Tag Archives: Kauffman Stadium

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.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Gaetti Project: Yuni at The Bat

Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 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 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.

Some people call Yuniesky Betancourt the worst every-day player in baseball.

You probably know that his WAR (Wins above replacement player) in 2009 was a historically awful -2.2, the worst in all of baseball.

You probably know what that number means. Just in case you don’t, WAR adds together the total contribution (offense, defense, baserunning, pitching) of each Major League player. A player with a WAR of 0 or 1 is easily replaceable. If your WAR is negative (like good ‘ol Yuni’s) you should be replaced.

So, yes, some people call Yuni Betancourt the worst every-day player in baseball.

I call him an inspiration…

*****

Yuni at the Bat

The Outlook wasn’t brilliant for the KC nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Bloomy died at first, and Kendall did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the partiers at The K.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
clung to that hope which springs from a Stroud’s chicken breast;
They thought, if only Yuni could get but a whack at that –
We’d put up even money, now, with Yuni at the bat.

But Getz preceded Casey, as did also Rick Ankiel,
And the former had no slug and the latter was no Emil;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Yuni’s getting to the bat.

But Getz let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Ank, the old southpaw, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Ankiel safe at second and Getz a-hugging third.

Then from 20,000 throats and more there rose a lusty cry;
It rumbled through Westport, it rattled the plaza-wide;
It knocked upon Okie Joes and recoiled over Gates,
For Yuni, mighty Yuni, was advancing to the plate.

There was ease in Yuni’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was WAR in Yuni’s bearing and VORP on Yuni’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Yuni at the bat.

40,000 eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
20,000 tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Yuni’s eye, a sneer curled Yuni’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Yuni stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman, the ball unheeded sped-
“That is my style,” said Yuni. “But ya wiffed,” the umpire said.

With a smile of Christian charity great Yuni’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But this time, Yuni ignored it, and the umpire said, “Strike two.”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Yuni and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Yuni wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Yuni’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Yuni’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in KC – mighty Yuni has struck out.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The Gary Gaetti Project*

So I guess I should say this first: 

 I had this great idea — an epic idea — to manufacture a 5,000-word post on the Kansas City Royals.

 You know, the baseball season does start in less than three weeks.*

 *It’s funny. This is an incomplete thought, but a lot of people always talk about the natural patterns during the course of a year that let you know something is coming up. For example, the leaves start to turn orange and yellow and brown – and you know it’s almost time for Halloween and high school football.

 Another example: People see snow – and automatically connect it to Christmas. And so on.

Perhaps this is just me, but most of the signs and signals that let me know what’s coming up are artificial and pop-culture related. For example, I just saw a commercial for The Masters – you know, the music and azaleas and Jim Nantz saying, “A tradition unlike any other”. The strange thing is that commercial doesn’t really make me think about The Masters. I see that commercial and all I can think about is the NCAA Tournament.

 Anyway, I had this idea. Really, it started with this thought: How did we get here? How did the Royals become the worst team in baseball — and a top-five laughingstock in all of American sports? Of course, I’m not the first to think about such things. And of course, there is no easy answer.

 But I wanted to try. Plus, I have some Royals stories stored up in the vault. Some telling, some funny, and some depressing.

 So I basically figured I could break it down into nine short stories, nine little narratives that could encapsulate 15 years of ineptitude, put a face on the hurt, and give us some sort of compass to find our way. 

But after some careful consideration, I decided that we better break this thing up into nine different posts.

But trust me, we got some good stuff coming. The first story includes John Buck and Lady Gaga and the worst stretch of baseball any Kansas City team has ever played.

For now, we’re calling it “The Gary Gaetti Project.” Why? Why not? 

So consider this the prologue. The Spring Training of our little adventure. Meantime, do me a solid, and read this short spring training story.

*****

They say spring training is when hope springs eternal. Or at least, I thought they used to say this.

Spring training for the Royals used to be the high-point of the season – for obvious reasons. The franchise would be on the heels of another season of 90-plus losses, and the whole gang would gather together at Spring Training (first in Baseball City, Fla., then in Surprise, Ariz.) in an attempt to exorcize the demons of the previous season.

You’d hear stories about veterans who’d never been in better shape. You hear stories about how the new players on the squad – generally, average veteran players from average teams. But somehow, someway, these average vets were bringing new life to the local nine, lifting the spirits and teaching the tenets of winning baseball.

You’d hear about young pitchers with dynamite stuff. And prospects with five tools. You’d hear about it all.

 And then, you’d read the annual column by Joe Posnanski – the most optimistic writer in America – in The Kansas City Star. And of course, Poz would write that the Royals were going to win the division.

 And then it happened. You couldn’t contain yourself. You were buying in*.

*Bartender, I’ll have what he’s having.

 You know what? These guys have a chance!

 But we know what would happen next. The rug would be ripped out from underneath and the sucker punch would come flying in from somewhere in the back.

Still, there was hope.

And perhaps that’s the difference this year. The Royals have the best pitcher in baseball. They have a 23-year-old first baseman who can mash. And they have an  All-Star closer.

And yet, for the first time in years and years and years, the hope seems to be gone.

Perhaps it’s because I spent last summer with a front-row seat to a devastatingly bad team.*

*More on this later.

 Or better yet. Maybe it’s this. I sat at work on Tuesday night. Reading the latest from The Star’s brilliant beat writer Bob Dutton. And I’ve never been more bummed out by spring baseball.

Dutton’s first dispatch was a short update on the Royals’ left-handed options for the bullpen.

The story started like this:

 “The left-handed options for the Royals’ bullpen now consist of three guys who worked primarily as starters as recently as last year and a veteran newcomer still under close observation while he recovers from a shoulder injury that forced him to miss all of last season.

Club officials believe that might not be as bad as it sounds.”

And you know what? Those words read like bright, shining optimism compared to what came next.

It was the game story from Tuesday’s 2-0 loss to Milwaukee.

In Dutton’s poetic prose:

“Perhaps the Royals fell victim Tuesday to the day-after effect from their first spring night game. Or maybe they were just overmatched by a relay of six Milwaukee pitchers.

Either way, they managed just eight hits in a 2-0 loss to the Brewers at Surprise Stadium. The offensive snooze followed a 17-hit attack Monday in a 9-1 victory over the White Sox.

“We were hitterish (Monday) night,” manager Trey Hillman said. “We could have made it easier on ourselves if we had executed. We’re going to start bunting a little more the last couple of weeks. We just didn’t execute.”

The main lack of execution came on successive bunt plays in the second inning. Kila Ka’aihue was at third with one out when Yuniesky Betancourt fouled off a squeeze bunt.

After Betancourt was hit by a pitch, Hillman called for a safety squeeze by Brian Anderson — and the result couldn’t have been worse. A poor bunt enabled the Brewers to trap Ka’aihue before completing a double play by foiling Anderson’s bid to reach second.

… Anderson’s slim roster chances weren’t helped by two head-shaking decisions. First, he put down a poor squeeze bunt with runners on first and third and one out in the second inning.

When the Brewers trapped Kila Ka’aihue between third and home, Anderson tried for second — and the result was a double play. Score it 1-2-5-3-3-8. That’s right, center fielder Carlos Gomez took the throw at second.

Anderson then threw to first from center field on Joe Inglett’s sacrifice fly with runners at first and third with one out in the Milwaukee fourth. The problem was the Royals had nobody at first. The ball rolled toward the Brewers’ dugout, which allowed the runner to take second.”

*****

Listen. I hate cynicism. There’s nothing worse, really. Of course, I love sarcasm. Show me a guy with a quick wit, and I’ll buy him drinks all night. But show me a cynic – and I’ll show you depressing room.

Still, I’m not sure if this is cynicism or sarcasm.

*In fact, I could probably do an entire post about on that subject. But anyway…

 But I could only think of one thing when I read this quote:

 “We could have made it easier on ourselves if we had executed,” Hillman said. “We’re going to start bunting a little more the last couple of weeks.”

 Yes. Yes. Yes! More bunting. By golly, they’ve  got it! That’s what they need. That’s the ticket. Bunting. Why didn’t I think of that?

Tagged , , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , ,
Advertisements