What is it about the human condition that causes us to not only celebrate the accomplishments of our greatest people, exalting them when they win awards or break records or discover the polio vaccine, but to also take equal, if not greater, pleasure in mocking our greatest failures? (Like when someone fails to not get polio?)
This tendency to lavish praise on our heroes (heroes like our 32nd president, Franklin D. Roosevelt), while throwing tomatoes at the losers (like loser Franklin D. Roosevelt, polio-sufferer), is pervasive in modern society.
Need proof? Pick up a copy of the nearest paparazzi-rag, and you're sure to find a best-dressed list on page 5, and a worst-dressed list on page 6.
Speaking of worst dressed: Remember when that swan went to the Oscars dressed as Bjork?
If picking up a magazine is too much work for you, then just turn on the television. You can celebrate the very pinnacle in television broadcasting by watching The Daily Show/Colbert Report, and then 10 hours later punish yourself by waking up to The View.
This love/hate dichotomy is omnipresent, but it is perhaps most noticable in the world of sports, where the winners and losers are so easily defined. And as much as we like to stay above the fray, Royals Review is not immune to this phenomenon. We, too, celebrate the greats and mock the goats.
Why do we do it? Because we are small, small people. Also, it's fun.
Specifically, we honor these two areas annually in a pair of awards that were originally the brainchild of poster daveyork. The second of these two, the Andy Sisco award, is given to the pitcher who excels one year and then fails miserably the next. For you literary buffs, the award sort of follows the story arc of a greek tragedy, except without the fratricide.
Well, that's enough exposition, yes? You're getting you money's worth, anyway. Let's see this year's nominees.
2007 ERA 3.87 WHIP 1.21
As recently as a few weeks ago, Bannister looked like the favorite to win the award, as pessimism was abound, not just among the RR faithful, but among the baseball community in general.
Despite being successful in 2007, and revealing himself as perhaps the most cerebral ballplayer in the majors during a series of articles over the winter, there were several reasons for concern about Bannister's 2008 season.
For one, his stuff isn't particularly overwhelming, and his strikeout rates never suggested much more than an average pitcher. Most disturbingly, his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) in 2007 was extremely low. For those not familiar with BABIP, it basically attempts to measure how lucky a particular pitcher is during an individual year. In general, this number rests around .300, i.e. if a batter puts the ball in play, there's a 30% chance it will go for a hit.
Bannister's BABIP was among the lowest in the majors, at around .260. The concern is that it will regress to the mean... the closer that number comes to the expected .300, the more players will reach base and the worse Bannister's ERA will become. So, in other words, the concern is that Bannister's luck will not hold up and he will get shelled at some point.
The early returns, however, are very positive on Bannister avoiding that fate. Has he truly mastered what some have deemed impossible, and bucked the BABIP monkey from his back? Are the improvements to his K rate for real? We'll know soon enough.
2007 ERA 3.67 WHIP 1.29
Last year's "Jose Guillen," Meche was probably the most discussed Royal coming into 2007. Moore's first major free agent signing, all discussions involving Meche were as polarized as could be -- mention his name to a fan and you were bound to get 100 different opinions.
Actually, you were bound to get two major opinions. Either he was a highly talented pitcher on the verge of "putting it all together" and displaying a Chris Carpenter-esque emergence as a #1 starter and maybe even potential Cy Young candidate, or he was a colossal waste of $55 million, a league average pitcher (or worse) signed for a franchise-record amount of money that could potentially cripple the team's efforts to sign free agents in the future?
Gil's 2007 was sparkling, meaning guys like me who chose the latter option were left eating crow. Of course, his 2008 is making guys like me look like geniuses. As with most situations where opinions are so radically different, the truth probably lies somewhere in between -- Gil is neither as good as his 2007 but still a good value all the same. Back to Gil, if he ends his tenure with the Royals with an ERA in the low to mid 4's, I think most will believe it was a good signing, although perhaps a tiny bit expensive. If Gil continues his current collision course for crapdom, however, I think this could potentially lose Dayton a lot of fans, and perhaps even his job at some point. (Depending, of course, on how his other free agents pan out, and most importantly, how much the team improves, or doesn't improve, during Gil's tenure.)
Right now, it's impossible to not view Meche as the frontrunner for the Sisco, but again, it's very early, and anything can happen. One has to wonder if Bell's misuse of Meche at the end of the season, in which he ran up Meche's pitch counts in several games that were essentially meaningless, has contributed to Meche's early problems in 2008. If it has, I hope we re-hire Bell just so we can fire him again a few hours later.
2007 ERA 2.48 WHIP .94
Hey, remember that guy who we got in the Rule V draft, who completely dominated the league, struck out more than a batter an inning, led the team in ERA, and even served as a closer for parts of the year?
That guy's name was Andy Sisco.
While it may have made sense to make a comparison to the two prior to the season starting, at this point, it's clear Soria's not going to find himself victim to the same fate as Andrew Phinneus Sisco, III. Soria was the natural Sisco Award candidate on account of the situational similarities, but unless Joakim suffers an injury or an Ankiel-type meltdown, there's absolutely no reason to think he'll win the award.
I'm taking a risk by saying this, but... Soria is good. There, I said it.
2007 ERA 3.69 WHIP 1.29
In some circles, Greinke may have been a bit of a trendy pick to win the Sisco coming into 2008. After all, his career has followed a rather unusual arc, going from great to terrible to AWOL to bullpen to starter. It was understandable to feel a bit of trepidation about Greinke's chances coming into the season, in light of all the uncertainty associated with the man.
A lot of people were actually quite displeased last season when Moore/Bell announced Greinke was going to be removed from the bullpen and thrust into the rotation. After all, he seemed to have finally found some stability, and in many respects, was pitching better than he ever had. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" was the adage applied most frequently. And while its hard to condemn that line of thinking, there was clearly a pressing need in the rotation and Greinke, thus far, anyway, seems to be a perfect fit.
I just hope that those folks who are concerned about Soria's potential leap to the rotation look at Greinke's situation and find a bit of comfort there. It can work, and it can help out the team immensely.
Considering how well Greinke's been pitching as of late, there's no real reason to believe he'll come close to winning the Sisco.
Other potential Sisco winners: Gobble, Bale, Nomo. Okay, not Nomo.