Baseball is a fickle game. On any given day, the worst team in the major leagues can beat the best team. On any given day the worst hitter in the game can go 4 for 4 and the best 0 for 5, while the best pitcher can take the mound without his stuff and get rocked as the worst finds an unfamiliar feel and pitches a complete game shutout. A large part of this is that baseball, more than any other sport, is a game dependent to a large degree on luck. It's the line-drive right at a fielder versus the weak grounder that finds a hole, the hanging curve that's taken for a high strike versus the one with a sharp break and great placement that gets deposited in the seats.
These are all reasons that the two tremendous losses the Yankees suffered at the hands of the Red Sox this weekend (total score, 24-3) don't really bother me all that much. It was clear that Pavano and Mussina simply didn't have it and that Clement and Wells (who found that famous curve after the first inning on Sunday) did. In and of itself, that doesn't really reveal any essential flaws in this Yankee team other than the fact that they were simply off their game two days in a row. Consider the following:
Tuesday through Thursday the Tigers are swept by the Yankees. Friday through Sunday the Orioles are swept by the Tigers. Saturday and Sunday the Red Sox humiliate the Yankees. Monday night, the Red Sox get crushed by the Orioles (8-1).
There's no logic to that. As of this afternoon, the Orioles are the best of those four teams (.620 winning percentage), the Tigers the worst (.479) and the Red Sox and Yankees are tied, four games behind the O's in second place in the AL East with .540 winning percentages. One or two, or even three-game sample sizes are simply not enough to determine the relative quality of two or more teams. Heck, take the seven days since Tuesday:
Red Sox 2-5
Then there are these guys:
Yeah, they're that bad. But given the nature of the game, even the Royals, who are indeed the worst team in baseball (.260 winning percentage, even worse than the Colorado Springs Sky So . . . er, Rockies at .286), win a game every now and then (once every four days or so, to be precise). Having been without an official manager since Tony Peña resigned exactly three weeks ago today, the Royals have just hired Buddy Bell, who will manage his first game for Kansas City tonight. With a new skipper in the dugout and their best pitcher on the mound, the exciting young phenom Zach Greinke, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Royals stop that six-game losing streak tonight despite being clearly overmatched by the invading Yankees. That's just how this game works.
That said, the Yankees should feast on the Royals over the next three days, which would be a nice way to kick off the year's longest road trip (12 games in four cities).
Ballpark (2004 park factors): Kauffman Stadium (95/96)
Who's replacing whom?
Mark Teahan replaces Joe Randa
Terrence Long replaces Dee Brown, Abraham Nunez and Aaron Guiel
Ruben Gotay inherits Desi Relaford's playing time
David DeJesus inherits Carlos Beltran's playing time
Alberto Castilla replaces Benito Santiago
Eli Marrero replaces Juan Gonzalez
Matt Diaz replaces Calvin Pickering (minors)
Joe McEwing replaces spare parts
Jose Lima replaces Darrell May
Runelvys Hernandez (DL) replaces Jimmy Gobble (minors)
Denny Bautista replaces Dennys Reyes
Mike Wood and D.J. Carrasco switch rolls
Andy Sisco replaces Jaime Cerda (minors)
Ambiorix Burgos replaces Scott Sullivan (60-day DL, back)
Leo Nunez replaces Nate Field (minors)
Steve Stemle replaces Shawn Camp (minors)
1B Mike Sweeney
2B Ruben Gotay
SS Angel Berroa
3B Mark Teahen
C John Buck
RF Emil Brown
CF David DeJesus
LF Terrence Long
DH Matt Stairs
R Tony Graffanino (IF)
R Eli Marrero (OF)
R Alberto Castillo (C)
R Joe McEwing (UT)
R Matt Diaz (OF)
R Zack Greinke
R Jose Lima
R D.J. Carrasco
R Ryan Jensen
R Runelvys Hernandez
R Mike MacDougal
R Mike Wood
L Andy Scisco
R Ambiorix Burgos
R Leo Nunez
R Steve Stemle
R Angel Berroa (SS)
L David DeJesus (CF)
R Mike Sweeney (1B)
L Matt Stairs (DH)
R Emil Brown (RF)
L Terrence Long (LF)
L Mark Teahen (3B)
R John Buck (C)
S Ruben Gotay (2B)
R Ken Harvey (1B/DH)
L Brian Anderson
R Denny Bautista
L Jeremy Affeldt
L Kyle Snyder
R Scott Sullivan (60-day)
Outside of Sweeney, Stairs and Greinke there's not much to see here. Yes, Matt Stairs is one of the three best players on this team. 'Nuff said? Perhaps, but why stop there? The Royals are 25th in the majors in runs scored and above only the Angels (!) in on-base percentage (.304). Their team ERA is the worst in baseball (non-Colorado division), thanks in large part to a devastating 6.01 starters mark.
In the bullpen, Rule-5 lefty Andrew Sisco has been a great pick-up (2.83 ERA, 10.99 K/9) and Mikes Wood and MacDougal have managed to stay better than average at the back end, but that "Big" Three is about all that's worth mentioning there.
The rest of the team is comprised of familiar journeyman veterans or youngsters that Kansas City actually hopes will stick (Buck, Teahan, Gotay, Hernandez, Wood). But there are five current Royals whose identity just might stump even the most committed fans. For those who might find themselves asking, "who are these guys?" . . .
Current right fielder Emil Brown is a journeyman speedster with a career .334 slugging who last played in the majors in 2001 for the Pirates and Padres and is with his seventh organization in five years.
Matt Diaz is a 27-year-old rookie outfielder who was unable to break through with the Devil Rays.
Ambiorix Burgos and Leo Nunez are a 21-year-old Dominicans who pitched in A-ball last year (Burgos in the Royals' system, Nunez in the Pirates').
Steve Stemle is a 28-year-old rookie who was converted to relief in the Cardinals organization last year.
Greinke takes on Kevin Brown tonight in the central time zone. Game time 8:10.