The biggest difference between this season and the last two is that the Royals had a legitimate strength they could lean on. Their bullpen was actually quite good, kind of the one thing they could count on most nights. Sure Ian Kennedy had struggled, but heading into play on Wednesday night, every reliever but him was carrying an ERA under 4.00 with most of them carrying ERAs under 2.00. That’s part of why the loss hurt so bad, I think. The one thing we all thought we could count on when watching the Royals let them down. But you know what? It happens. It really does, and that’s okay, but man could there be a worse day to not be able to get out there and play and let that brutal ninth inning seep into our minds for longer? I don’t think so. One thing I’ll say about the decisions in the ninth. Pulling Rosenthal was probably right. Going to Rosario was definitely wrong. But Matheny was in that position because Kyle Zimmer was presumably not able to go to get one out. I know he threw 30 pitches on Monday, but if you can’t go with a day of rest out of the bullpen, you may not be cut out for this stuff, and it really hurt the team. They had to go with a guy who had no business facing that part of the lineup and he got predictably hit hard. Also, special thanks to Matt Harvey and Jakob Junis for forcing super early bullpen usage for two straight nights. It was an all around dud. But time to move on.
- The Royals made a trade yesterday, and I have some very odd feelings about it. On one hand, Brett Phillips for Lucius Fox probably makes a lot of sense from a value standpoint. The Royals moved a player with no options who had never really performed for a player with all three options remaining and was once thought of at least relatively highly. And one thing that gives me at least some positive vibes is that Fox has worked with Mike Tosar, which we’ve talked about quite a bit as being a huge positive for a few Royals hitters. Still, this is another light hitting middle infielder. Fox can work a walk, so that’s a positive, I guess, but he doesn’t do much else. I saw some people mention that he was similar to Nicky Lopez but with more speed, and that’s not fair to Lopez, who actually hit for a high average in the minors and also didn’t strike out nearly as much. The point here is that sometimes correct value doesn’t mean the trade was worthwhile. I’m just a little worn out on them acquiring this type of player consistently in the hopes that one of them will pan out to be more than Chris Getz. So that’s really my opinion on this deal. It’s fine, but it’s also one that I can’t get behind in pretty much any way. What this was truly about is gaining a big league roster spot, maybe for a reliever now and potentially for Khalil Lee later, who has to be added to the 40-man this winter anyway. Of course, Fox is taking up that spot as well, so that’s another reason to be underwhelmed at best.
- One thing that’s stuck out to me big time when looking at some of the Royals numbers is how they’re faring against left-handed pitching. It might just be some small sample size noise, but while they’ve hit generally well against them with a .280/.327/.430 line, they’ve only hit five home runs against them, which is surprising for a team employing Salvador Perez, Jorge Soler, Maikel Franco and Whit Merrifield. They are getting extra base hits against them with a .150 ISO vs. .165 against righties, but it’s still something I’ve found a bit curious. As a team that relies so heavily on right-handed bats, they really need to be showing more home run power against lefties. While they don’t face that many of them playing in the Central division full time, it’s definitely a place to improve. They’ll see Gio Gonzalez this weekend and then Gonzalez and Keuchel next weekend before potentially seeing a few here and there against the Tigers, Brewers and Pirates down the stretch. It’s weird because they really could use some additional balance with a lefty bat to handle some righties, but they also need their righties to find that power against lefties.
- We now have three days before the trade deadline, and it’s honestly nearly impossible to figure out what this market is going to look like. The Royals are a hot week out of a playoff spot still. The Pirates are 9-19 and are too. And we don’t know how much teams are willing to give up for 25 or so games. At the same time, never before has the trade deadline been at the point where teams get the services of the players they acquire for so high a percentage of the season. It’s all very confusing. The Royals trade chips are obvious. In the bullpen, it’s Trevor Rosenthal and Greg Holland and maybe Ian Kennedy if he continues to throw zeroes (which seems unlikely). They could move Danny Duffy or even a Matt Harvey or Jakob Junis. Offensively, they’re likely not going to move much, but there’s always talk around Whit Merrifield. Maybe Maikel Franco would appeal to a team wanting a bat against lefties. In my opinion, the Royals would be silly not to deal Trevor Rosenthal, if nothing else. He’s the one most likely to bring back a return that might actually make a difference. The Royals seem like they’re just as likely to talk long-term deal with him as they are to move him and I’ll keep repeating a point I’ve been making for awhile. He is one of the few players where they have the leg up on signing as a free agent. He’s playing in the city he wants to be in for the manager he wants to play for. Sure, if a team opens up the checkbook and makes him an offer he can’t refuse, he’s going elsewhere, but the Royals don’t want to be signing relievers to their age-31 to 33 seasons for huge money anyway. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t even worry about bringing him back, but it does seem like something they’re worried about. Starting with that game in Cincinnati where he walked the bases loaded and somehow escaped, he’s given up 12 base runners in his six games spanning 5.2 innings. That includes seven walks. I’m not saying he had his short run and that’s it, but relievers are not good investments, and if there’s huge interest in him now, the Royals would be wise to get what they can for him. If they don’t move anyone else, even a guy like Holland, I understand. The market could be absolute garbage. But unless I’m way off here and there isn’t even a market for Rosenthal, I believe they need to move him this week.
- There are going to be people who just can’t understand this viewpoint, but I’m glad athletes aren’t sticking to sports right now. Maybe it’s that their seasons are in disarray already so they felt comfortable moving away from the norm or maybe it’s just that the events of the past weeks and months and years and decades and centuries finally weighed so heavily that they just couldn’t help it anymore, but athletes have maybe the biggest stage in the world. I believe what we’ve been witnessing over the last few days is one of those historical moments that we read about for years to come when it comes to civil rights and racial equality, and I’m actually proud to be a sports fan today to know that these players are using their pulpit in order to try and make the world a better place. I don’t know what they hope to accomplish by sitting out games, but seeing a team like the Milwaukee Bucks willing to forfeit a playoff game is just extremely powerful and something I never, ever expected to see. I’m a tall white male, so I haven’t been the direct target of really anything like we’ve seen in the news, so I’m not qualified to speak about what these targeted groups feel, but nothing changes until those in prominence begin to use that prominence to take a stand and make their voice heard. And I’m not sticking to sports right now either. The world needs to take a good long look in the mirror and stop seeing people as anything other than equals. An individual is not a statistic. Everyone deserves the same basic human rights as everyone else. Nobody deserves to fear for their life when they leave their home. This isn’t a difficult concept, and it’s sad that it has come to this, but we all need to be better. I don’t know that it’ll ever happen, but it sure feels like the tide is turning and much of the world is demanding that we do become better, and I’m, quite frankly, here for it.