really, cheeseburger. Of course, I had to try them. The review? Well, they really do taste like cheeseburger. You get the cheesy taste of regular Doritos, a hint of ketchup – and the smoky flavor of the burger patty. Of course, I’m not so sure this is all a good thing. I’m not so sure I need my cheeseburgers in chip form.

2. President Obama is not allowed to throw out any more first pitches. The poor guy has tried twice, and both times he has come out looking only slightly better than this guy…

Hey, I appreciate that Obama can hoop a little bit. That’s impressive. But is it too much to ask that our commander-in-chiefs have the ability to shoot a basketball AND throw a baseball? Dubya could fill up the strike zone – but he also once did this…

3. The strangest thing about the Masters? How can the most beautiful golf course in the world be in the one of the most plain towns in America?

Five song lyrics for the spring

1. “But times change, sailors these days, when I’m in port I get what I need. Not just Havanas or bananas or daiquiris, but that American creation on which I feed.”

2. “Twelve hours out of Mackinaw City, stopped in a bar to have a brew. Met a girl and we had a few drinks, and I told her what I’d decided to do.”

3. “And its funny how it`s the little things in life that mean the most, not where you live, what you drive or the price tag on your clothes.”

3. “The water is warm, but it’s sending me shivers. A baby is born, crying out for attention. Memories fade, like looking through a fogged mirror… Decisions to decisions are made and not bought, but I thought, this wouldn’t hurt a lot, I guess not.”

4. “You can’t start a fire, you can’t start a fire without a spark.”

Five questions to ponder

1. Will Kevin Durant win more NBA titles than LeBron James?

2. Will MGMT’s latest album, Congratulations, released this Tuesday, be the best album of the year?

3. Is Barcelona’s Lionel Messi the most dominant athlete in the world?

4. Whose idea was it to put an “S” in the word “lisp”?

5. Hey is that the truth or are you talking trash? Is your game M.V.P. like Steve Nash?

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One more play for the Royals’ lowlight reel

It’s getting to a point that someone could write a thesis about the Kansas City Royals and all their famous blunders and bloopers of the last 10 years. I’m not talking about writing of how the organization lost more games than anyone else in that time, how it drafted the No. 1 overall pick in 2006 without a general manager or how it lost 97 games with the Cy-Young winner pitching once every five days, or even how it paid a man who can’t play in the field, get on base, walk or hit for power $36 million.

I’m talking about the purely anecdotal evidence from players and managers. The lowlights. The hilariously awful moments. These could fill an easy 100 pages double-spaced.

To an extent, the Kansas City Star did this on Sunday. The Star, of course, featured a massive section, one you could consider a thesis, to preview opening day and this coming season that mainly detailed the Royals’ problems with fundamentals. One part of it highlighted these blunders I speak of.

It was brilliant. The Star reminded us of Kerry Robinson’s famous scaling of the outfield wall, only, upon reaching the apex of his jump, to find out that the ball bounced on the warning track in front of him. It reminded us of Ken Harvey getting hit in the back by his cut off throw, various sunglasses issues and others that you can read here.

Those are the chosen lowlights. Those are what we remember the Royals for in what is arguably the worst period of baseball imaginable. Those are what Joe Posnanski can reel off reflexively, along with moments like when the Royals promoted Eduardo Villacis to start at Yankee Stadium, when Tony Muser complained he had too many players who pounded milk and cookies instead of tequila, when Luke Hochevar let a runner advance to third base because he wasn’t looking, when a cat sprinted around the stadium and when manager Tony Pena showered in his uniform after that dreadful Villacis start and then told the press the Royals would win the division.

These are wonderfully terrible, hilarious moments. But everyone tends to overlook a certain lowlight when the discussing the Royals’ ineptitude.

Let’s go back to 2005. August. In the annals of bad baseball history, this would be Chapter One.

That month, Kansas City lost an otherworldly 19 games in a row. From July 28 to August 19, the Royals didn’t win once. One of the famous lowlights occurred during that stretch. In a game that the Royals had in the bag, Chip Ambres let a fly ball drop to the turf. His catch would have been the third out in the ninth. The other team went on to win the game.

So, yes, people will remember that August month for the losing streak and that game. Maybe that’s why this lowlight has largely been forgotten.

It happened on Aug. 27. The Royals led the Yankees, in the Bronx, 7-3 in the bottom of the ninth. Jeremy Affeldt, who had been a pretty reliable reliever, was pitching.

With one out and a runner on first base, he forced Jorge Posada into an 0-2 count. Then came the moment.

Posada hit an easy come-backer straight to the mound. Affeldt fielded it and had an easy throw to make for the game-ending double play. But these are the Royals, and easy often leads to a certain kind of remarkable that leaves you shaking your head for all the wrong reasons.

As he turned around to throw to Angel Berroa, who was covering second base, Affeldt tripped over the rosin bag. Let me write that one more time.

HE TRIPPED OVER THE ROSIN BAG.

The loss of balance caused him to poorly throw the ball, and both runners advanced safely. Of course, the Royals went on to blow their four run lead and lose 8-7.

So there it is, the forgotten piece of history. I guess it’s only natural that we forget or don’t emphasize certain parts of the past. Important details of the greatest civilizations have certainly been forgotten or lost. But our conscious keeps details of Tony Pena Jr.’s sunglasses, Robinson’s leap and so on. I say we add the rosin bag as well.

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The Book of Zack

“Not really. I’ve been playing this World of Warcraft game. I haven’t been thinking about baseball that much.”  — Zack Greinke, on whether he’d thought about the Cy Young since the end of the regular season.

These words are all you need to know about Zack Greinke. See these words above? Read them. Let them soak in.

 …And then think about this.

 Zack Greinke was completely serious. If you know Zack Greinke, if you’ve listened to Zack Greinke, if you’ve talked to Zack Greinke… You know this to be true.

 You see, Zack Greinke said these words with no trace of clever humor or irony or wit.

 Zack Greinke said these words in the same deliberate speech pattern with which he delivers all his words.

 It was around 2:45 on Tuesday afternoon. Hours earlier, Zack Greinke had just learned he’d won American League Cy Young Award. He’d just become the third Royals pitcher in history to win the award. And now he was on a conference call with reporters. He was only months away from completing the greatest professional season of his life. He was only months away from finishing what was – and is — arguably one of the Top 15 pitching seasons of all-time. And Zack Greinke will get married this Saturday.

 So Zack, have you though much about the Cy Young award since the end of the season?

 And here they come; those words are coming…

 “Not really. I’ve been playing this World of Warcraft game. I haven’t been thinking about baseball that much.”

*****

There is an image of David Ortiz. It’s burned somewhere deep in the brain.

It won’t go away. And hopefully, it never will.

There is David Ortiz. He is sitting at his locker in the visitors clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium. It’s September and the Red Sox are in a Pennant Race, a desperate attempt to catch the Yankees.

And on this night, the Red Sox have fallen to the lowly Kansas City Royals — a team that will lose 97 games.

Except on this night, the Royals weren’t  lowly or depressing miserable.

You see, on this night, the Royals were pitching the best pitcher in baseball.

There is David Ortiz. His facial hair is perfectly groomed. His hair is almost shining. And he’s wearing a gray undershirt — you know, the kind with the offensive name.

Reporters start to crowd around. And they all have questions.

How good was Greinke?

Is he the best pitcher you’ve seen this year?

What was he throwing tonight?

But really, there is only one question that matters.

And there is David Ortiz, leaning back in his chair and giving his typical round smile.

The question is a simple one, and Ortiz has a simple answer.

Should Zack Greinke be the American League Cy Young Award winner?

“Why not?” Ortiz said.

Greinke had just allowed two hits over his six innings of work. He had lowered his Major League-leading ERA to 2.08. He had struck out five more batters, giving him 229 for the season. 

“Why not?” Ortiz said, repeating himself. “He got good numbers for it. If I could vote for the Cy Young Award winner, [I] might give one vote to him.”

*****
There doesn’t seem to be much else to say about Zack Greinke these days.

 His story has been told.

 He was once the best pitching prospect in all of baseball. He would make his major league debut and be named Royals pitcher of the year in 2004. In 2006, He would battle social anxiety issues and depression and walk away from the game.

And you know the ending — or at least, the ending of that part of the Greinke story.

 So if you’d like a true Greinke education, this may not be the place.

 There are far better places.

 If you’re looking for a Ph.D in all things Zack, go here.

Professor Posnanski is one of the foremost Greinke scholars in the country.

Short on time? Well, The KC Star’s Sam Mellinger is offering a Masters’ degree here.

So, consider this more of a Greinke undergraduate degree.

You may learn something. But you may not. And it could potentially end up being a huge  waste of time. And at the end, you may end up feeling hungover and confused.

*****

There are so many stories about  Greinke.

We’ll start with this:

You see, my image of Greinke might be slightly different than yours. 

And when I say image, I don’t mean what I think of him or you think of him, or his reputation, or how he acts.

I mean my literal image — the image I see in my head when I think of Zack Greinke.

 Thing is, I spent the 2009 baseball season covering the Royals for MLB.com. I saw Greinke pitch at least 15 times. I saw him throw shutouts and I saw him strikc out 15 hitters and I saw him get thrown out of a game for protecting a rookie teammate.

But this image is different.

My image is of Greinke walking into the Royals clubhouse on Sunday mornings.

 He was always wearing the same pair of worn, grey New Balance shoes. He was always wearing long white socks, pushed down by his ankles. He was always wearing khaki shorts and a wrinkled polo. And he was always carrying a cup of Starbucks coffee.

He looked so unassuming — exactly like a laid-back college kid on a Sunday morning.

 And then, if it was his day to pitch, he’d go out and dominate. Throw 96 miles per hour with a buckling slider and an above-average curveball. And he’d walk off the mound, and you never forget his walk. His strut. Zack Greinke – the most laid-back, quiet, unassuming star in baseball – always seems to strut when he walks off the field.

*****

Here’s another story.

Greinke once received a blue and yellow Ron Jon surfboard in the mail from a fan. At least, I think it came through the mail*. The surfboard sat up against the wall by Greinke’s locker for the next two or three weeks.

 *Is is possible to send a surfboard through the mail?

 “So, Zack,” a reporter asked. “You surf?”

Zack: No.

Reporter: So, what’s with the board.

Zack: (Paraphrasing) Somebody sent it to me. And we started winning, so I thought I’d keep it.

Reporter: Really, cool.

Zack:  …

*****

You probably know that Zack Greinke doesn’t really like to talk to reporters.

This is not unusual. Most Major-League players aren’t wild about talking to the media.

And I’m sure there are various reasons for this.

 But Greinke is different. You see, it’s not that Greinke is worried about negative stories, or being misquoted or misunderstood.

 Greinke just doesn’t really like talking to anybody.

 And so, I often found myself in the visitors clubhouse after Greinke pitched. Sometimes, I would be covering the opposing team, and I would need to go to the visitors’ side.

And other times, I would go there to find out what the Angels or Red Sox or Twins or Tigers thought about Greinke.

 You know what? There seemed to running theme.

 “Flat-out nasty,”  — Minnesotat’s Joe Mauer.

 “He invents stuff. I’ve never seen a 95-mph cutter before.” — Detroit’s Brandon Inge.

 “It really was a clinic today. He was almost unhittable to me.” — Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu

 “He has everything,” — Boston manager Terry Francona

 “That’s about as good as I’ve seen any pitcher in my time here at this level.” — Cleveland manager Eric Wedge

“Kid’s got a lot of equipment,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland.

 “…the best pitcher in baseball.” — Texas manager Ron Washington

 “He’s the best in the league right now,” — White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen

 *****

Reporter: (interviewing Zack after he won the Cy Young) Hey, I know you’re not big into all this media stuff. You dealing with it OK?

Zack: Yea… Lotta stuff going on. I usually like doing nothing.

Reporter: So you excited for your wedding this weekend?

Zack: (Explains that his fiancé has been doing most of the wedding preparations) I just got to show up I guess. Hopefully it’ll be fun.

*****

You see, I guess all this isn’t really about Zack Greinke. It’s really more about what he represents. This is about what he represents to Kansas City. And this is about what he represents to a certain generation of Kansas City’s sports fans.

Zack Greinke is 26-years-old. And this is fitting.

The last 24 years have been tough on sports fans in Kansas City.

If you are under the age of 26, you never saw Len Dawson lead last-minute drives. You never saw George Brett in his prime, raking doubles into the gaps of then-Royals Stadium.

You never Frank White or Willy Wilson or Amos Otis. You never saw Bobby Bell or Buck Buchanan or Willie Lanier. You never even saw Bo Jackson with a real hip.

You have no memory of the last time the Royals won the World Series. And if you are exactly 25, you were nine the last time Chiefs won a playoff game.

 There is a generation which knows nothing about winning.

But we do know what its like to watch the Chiefs go 13-3 and then lose a playoff game at home.

 They’ve done that three times.

 We know what its like to watch the Royals develop young stars — and then watch as those stars bolt town.

 *It’s especially infuriating when one of those stars (Jermaine Dye – a future World Series MVP) gets traded for Neifi Perez – straight up. Seriously. It happened.

 We know what its like to watch the greatest pass catching tight end ever.

 But we also know what its like to watch the Chiefs lose 26 out of 28.

 But really, the real pain has come from baseball. The 100-loss seasons, first basemen getting hit with relay throws, outfielders scaling up the wall when the ball hits the warning track, first basemen getting swallowed by the tarp, Tony Pena Jr. playing shortstop. The list goes on and on and on.

 And this is where Zack Greinke comes in.

 He may not help the Royals back to the playoffs. He may never even play on a .500 team.

 But Greinke is arguably the greatest pitcher on the planet.

 …And he’s ours.

 And when you have the greatest pitcher on the planet, you also have hope.

 And as a wise man once said, hope… is a good thing.

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