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Recap Coda: The Seagull Game

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A microcosm of ineptitude in one avian moment

Seagull (bottom right) immediately after getting hit by baseball, which altered the trajectory and allowed Cleveland to walk off the Royals on Jun 11, 2009.
Seagull (bottom right) immediately after getting hit by baseball, which altered the trajectory and allowed Cleveland to walk off the Royals on Jun 11, 2009.

June 11, 2009 - Kansas City Royals at Cleveland

Box score, Royals vs. Cleveland on June 11, 2009
Box score, Royals vs. Cleveland on June 11, 2009, part 2

Recap Coda: June 11, 2009

Well that was different.

As promised, the game recap by slayor, only the brave should click through:

Zack Greinke Might Have to Smack a Bitch

For the 483rd consecutive game, the Royals found yet another innovative way to completely embaress themselves in front of their shrinking but increasingly rabid fan base. Today, we were treated to the spectacle of Zack Greinke pitching – he is, according to the experts at ESPN and other analytical powerhouses one of the best pitchers in baseball. Yes, even though he pitches for our increasingly god-awfully-amazingly-full-of-so-much-suck-Superhead-would-be-impressed-because-they-suck-that-f’ing-bad Kansas City Royals.

I have fond memories of 2009. It’s the year that I graduated high school, the year I started college, and the year that I truly became a bigtime Royals fan. Sure, I had followed them previously. But as someone who had lived in Iowa and Ohio the first nine and a half years of my life, the shameful and shoddily run Royals of the late 90s and 00s did not exactly entice non-Kansas City natives to root for them.

Part of what convinced me is what convinces kids of all ages: truly great performances. And in 2009, Royals fans witnessed Zack Greinke at the absolute height of his powers. He was the best pitcher in baseball that year, and would end up carrying a sub-2.00 ERA in the American League into the final game of the season. Unfortunately for Greinke, he pitched for the Royals, who sucked.

For a hot minute, it seemed like 2009 might be the year that the Royals would take a step forward. It was Dayton Moore’s third full season as GM, and they had what seemed like a promising core of position players. Like, no, seriously. Consider these Royals players entering 2009:

  • Mike Aviles, 28: finished 4th in RoY voting in 2008, 121 OPS+ at shortstop
  • Alex Gordon, 25: hyped draft pick who turned in a quietly productive 2008
  • Billy Butler, 23: hit everywhere in minors, held his own in the bigs so far
  • Mark Teahen, 27: had back-to-back 2.5 WAR seasons in 2006 and 2007
  • David DeJesus, 29: consistent production, unsung hero of the 00s Royals
  • Kila Ka’aihue, 25: absolutely destroyed minors in 2008, got cup of coffee too

But even if all those players succeeded in 2009—and, reader, they most certainly did not—the Royals had a big problem. That problem was that their pitching depth was, ahem, a dumpster fire. It didn’t help that Moore had absolutely no idea what he was doing at the big league level or that manager Trey Hillman wasn’t any good at managing a good bullpen, let alone a bad one. And so, even when Greinke was Greinke, the Royals often lost.

For the 11th time in 12 starts, Greinke gave the worst team in the AL an exceptionally good chance of winning. That’s a really really good ratio!Tonight, without his best stuff (didn’t break 95!), best control (3 walks! the horror!), or ability to retire Mark Derosa, Greinke cruised through 7 innings allowing but one run. Of course, because Dayton Moore traded every decent relief pitcher on the roster save Soria for a pathetic collection of overpaid OBP challenged pieces of garbage who pose as players, which to date have made little to no recognizable contributions to this team (unless making it suck even more than before can be counted as a contribution), Greinke was asked to pitch the 8th inning.

This hurts to read, but it is...very accurate. The Royals stunk in 2009. They stunk in 2008. They stunk in 2007 and 2006, too. It would take until Moore’s seventh full season until the Royals managed to win more than 75 games. There was a lot of losing.

The Royals hate winning. A lot. The only thing they LOVE more than they hate winning is playing piss poor defense which will allow them to lose. So, when Greinke came out for the 8th inning, got an out, gave up a hit, and walked Victor Martinez on a brisk 5 pitches, you knew the tornado was coming. The tornado was the Royals defense, and the trailer park was Greinke’s line in the box score. It got wrecked.

The weird thing about the Royals is that, prior to 2013 or so, they were really terrible defensively. Fangraphs rated the 2009 Royals as the worst defensive team that year by both Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR); from 2007 through 2012, the Royals were the second-to-worst team by DRS and a bottom third team by UZR.

Enter John Bale: Master of falling flat on his ass (figuratively and literally!) while letting the ball fly by him, mix in some trademark Royals incompetency, and you have a runner on 2nd with two outs, and the lead run at the plate.

So, Trey Hillman after bumbling around in the dark for the past 2 months, finally managed to fall ass backwards on the button labeled “That Funny Looking Mexican Dude”. Of course, because this is the Royals, that funny looking Mexican dude hung a curveball to Johnny Peralta that TPJ could have managed to hit one handed, and the game was tied. It was a really, really bad pitch.

As Freneau points out later, using Soria when he did was the right move by Hillman. But Soria’s hanging curveball hung too much, and that was that.

And Zack Greinke cried. All alone in the clubhouse. And then he threw a grenade in the manager’s office and bought a John Deere dealership. Not yet, but it’s probably coming. Long story short, Royals are horrible, cannot play defense when it matters, are incapable of executing “fundamentals” (who said they were fun?!), and Zack Greinke is awesome. At this point, the only question that remains is how many games will this team lose this season, and how long until Zack Greinke smacks a bitch?

I’m not sure why slayor—a regular commenter—did the recap for the game, but I suppose who am I to judge. Max said that “slayor should write recaps for MLB.com” in the comments, which is high praise from a future editor in chief. The recap reads a little, erm, 2009-y, but it is what it is.

However, rather stunningly, everyone was too mad that the Royals wasted another Greinke start to realize what was the true lede: the Royals lost on seagull interference. See video below. I am not lying. I wish I was lying.

Progressive Field, and Cleveland itself, sits on Lake Erie, a place where there are a lot of seagulls. Anybody who has been to the Cedar Point parking lot knows this very much to be the case. But there are a lot of parks on or near the water. For whatever reason, the seagulls decided that extra innings were the time to interfere.

In the video, you can clearly see the ball hit the seagull. The collision doesn’t seem to interfere with its trajectory, but it probably did just enough to throw off Coco Crisp. After all, it’s hard enough to field a ball whilst running at a full sprint, and it’s harder still when there are a flock of birds flying towards your face in the moment.

To be at that game, oh, to be at that game. Fortunately, YouTube user Elmars T was, and earlier in 2021 they graced us with their firsthand experience:

I was at that game. The birds were flying low over the fans and pooping on them. I was probably 10 rows from first base. Had to move under the roof for a while to avoid the droppings.

In hindsight, perhaps the birds were not the baddies after all, thanks to them righteously and literally shitting on the face of racism (that face being Chief Wahoo, grinning like an idiot on those baseball hats). Just too bad the Royals had to be on the receiving end of collateral damage. Still—Kyle Farnsworth had given up a single and a walk prior to Shin-Soo Choo’s shoo-in, bird-alterred single. The Royals would have lost anyway. At least this way, Royals fans can pretend that the bird not being there would have affected the game.