The wait is over. The Battle for 4th place begins tonight at the K, with the Royals cresting after securing their first winning month since 2003.
Understandably, much has been written and said about the downfall of the White Sox, who've seen their offense and bullpen completely collapse. Amazingly, the Royals have been settled into 5th place since the fifth day of the season, April 7th, and haven't budged since. Thanks to the fact that the Royals have taken four extra games to get to their 33 wins, the percentages should remain in the ChiSox favor regardless of what happens the next few nights. Nevertheless, in my world of fantasy, many great things will be at stake.
On the mound for the Royals tonight is Brian Bannister (4-4, 3.78 ERA), who's rough start in Milwaukee pushed his ERA closer to 4.00 than 3.00 for the first time in three weeks and probably robbed him of a chance at the sub 3.00 mark he would have needed to have had any shot an an All-Star selection. Still, even as de la Rosa scuffles, Banny's been there to make us feel a little more conformable with trusting Dayton Moore's scouting acumen, and has, along with Gil Meche, given the Royal Rotation some semblance of civility.
Squaring off against Banny is Jose Contreras (5-8, 4.63 ERA). After strangely becoming awesome as a White Sock for awhile, Contreras now seems to have settled back into being very average, if not worse.
For whatever reason however, I find myself thinking of Shane Costa this afternoon instead of Bannister, Contreras, Craig Biggio or anyone else. Costa's actually been around for quite awhile now, both in the existential sense and as a Royal. He's 25 years old and has already racked up 373 at bats as a Royal. What interests me about Costa is that he's quietly stored away some impressive chunks of playing time, almost always as a temporary patch when someone else goes on the DL. The odd thing is, I can only recall one occasion in which I heard someone talk up his ability, he's actually done some good things in the minor leagues, hitting .312/.371/.468 in over 1100 minor league PAs. Almost totally without fanfare, Costa has begun to scratch his name into the annals of Royals history. Check out some of his All Time ranks:
Like Something Almost Being Said: Costa's Climb to Immortality
At Bats: 373 (120th, one behind Reggie Sanders, two ahead of Chris Gwynn)
Runs: 44 (123rd, tied with Bob Boone, one behind Joey Gathright)
Hits: 94 (123rd, one behind Jeremy Giambi, two ahead of Ryan Shealy)
Home Runs: 5 (122nd, tied with Luis Alicea Esteban German and Juan Gonzalez)
Can enshrinement in Royal Retro's Top 100 Royals Series be far behind?
It must be a strange existence for Costa, who some nights is treated like a 4th OF/pinch-runner, and others is slotted into the cleanup slot and is DHing. In his three-year Royal career, Costa has played 322 innings as a RF, 287 in left, and 159 in center, while DHing seven times. He's started a game in every single lineup slot save the #3 hole at least once, and in 2007 Bell's managed to spread his 12 starts around to six different lineup positions.
Somehow the flexibility, mediocrity and playing time measured out in fits and starts makes for a very random career. While some guys end up being lionized for being capable of being imagined as just about anything, for Costa only his irrelevance seems to be underscored. Granted, there is a difference between an outfield tweener and a infield utility man, but perhaps not as large a asset gap as you might assume. Despite actually seeing quite a bit of him, in three years its quite possible that most of us will go months without ever thinking of Costa, possibly longer. I guess this is why I'm a blogger and not something better, since I don't really know how to tie this up, but the whole Shane Costa vortex just seems weird to me, placing him somewhere between a scrub, an everyman and a cipher. Even Joe McEwing and Joey Gathright types have their supporters, but not so much the Costas.
Update [2007-6-29 19:8:8 by royalsreview]:
Perhaps inspired by this reflection on Costa, Bell has him hitting cleanup tonight. Also, the bizarre, Teahen-at-first movement continues.