It was the latest in a long, long string of instances in which Soria allowed the game-tying or go-ahead run in a game in which the Royals led or tied. This was number 13, in fact. That's a lot. If you made a particularly crude 'women in the kitchen joke' to your wife that resulted in an uncomfortable night alone on the couch, that would be bad, but it wouldn't be a terrible, marriage-breaking gaffe. If, however, you made that same joke 12 more times then you would be, uh, less than intelligent about it, and the repeated discord might result in long-term relationship problems.
Soria has been really bad this year. His 4.12 ERA and 4.34 FIP is almost double what it was in his heyday back in the late '00s, not to mention that he has been horrible in high-leverage situations. They say that tragedy plus time equals comedy, and at 13 blown games this year ranging from April to September, we are definitely into the comedy part.
But here's the unfortunate truth: Soria is just a scapegoat.
Etymologically, the word 'scapegoat' comes from a Hebrew word that appears in the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament (or Pentateuch, if you're Jewish). In those days, a literal goat would be cast into the desert, alone, bearing the sins of the community. As no goat has any say in whether or not there was sin going on, the blaming of the scapegoat had nothing to do with the goat and everything to do with everybody else.
In modern language, a scapegoat is not literal (although, if it is, I must have missed that section of Goat Simulator). Rather, a scapegoat is a person or thing that unfairly takes the blame for a group of other people or things.
Just like in the historical context, the scapegoat's fault isn't of concern--the person could very well have done wrong, or to have part of the blame. Rather, the person or thing being scapegoated is shouldering more blame than they should.
Sound familiar? It's because Soria is the scapegoat. Yes, Soria has been bad. But that he is the avatar of failure should the Royals not make the playoffs is ludicrous.
For one, Soria did not offer himself a contract to play for Kansas City and then sign it. Dayton Moore and his front office did. In addition, Soria does not decide when to enter a game. That's Ned Yost's job. In the case of last night, Yost tossed Brian Flynn out in the ninth inning, and then used Soria to try to clean up his mess rather than Wade Davis. Soria being bad is all on Soria. Soria playing this year for the Royals is on Moore, though, and Soria pitching in high-leverage situations is on Yost.
But the other thing, and the true reason why the Royals have been a shell of last year's team, is that they are just a terrible offensive team.
I've done this before, but these are the American League ranks (of 15 teams) for various offensive statistics:
- On Base Percentage: 13th
- Slugging Percentage: 14th
- Isolated Power: 15th
- Walk Rate: 15th
- Baserunning Value: 11th
- Weighted Runs Created Plus: 15th
That's really, really terrible. To recap: the Royals make lots of outs, don't walk, run the bases poorly, and don't hit for power. The result is the worst offensive team in the American League. Fourteen (14) of the Royals' 74 losses have come when Kansas City has held their opponent to 3 or fewer runs, including last night. Losing a handful of pitcher's duels is fine. Losing 14 games when you only need 3 or 4 runs to do so? Oof.
And who's to blame there? Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, Cheslor Cuthbert, Alcides Escobar, and Salvador Perez, mostly.
It's just so much easier to blame Soria. Like kickers in football, relievers' failures are often seen as binary win/loss moments for the team, when in reality they are just one point in a long athletic contest that could (and should) have been decided earlier. And the bandwagon fans--of which there are legion--have no memory of Soria being an amazing curveball god and All-Star closer. It's easy to rag on a new face that didn't bring playoff success to the city, and it's much harder to hold beloved players' feet to the proverbial fire when they're the real reason for lack of success.
And before you start that Moose, Gordon, et all have been injured--cut it out. Injury never stopped a player or players from being a scapegoat or scapegoats before (see: Romo, Tony or Sweeney, Mike). Besides, Moose and Gordon's injury was self-inflicted and unnecessary. Why aren't they being scapegoated?
Unfortunately, the key reason is that Royals fans have quickly become accustomed to the most insane type of postseason magic for two straight years. Soria is a visible and unfamiliar face, and so the easy path is to slam him for standing in the way of it again. Soria is just one broken cog in a machine that has many of them. Give him a break. He deserves better.